Having won most of the other awards in the world, Bethesda’s Katie Ledecky finally found a new one to claim Tuesday, when she was named the Associated Press female athlete of the year.
The award, which is voted on by U.S. editors and news directors, has been given out since 1931; about two-thirds of the winners starred in either tennis or golf. Ledecky is the first swimmer to win the women’s award since Amy Van Dyken in 1996 and the first active college athlete to win the honor since Rebecca Lobo in 1995.
She is also the first Washington-area star ever to earn the women’s award. Several of the AP’s male athletes of the year have had Washington ties, including D.C. native Maury Wills (who won in 1962), former Orioles star Cal Ripken (who won in 1995) and Baltimore’s Michael Phelps (who won in 2008 and 2012). The awards are open to international athletes, although they’re virtually always given to Americans.
Ledecky, a sophomore at Stanford, won five golds and a silver at the world championships in Hungary in July, giving her more world titles than any other female swimmer. Ledecky won five individual NCAA titles in 2017, breaking American records nine times and NCAA records 12 times. She became the first NCAA swimmer in 29 years to win individual titles in the 200-, 500- and 1,650-yard free. She was also part of the Stanford team that won the 2017 NCAA women’s swimming and diving title, the school’s first in 19 years.
And that haul also earned Ledecky the Honda Cup, given to the top collegiate women’s athlete. She was the first freshman to win that award in 35 years.
Those were hardly her only 2017 awards, because, as mentioned, she has won all the awards. Ledecky earlier this year was named USA Swimming’s female athlete of the year for the fifth straight time, the only swimmer ever to accomplish that feat. She also became the first person to earn the U.S. Olympic Committee’s female athlete of the year award three times and only the third woman to earn that honor in back-to-back years, after Jackie Joyner-Kersee (1986-87) and Lindsey Vonn (2009-10).
For the AP award, she narrowly out-polled Serena Williams, whose 2017 Australian Open title gave her 23 Grand Slams, the most in the Open era. Ledecky and Phelps are the only swimmers to earn that AP honor in the past 20 years. The 20-year-old also was the youngest inductee this year into the D.C. Sports Hall of Fame and became the first college woman to win the AP’s award before her senior year. And she probably won like 43 other awards this year, also.
The AP’s male athlete of the year will be announced Wednesday.
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