The event started off with a fantasy draft of U.S. National Teamers onto four SwimSquads headed by retired Olympians. Those four teams will compete for series points over the length of the TYR Pro Swim Series, beginning in January and concluding in July. You can check out our recap of the draft here.
The evening continued with the handing out of USA Swimming’s major year-end awards. You can see all award-winners below, along with links to more complete analyses of the two major awards, which we wrote up last night:
Unsurprisingly, Katie Ledecky won the 2017 Female Athlete of the Year Award at the 2017 Golden Goggles, held at the J.W. Marriot in Los Angeles, California. This marks the 5th year in a row that Ledecky has won this award. The Female Athlete of the Year Award was presented by Michael Phelps and Kobe Bryant.
Ledecky won 5 gold medals and 1 silver at the 2017 FINA World Championships, and in the process surpassed Missy Franklin as the female swimmer to have the most World Championships gold medals. Those golds came in the 400 free, 800 free, 1500 free, women’s 400 free relay, and 800 free relay. Ledecky now has a total of 14 gold medals, which she has earned over 3 World Championships.
In Hungary, Ledecky went the 2nd fastest time in history in the 400 free (3:58.34), went the 4th fastest time in history in the 1500 (15:31.82), and helped the women’s 400 free relay to an American Record.
Katie also had an incredible NCAA season, where she won gold at the NCAA Championships in the 200 free (tied with Mallory Comerford), 500 free, and 1650 free. In the 500, Ledecky broke the NCAA and American records with her time of 4:24.06, and won the event by over 4 seconds. In the 1650, Ledecky set a Meet and Pool record with her time of 15:07.70. Katie also went a 9:10.49 in the 1000 free at the Stanford vs Texas dual meet, which was the fastest time in NCAA history and broke the Stanford team record held by Janet Evans by 20.2 seconds.
In her acceptance speech, Ledecky first thanked her entire family, then her teammates (Stanford and National Team), her coach Greg Meehan, and all the coaches she has ever had.
Next, Katie Ledecky offered a little bit of insight into her thoughts on the sport and extended a thank you to USA Swimming, and all those who attended the event: “We all set big goals, and it means a lot when you see you’ve achieved your goals on the scoreboard. [But] my very first goal was to make friends in this sport, and what you are all contributing tonight is to help young kids learn how to swim. I hope those young kids find the love of this sport that I did”.
The other nominees for this award were Lilly King and Simone Manuel. Lilly King won 4 golds at Worlds, and broke 4 World Records. Kobe Bryant described King as “my kind of athlete: intense, confident, always ready to seize the moment”. Simone Manuel won 5 golds and 1 bronze at Worlds. She also broke 3 World Records and in the 3 events she didn’t break World Record in, she broke the American Record.
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 Greversfor 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.
Female Race of the Year: Lilly King, 100m Breaststroke (2017 FINA World Championships)
King was the only American to set an individual world record this year, and the 100 was the more memorable of her two world record swims, thanks to a great buildup in her rivalry with Yulia Efimova.
Male Race of the Year: Caeleb Dressel, 100m Butterfly (2017 FINA World Championships)
A textile world record, a surprise world title for a swimmer who didn’t even attempt to make the Olympics in this event a year prior, and a culmination of a high-profile friendly rivalry with a former-teammate-turned-antagonist? This one was a slam dunk.
The only relay world record to fall this year in long course (outside of the still-new mixed relays) was another sure-thing winner, led by some of USA Swimming’s most iconic young swimmers.
Breakout Performer of the Year: Mallory Comerford
Comerford was the obvious choice here, coming off a season in which she rocketed to a co-NCAA title alongside Ledecky and a U.S. National title over the top of Manuel.
Perseverance Award: Matt Grevers
Though we picked Ashley Twichell in our official ballot, we noted at the time that Grevers name recognition and status as a pool athlete would probably sway a lot of votes. It helps that Grevers is an immensely likeable and rootable swimmer who had a great year coming off of Olympic-year disappointment.
Coach of the Year: Greg Meehan
Another example of our ballot going a different direction but accurately predicting who would ultimately win. Meehan’s Stanford women were unstoppable in the NCAA, and Ledecky and Manuel both went on to win World Champs golds. Hard to argue with that.