Nominations for the 2016 ESPY Awards are in, and voting has begun. Among the dozens of phenomenal athletes from a myriad of sports, two swimmers find themselves among those that may be receiving one of the athletic community’s most publicized accolades. Katie Ledecky, Olympic champion, world-record-holder, and overall phenom, has been nominated for Best Female Athlete, and visually-impaired Paralympian and Navy veteran Brad Snyder has been nominated for Best Athlete With a Disability.
While sports such as tennis, soccer, and baseball have their own male and female athlete awards, there is no category for swimming, which makes it even more special that Ledecky is being honored as one of the American athletic community’s best performers from any sport. Ledecky came onto the international scene in 2012 with her phenomenal win in the London Olympics in the 800 freestyle. Last summer at the FINA World Championships in Kazan, Russia, Ledecky again gained attention from the international athletic community with her 5-gold-medal performance. At the US Olympic Trials, which begin this Sunday, June 26th, Ledecky will swim 6 individual events, expanding her repertoire from distance freestyle to also include sprint freestyle and individual medley. Ledecky is the world-record-holder in the 400, 800, and 1500 meter freestyles, and is encroaching on other American and world records. While expectations are higher than they have ever been for the 19-year-old, Ledecky has proven she can handle the pressure, and is sure to amaze in Omaha.
Brad Snyder, who competes as an S11 Paralympic athlete, is up for the Best Athlete With a Disability Award. Snyder lost his vision while serving in the United States Navy in Afghanistan as a member of Operation Enduring Freedom in the summer of 2011. The explosive that took Snyder’s vision was buried in the ground when he happened upon it, and Snyder is very lucky to not have lost any limbs or endured any other physically crippling damage.
The inspiration for an upcoming feature film, Snyder hopes to make the US Paralympic Team and compete in Rio this summer. In London, exactly one year after he lost his vision to the IED in Afghanistan, Snyder won the gold medal in the 100 freestyle, competing in the S11 category. Snyder also took home the gold medal in the 400 freestyle and the silver in the 50 freestyle in London. Last summer in Glasgow, UK, Snyder took home gold medals in the 50 free, 100 free, and 400 meter free, competing S11 at the IPC Swimming World Championships.
Before his overseas service, Snyder was a student at the US Naval Academy. A 2006 graduate with a degree in Naval Architecture, Snyder was also a captain of Navy’s swim team his senior year in Annapolis. Snyder got back in the water initially as a means of rehabilitation. Shortly afterwards he earned his berth on the US Paralympic Team and his opportunity to compete at the Olympics in London. Though he is nominated only as a swimmer, Snyder also has an impressive track & field record. Before competing in London, Snyder won seven gold medals at the 2012 Warrior Games held in Colorado Springs, CO; four coming from the pool, and three from the track & field.
In 2015 MMA fighter Ronda Rousey was crowned as the Best Female Athlete of the Year. Missy Franklin won the accolade for Best College Athlete, an award that Ledecky will no doubt at least be considered for next year after she has a year of NCAA swimming under her belt from Stanford. This year Ledecky’s fellow nominees include Breanna Stewart of the University of Connecticut’s Basketball team, Elena Delle Donne of the WNBA’s Chicago Sky, and gymnast Simone Biles. Snyder’s fellow nominees include Richard Browne (track & field), Joe Berenyl (cycling), Aaron Fotheringham (WCMX), and Nikko Landeros (Ice Hockey). If you wish to cast your vote you may do so here. The ESPY Awards will take place on July 13th at 8pm Eastern Standard Time (7pm CST), and be broadcast on ABC.