The big winners at the USA Swimming Golden Goggles Awards are….Drumroll please….Ryan Lochte and Rebecca Soni!
Ok, so the drumroll was probably superfluous, as the suspense was out the door long before the show started, but the two most deserving recipients received the Male and Female Swimmer of the Year honors at the 2010 version of USA’s annual awards gala.
Lochte won the award on the strength of his 6-gold medal performance from the Pan Pacific Championships, including 5 meet records, 2 U.S. Open records (aka any swim swum on American soil), and won 4 of the tougher individual events in the meet. The greatest of those swims, as decided by the fans and USA-Swimming, was his 200 IM performance. Though he fell just short of the World Record that many had hoped for, he demonstrated a ton of grit in his ability to emerge from a string of leg injuries as an even stronger and more efficient IM’er.
Lochte’s coach, Gregg Troy, was the easy pick for Coach of the Year. Besides training the best swimmer in the world through injuries into an even better swimmer, he also coached the Florida Gators women to somewhat of an upset victory at the NCAA Championships. He also was the head men’s coach at Pan Pacs’s, and demonstrated that he can get the job done at multiple levels, and both with male and female swimmers, which are increasingly rare feats in the modern world of specialization.
Soni won the award for being the one American female who could say they truly dominated their craft this season. At Pan Pacs, Soni won the 100 breaststroke by 7 tenths of a second over Leisel Jones, who had the second best time in the world. In this event, she had 11 out of the 16 fastest times in the world this season. And this doesn’t even hold a candle to what she did in the 200, where she had 2010’s six fastest long course times!
The 200 from Pan Pacs is what earned her Race of the Year honors, as she dominated that race by a whopping two-and-a-half seconds. And it wasn’t as though she was dominating a watered down field. Between Annamay Pierse, Leisel Jones, Amanda Beard, and herself, the competition in Irvine represented every 200 breaststroke World Record holder since 2003.
Soni wasn’t done though. She won her third award of the night as a member of the women’s 400 medley relay. This year was the first year in a decade where the American women sat atop the world rankings in this relay, thanks in no small part to Soni’s domination on the relay. Other members of that relay were backstroker Natalie Coughlin, butterflier Dana Vollmer, and freestyler Jessica Hardy, who was one of the best stories of this year’s meet. Hardy, who for a brief time looked ready to take over the crown of world’s best breaststroker, has remade herself into a sprint freestyler, which has been a huge boon to the American relays.
Hardy was nominated for the perseverance award, but that honor rightfully went to Kate Ziegler. Ziegler had about the two most brutal years a distance swimmer can have in 2008 and 2009, all after riding the highest of highs in 2007 to a world record in the 1500, one of the few from pre-2008 that still stands, Ziegler bombed out of Beijing and missed the World Championship Trials in 2009 with swine flu (yeah, that really happened). In 2010, however, she had a huge bounceback in her first international competition since 2008 and won a gold in the 800 and silver in the 1500 at Pan Pacs. If that’s not perseverance, I don’t know what is.
Missy Franklin won the Breakout Performer of the Year honor for her performance from USA-Nationals. The 15-year old high school sophomore from Colorado won the high-point award at Nationals, which is an incredible showing from a swimmer that young. From time to time, we’ve seen swimmers like Amanda Beard who could be among the best in a limited schedule at that age, but for Franklin to show the mental and physical fortitude to swim that many events (she had five top-eight finishes) at only 15 years old is absolutely astounding. It won’t be too long before Franklin is winning many, many other Golden Goggles Awards.
Swimming In Briefs….
Tom Dolan was in attendance at the Golden Goggles, and it’s great to see him back in good health after suffering a terrible concussion earlier this year…While I understand that people pay a lot of money for tickets to GG’s, the “dinner break” in the middle of the ceremony was a big turnoff for me. It was tough to tune back in after that…Natalie Morales of the Today show on NBC hosted the event. I’d love to see Summer Sanders get a crack at it next year. She’s got tons of hosting experience, including on Nickelodeon’s former game show of awesomeness Figure it Out…Notice whose name is omitted from this entire report. The “Chosen One,” Michael Phelps, was relatively invisible at the ceremony for the first time in a long time. Of course, the mark that he’s left on the sport in general can always be felt…
Cliff’s Notes Version:
Male Swimmer of the Year-Ryan Lochte
Female Swimmer of the Year- Rebecca Soni
Male Race of the Year- Ryan Lochte (200 IM-Pan Pacs)
Female Race of the Year- Rebecca Soni (200 breaststroke-Pan Pacs)
Relay of the Year-Women’s 400 Medley-Pan Pacs (Natalie Coughlin, Rebecca Soni, Dana Vollmer, Jessica Hardy)
Perseverance Award-Kate Ziegler
Breakout Swimmer of the Year-Missy Franklin
Coach of the Year-Gregg Troy