The nominee list for the 2021 USA Swimming Athlete of the Year has been finalized just ahead of USA Swimming’s Annual Business Meeting. That meeting will be hosted in Colorado Springs, CO from September 23-25. Among the items on the meeting agenda will be the presentation of this prestigious award.
The nominees are, as they usually are, the swimmers who won individual Olympic gold medals in Tokyo.
Unlike the more retail Golden Goggles version of the Athlete of the Year award, which goes out to one male and one female athlete, this award recognizes one outstanding American performer for the 2021 calendar year.
Among the nominees include Katie Ledecky, who has won this award five times, and Caeleb Dressel, who has also won this award twice before. In 2016, Ledecky won her fourth-straight recognition before Dressel’s lights-out 7-for-7 Worlds gold pick-up that earned him the 2017 award. Ledecky was then re-honored for the 2018 edition.
Caeleb Dressel also earned the award in 2019.
2021 USA Swimming Athlete of the Year Nominees (Alphabetically)
At the Tokyo Olympics, Dressel picked up 5-for-5 gold medals in the 50/100 free, 100 fly, and 4×100 free and medley relays. His individual efforts also secured a new 100 fly World record and contributed to the fastest-ever men’s medley relay. With his five gold medals alone, Dressel became the winningest athlete across all sports at this year’s Olympics.
Finke broke a 37-year Olympic gold medal drought in the men’s distance events utilizing a stellar closing speed for Team USA with his 800/1500 free titles at the Tokyo Olympics. Finke was also the first-ever men’s 800 free Olympic champion with its recent addition to the Olympic program, breaking the event American record as well.
Jacoby made all sorts of history with her 2021 Olympic debut in Tokyo. Not only was Jacoby the first Alaskan native to make an U.S. Olympic swimming team, she became the first Alaskan native to medal at the Olympic Games. At 17 years old, Jacoby won the 100 breast title, de-throning 2016 Olympic champion Lilly King in the process. Jacoby also contributed to two relays, picking up a silver medal in the 4×100 medley relay.
Kalisz kicked off the Olympic Games for Team USA by collecting the country’s first gold medal across all sports in Tokyo. After finishing second in 2016, Kalisz upgraded to Olympic gold in the men’s 400 IM. Collegiate training-mate Jay Litherland picked up Olympic silver for the first US 1-2 finish in the event since 2004.
Freestyle great Ledecky made even more history in her third Olympic Games. She kicked off her time in Tokyo with double silvers in the 400 free and 4×200 free relay. Ledecky also became the first women’s 1500 free Olympic champion in its program debut. Then, Ledecky three-peated her 800 free Olympic title, giving her six career individual Olympic golds. Ledecky now has 10 Olympic medals to her name, becoming one of seven female Olympic swimmers to reach 10 medals.