To no one’s surprise, Caeleb Dressel takes home Male Athlete of the Year at the 2017 Golden Goggle Awards.
In his acceptance speech, Dressel recognized World Championship team captains Nathan Adrian and Matt Grevers for their leadership in Budapest. He also mentioned “my only fear in the sport is plateauing, not with medals or times, but learning.” The award was presented by Natalie Coughlin and former Olympic gymnast Nastia Liukin.
The ballot for this award was a thin one, with only two U.S. men standing out this past summer at the World Championships. Dressel, a Florida Gator, was up against the now former Georgia Bulldog Chase Kalisz, who had a phenomenal season that culminated with a sweep of the IM events at the World Championships.
However, this one was all Dressel, as he followed up a jaw-dropping performance at the NCAA Championships with a mind boggling seven gold medals at the World Championships.
At NCAAs, Dressel three-peated in the 50 freestyle and repeated in the 100, breaking the American and NCAA records in the latter. However, perhaps his most impressive swim at the meet was the 100 fly, where he dethroned two-time champion Joseph Schooling in a new American and NCAA record of 43.58. He also joined Vlad Morozov in the elusive sub-18 second club for a 50 free relay split, hitting marks of 17.99, 17.71 and 17.93.
Despite his incredible NCAAs, his World Championship performance was what won him this award. After his performance at both NCAAs and U.S. World Trials, everyone knew Dressel was gonna be good in Budapest, but he really blew everyone away.
He won seven golds – three individual – tying the GOAT Michael Phelps for the most gold medals ever won at a World Championships. Individually he won the 50 free, 100 free and 100 fly, and added relay golds in the 4×100 free and medley in both the men’s and mixed categories. He added American record marks in both sprint freestyle events, and claimed another in the 50 fly where he finished 4th. Both mixed relays also broke world records.
In the 100 fly, he swam the fastest ever textile time in prelims (50.08), lowered it in the semis (50.07), and then became the 2nd fastest performer in history in the final with a time of 49.86, narrowly missing Phelps’ 2009 world record of 49.82. He also became the first swimmer to ever win three gold medals on one day, when he tripled the 50 free, 100 fly and mixed 400 free relay. His 100 fly also won him the Golden Goggle for Male Race of the Year.
Despite not walking away with the win, Kalisz truly had an incredible year. After winning a close silver in the 400 IM in Rio, the final in Budapest really wasn’t close, as the 23-year-old lowered his PB to 4:05.90 to win by almost two-and-a-half seconds. Prior to that swim, he won the 200 IM over a stacked field in another personal best of 1:55.56. Before this year he had never competed in the event at a major international meet due to the longtime reign of Phelps and Ryan Lochte.
Along with his World Championship performance, Kalisz won the men’s Arena Pro Series title and added another NCAA title to his resume with an American record breaking performance in the 400 IM.