The Associated Press announced New York Yankees slugger Aaron Judge and Olympic gold medalist swimmer Katie Ledecky as their 2022 athletes on Friday. This is the second time Ledecky has been chosen.
The AP cited the judge’s 62 home runs last season, an American leagueas the reason it was selected by a panel of 40 writers and media editors in the United States. This record stood for six decades.
He also cited Ledecky’s performance at the FINA World Championships, whereas the reason she was chosen.
The Yankees outfielder edged out Los Angeles Angels star Shohei Ohtani, last year’s winner, in the vote announced Friday. Stephen Curry of the NBA champion Golden State Warriors finished third.
Judge joins an esteemed fraternity of winners that includes Jesse Owens, Muhammad Ali, Wayne Gretzky and Michael Jordan. Among the former Yankees to win were Joe DiMaggio, Mickey Mantle and Roger Maris – the man who set the previous AL mark of 61 home runs in 1961.
“Wow. It’s amazing,” Judge said of his selection. “All of these other great athletes who have not only impacted the game and their sport, but also their communities and culture in the world of sport and outside of the world of sport. So to have the chance to be a part of this list is an incredible honor.”
Judge has hit 16 more homers than any other player in the big league, the biggest gap since Jimmie Foxx hit 58 for the Philadelphia Athletics in 1932 and Babe Ruth had 41 for the Yankees.
And while Barry Bonds holds the major league record of 73 homers in a season for San Francisco in 2001 in baseball’s steroid era, Judge’s achievement has some fans celebrating what they consider the baseball’s “clean” reference.
Ledecky, who previously won the award in 2017, edged out US track star Sydney McLaughlin in the ballot announced on Wednesday.
The two were tied on total points, but Ledecky got the nod based on 10 votes for first place to McLaughlin’s nine. Basketball star A’ja Wilson finished third.
“I know so many great athletes have won this honor,” Ledecky said. “I’m really happy – happy with how my year has gone, and also excited about the future.”
Ledecky, who won her first Olympic gold medal in 2012 at the age of 15, managed to stay ahead of the longest women’s freestyle pool events for the better part of a decade.
She has held the long course world record in the 800 and 1,500 free meters since 2013, rarely facing a serious challenge in either of these grueling races.
At this year’s World Aquatics Championships in Budapest, Hungary, Ledecky touched first place in the 800m by over 10 seconds and won the 1,500m by nearly 15 seconds. She also won gold in the 400m freestyle and was part of the winning US team in the 4x200m freestyle relay.
Before the end of 2022, Ledecky added two more world records to his registry. She set short course scores in the 800m and 1,500m a week apart, though she rarely competes in the 25m pool.
But the real fun for Ledecky comes when no one is cheering her on, when it’s just her and her coaches and teammates, who spend long, lonely hours training.
“I’m maybe one of the few swimmers who loves training even more than racing,” she said. “Don’t get me wrong: I also like running. But I really like going to practice every day. I get excited when I go to bed to train in the morning.
Ledecky tackled a brutal program at the Tokyo Games, where women competed in the 1,500 freestyle for the first time. As expected, she swept the 800-1,500 double but missed Australian rival Ariarne Titmus in two shorter freestyle events.
Ledecky settled for silver behind Titmus in the 400m and didn’t even medal in the 200m, finishing 1 1/2 seconds behind the fifth-placed Australian.
It was the first time Ledecky had failed to medal in an Olympic race.
“There are some things I wish I had seen better in Tokyo,” she conceded. “But also, I was really stretching, I was swimming the 1,500m at the Olympics for the first time, while also swimming the 200m freestyle. The events were even on the same day, which I don’t think anyone someone else do. It was a challenge I had set myself for many years, something I wanted to take on. I don’t regret taking it on.
Fifth place was certainly an anomaly in Ledecky’s glittering career.
In three Olympic appearances, she won seven gold and three silver medals. At the biennial world championships, Ledecky racked up a staggering 19 gold medals along with three silver medals.
She has every intention of going faster.
Ledecky is focused on the Paris 2024 Games, where she will likely compete in at least four events. She even foresees the Olympic Games of her native country in Los Angeles in 2028.
She will be 31 by then, but sees no reason not to stay on top.
“I always set myself new goals,” Ledecky said. “I’m enjoying the process more and more every year. What it takes to stay at that level. What it takes to keep my eyes peeled for something that’s a few years away.”