Handicapping the Golden Goggles Awards

This year, USA Swimming is opening voting for its version of the Academy Awards, the Golden Goggles Awards, to the public. The voting will be open between now and November 22nd, when the awards will take place in New York City.

Click here to vote for your favorites, or to buy tickets for the event…starting at only $1,250!!

1. Breakout Performer of the Year-My vote goes to Missy Franklin. The 15-year old showed up at USA Swimming Long Course Nationals and snuck her way on to the Pan-Pac team thanks to some outstanding finishes. Notably, in the 100 backstroke, she swam a great back-half race and snuck into second place by just .01 seconds over third and .09 over fourth. At Pan Pacs, she just barely missed a medal in the 100 back when she touched in fourth place.

What was even more impressive about her performance at Nationals was that, at only 15 years old, she had the mental and physical maturity to compete in a loaded six-race schedule.

2. Perseverance Award- All four nominees are worthy here. No need to slight any of the candidates, as they all made amazing comebacks this season, but I give the nod to Kate Ziegler.
Ziegler had back-to-back devastating performances in 2008 and 2009. In Beijing, she missed the final of the 800 free, which is an event that she was a two-time World Champion in. She completely missed her taper, and was nowhere near her best time in either the 400 or the 800.

Come 2009, Ziegler was looking for redemption at the 2009 World Championships, but was stricken with swine flu and missed Nationals, which served as the qualifying meet for Worlds. At this point, especially in events like the 800 and the mile, Ziegler could have become disheartened and given up.

But then she headed West to California to train with FAST, a program which has given a second swimming-life to top Ziegler competitor Katie Hoff as well. Things began to click. Ziegler rolled in to the 2010 National Championships and took the silver in the 800. That alone would have been enough to win her awards. But then she went to Pan Pacs two weeks later and took the gold in what became the second best time in the world. After two straight years full of nothing but disappointment at the highest stages, that’s the definition of perseverance.

3. Coach of the Year- Gregg Troy was already named the ASCA coach of the year, and I think he adds another piece of hardware to his trophy case at the Golden Goggles. Obviously, his National Championship squad at Florida isn’t technically a USA-Swimming race, but I think it’s too impressive to overlook. Not just that he did it, but how he did it, with a team that nobody saw coming.

Add to that what he’s done with Ryan Lochte, who emerged from a torn ACL and a bad groin injury with an overhauled, and much faster, breaststroke. This truly turned Lochte into a complete IM’er and is why he is likely to be the first post-poly World Record breaker in 2011. Troy was responsible for training the World’s best male swimmer and the world’s best female team, showing his versatility as a coach. He takes the cake for me.

The other nominees are Bob Bowman (NBAC), Dave Durden (Cal Men), Teri McKeever (Cal Women), Dave Salo (USC, Trojan Aquatics). Notably absent is Eddie Reese, who in my opinion should be on this ballot every year.

4. Relay Performance of the Year – This one is very tough to pick between the men’s 400 free relay and the men’s 800 free relay. Both have world best times. Both were led off by top-3-in-the-world splits from Michael Phelps. Both had incredible anchor legs, by Nathan Adrian and Ryan Lochte, respectively.
I’m going to give the edge to the 800, made up of Phelps, Peter Vanderkaay, Ricky Berens, and Ryan Lochte. That relay absolutely obliterated the field: winning the race by over 7 seconds (which is roughly 13 meters), a distance that is almost unheard of at this high of a level of competition. And after all the dust from Euro’s, the Commonwealth Games, Pan Pacs, etc. has settled, the Americans have the best time in the world by nearly 3 seconds over the Russians. That’s impressive.
Other nominees are the women’s 400 free from Pan Pacs, and the women’s 400 medley from Pan Pacs.

5. Race of the Year- Women- In what was a brutally difficult race to even final in (for the Americans, it took a 1:57.4 to even make the B-final), Allison Schmitt swam a race that was the first to generate a lot of buzz at Pan Pacs. By the 150 meter mark, Schmitt had built up a two-and-a-half meter lead over over the field and the race was over.
Coughlin’s 100 free was hugely impressive, but I feel as though I almost subconsciously fault her because she wins so much. All she does is perform on the biggest stages (she’s medaled in every Olympic event she’s ever swum in).

Other nominees are Rebecca Soni in the 200 breaststroke and Kate Ziegler in the 800 free, both from Pan Pacs.

6. Race of the year-Men- This is a really tough one to pick, because Lochte’s 200 IM was so impressive, but I’m going to take Nathan Adrian in the 50 free. Obviously, Lochte’s 200 IM and Phelps’ 100 fly swims both hold up better historically than does Adrian’s, but Adrian’s swim got people excited about American sprinting again. For the first time in at least a decade, an American can make a very strong (though I suppose not indisputable) claim to the best sprinter in the world.

Overall meets and seasons are about performance and training. Races are about excitement, and Adrian’s swim brought the most excitement to the swimming community, which is what gives him the edge. If Lochte had broken the world record, which many suspected he might, it’s a no brainer. Short of that, Adrian gets my vote.

7. Female Swimmer of the Year- The women’s team doesn’t have a Michael Phelps or Ryan Lochte who can dominate in 5 or 6 different events simultaneously. There was, however, one American female who was indisputably the best in her discipline in the world this year, and that is Rebecca Soni in the breaststrokes.

She ended the season with easily the best time in the 100 and 200 breaststroke in the world (the latter by two-and-a-half seconds) and could have potentially attacked world records if she had anyone to push her. She had the 6 best times in the 200, and 11 out of the 16 best in the 100, in the world this year. No other female on the American team dominated that way. In fact, only two other swimmers (pending the outcome of the Asian Games) will end the long course season with World-Best times—Jessica Hardy in the 50 breaststroke and Christine Magnuson in the 100 fly—and neither of those two swimmers were nominated for the award. Soni wins it hands down.

The other nominees are Dana Vollmer, Elizabeth Beisel, and Natalie Coughlin.

8. Male Swimmer of the Year- If there was a total no-brainer on this ballot, it would be Ryan Lochte for male swimmer of the year. He has the best time in the world in 4 different events, and totally dominated Pan Pacs. He probably could’ve gone bests in at least 2 other events had his schedule allowed for it. He won 6 golds at Pan Pacs even after a season littered with injuries, and nobody was close in any of those 6.

Phelps didn’t have a bad year, despite the media headlines. He toughed his way to 5 golds (only two of which were individual) at Pan Pacs and world-best times in the 100 and 200 fly. He had the best time in the world in the 100 free for a period before Brent Hayden of Canada broke it at the CG’s. But his performance is still soured by his failed attempt at the 400 IM at Pan Pacs and his scratching of the 200 IM and 200 free, thus avoiding any head-to-head matchups against Lochte.

The other nominee is Nathan Adrian, who while he got me excited, doesn’t have the scope of events to compete with someone like a Lochte, who is so good in so many things. The only risk of Lochte not winning this award is if the public vote results in Phelps Phans worldwide stepping in and causing an upset, which is always a possibility. But as even Bob Bowman, Lochte’s coach, stated: Lochte is the best swimmer in the world this year.

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i agree with all your choices but think Soni should get performance of the year, as well as swimmer of the year. I do think Allison is a close second. It is just that Soni was soooooo good all summer…amazing!


agreed with philosophy but soni is sick and was sick every race this summer….and closer to WR than allison’s swim, but can’t deny your choice either…
actually i dont’ think any of the golden goggles awards are going to keep me in suspense.

David Rieder

Break-out can go in a lot of directions. I picked Eva Fabian, but I can’t fault you for Franklin. David Plummer will probably win, but he should be Perseverance. Few detail errors with Ziegler (actually Sutton won the 800 at Nationals), but I agree she should win this one easily. Hardy and Plummer (see above) would also be decent choices here. Coach is probably the most wide open. I could justify any of them winning it except for Bowman. I did pick McKeever, but that’s just my opinion. Reese should be on the list, I agree – but I understand why he’s not (somewhat) if they wanted just five. Relay of the year: the women’s 400 free relay is nominated,… Read more »

About Braden Keith

Braden Keith

Braden Keith is the Editor-in-Chief and a co-founder of SwimSwam.com. He first got his feet wet by building The Swimmers' Circle beginning in January 2010, and now comes to SwimSwam to use that experience and help build a new leader in the sport of swimming. Aside from his life on the InterWet, …

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