This time John Smith, the first American to win four consecutive world wrestling titles, didn't have to applaud for the winner of the Amateur Athletic Union's James E. Sullivan Award as the nation's outstanding amateur athlete for 1990.
Smith, 25, of Stillwater, Okla., was a finalist for the fourth time and became the first wrestler to receive the Sullivan Award."It's kind of like the Olympics. You really don't know what you won until you wake up the next day," Smith said.
In the past three years, Smith has congratulated baseball's Jim Abbott, track's Florence Griffith Joyner and swimming's Janet Evans who finished ahead of him in the voting for the award.
"People come up to you and people say you deserve it, but right now I'm still a little in awe," Smith said. "There's 10 great athletes and it's like the lottery ... How can anyone say, `I deserve to win it.' I just appreciate those people who believe that I had the talent and I did the right things to deserve this award."
The selection was announced by the 1989 winner, Evans, during the annual Sullivan dinner at the Indiana Convention Center. Eight of the 10 finalists for the award attended the dinner.
"I'm especially happy for the sport of wrestling. I think it will make big strides for the sport that doesn't get a lot of the credit that it deserves," said Smith, who is currently training at Oklahoma State where he is an assistant coach.
Former winners at the dinner included Sen. Bill Bradley, D-N.J., the 1965 Sullivan winner in basketball; and Greg Rice, the 1940 winner from Notre Dame, who was considered the finest distance runner of his time.
Bradley is only one of two basketball players to receive the award, the other being UCLA's Bill Walton.
"I received it at halftime of a basketball game in Denver. I came out and they gave me the Sullivan and then I left the next morning," said Bradley, who led Princeton to a third-place finish in the NCAA tournament and helped the U.S. basketball team capture gold medals in the 1964 Olympics and the 1965 World Student Games.
The award, presented annually since 1930, has traditionally gone to an individual performer rather than to athletes in team sports. Track and field competitors have received it 35 times, nearly three times more than any other sport.
Swimmers and divers have won 12 times, including last year when Evans became the 10th woman winner and the fifth since 1982.