Winner of 23 gold medals, Michael Phelps has been dubbed the top male athlete of the year by the United States Sports Academy. This comes after a year in which Phelps won six medals at the Rio 2016 Olympics. The Maryland native has won more medals than anyone else in Olympic history. This is the third time the swimmer has received the award, and he remains the only swimmer ever honored by the Academy.
The USSA determines the winner by taking into consideration the votes cast online by the public each month. Using these votes as a guideline, the Academy chooses an athlete to recognize an athlete of the month. At the end of the year, the athletes on this short list of 12 candidates become eligible for the yearly award. This year, Phelps, Jamaican runner Usain Bolt, and Slovenian ski jumper Peter Prevc were the favorites.
On the women’s side, the Academy gave the award to American gymnast Simone Biles. However, another swimmer, 400m individual medley world record holder Hungarian Katinka Hosszu, ranked just behind Biles.
The award is only one of many given to Phelps for his performance in the previous year. Among others, he received the USOC SportsMan of the Year Award, the Golden Goggle Male Performance of the Year Award, the Fédération internationale de natation swimmer of the year, and the Swimming World Swimmer of the Year Award (World and American categories). Phelps announced his retirement in 2016.