USOC honors Phelps, Liukin, Coughlin

Updated: January 22, 2009, 2:13 PM ET
Associated Press

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. -- Another award for Michael Phelps: The record-setting swimmer was chosen the U.S. Olympic Committee's sportsman of the year on Thursday.

All-around gymnastics champion Nastia Liukin and swimmer Natalie Coughlin, who won six medals in Beijing, tied in voting for sportswoman of the year.

Erin Popovich was selected paralympian of the year and the U.S. men's volleyball team, which won a gold medal in the aftermath of the attack and killing of coach Hugh McCutcheon's father-in-law, was team of the year.

Todd Bachman was killed while sightseeing at the 13th-century Drum Tower in Beijing the day after the Opening Ceremonies. The assailant jumped to his death from the tower.

"As a team, we sat down after what happened to Hugh and his family, decided we were going to push as hard as we could," volleyball player Riley Salmon said. "At the time, we didn't know what that meant. We knew we could be good. We didn't know how good we could be. We got hot at the right time."

Phelps broke Mark Spitz's record by winning eight gold medals in Beijing. He has won a slew of awards since, including The Associated Press male athlete of the year and the Sports Illustrated sportsman of the year.

He was traveling and not available for the USOC conference call.

Liukin said she is back in the gym, training five to six hours a day. She will head to the U.S. team training camp next week. Liukin plans a comeback this year and may defend her Olympic title in 2012.

"People say, 'Why keep going?' " she said. "I love competing and enjoy the sport. That overpowers the questions of putting my title up there. I haven't made a 100 percent commitment [to return] but I'm making the commitment to myself to get in shape and compete."


Copyright 2009 by The Associated Press

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