Cheek, Teter named athletes of year

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Gold medal long-track speedskater Joey Cheek and snowboarder Hannah Teter were named the U.S. Olympic Committee's 2006 athletes of the year on Tuesday.

Cheek raced to victory in the 500 meters and a silver in the 1,000m at the Turin Olympics but also gained the spotlight for donating his $40,000 winnings to the charity to Right to Play.

Cheek has also been voted U.S. speedskating's athlete of the year and one of Time magazine's 100 most influential people.

He has retired from competitive speedskating and will attend Princeton University later this year.

But Cheek will continue his charity work, launching a global initiative "Where Will We Be,"to help keep attention on the humanitarian crisis in Darfur, Sudan.

"It's unbelievable that I'm now being honored with an award that not only speedskaters like Bonnie Blair, Dan Jansen and Eric Heiden have won, but all of the Olympic athletes," Cheek said during a teleconference.

He added: "When I spoke out at the Olympics, I raised money for Right to Play to specifically work with the children in Darfur and we had outstanding success. Right to Play received more than $600,000 in kind."

Teter won her Olympic gold medal in the women's half-pipe competition and has also put her fame to a positive use, launching Hannah's Gold, a Vermont maple syrup with proceeds from sales going to help African children.

The U.S. men's curling team, which captured the first American Olympic medal in the sport by taking bronze in Turin, was named USOC team of the year.

Swimmer Jessica Long, who set five world records and won nine gold medals at the Paralympic world championships, was voted paralympian of year.