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Woman Athletes of the Year
December 31, 2007
From across the U.S. and around the globe, they dominated their respective sports and, in many cases, primed themselves for next summer's Beijing Olympics—and immortality
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December 31, 2007

Woman Athletes Of The Year

From across the U.S. and around the globe, they dominated their respective sports and, in many cases, primed themselves for next summer's Beijing Olympics—and immortality

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The tranquil May-Treanor and the bubbly Walsh (above, left) are married to professional athletes: May-Treanor's husband, Matt Treanor, is a backup catcher for the Florida Marlins, while Walsh's husband, Casey Jennings, is a top beach volleyball pro. What makes this partnership work are their shared attributes on the beach—great range, quickness, balance, versatility, chemistry, good communication and, as one coach observed, "killer instinct." And don't forget mutual appreciation. Said May-Treanor upon receiving her fourth consecutive AVP Best Offensive Player award. "I wouldn't be the best offensive player if I didn't have a great setter. She serves me up nectar."

SWIMMING
Laure Manaudou
Villeurbanne, France

The 21-year-old had an easy time gliding through the water at the world championships in August, winning five medals, including golds in the 200 and 400 free. Her life out of the pool, however, was turbulent. Last May, Manaudou, who broke the 18-year-old world record in the 400 free in 2006, left her longtime coach Phillipe Lucas and moved to Italy to be with her then fiancé, swimmer Luca Marin. By the fall Manaudou had been kicked off her Italian club, broken up with Marin, moved back to France, named her 22-year-old brother, Nicolas, as her coach and begun dating French swimmer Benjamin Stasiulis. Still she has maintained her focus. At a FINA World Cup event in November—her first meet in three months—she broke the European record in the 200 free, proving she can still live up to her nickname: L'Or (Gold) Manaudou.

POLE VAULT
Yelena Isinbayeva
Volgograd, Russia

Sure she is strong and fast, coach Vitaly Petrov says of his star pupil, but it's Isinbayeva's instinct, body control and ability to execute each stage of the vault with split-second perfection that enables her to sustain her remarkable winning streak. Since July 2004 the former gymnast has won every major world competition she's entered, including the last four championships (two indoor, two outdoor), and the Athens Olympics. In '07 Isinbayeva, 25, won all 18 competitions she entered, and she has broken the indoor and outdoor records a total of 20 times—most recently the indoor mark, raising it to 4.93 meters (16'2 1/10") last February. No other woman has come within five inches of her '05 outdoor record of 5.01 meters (16'5 1/4"). "Maybe if [others] would jump 4.80 meters," she said after winning the '07 worlds, "I would feel more pressure and jump higher."

TRIATHLON
Vanessa Fernandes
Perosinho, Portugal

With her giggly personality and mouth full of braces, she doesn't have a forbidding presence. But Fernandes, 22, will run you down. At the triathlon world championships in August, she finished 12th out of 13 competitors in the swim, moved up one spot after the bike phase, then calmly dusted the field in the 10-kilometer run to win the world title—with a minute to spare. Since 2004 Fernandes has won 18 of 19 World Cup events, and her 19 total victories on the circuit tied her with Australia's Emma Carney for the career record. The daughter of former pro cyclist Venceslau Fernandes, Vanessa has taken the last four European titles. Most of her victories have mirrored her performance at the worlds: marked by a furious, punishing rally and a smile at the finish.

DIVING
Guo Jingjing
Baoding, China

She is known as the diving princess, and for the last six years Guo has been nothing short of majestic. She swept the solo and synchronized gold medals at all four world championships since 2001 and also at the Olympics in '04. At the worlds last March, Guo, 26, beat teammate Wu Minxia by a convincing margin and then joined Wu to dominate the synchronized event. (The runners-up finished more than 37 points behind.) Guo, who began diving when she was six, stood out at an early age for her exceptional grace and spatial awareness. After finishing fifth on the 10-meter platform at the 1996 Atlanta Games, she concentrated on springboard and became the finest three-meter diver in history. At the same time she became a major celebrity in China, where she appears in commercials, fashion shows and gossip columns. Guo has already announced that she will retire after the Beijing Olympics, ending her run as one of the greatest divers—male or female—of all time.

PRO BASKETBALL
Lauren Jackson
Albury, Australia

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