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Olympic gold medalists Carter, Centrowitz named 2016 USATF Athletes of the Year


INDIANAPOLIS -- Olympic gold medalists Michelle Carter and Matthew Centrowitz have been voted the 2016 Jackie Joyner-Kersee and Jesse Owens Athletes of the Year following spectacular indoor and outdoor campaigns that saw the duo combine for four global golds and a slew of history-making performances.


Carter and Centrowitz will be honored, along with the 2016 Youth Athlete of the Year, Masters Athlete of the Year, Nike Coach of the Year, and the Wing Award winners, at the 2016 Jesse Owens Banquet on Saturday, December 3 at the Hilton at Walt Disney World. Tickets are available here.


“I am so honored to be the Jackie Joyner-Kersee Athlete of the Year,” Carter said. “It has been the best year of my career. I could not do this alone, and I want to thank everyone for every single word of encouragement and all of the support over the years.”


“What a tremendous honor it is to be named Jesse Owens Male Athlete of the Year,” Centrowitz said. “It is very humbling to be named amongst the athletes who have won this award before me. Thanks to USATF and everyone who selected me for this honor.


“None of this would have been possible without my coach Alberto Salazar, who put me on my second Olympic team despite having injuries in the spring both times,” Centrowitz continued. “I want to thank my family and my best friend Chris Kwiatkowski, who have been with me almost every step of the way this year. I'd like to give a special shoutout to my friend, training partner and fellow nominee Galen Rupp, who took me under his wing this year. I grew physically and mentally as an athlete because of him.”


2016 Jackie Joyner-Kersee Female Athlete of the Year: Michelle Carter

Carter (Ovilla, Texas) had a banner year that saw her set the American record twice over, first at the IAAF World Indoor Championships in Portland, Oregon and again in Rio at the Olympic Games. Carter was clutch on the international stage in 2016, capturing her first global gold medal since IAAF World Juniors in 2004. Carter was in medal contention heading into the final round of throws in Portland, just behind Hungary’s Anita Marton who sat atop the leaderboard. Carter composed herself and threw an American record 20.21m/66-3.75 on her final attempt to capture gold.


“The 2016 season could not have started any better by winning my first world championship at home in Portland,” Carter recalled. “Knowing I was able to represent my country at home and win was great.


“Making my third Olympic Team was an accomplishment after recovering from an injury,” Carter continued. “I knew I had to bring my ‘A’ game to make the team.”


In Rio, it was much of the same, as Carter found herself sitting in silver position with one throw remaining. Carter launched her final attempt an astonishing 20.63m/67-8.25 to once again win gold in stunning fashion. Carter set yet another American record and now owns six of the top 10 best performances in U.S. history. The first American woman to win the Olympic shot put and the first USATF medalist in Rio, her Olympic teammates lauded their team captain for her performance and for inspiring them all. Carter’s clutch gold in Rio kicked off the best U.S. Olympic team medal haul in a non-boycotted Games since 1932.


Being the first American (track & field athlete) to win gold in Rio meant so much to me because it showed the world that American women are a force to be reckoned with. It showed that hard work and consistency pays off when you don't give up on yourself,” Carter finished.


2016 Jesse Owens Male Athlete of the Year: Matthew Centrowitz

For Centrowitz (Arnold, Maryland), his 2016 started off with a bang following his third NYRR Wanamaker Mile victory at the NYRR Millrose Games. The victory gave Centrowitz momentum heading into Portland for the USATF Indoor Championships, where he edged fellow 2016 Olympian Robby Andrews to win the 1500m title. Just a week later, Centrowitz made history on the same track, bringing the home crowd to its feet after a rousing performance to win the first U.S. gold in the men’s 1500m at the IAAF World Indoor Championships. Centrowitz stayed in the middle of the pack through the first 800m and responded to a Nick Willis kick with two laps remaining, putting himself in medal contention with Willis and Jakub Holusa. Willis led with only 200m to go, but Centrowitz turned on the afterburners coming down the stretch to hold off Willis and a fast-charging Holusa to capture his first global gold in 3:44.22.


“I could not have scripted 2016 any better,” Centrowitz noted. “I didn't know if I could top my indoor season, that was capped off with a World Indoor title in the city I've lived and trained in the last several years. But with the continued hard work and support from my team, staff, and family, I was able to accomplish every runner's lifelong dream of winning Olympic gold.”


In Rio, Centrowitz made history once again, becoming the first American man since 1908 to capture Olympic gold in the men’s 1500m. In a tactical race, Centrowitz executed his race plan perfectly, heading to the front of the pack midway through the first lap. With Olympic gold in his sights, Centrowitz took the bunched-up pack through 400m in 66.83 and 800m in 2:16.59. At the bell, many of the top contenders started making moves to position themselves for a furious finish, with Centrowitz reasserting himself down the backstretch. No one could overcome Centrowitz’s closing pace, as he covered the final 300m in 38 seconds and the final lap in 50 seconds to take home Olympic gold in 3:50.00. Centro’s performance added to an impressive medal tally that saw an unprecedented seven Olympic medals won by the U.S. in distances 800m and over.


The 2016 Jesse Owens Award and Jackie Joyner-Kersee award winners were selected in balloting of members of the U.S. track and field media, and a fan vote was held on USATF Zone that comprised 10% of the total vote. Other men’s finalists included Kerron Clement, Ryan Crouser, Ashton Eaton, Jeff Henderson, Evan Jager, Sam Kendricks, Galen Rupp and Christian Taylor. Finalists for the women’s award were Tianna Bartoletta, Tori Bowie, Allyson Felix, Keni Harrison, Sandi Morris, Dalilah Muhammad and Brianna Rollins.


Join the conversation with USATF on Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat and Facebook using the hashtags #USATFAOY and #USATF16.


About the Jesse Owens and Jackie Joyner-Kersee Awards

Established in 1981, the Jesse Owens Award is USATF's highest accolade, presented annually to the outstanding U.S. male and female track and field performers. The award is named after National Track & Field Hall of Famer and worldwide icon Jesse Owens, who won gold medals in the 100m, 200m, 4x100m relay and long jump at the 1936 Olympic Games in Berlin, Germany, while conducting himself with grace and dignity. With his remarkable performances, Owens forever destroyed Adolf Hitler's notions of Aryan supremacy. The USATF Female Athlete of the Year was re-named the Jackie Joyner-Kersee Award in 2013.


The permanent commemorative Jesse Owens and Jackie Joyner-Kersee Awards are maintained at the USATF national headquarters and a replica is provided to each of the winners.


Amanda Brooks
Marketing and Communications Manager
USA Track & Field

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