World champions Jesse Williams and Carmelita Jeter were named the winners of the 2011 Jesse Owens Award, the sport's highest annual accolade in the USA.
It was the first time that both Williams, the World High Jump champion, and Jeter, the World 100m champion, earned the distinction as the USA's top athletes.
“USA Track & Field is proud to recognise Carmelita and Jesse for their successful seasons with the highest honour in our sport – the Jesse Owens Award,” said USATF Interim CEO Mike McNees. “As we approach the Olympic year, we are excited to see what Carmelita, Jesse and all of our great athletes will be able to accomplish in London.”
Williams Wins it All
Williams racked up championship wins in the best year yet of his career. Williams excelled all year long from his national indoor title in February to his World Championships win in September. Along the way, Williams produced the best performance of the year at the USA Outdoor Championships on his home track in Eugene, scaling a personal best and world leading mark of 2.37m.
At the World Championships, Williams brought American high jumping back to the spotlight by winning the first U.S. medal in the event since Charles Austin and teammate Hollis Conway collected gold and bronze medals at the 1991 World Championships in Tokyo.
Williams also claimed the Diamond League Diamond Race Trophy in the event, taking a narrow win over the reigning Olympic champion Andrey Silnov of Russia.
In the 31 year history of the Jesse Owens Award, Williams is only high jumper to ever win this honour.
Jeter Dominates 100m
Jeter had the season of her life with a nearly perfect record in the 100m on her way to winning three World Championships medals in Daegu.
Jeter set the tone for her season by running away from the field at the Prefontaine Classic in a world leading time of 10.70. Jeter’s performance at the Prefontaine Classic was untouched for the rest of the season and garnered her the win of the Outdoor Visa Championship Series. At the USA Championships, she not only won the 100m, but also picked-up runner-up honours in the 200m.
Throughout the course of the season, Jeter won in Daegu, Stockholm, London, Brussels, Monaco and Zurich to win the Diamond League Trophy in both the 100m and 200m.
In Daegu, Jeter doubled her tally of career World Championships medals bringing her count to six. In the span of a week, Jeter won a world title in the 100m, took silver in the 200m and lead the U.S. squad to gold as the anchor of the women’s 4x100m team.
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 track and field 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 at all times conducting himself with grace and dignity. With his remarkable performances, Owens forever destroyed Adolf Hitler's notions of Aryan supremacy.
The 2011 Jesse Owens 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 22,000 fan votes were received. Other men’s finalists included Walter Dix, Ashton Eaton, Ryan Hall, Trey Hardee, Bernard Lagat, Dwight Phillips, Jason Richardson, Galen Rupp and Christian Taylor. Finalists for the women’s award were Jillian Camarena-Williams, Desiree Davila, Lashinda Demus, Allyson Felix, Brittney Reese, Jenny Simpson and Morgan Uceny.
This year's awards will be presented on Saturday 3 December at the Jesse Owens Hall of Fame Banquet, held in conjunction with USA Track & Field's 2011 Annual Meeting in St. Louis, Missouri.
USA Track & Field for the IAAF