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From UTto beyond, Parker ’08 top female

From UTto beyond, Parker ’08 top female

Posted: Wednesday, December 24, 2008 1:06 pm
By: AP

 By DOUG FEINBERG AP Sports Writer It’s been a whirlwind year for Candace Parker. She led Tennessee to a second straight national championship in women’s basketball, was the first pick in the WNBA draft, took the league’s MVP and rookie of the year awards, and helped the U.S. win a fourth-straight Olympic gold medal. Now Parker has been selected female athlete of the year by members of The Associated Press. “Wow, that’s amazing,” the 22-year-old Parker said. “It’s been a great year from so many standpoints. I haven’t really had a chance to sit back and let it all sink in.” Her selection Tuesday ended a five-year run in which a golfer (Annika Sorenstam, then Lorena Ochoa) won the award — the longest streak of any sport. Parker’s accomplishments weren’t lost on Tennessee coach Pat Summitt. “Talk about hitting all the high points of one’s life. She enjoyed an incredible run of back-to-back national championships, Olympic gold and all of her individual accolades,” the Hall of Famer said. “It was an exceptional year for an exceptional athlete and person.” Parker received 36 votes from members of The Associated Press, barely edging Ochoa, who had won the previous two years. Ochoa won seven times on the LPGA Tour, including her second major at the Kraft Nabisco Championship, and led the money list for the third consecutive season. Ochoa finished one vote shy of becoming only the fourth three-time winner of the award. Rounding out the top five were gymnast Nastia Liukin, swimmer Dara Torres, and gymnast Shawn Johnson. Liukin took home the biggest prize in her ongoing rivalry with Johnson, edging her teammate and Olympic village roommate for the all-around title in Beijing. The gold medal had extra meaning for Liukin, coming 20 years after her father and coach, Valeri, finished second to his teammate at the Seoul Games. Liukin finished with five medals, one more than her father won in 1988. The 41-year-old Torres won three silver medals at the Olympics. Johnson won four medals, saving the best for last. After getting silvers in the team competition, all-around and floor exercise, she finally won gold on balance beam, the last event. Michael Phelps was a runaway selection for the AP’s top male athlete. Besides Phelps, only Olympic sprinting sensation Usain Bolt and New York Giants quarterback Eli Manning got more than a single vote. Phelps was named on 172 ballots, becoming just the third swimmer to claim the award. Parker is only the third basketball player to win the women’s award, joining Sheryl Swoopes in 1993 and Rebecca Lobo in 1995. Parker averaged 18.5 points and 9.5 rebounds in leading Los Angeles to the Western Conference semifinals before the Sparks lost in three games to the San Antonio Silver Stars. “Losing has made me hungry to get better for next year,” Parker said. “It’s been on my mind since we lost to San Antonio.” Published in The Messenger 12.24.08

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