American decathlete Ashton Easton and swimmer Missy Franklin, who will both compete in the 2012 London Olympics, were chosen as the United States Sports Academy’s June Athletes of the Month.
Eaton, who won the Academy’s 2010 Jim Thorpe All-Around Athlete Award, became the world-record holder in the hallowed and history-filled decathlon that has long identified the world’s greatest athlete. Competing in the U.S. Olympic Trials, Eaton needed a personal best in the grueling event’s finale, the 1,500 meters, to get the record. Eaton came through running the race in 4 minutes, 14.48 seconds to finish with 9,039 points. He beat Roman Sebrle’s 11-year-old mark by 13 points. Interestingly, Eaton set the world record on the 100th anniversary of the first Olympic decathlon.
Meanwhile, Franklin became the first American female swimmer in history to qualify for the Olympic Games in seven events. During the U.S. Olympic Trials, the 17-year-old qualified for four individual races in the London Games. Franklin set the American record in the 100-meter backstroke with a time of 58.85 seconds and capped her week by swimming the fastest time in the world this year in the 200 backstroke with a time of 2:06.12. Franklin also earned spots in the 100 and 200 freestyle.
Finishing second in the men’s category was American swimmer Michael Phelps, who qualified for another eight Olympic events but plans to chase seven gold medals in London. He secured a spot in five individual events in the U.S. Olympic Trials but will not swim in the 200-meter freestyle. The 27-year-old, who won an Olympic-record eight gold medals in Bejing in 2008, recorded the world’s fastest times this year in the 100 butterfly (51.14) and 200 individual medley (1:54.84). He also qualified in the 200 fly, 400 IM and 200 freestyle.
The runner up to Franklin on the women’s ballot was Maria Sharapova. The Russian tennis player beat Sara Errani 6-3, 6-2 to win the French Open title, giving the 25-year-old a career Grand Slam with wins in all four major women’s tennis tournaments. She is only the 10th woman in tennis to do so. The French Open victory also earned Sharapova a brief spot at No. 1 in the world rankings.
Third place winners for June were Spain’s Rafael Nadal, who won a record seventh French Open, and Shanshan Feng, who became the first player from China to win on the LPGA Tour with her victory at the 2012 LPGA Championship.
The winners of the Academy’s male and female Athletes of the Month will be considered as candidates for the 2012 Athlete of the Year ballot. In December 2012, the Academy will name the male and female Athlete of the Year for the 28th consecutive year. The recipients of this prestigious award are selected annually through worldwide online balloting hosted by the Academy in conjunction with USA Today and NBC Sports.
In 2011, the Male Athlete of the Year was No. 1-ranked tennis player Novak Djokovic of Serbia and the Female Athlete of the Year was No. 1-ranked golfer Yani Tseng of Taiwan. Both of them dominated 2011’s ballot that drew as many as 50,000 votes a day from across the world.