INDIANAPOLIS - Olympic gold medalists Stephanie Brown Trafton on Tuesday was named the female winner of the 2008 Jesse Owens Award by USA Track & Field. This marks the first time in her career that Brown Trafton have earned this prestigious distinction.
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. This year's awards will be presented on Saturday, December 6 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.
"All of us at USA Track & Field take great pride in saluting Bryan and Stephanie for their accomplishments during the 2008 season," said USATF CEO Doug Logan. "Their focus and determination, and their unwillingness to settle for anything less than gold, epitomize the best qualities we can hope for in our athletes. We congratulate them on their performances and wish them continued success in 2009."
Brown Trafton shocks the world
A 2004 Olympian who has never won a national title in the women's discus, Stephanie Brown Trafton, who finished third at this year's Olympic Trials, was not expected to challenge for a spot on the podium at the 2008 Olympic Games.
Once in Beijing, Brown Trafton qualified for the final and took the lead with her initial throw of 64.74 meters/212 feet five inches, which was less than five feet off her personal best. No one in the Olympic field was able to answer that performance, and Brown Trafton became the first American woman to win the gold medal in the discus 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, who posted three of the top four marks by an American in 2008, showed signs of her future Beijing success on May 8 in Salinas, Calif., when she unleashed a personal best throw of 66.17 meters/217 feet 1 inch. It was an effort that ended as the third-best throw in the world in 2008. During the 2008 campaign, Brown Trafton also won at the Nike Prefontaine Classic (63.50m/208-4), La Jolla (64.32m/211-0), Maui (64.05m/210-1), Palo Alto (63.30m/207-9) and Modesto (63.29m/207-7).
Brown Trafton makes history again by becoming 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."
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).
For full biographies of Clay and Brown Trafton, visit the Athlete Bios section of www.usatf.org.