INDIANAPOLIS -- LaShawn Merritt and Brianna Rollins have been awarded the titles of Jesse Owens and Jackie Joyner-Kersee Athlete of the Year, USA Track & Field announced Monday, December 2. Merritt and Rollins will be honored on Saturday, December 7, at the Jesse Owens Awards and Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony in Indianapolis, Ind. The event is held in conjunction with USA Track & Field’s Annual Meeting.
Team USA veteran LaShawn Merritt (Suffolk, Va.) returned to the throne as World’s No. 1 in the 400 meters in 2013, putting forth six of the 10 fastest times in 2013. A two-time gold medalist at the 14th IAAF World Outdoor Championships, Merritt took over the top spot in the 400 meters in a personal-best 43.74 and anchored the American men to the gold medal in the 4x400-meter relay, crossing in a world’s-best 2:58.71. The fastest quarter-miler in the world in 2013 with his time at World Outdoors, Merritt also claimed the overall Diamond League crown, clinching with a time of 44.13 in Zürich and defeating rival Kirani James of Grenada in the process. Merritt finished no worse than second in every 400m race of 2013.
“This was a big year for me and a lot went into it,” Merritt said. “I learned about my body and how the 400 really works. 2013 started slow because of my injury from last year but I knew I had to just keep the faith and move forward.
“I’ve had Olympic medal seasons, World Championship seasons, undefeated seasons,” Merritt continued, “[but] the fact that USA Track & Field honored me during one of the toughest seasons I’ve had, where I had to work harder than ever and it required so much focus, it means so much that they noticed that. For my country to see the work I put into this year, that’s so special and I’m so grateful to USATF for that.”
Team USA rookie Brianna Rollins (Miami, Fla.) had a dream season in 2013, rewriting the record books and hauling in multiple championships titles. Rollins, who turned pro at the USA Outdoor Track & Field Championships, captured the NCAA Indoor (60mH) and Outdoor (100mH) crowns and USA Outdoor title on her way to her first IAAF World Championships in the 100m hurdles. Rollins ran four of the five fastest times in the world. Rollins’ time of 12.39 at NCAA Outdoors set the collegiate record while her 12.26 mark at the USA Outdoor Championships etched her name as the American Record holder. Rollins was completely undefeated in the hurdles through the 2013 collegiate campaign and set her indoor PR of 7.78 in her first meet of the indoor season.
“I feel so honored to be receiving the 2013 Jackie Joyner-Kersee Award,” Rollins said. “It has been such a tremendous year. I’m truly blessed. I have to say thank you to USA Track & Field, Nike, my fans and supporters.”
The Jackie Joyner-Kersee Award is newly named for the USATF Female Athlete of the Year.
The 2013 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 the USATF website that comprised 10% of the total vote. More than 4,000 fan votes were received. Other men’s finalists included Ashton Eaton, Justin Gatlin, David Oliver, Nick Symmonds, Michael Tinsley and Ryan Whiting. Finalists for the women’s award were Brigetta Barrett, Mary Cain, Michelle Carter, Brittney Reese, Jennifer Simpson, Jenn Suhr.
About the Jesse Owens Award
Established in 1981, the Jesse Owens Award is USA Track & Field'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 permanent commemorative Jesse Owens Award is maintained at the USATF national headquarters and a replica is provided to each of the winners. Previous winners may be viewed here.