Atlanta Constitution Journal
amateur honored at taxing time
Karen Rosen - Staff
Tuesday, April 13, 2004
New York --- Tonight's ceremony for the 2003 Sullivan Award, where the nation's top amateur athlete will be announced, comes at a bad time of year for a candidate trying to make a living as a tax accountant.
Philippa "Phil" Raschker of Marietta didn't sleep for three days before leaving town so she could meet her clients' April 15 tax deadline. She also brought work with her.
"This is not the time to be away," said Raschker, 57, the most decorated masters track and field athlete in history with 68 world championships medals. Last month, she won a gold (high jump) and two silvers (pole vault and triple jump) while hobbled with a hamstring injury at the first World Indoor Masters Championships in her native Germany.
"Everybody's been very understanding," she said. "This is a once-in-a-lifetime deal. I'm going to get out of tax mode and into enjoyment mode."
Unlike her fellow nominees --- basketball stars LeBron James and Diana Taurasi, swimmer Michael Phelps and short track speedskater Apolo Anton Ohno --- Raschker receives no salary or training stipend and is not supported by a team.
She works out by herself and pays her way to meets around the world because track and field has given her confidence and the self-esteem she lacked growing up.
"I don't really enjoy training," Raschker said, "never have. I do it because I love to win."
But Raschker, nominated by the National Senior Games Association, said it would be "way too optimistic" to expect her name to be called out tonight at the New York Athletic Club. She said she would have voted for Taurasi, followed by Phelps. She believes James' current status as a highly-paid professional hurt his chances of winning the amateur award.
The AAU had expected James at the ceremony, then announced Friday that he wouldn't attend. The Cavaliers are off today and play the Knicks in New York on Wednesday night.
"To me I have won already, no matter what the outcome is," Raschker said. "No doubt about it, I never thought I'd make it this far. I have had such a terrific support group getting my name out there."
Raschker's 83-year-old mother, Efriede Arden, traveled from Germany for the award dinner. Raschker also will be joined by many people she's met on the masters circuit, including Pat Peterson, 77, of Albany, N.Y.
Peterson said that a former member of her club doesn't run in big meets because Raschker is there.
"I said, 'Look, if you have to lose, lose to a champion,' " said Peterson. "Phil works awfully hard. She's methodical in her skill. I'm a former physical education teacher, and her form is so beautiful to watch."
Raschker doesn't see herself retiring anytime soon. "I'm excited," she said, "every time I turn into a new age group."
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NEW YORK -- Sitting onstage with figure skating gold medalist Sarah Hughes, world champion swimmer Michael Phelps and Olympic champion speedskater Apolo Anton Ohno for the 74th Annual Sullivan Award ceremony, Philippa "Phil" Raschker felt out of place last night.
"All these young kids here, it made me feel like, 'Here's Grandma sitting next to her grandchildren,' " said Raschker, 57, a Marietta, Ga. tax accountant. "And still I feel like with what I accomplished, it was well-deserved to be part of it."
Raschker, who has won 68 medals on the world level in masters track and field, watched Phelps claim the Sullivan Award as the nation's top amateur athlete.
Phelps, 18, of Baltimore, rode the wave from his six medals at the World Championships, where he became the first swimmer to set five world records in one meet.
"Phil won by being here," said Bobby Dodd, president of the AAU.
"I don't know if I'll be swimming past 30," he said. "She's obviously doing great things at her age, and like she said, you never know what can happen when you really love and want to do something."
Hughes, the 2002 Sullivan Award winner, presented Phelps with the trophy.
LeBron James, who was a high school basketball phenom before joining the Cleveland Cavaliers, told the AAU that a prior commitment prevented him from attending the ceremony although he was in New York for tonight's game vs. the Knicks. Diana Taurasi, the Connecticut basketball star, was playing an exhibition game with the U.S. national team in Texas.
Raschker was almost giddy when the formal ceremony ended Tuesday night and the autograph session began. She wore a blue-green crushed velvet dress with a halter top that showed off the muscles in her arms and her back.
"I'm not used to this kind of stuff," Raschker said. "For the masters program, we're just not used to getting any kind of publicity."
She was interrupted by a 73-year-old masters swimmer who wanted an autograph and to find out how often she trains (four times a week).
Isn't it fun to be in the limelight for once? "Yes and no," Raschker said. "I'm perfect behind the scenes. This is part of me growing up at 57, to really try to be comfortable. . . . My heart was jumping way out the window onto Central Park, and I just couldn't settle down."
Peg Adams, president of the Georgia AAU and a Sullivan committee member, said Raschker did "really, really well in the voting. There are people who appreciated what a great job she did."
**** OVER 100 NEWSPAPERS: A.P. STORIES WITH PHIL RASCHKER -MASTERS TRACK IN USA Today, Seattle Post Intelligencer, Detroit Free Press, Chicago Tribune, NY Newsday, San Francisco Chronicle, Houston Chronicle and OVER 100 others, Plus CNN, Fox, National College TV, and myriad of indivudual stations according a Google "News" search for "Raschker Sullivan" -- the stories all mentioned "57-year-old masters track-and-field athlete Philippa Raschker, an accountant from Marietta, Ga."
*** (A note for folks who care about the organizational element: until we called the NYC AP Daybook at 11AM the day of the event, the AP Daybook editor, Tom McIntyre - -who puts it on the calendar for AP and which all other media work from -- told us it was the first he's heard about it and he took phone notes and blasted the event out as a media "to be covered" calendar item, including exactly what we told him with Philippa Raschker's name as masters track and 57-year-old accountant from Marietta, GA -- as all the stories then stated. I had asked Phil what she does other than track so the media could know the human part; and her exact age which in this case adds to the story. In addition, a CNN crew who came and covered (Story also in Google) following a call we made to their assignment desk the day before the event and their follow-up to us the morning of the event, told us it was our call in their memo file that generated their coverage; and the National College TV network reporter covering the event said he was contacted by his editor the day of the event to come following the AP Daybook rollout. Fox TV also covered, using the AP story with Phil).
'RICK FREEMAN, AP Sports Writer (As in USA Today and at least 100+ newspapers:)
Michael Phelps matched one of Mark Spitz's accomplishments without even trying. Now, it's on to the Olympics.
Phelps didn't find out until after he'd won the 2003 Sullivan Award as the nation's top athlete on Tuesday night that Spitz won the award, too -- 32 years earlier.
"He won it before he had his big success at the Olympics, so maybe it's a sign," Phelps said with a laugh. "I don't know. You can always hope."
Phelps, the 19-year-old American swimmer who will try to equal Spitz's seven Olympic gold medals at the Athens Games in August, beat LeBron James of the Cleveland Cavaliers and Diana Taurasi, who recently led Connecticut to its third straight NCAA women's basketball championship.
Last year's winner, Sarah Hughes, received a standing ovation when she was introduced at the New York Athletic Club in Manhattan. Afterward, she sat next to Phelps, signing autographs.
Phelps, from Baltimore, is the first swimmer to win the award since Janet Evans in 1989. Spitz won the 1971 award, and then won seven events at the 1972 Munich Games.
"It's definitely harder to do now than when Spitz did it," said Phelps, who did not win a medal at the Sydney Games in 2000. "We have prelims, semis and finals for everything 200 (meters) and below, so it's going to be a challenge."
Phelps has yet to speak with Spitz, but said he wants to. He's far too young to remember Spitz's performance in Munich, but grew up watching Olympians Tom Dolan and Tom Malchow.
"Dolan was one of the most dominating IM-ers the world has ever seen," Phelps said.
Phelps also recently decided to move to Ann Arbor, Mich., to be with coach Bob Bowman, who recently took the head job at Michigan. Phelps, who has already turned professional, can't swim for the Wolverines, as Malchow and Dolan did.
As a 15-year-old, Phelps became the youngest American swimmer to set a world record, winning the 200-meter butterfly at the USA Swimming Championships in 1 minutes, 54.92 seconds.
In 2003, he also became the first male to win five U.S. titles at one meet, setting a world record in the 200 individual medley. At worlds, he also set five records.
The other finalists for the award were short-track speed skater Apolo Anton Ohno and 57-year-old masters track-and-field athlete Philippa Raschker, an accountant from Marietta, Ga.
The Sullivan has been presented by the Amateur Athletic Union to the nation's best amateur athlete since Bobby Jones won it in 1930.
By JEFF GOLDBERG
Courant Staff Writer
April 14, 2004
NEW YORK -- Diana Taurasi won virtually all the awards in 2003 after leading the UConn women's basketball team to a second straight national championship. Her performance was so dominant, she found herself a nominee for the Sullivan Award, the nation's top honor for amateur athletes.
In 2004, Taurasi led UConn to a third straight title. But this year, the individual honors have largely gone elsewhere, and Tuesday night was no exception.
While Taurasi continued her tryout for the U.S. Olympic team in Houston, another Olympic hopeful, swimmer Michael Phelps, won the AAU's 2003 Sullivan Award.
Phelps, 18, became the first swimmer to set five world records at the same meet at the 2003 World Championships in Barcelona, Spain. He won the Sullivan Award over Taurasi, Cleveland Cavaliers rookie LeBron James, Olympic speedskater Apolo Anton Ohno and 57-year-old Masters Circuit track standout Philippa "Phil" Raschker. Phelps, of Baltimore, is the first swimmer to win the award since Janet Evans in 1989.
"Just being in a group of athletes of this caliber is an amazing compliment in itself," said Phelps, the current world record holder in the 200-meter butterfly, 200 meter and 400 individual medley.
Phelps is hoping to match Mark Spitz's seven gold medals at the Athens Olympics this summer.
Taurasi, who led UConn in scoring (17.9), rebounding (6.1) and assists (4.4) in the 2002-03 season, accepted her nomination via videotape.
"First off, I want to congratulate the nominees for this prestigious award," Taurasi said. "I wish I could be there. I hope you guys are all having a good time."
Taurasi was playing in a third exhibition game against Japan Tuesday.
She earned her nomination after sweeping the Naismith, Wade Trophy and Associated Press player of the year in 2003. She scored 157 points in the NCAA Tournament, including 54 in the Final Four.
Taurasi and James, the NBA rookie from St. Vincent-St. Mary High School in Akron, Ohio, were unable to attend. James' Cavaliers play the Knicks in New York tonight.
But figure skater Sarah Hughes, the 2002 Sullivan winner after her gold medal performance at the Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City, was honored at the start of the ceremony. She offered praise for Taurasi.
"I think she's terrific," said Hughes, 18, who grew up in Manhasset, Long Island. "I think anyone who combines athletics and academics as well as she does is someone to look up to."
Copyright 2004, Hartford Courant.
Here's what Phil said on stage (each finalist was given 30 seconds):
(30 Second Intro Speech)
Thank you to the AAU SULLIVAN COMMITTEE and the National Senior Games Association for this nomination. I also want to thank my mother, who is here from Germany, and friends.
Sports are breaking down age barriers. Tonight, it's not just the young athletes on stage: it's an older female athlete representing healthy lifestyles! The Senior Olympics and Masters Track and Field continue to keep me fit at 57.
You are never too old to dream. The majority of Americans are over 40 now.
You're never too old to be healthy, active and fit and in my case to run, jump and vault.
Dreams really do come true! Proof is that I am here tonight not just as an athlete, but an athlete regardless of age.
Regards/Thanks to all,
Regards/Thanks to all,
National Masters Track Media Chair
National Masters Track Media Chair