Olympic gold medallists Bryan Clay and Stephanie Brown Trafton have been named winners of the 2008 Jesse Owens Award by USA Track & Field.
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.
Clay won the World Indoor Heptathlon title in Valencia in March, and outdoors posted the two highest scores in the world by in winning at the US Olympic Trials in Eugene, and the Olympic Games in Beijing. Over two days at the Olympic Trials, Clay scored 8832 points to break the previous Olympic Trials record of 8726 set by Dan O'Brien in 1996, the year O'Brien won Olympic gold. Clay's score was a personal best, the best by an American in 16 years, the best in the world in four years, and by finishing the competition 240 points clear of the field, established the largest winning margin in the Olympic decathlon since 1972.
"I have always regarded Jesse Owens with the highest respect for his accomplishments in the 1936 Olympics," said Clay. "To be selected to receive this award and having my name associated with the legendary Jesse Owens is a great honor and a humbling experience. I am grateful, appreciative and truly humbled to have been chosen for such an esteemed award."
Brown Trafton, who has never won a national title in the women's Discus Throw, once in Beijing, qualified for the final and took the lead with her initial throw of 64.74 metres, and became the first American woman to win the gold medal in the event since Lillian Copeland in 1932. It was the first U.S. medal of any kind in this event since Leslie Jean Deniz won silver in the boycott-afflicted 1984 Olympic Games in Los Angeles. Brown Trafton is the first ever women's thrower to be presented with the Jesse Owens Award.
"The success I have had this year has been monumental and much appreciation goes to USATF's High Performance programs and their willingness to support my event area that, before 2008, had not won any medals in two decades," said Brown Trafton. "The coaches, committee members, staff, and media team at USATF can take credit for their role in making history with me this year as well as helping to securing a bright future for the sport."
This year's awards will be presented on Saturday, 6 December at the Jesse Owens Awards and Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony, held at the Silver Legacy Resort in Reno, Nevada, in conjunction with USA Track & Field's 2008 Annual Meeting.
About the Jesse Owens Award
2008 Jesse Owens Award winners were selected in balloting of members of the U.S. track and field media. Other finalists for the men's Jesse Owens Award were Walter Dix, LaShawn Merritt and Angelo Taylor. Women's finalists were Shalane Flanagan, Hyleas Fountain, Lolo Jones, Sanya Richards and Jenn Stuczynski.
The permanent commemorative Jesse Owens Award is maintained at USATF National Headquarters, and a replica is provided to each of the winners. Previous winners are Edwin Moses (1981), Carl Lewis (1982 and 1991), Mary Decker (1983), Joan Benoit (1984), Willie Banks (1985), Jackie Joyner-Kersee (1986 and 1987), Florence Griffith Joyner (1988), Roger Kingdom (1989), Lynn Jennings (1990), Kevin Young (1992), Gail Devers (1993, 1996), Michael Johnson (1994, 1995, 1996), Allen Johnson (1997), Marion Jones (1997, 1998), John Godina (1998, 2001), Inger Miller (1999), Maurice Greene (1999), Stacy Dragila (2000 and 2001), Angelo Taylor (2000), Khalid Khannouchi (2002), Deena Kastor (2003), Tom Pappas (2003), Justin Gatlin (2004 and 2005), Joanna Hayes (2004), Allyson Felix (2005 and 2007); Sanya Richards (2006), Jeremy Wariner (2006), Tyson Gay (2007), Bryan Clay (2008) and Stephanie Brown Trafton (2008).