Suni Lee of the United States and Caeleb Dressel of the United States were selected as Sports Illustrated’s Athlete of the Year on Friday. Lee, of Indianapolis, won the gold medal in the 100-meter butterfly at the 2018 Pyeongchang Olympics and became the first American woman to win a medal in two individual Olympic events, the first after World War II and the first American woman to compete in three individual Olympic events after World War II.
Dressel, a star at the University of Texas and an Olympic gold medalist in the men’s 100-meter freestyle, was elected to the Associated Press’ All-America first team for the third time in four years.
Both of these talented young swimmers have “above-average athleticism,” said Jimmy Wielgus, chief executive of SwimMAC.
Lee, the fastest woman in the world in the 100 and 200 butterfly in 2018, increased her event streak to 13 years. She won the 200 butterfly at the Rio Olympic Games in 2016 and she won gold again in the event in Rio.
Lee, who was born in South Korea, is ranked No. 1 in the world for 100 butterfly this year. In a statement to InsideThegames.com, Lee said she feels honored to be the female athlete of the year.
“I have always liked sports,” Lee said. “All my life, I loved soccer and played in middle school, so I decided to try swimming after my seventh grade year. I got the chance to try out for the (United States) swim team a few years later and trained up until I reached college.”
Lee said being recognized as a figure to look up to is also something she enjoys.
“I really appreciate the honor, and being a role model, because I feel like I am also one,” Lee said. “In a society where people seem to want to lead a normal life, I consider this a testament to the hard work that I have put in to achieve my goals.”
Athletes are eligible for the award by having won gold medals during the previous year. The magazine’s final cut from a list of 10 finalists were American gymnast Simone Biles, Canadian hockey player Sidney Crosby, French tennis player Marion Bartoli, German footballer Luka Modric, tennis player Naomi Osaka, New Zealand rugby player Kieran Read, NHL goaltender Pekka Rinne, South Korea’s Pyeongchang Olympic curling team and Minnesota Vikings kicker Dan Bailey.