Michael Phelps wins male athlete of the year at ESPYs, beats Tiger Woods

By Beth Harris, AP
Thursday, July 16, 2009

Michael PhelpsLOS ANGELES — Michael Phelps won a leading five ESPY Awards, including male athlete of the year, ending the five-year reign of Tiger Woods, who earned his record 22nd trophy Wednesday night.

The 14-time Olympic gold medalist also collected trophies for record-breaking performance, championship performance, and male Olympian while sharing the best moment award as part of the victorious 400-meter freestyle swimming relay at the Beijing Games.

Phelps won a record eight gold medals in Beijing, breaking Mark Spitz’s 36-year-old record of seven golds in a single games.

Olympic all-around gymnastics champion Nastia Liukin won female athlete of the year.

The show honoring the previous year’s top athletes, events and teams airs Sunday on ESPN.

Phelps’ only other ESPY came in 2005, when he was chosen male Olympian following his haul of six gold medals at the 2004 Athens Games.

He wasn’t the only swimmer honored. Dara Torres, who at 41 won three silver medals in her fifth Olympics, received the comeback award. She asked for a chair to sit on backstage to rest her ailing left knee that will require surgery later this summer.

Liukin defeated Wimbledon winner Serena Williams, Los Angeles Sparks star Candace Parker, Olympic swimmer Natalie Coughlin and Connecticut basketball player Maya Moore for female athlete.

Woods won male golfer honors for the fifth consecutive year, giving him a career total of 22 ESPYs. He is in Scotland to play in the British Open beginning Thursday.

Besides Woods, Phelps outpolled NBA superstars Kobe Bryant and LeBron James and NASCAR driver Jimmie Johnson for male athlete.

Bryant still took home some hardware, sharing the team award with his NBA champion Los Angeles Lakers team. Phil Jackson, who earned his record 10th NBA title, won the coaching award. James was chosen NBA player.

Samuel L. Jackson returned for the fourth time as host of the show taped at the Nokia Theatre.

The Super Bowl champion Pittsburgh Steelers were honored in the best game category for their title win over the Arizona Cardinals. They also won for best play, when Ben Roethlisberger connected with Santonio Holmes for the game-winning touchdown in the closing seconds.

Former South African president Nelson Mandela received the Arthur Ashe Courage Award. His daughter Zindzi Mandela and grandson Zondwa Mandela accepted from presenters Serena and Venus Williams.

The Jimmy V Award for Perseverance went to Northern State men’s basketball coach Don Meyer, who battled cancer after surviving a near-fatal car accident.

Winners in all but the Jimmy V, Arthur Ashe and comeback categories were determined by online and mobile phone fan voting.

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