INDIANAPOLIS -- World Champions Ashton Eaton and Allyson Felix have been named the 2015 Jesse Owens and Jackie Joyner-Kersee Athletes of the Year, USATF announced Thursday.
Eaton (Bend, Oregon) and Felix (Los Angeles, California) will be honored on Saturday, December 5, at the Jesse Owens Awards in Houston, Texas. The event is held in conjunction with USATF’s Annual Meeting. Tickets for the event are available at the Hyatt Regency Houston beginning on Wednesday, December 2 until the ceremony is sold out.
“First thing I thought of was the actual Jesse Owens Award and how much better care I’m going to take with this one,” Eaton laughed. “In 2012, 30 seconds after I got the award, I dropped it on the ground and broke it in half. I had to get USATF to make a new one.
“I’m thankful for the award and it’s a great honor,” Eaton continued. “I like the fact that Jesse Owens’ name is tied to it because we owe him so much for the sport. I think it’s also an honor to receive it on that behalf as well.”
Eaton improved his world record in the decathlon to win the gold medal at the 2015 IAAF World Championships in Beijing, scoring 9,045 points to top the field by more than 300 points. In the process, he set a World Championships decathlon record of 10.23 seconds in the 100 meters, and broke a 40-year-old world decathlon record with a time of 45.00 in the 400m.
“I thought that my competition for the award was stiff,” Eaton noted. “I know I broke the world record but I competed in one decathlon this year. Christian (Taylor) is one of my good buddies and he had such a great year. To come out ahead over him, I don’t know if you can call that a victory if you finish ahead of Christian Taylor. I suppose you win anyway.”
Eaton is also a finalist for the IAAF World Athlete of the Year and USOC Olympic Male Athlete of the Year.
Felix won gold in the 400 meters at the World Championships in Beijing this summer, turning in a time of 49.26 for the fastest time in the world in 2015. Felix also took home two silver medals on the 4x100m and 4x400m relays in Beijing, giving her 14 total World Championships medals and adding to her accolade as the most decorated female athlete in IAAF history.
Felix also defended her Diamond League title in the 200 meters and is one of four American athletes to have three or more Diamond League crowns. Felix is the USATF champion over 400 meters and was a part of Team USA’s squad at the IAAF World Relays, aiding the U.S. in defending the Golden Baton for a second straight year.
“It’s so special to be named athlete of the year, especially with it now being called the Jackie Joyner-Kersee Award,” Felix said. “Everyone knows how special she is and what she means to me, so it makes winning this award extra special. Coming back from the hamstring injury in 2013, winning this just means a whole lot.”
The 2015 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 social media that comprised 10% of the total vote. More than 6,000 fan votes were received. Other men’s finalists included Richard Browne, Justin Gatlin, Evan Jager, Joe Kovacs, LaShawn Merritt and Christian Taylor. Finalists for the women’s award were Tianna Bartoletta, Michelle Carter, Candace Hill, Molly Huddle, Shamier Little and Tatyana McFadden.
About the Jesse Owens and Jackie Joyner-Kersee Awards
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 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.