Tuesday December 28th, 2010

These are some of the outstanding male athletes, listed in alphabetical order, in Olympic sports for the year 2010. Last week, we looked at some of the top female athletes.

Simon Ammann Switzerland, ski jumping

Eight years after taking double gold at the Salt Lake Olympics as a 20-year-old, Ammann roared back to form in 2010, taking individual gold medals on both the normal hill and large hill at the Vancouver Olympics. The Swiss engineering student had been inconsistent after his initial Olympic success, failing to win a medal at the 2006 Games and taking only two world-cup victories in his career until November 2008. Ammann ended his stellar season by winning the ski flying world title on the world's largest hill in Planica, Slovenia. His jump of 236.5 meters was the second-farthest jump in history.

Canada Ice hockey

When has a team ever been under as much pressure to win on home soil, or home ice, at an Olympics? Playing before VIPs from the Prime Minister to Wayne Gretzky, who were there in person, and a television audience that exceeded half the country, Canada defeated the United States, 3-2, in overtime to capture Olympic gold before its delirious home fans in Vancouver. Sidney Crosby's overtime goal, beat superb U.S. goaltender Ryan Miller and set off celebrations throughout the nation and sparked random boisterous renditions of "O Canada" in theaters, bars and central squares throughout a hockey-man land.

Steven Holcomb USA, bobsled

The driver of the Night Train bobsled made history at the Vancouver Olympics, leading his four-man team that included Steve Mesler, Curt Tomasevicz and Justin Olsen to the first gold medal for a U.S. male bobsled team since 1948. Holcomb, 30, entered the Games as a favorite after capturing the world title the year before in Lake Placid. The progression of the National Guardsman in the U.S. Army is all the more remarkable considering that Holcomb underwent surgery for keratoconus, a degenerative eye disease in which the cornea erodes, obscuring vision. Prior to undergoing his corrective procedure before the 2008-09 season, Holcomb had been driving by feel rather than sight.

Ryan Lochte USA, swimming

In winning his second consecutive award as world swimmer of the year, Lochte, 26, captured six gold medals at the Pan-Pacific Championships in Irvine. Lochte won both individual medleys, the 200-meter backstroke and freestyle races and took golds in both freestyle relays. At the World Short-Course Championships in Dubai later in the year, Lochte won six golds and a silver to confirm his outstanding season. Lochte also beat Michael Phelps in the 200 IM at the U.S. National Championships, marking the first time he defeated Phelps, head-to-head, at a major national or international meet. Lochte now has the world record, in both short and long-course competition, in the 200 IM, a race Phelps once owned.

Evan Lysacek USA, figure skating

The Chicago native saved his best performance for the biggest stage, when he beat Russian rival Evgeni Plushenko to win gold at the Vancouver Olympics. Lysacek entered the Games as the reigning world champion, and his confrontation with Plushenko was billed as a contrast in styles. Plushenko, the man with the quad, was the world's best jumper, while Lysacek was the superior stylist. Skating to music by Stravisky and completing eight triple jumps, without attempting a quad, Lysacek won the free skate and beat Plushenko by just 1.31 points, becoming the first U.S. man to win the Olympic title in 22 years.

Peter Northug Norway, cross-country skiing

The bad boy of Nordic skiing won four medals at the Vancouver Olympics, including golds in 50-kilometer classic and the team sprint. At the same Games, he won a silver in the 4x10K relay and bronze in the sprint classic event. True to form, the man who rarely congratulates and sometimes berates his foes sparked controversy again, this time by accusing Swedish rival Marcus Hellner of deliberately stepping on and breaking one of his skis during the 30k race in Vancouver. Northug has often infuriated coaches and teammates by training on his own time and even skipping practices to engage in his other sporting passion, pick-up soccer, when he chooses to. Despite his petulance, his results are hard to deny.

David Rudisha Kenya, track and field

The young Kenyan emerged as the bright new star of track and field in 2010, shattering one of the most impressive world records on the books. In August, Rudisha set a world record of one minute, 14.09 seconds for 800 meters, breaking the mark of Kenyan-born Dane Wilson Kipketer that had stood since 1997. Rudisha then lowered the mark to 1:41.01 a week later in Rieti, Italy. David's father, Daniel Rudisha, won a silver medal at the Mexico City Olympics in 1968 as a member of Kenya's 4x400-meter relay team. Last month, Rudisha, who just recently turned 22, became the youngest athlete, male or female to win the IIAF's annual award as international athlete of the year.

Kohei Uchimura Japan, gymnastics

By decisively winning the all-around title at the World Championships in Rotterdam two months ago, Uchimura, 21, improved on his silver-medal showing at the Beijing Olympics. At Worlds, Uchimura also won silver medals in the team event and on floor exercise, and he took a bronze on parallel bars. The student at Nippon Sport Science University scored at least 15 points on each of the six apparatuses and finished 2.183 points ahead of silver medalist Philipp Boy of Germany. For perspective, the gap between Boy and 12th place finisher Kim Soo-myun of South Korea was only 2.049 points.

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