Michael Phelps, even after he’s done swimming, keeps racking up honors, as he has been named to a list of 40 finalists for TIME Magazine’s Person of the Year award for 2012.
The honor is given to a person (or in some cases, a facsimile of a person, or in more recent years, an object or a metaphor) who most influenced the news in any given calendar year. The award is not necessarily given, however, to what you would traditionally think of for an “of the year” award; the influence on the news can be for better or for worse. It is simply a recognition of the most dominant figure of the previous year seen through the eyes of news editors.
Among other sports figures nominated for the 2012 award is U.S. Olympic all-around gymnastics champion Gabby Douglas, who became the first woman of color to win the individual Olympic gymnastics all-around title (and also the first American woman ever to win individual and team gold in the same year). NFL commissioner Roger Goodell is also in the running, as he has made headlines both for his leadership in the New Orleans Saints “bounty” scandal, as well as the increasing role of concussion prevention initiatives in football.
Other major figures nominated include the American President Barack Obama, and as is tradition his Vice-president Joe Biden, his opponent in the 2012 election Mitt Romney, and Romney’s VP candidate Paul Ryan. Also on the list are newly-elected Egyptian president Mohamed Morsy; Kim Jong Un, the new ruler of volatile North Korea; Psy, the Korean musician behind the international sensation Gangnam style; late-night tv hosts Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert; hip-hop mogul Jay-Z; and the Mars rover.
My vote probably would go to the Higgs Boson Particle; scientists in Europe found scientifically-supported evidence “consistent with” the existence of such a particle that is believed to be the building-block of everything, though they stopped short of declaring it a discovery.
In a year with such significant happenings as the continued unrest in the middle-east and a presidential election, though, it would be an upset for either an athlete or a scientific achievement to take the title.
The editors will choose the person who will adorn the cover of their annual Person of the Year issue, which will be released on December 21st, but in the meanwhile, the public has the opportunity to make their choice by voting on TIME’s website. Morsy curently leads that poll both in “Definitely” votes and “No Way” votes.