Nov. 29, 2004
PORTLAND, Ore. (from USA T & F) - Olympic record-holding hurdler UCLA great Joanna Hayes and triple Olympic medalist Justin Gatlin on Monday were named winners of the 2004 Jesse Owens Awards by USA Track & Field.
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. The 2004 Jesse Owens Awards will be presented December 3 at the 2004 Jesse Owens Awards and Xerox Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony, held in conjunction with the USATF Annual Meeting in Portland, Ore.
Joanna Hayes wrote her own history at the Olympic Games. The 27-year-old, who had previously been known as more of a 400-meter hurdler, stepped down to the 100-meter hurdles, then stepped on to the gold medalist's platform. Hayes ran a stunning 12.37 seconds in the Olympic final to break the 16-year-old Olympic record of 12.38, previously held by world record holder Yordanka Donkova, and to become only the second American ever to win Olympic gold in the event. Hayes went on to win the World Athletics Final (12.58), and she had three of the six fastest times in the world in 2004, including four clockings of 12.50 or faster.
"To be the winner of the Jesse Owens award is an honor beyond words," Hayes said. "Receiving an award with his named attached to it is obviously prestigious and I am extremely honored to have my name associated with his. Knowing some of the great people who have won this award before me and knowing what it represents, I feel a sense accomplishment and pride which lets me know that everything that I have worked for is and always will be worth it."
The 2003 Pan Am Games gold medalist in the 400 hurdles and 1995 USA Junior and Pan Am Junior champion in the 100 hurdles, Hayes decided to concentrate solely on the 100 hurdles for the first time in her career in 2004. The fruits of that labor were first evident at the Olympic Trials, where she ran a then-personal best of 12.50 in the her semifinal race before taking second in a photo-finish final to American record holder Gail Devers. Both women finished in 12.55, but Devers got the win.
"Joanna had nothing short of an amazing year," Masback said. "She broke an Olympic record held by the greatest women's hurdler in history and ran faster, and more consistently, than any other hurdler in the world. She also demonstrated the courage and sportsmanship that made her an example for our young women's team in Athens."
2004 marked the return of the men's 100 meters to the international spotlight, and Gatlin took center stage. The 22-year-old won the most competitive men's 100m in Olympic history in Athens, as five men finished under 9.95 seconds. Gatlin won in 9.85 to take the gold over a field that was filled with potential winners, including runner-up Francis Obikwelu of Portugal (9.86) and bronze medalist Maurice Greene (9.87). Gatlin's time stood as the fastest in the world in 2004 and gave him his first of three Olympic medals. He added a bronze medal in the 200 meters (20.03) and silver in the 4x100m relay (38.08) to become the only male track & field athlete from any country to win three medals at the 2004 Games, running a total of 10 races.
"It is such a great honor to win the Jesse Owens Award," Gatlin said. "It is one of the biggest honors in track and field and it is a great end to a great year. I'd like to congratulate all my fellow Team USA members and Jesse Owens Award finalists on their outstanding 2004 seasons."
Gatlin ran under 10 seconds for the 100 on five occasions in 2004, including his runner-up finish of 9.92 at the Olympic Trials, where he was just .01 behind Maurice Greene and .01 ahead of training partner Shawn Crawford in the closest Olympic Trials final in history. He also placed second in the 200 at the Olympic Trials (20.01).
"We are proud to see Justin earn this prestigious award," said USATF CEO Craig A. Masback. "For him to win the Jesse Owens Award is a testament to his ability to perform when the chips are down in perhaps the most pressure-filled event in track & field. We congratulate Justin on his fine performances in 2004, and we look forward to many more years of excellence."
Jesse Owens Award
2004 Jesse Owens Award winners were selected in balloting of members of the U.S. track & field media. Other finalists for the men's Jesse Owens Award were Jeremy Wariner, Tim Mack, Shawn Crawford, Dwight Phillips and UCLA great Meb Keflezighi. Women's finalists were Deena Kastor, Bruin great Gail Devers, Lauryn Williams and Allyson Felix.
Female nominees for the 2004 Jesse Owens Award were Hayes, Deena Kastor, UCLA great Gail Devers, Lauryn Williams, Allyson Felix and Stacy Dragila. Male nominees were Gatlin, Jeremy Wariner, Tim Mack, Dwight Phillips, Shawn Crawford and Bruin great Meb Keflezighi. Voters for the award included members of the Track and Field Writers of America and other members of the media.
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),UCLA great Jackie Joyner-Kersee (1986 and 1987), Bruin great Florence Griffith Joyner (1988), Roger Kingdom (1989), Lynn Jennings (1990), UCLA great Kevin Young (1992), Bruin great Gail Devers (1993, 1996), Michael Johnson (1994, 1995 1996), Allen Johnson (1997), Marion Jones (1997, 1998, 2002), UCLA great John Godina (1998, 2001), Inger Miller (1999), Maurice Greene (1999), Stacy Dragila (2000 and 2001), Angelo Taylor (2000), Tim Montgomery (2002), Deena Kastor (2003) and Tom Pappas (2003).
For full bios of Joanna Hayes and Justin Gatlin, visit the Athlete Bios section of www.usatf.org