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Swimmer Jessica Long Becomes First Paralympic Athlete to Win AAU Sullivan Award

By U.S. Paralympics

Swimmer Jessica Long (Baltimore, Md.) became the first Paralympic athlete to win the AAU James E. Sullivan Award, presented to the USA's best amateur athlete, Wednesday night at an awards ceremony in New York City. Long, 15, won the award after a spectacular year in 2006, highlighted by her performance at the International Paralympic Committee (IPC) Swimming World Championships in Durban, South Africa, in December, where she won nine gold medals and set five world records.

"I was just happy to be nominated," Long said. "There were so many great athletes nominated. I was shocked to hear them say that I had won."

Long was one of 15 finalists for the award, along with Joey Cheek (speedskating), Sasha Cohen (figure skating), Troy Dumais (diving), Chris Leak (football), Joakim Noah (basketball), Apolo Ohno, (speedskating), Candace Parker (basketball), Michael Phelps (swimming), Brady Quinn (football), Angela Ruggiero (ice hockey), Troy Smith (football), Hannah Teter (snowboarding), Joe Warren (wrestling) and Bill Zadick (wrestling).

"Jessica not only deserves this award for her performance in the pool, but for what she has done as a role model and mentor for kids with physical disabilities," said Charlie Huebner, Chief of U.S. Paralympics. "An objective of the USOC Gameplan is to increase participation of kids with physical disabilities in sport and recreation programs throughout the U.S. The Sullivan Award's recognition of Jessica's ability significantly enhances our opportunities to meet that objective."

Long has also been honored as the U.S. Olympic Committee's 2006 Paralympian of the Year and Swimming World Magazine's 2006 Disabled Swimmer of the Year.

"Winning the Sullivan Award is a great honor for Jessica and truly well deserved," said Julie O'Neill, head coach of the U.S. Paralympics Swimming National Team. "There were many worthy nominees who also had fantastic performances in 2006, and to have a Paralympic athlete win the award for the first time among a group of such deserving finalists is a great milestone for Paralympic swimming and Paralympic sport as a whole."

Recent winners of the Sullivan Award include: J.J. Redick (2005), Paul Hamm (2004), Michael Phelps (2003), Sarah Hughes (2002), Michelle Kwan (2001), Rulon Gardner (2000), Coco Miller (1999), Chamique Holdsclaw (1998) and Peyton Manning (1997).

About U.S. Paralympics: U.S. Paralympics, a division of the U.S. Olympic Committee, is dedicated to becoming the world leader in the Paralympic sports movement and to promoting excellence in the lives of persons with physical disabilities.

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