Washington: Olympic great Michael Phelps added another feather to his cap after he was voted The Associated Press male athlete of the year in a poll by U.S. editors and broadcasters ahead of basketball player LeBron James.
The champion swimmer edged out James to win the award for the second time, not only a fitting payoff for another brilliant Olympics (four gold medals and two silvers in swimming at the London Games) but recognition for one of the greatest careers in any sport.
"It`s kind of nuts to think about everything I`ve gone through. I`ve finally had time to myself, to sit back and say, ``... that really happened?`` It`s kind of shocking at times," CBS.com quoted Phelps, as saying.
Phelps finished with 40 votes in balloting, while James was next with 37. Track star Usain Bolt, who won three gold medals in London, was third with 23.
Carl Lewis is the only other Olympic-related star to be named AP male athlete of the year more than once, taking the award for his track and field exploits in 1983 and 84.
The only men honored more than twice are golf`s Tiger Woods and cyclist Lance Armstrong (four times each), and basketball`s Michael Jordan (three times).
Phelps said: "Obviously, it`s a big accomplishment. There are so many amazing male athletes all over the world and all over our country. To be able to win this is something that just sort of tops off my career."
Phelps retired at age 27 as soon as he finished his final race in London, having won more gold medals (18) and overall medals (22) than any other Olympian.