Last night (Sunday) was “red carpet night” in Los Angeles, as the American Music Awards butted up against USA Swimming’s gala event the Golden Goggles Awards, but for swim fans, the decision was obvious – Go with the live stream!
On the women’s side, teenage superstar Missy Franklin was the big winner as she took home a total of three awards. Her night started out with Women’s Race of the Year honors for her American record (and all-time textile best) swim in the 200 back at the World Championships. She would then go on to earn a second honor for her participation in the women’s 400 medley relay from that same meet (Relay of the Year, combined genders) and capped things off with the big one: Female Swimmer of the Year.
The other nominees for Swimmer of the Year included World Champions Elizabeth Beisel, Dana Vollmer, and Rebecca Soni, though the tipping point might have been that Franklin was the only swimmer of the four to swim on all of the American World Championship relays. Though the emphasis for the awards were performance at theWorld Championships, Franklin’s short course World Record at the World Cup had to have been at least a small influence on the outcome.
What continues to strike the swimming community not only is how fast she is, but the level of poise she exhibits among the great stars of the sport. Twitter was abuzz yesterday evening during the meet with how gracefully she handled the moment of receiving the awards.
The only other female athletes to receive awards on the night were Franklin’s relay teammates: Natalie Coughlin, Soni, and Vollmer.
There was, however, a major non-athlete award given to a woman, that reminded us all of the greater-cause of this event. Carolyn Dirks in 2009 gave the USA Swimming Foundation a $5 million donation (on behalf of the Joseph B. Gould Foundation) that is the largest in its history. Since its inception, Dirks has been one of the most tireless supporters of the foundation both in its Make a Splash initiatives to help save lives as well as through endowing coaches incentive programs that make it possible for top youth coaches to make a decent living in the sport. During what has been a difficult time for the organization, Dirks has stood steadfastly throughout in support of the true values of the sport, and few in any capacity are more deserving of this honor than she is.
On the men’s side, Ryan Lochte earned the big double of Swimmer/Race of the year. He of the 6 World Championship medals (5 gold) and the first long course World Record to be broken since the retirement of the rubber suits (in the 200 IM) got him big honors. His only competitor for the overal award was Michael Phelps, whom Lochte out-touched by .16 to take that World Record and the gold medal.
The Coach of the Year award, which is non gender-specific, went to Gregg Troy of the University of Florida and the Gator Swim Club. Though most of his athletes officially represent other clubs, he coaches many of the country’s greatest swimmers – not the least of which is Mr. Lochte. Among other great American athletes training under his watch are World Championship team members Elizabeth Beisel, Peter Vanderkaay, Teresa Crippen, and Conor Dwyer. Other nominees included Dave Salo, Bob Bowman, Teri McKeever, and Todd Schmitz. This is the 2nd-straight year that Troy has taken the award.
The two “heart and soul” awards, as I like to call them, were a bit perplexing to me – though they often are as the criteria are usually less obvious than in the other awards. The perseverance award went to Peter Vanderkaay, one of Troy’s newest swimmers (though, I’m not positive about what the reasoning was for that).
I would have given the award to open water swimmer Alex Meyer, who battled a back injury and the loss of his good friend Fran Crippen to earn the first spot on the 2012 US Olympic Team thanks to his 4th place finish in the 10k at the World Championships. Meyer instead won the Breakout Swimmer of the Year Award (again, I’m not sure why – he won the 25k World Championship in 2010 and was on the 2009 World Championship team).
Overall, this was another successful event put on by the USA Swimming Foundation. There are still several fantastic items up for bid in the online auction, so if you are so inclined head to this link and get your wallets out to support our sport!
(As a digression, as though there weren’t enough stars headed to USC, yesterday a group of National Teamers were at the McDonald Swim Center for a morning workout before the event, including Garrett Weber-Gale, Nathan Adrian, Sean Ryan, Christine Jennings, Claire Thompson, and Ashley Twichell. What a practice group!)