NEW YORK (AP) " Olympic gold medalist Shawn Johnson can add the Sullivan Award as the nation's top amateur athlete to her balance beam title at the Beijing Games.
Johnson beat out teammate Nastia Liukin, the all-around champion at the 2008 Games, and several others for the 79th annual award, presented Wednesday. She is the third gymnast to win the Sullivan, joining Kurt Thomas (1979) and Paul Hamm (2004). Hamm won the all-around at the Athens Olympics that year.
Other finalists were the U.S. Olympic men's 400-meter freestyle relay swim team; volleyball player Cynthia Barboza of Stanford; and North Carolina basketball player Tyler Hansbrough.
"This is an incredible honor for Shawn and it recognizes her outstanding gymnastics accomplishments, as well as her character both on and off the field of play," said Steve Penny, president of USA Gymnastics. "We also congratulate the other Sullivan Award finalists, especially Nastia, who achieved great success and is also a wonderful ambassador for gymnastics."
Johnson won four medals at the 2008 Olympics: the gold on balance beam, silver in the team, in all-around, and in floor exercise. She is only the second U.S. gymnast to win an Olympic gold medal on balance beam, joining Shannon Miller (1996).
Among her other achievement last year were winning the all-around at the Olympic Trials, and taking the U.S. all-around and floor exercise titles for the second straight year at the Visa Championships.