SI will name its 52nd annual Sportsman of the Year in the Dec. 12 issue. Until then, SI writers will be offering their personal picks for Sportsman at SI.com/sportsman. Here are selections from senior writers L. Jon Wertheim and Tim Layden.
there is a collective realization on the ATP Tour that until Roger Federer retires, everyone is playing for second place. As Nicolas Kiefer put it matter-of-factly, "We play on Earth, but he's playing on another planet."
As for rest of the tennis salon, we have long exhausted superlatives to characterize Federer's brilliance. Broadcasters have given up trying to describe the indescribable and simply laugh an incredulous laugh when Federer, who is 77-3 this year, reels off one of his you-gotta-be-kidding-me winners.
Contrary to Kiefer's assertion, Federer does play on this planet. All over it, in fact. But being a global icon doesn't always work in his favor. If, by accident of birth, he were from Spokane or Syracuse instead of Switzerland, is there any doubt he would reside in the same sports celebrity wing as Tiger or Shaq?
As it stands, he gets my vote. And sooner or later he'll be made in the U.S.A. -L.J.W.
he is an American who took on the world's best and beat them all in a competition that carried across the high peaks of Europe and seemed to last forever. He is the very best where Americans have seldom triumphed, and for that he deserves to be named SI's Sportsman of the Year. No, not that American. This American: Alpine skier Bode Miller. Four months before Lance Armstrong won his seventh consecutive Tour de France, Miller became the first U.S. skier in 22 years to win the World Cup overall title.
Miller embraces victory, but scarcely as much as he enjoys the rush of skiing well. He has started every World Cup race for the last three seasons, a Ripken-esque streak that stands at 115. The U.S. coaches have encouraged Miller to rest, but he refuses. "It's a source of pride for me," he says.
A gifted athlete who shows up for work every day and judges his performance by his own exacting standards, yet still stands at the top of the world? Sounds like a sportsman to me. -T.L.
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SVEN NACKSTRAND/AFP/GETTY IMAGES (MILLER)
CHUCK SOLOMON (FEDERER)