Mary Lou Retton, who vaulted into America's heart at the Los Angeles Olympics, could pick up another honor Monday when the Sullivan Award is presented.
Retton, the women's all-around gymnastics champion at the Summer Games, is one of 10 Olympic gold medalists selected as finalists for the award, being presented for the 55th time to the person voted America's top amateur athlete of the past year. The Amateur Athletic Union, which presents the award, does not allow an athlete to win it more than once.
"It's one of the most important amateur awards ever, so I'm very honored to be nominated for it," Retton said last Sunday when she was here as part of the entertainment at the NBA All-Star game.
Diver Greg Louganis, an also-ran in the national voting for the award the past five years, is another top contender. A winner of 29 national titles, Louganis swept the diving competition at Los Angeles last summer, while becoming the first in his sport to score 700 points off the platform board.
Tracie Ruiz, who won gold in both the duet and solo competition as synchronized swimming made its Olympic debut, is another contender who has been up for the award before. She was a finalist in 1981 and 1982.
The other finalists include Joan Benoit, who came back from arthroscopic knee surgery to win the first women's Olympic marathon; Valerie Brisco-Hooks, the first woman to win three track and field gold medals in one Olympics since Wilma Rudolph in 1960, and Bart Conner, a three-time member of the U.S. Olympic gymnastics squad who paced the men's team to a gold medal over China.
The list also includes equestrian Joe Fargis, who led the United States to the gold medal in show jumping and took individual honors in the event; veteran swimmer Rowdy Gaines, who set an Olympic record in the 100-meter freestyle and anchored men's medley and freestyle relay teams to world-record performances, and skier Bill Johnson, the first American man to win an Olympic Alpine event, capturing the downhill.
The winner is determined in national voting among the news media, AAU board members, U.S. Olympic Committee executive board members and past winners. The AAU says some 2,500 people participate in the voting.
Hurdler Edwin Moses won the award last year. Other winners include Rudolph, speed skater Eric Heiden, gymnast Kurt Thomas, distance runner Mary Decker Slaney, sprinter-long jumper Carl Lewis and current U.S. Sen. Bill Bradley, who won the award as a basketball star for Princeton.