A battle of young Olympic stars came down to just 11 votes, with gymnast Simone Biles eking out the Associated Press’s Athlete of the Year award over Katie Ledecky.
Biles won four gold medals in Rio, tying the record for American female gymnasts at a single Olympics. She’s also the most decorated gymnast in American history after winning 4 golds and a bronze in Rio. At 19, Biles was the face of the gold medal-winning American gymnastics team and one of the overall faces of American Olympic coverage.
Ledecky, also 19, was one of the other key pieces in 2016 Olympic coverage. Her 4 golds and a silver medal included an incredibly rare sweep of the 200, 400 and 800 freestyles in Olympic competition. Ledecky also helped the dominant American 4×200 free relay take gold, and showed off her impressive range with a key split on the 4×100 free relay that took silver.
In some ways, Ledecky was hurt by the overall popularity of her sport. As dominant as Ledecky was on the women’s side, she had to compete with Michael Phelps‘ farewell tour, Katinka Hosszu‘s Olympic breakthrough, Ryan Lochte‘s in- and out-of-pool charisma as well as world records from Adam Peaty, Sarah Sjostrom, the Australian 4×100 free relay and Ryan Murphy just to get coverage within her own sport. Biles was the face of a 5-person American gymnastics team that became media darlings, and as such, was launched a bit higher into the public eye during Rio.
Biles earned 31 of 59 total votes for the award, with Ledecky taking 20. The other votes went to tennis player Serena Williams (4) and basketball player Breanna Stewart (4).
The AP will announce the Male Athlete of the Year tomorrow.