The ESPY Awards are tonight. Again, the likes of Kevin Durant, Tom Brady, the Golden State Warriors and New England Patriots find themselves in familiar territory in either the best championship performance category or best team category.
This year, however, Buckeye nation has a representative again in Kyle Snyder. Snyder is up for the ‘Best Male U.S. Olympic Athlete’ ESPY, due to his gold medal wrestling performance at the Rio Olympics. Ashton Eaton (decathlon), Ryan Murphy (swimming) and Michael Phelps (swimming) are the other contenders up for the award.
Other categories like ‘Best Championship Performance’ have the likes of Tom Brady, Kevin Durant, DeShaun Watson (college football) and Shay Knighton (softball) fighting for the honor—but, it is with near certainty that Durant or Brady will take home the award. ‘Best Breakthrough Athlete’ has Dak Prescott and Aaron Judge in the running, which means they will become runaway favorites to win.
Those mainstream categories, the ones where the athletes and teams constantly are on the highlight reel (whether warranted or not) make them overwhelming favorites, which causes a bias.
You can make the case for all four of the Olympic athletes to win the ESPY. In wrestling history, the youngest person to ever claim the accolade of United States Olympic champion belongs to Snyder. (On top of that, Snyder is also the youngest world champion in U.S. wrestling history, but I digress).
Eaton won his second straight decathlon in Rio, making him the third person to have that distinction. Phelps, who won five gold medals and one silver medal in the pool at the Games of the XXXI Olympiad in 2016, ended his career as the ultimate swimmer.
However, when we look at the ESPY Award, what exactly is it for? Is it for best Olympian of all-time? Or is it just the last Olympics we are looking at? If we are looking at just the results from Rio, Phelps had a great showing—but it wasn’t as good as what he did at Beijing in 2008. Phelps already won an ESPY for best Olympic athlete back in 2009, but does he get the award again in 2017, when his medal total was lower than what it was in his record breaking summer of 2008?
Personally, I think the Olympic athlete category is the toughest one to pick a winner out of. Each candidate is, literally, one of the best in their entire sport on the world level. On the women’s side of the ESPY, it’s even harder to pick a winner. Simone Biles shined in the gymnastics competitions, winning gold along the way; Katie Ledecky was the women’s version of Phelps in the pool; and Allyson Felix picked up two golds and a silver medal in Rio to make her one the most decorated runners ever.
If I had to cast a vote, I would take Snyder as the ‘Best Male Athlete,’ and it has nothing to do with him being a Buckeye. I truly believe he was the best Olympian in Rio that represented the United States, and he tore through competition to claim a gold. For him, it was an all-or-nothing kind of run on the mat. Phelps had multiple chances to win medals, and the decathlon allows for some margin of error for a medal to be obtained. If Snyder lost at any point in the tournament, he would be out of the running for a gold medal.
We’ll find out on Wednesday night if Snyder adds one more accolade to his already illustrious career.