Through process, Thrasher has reached unprecedented success. Her historic run began at the 2016 NCAA Rifle Championships where she became the first freshman rifle shooter ever to win both individual titles in air and smallbore while leading WVU to their fourth-straight, and 18th overall, NCAA team title.
Success didn’t end there for the 19-year-old, however. She went to Olympic Team Trials three weeks later and pulled out a decisive victory in the Three-Position event over a seasoned and talented field. She earned a nine-point win having never competed in the event internationally.
With a Finals performance for the ages, Thrasher won the first golden medal of the 2016 Olympic Games for Team USA. In winning the Women’s 10-meter Air Rifle event Saturday morning, the spotlight was glowing greater on the shooting sports and USA Shooting than any other time in history.
From NCAA Champion to Olympian, to Olympic gold medalist, it was quite a 2016 for Thrasher.
The AAU Sullivan Award has been presented annually since 1930 to the most outstanding amateur athlete in the United States. Representatives from the AAU created the Sullivan Award with the intent to recognize contributions and achievements across the country of amateur athletes. World renowned golfer Bobby Jones, co-founder of The Masters, received the inaugural award in 1930 and swimmer Anne Curtis became the first female to accept the award in 1944. Other notable athletes to win include famed Olympians Mark Spitz (1971), Carl Lewis (1981), Jackie Joyner-Kersee (1986) and Michael Phelps (2003). Former UCLA basketball star Bill Walton (1973), University of Tennessee quarterback Peyton Manning (1997), Ohio State running back Ezekiel Elliott (2015) and UConn Forward, Breanna Stewart (2016) have also earned the prestigious honor.
Based on the qualities of leadership, character, sportsmanship, and the ideals of amateurism, the AAU Sullivan Award goes far beyond athletic accomplishments and honors those who have shown strong moral character.
After a first round of voting, six finalists will be announced and proceed to a second round of voting. Six finalists will be part of the AAU James E. Sullivan Award Ceremony that will take place on Tuesday, April 11, 2017 at the New York Athletic Club.
The other semifinalists for the 2016 AAU James E. Sullivan Award are:
Aly Raisman (gymnastics), Ashleigh Johnson (water polo), Brianna Turner (basketball), Deshaun Watson (football), Helen Maroulis (wrestling), Jackie Galloway (taekwondo), Kayla Harrison (judo), Kyle Lewis (baseball), Kyle Snyder (wrestling), Lauren Carlini (volleyball), Laurie Hernandez (gymnastics), Lonzo Ball (basketball), Malik Monk (basketball), Matt Centrowitz Jr (track & field), Maverick McNealy (golf), Steele Johnson (diving) and Vashti Cunningham (track & field).
The AAU was founded in 1888 to establish standards and uniformity in amateur sports. During its early years, the AAU served as a leader in international sport representing the U.S. in the international sports federations. The AAU worked closely with the Olympic movement to prepare athletes for the Olympic games. After the Amateur Sports Act of 1978, the AAU has focused its efforts into providing sports programs for all participants of all ages beginning at the grass roots level. The philosophy of “Sports for All, Forever,” is shared by over 670,000 participants and over 100,000 volunteers.