Ochoa is AP's top female athlete of '06
Lorena Ochoa learned at an early age to aim high and not be afraid to fail. She was 12 when she trained six months to climb the snow-covered top of Pico de Orizaba, Mexico's tallest mountain at 18,405 feet. When she was 5, Ochoa fell some 15 feet from a tree and broke both wrists, leaving her in a cast from her shoulders to her fingers.
"They said the doctor gave me magical wrists, some magic in my hand," Ochoa said.
Those hands delivered sheer magic on the golf course in 2006 when the 24-year-old Mexican overcame past failures to win six times and end Annika Sorenstam's five-year reign as the best player on the LPGA Tour.
Ochoa swept all the major honors on the LPGA and picked up another award at the end of the season with a landslide victory as the AP Female Athlete of the Year.
"That was my goal in January, just to be the best player on the tour," she said recently. "I always knew I could do it. I think I've been raising my level of golf, and also more mature now inside the golf course and outside, too. It helps."
She received 220 points in voting from sports editors around the country, double the point total of French tennis player Amelie Mauresmo, who captured Wimbledon and the Australian Open.
Tiger Woods was voted AP Male Athlete of the Year, the first time since 1993 that the male and female athletes came from the same sport (Michael Jordan-Sheryl Swoopes in basketball). And it was the first time since Babe Zaharias and Byron Nelson in 1945 that golfers swept the AP athlete awards.