Earlier this week, USA Swimming announced the list of nominees for the 2016 Golden Goggles Awards, and as we do every year, we here at SwimSwam have gone through the list of nominees and made our selections.
In most cases, these are not our predictions of who will win – it’s often obvious to see who is going to be chosen, but we sometimes disagree with that selection. In some cases, that’s because of varying definitions of “perseverance,” and in others it’s simply a difference of opinion. We’re focusing on who we think should win based on our definition of the award.
Of course, anybody who is even nominated for a Golden Goggles award had a fantastic season, but only one person can win an award in each category, and that’s what makes them such an honor.
HOW DID YOU HEAR ABOUT THE ONLINE VOTING?
- USA Swimming Foundation Website
- USA Swimming Website
Where you hear about all your swimming news: SwimSwam.com, of course!
BREAKOUT PERFORMER OF THE YEAR
Four great candidates but one huge standout. As of 2015, Cody Miller wasn’t even a Worlds finalist in the 100 breast. Leah Smith was only at the World Championship meet as a relay swimmer. Josh Prenot and Lilly King were on a lower national team at World University Games. But King really outperformed the field here with an individual Olympic gold compared to Prenot’s silver and Miller’s and Smith’s bronzes.
One of the trickiest awards because “perseverance” can mean so many different things. Luckily, Plummer makes this one easier than usual – Plummer came back from a devastating Trials 3rd in 2012, persevered through four more years of training in an attempt to become one of the oldest Olympic rookies in memory. And at age 30, a few months after the birth of his second son, Plummer achieved that dream in the midst of a brutally loaded American 100 backstroke field, plus rattled the world record and eventually came home with individual Olympic bronze and a relay gold.
COACH OF THE YEAR
It’s not just Phelps – certainly, guiding Phelps to a fifth Olympic Games, medals 23 through 28, an unprecedented Olympic 4-peat in the 200 IM and a storybook farewell meet deserves plenty of praise. But Bowman also trained Chase Kalisz into an Olympic silver medalist in the 400 IM, put Allison Schmitt and Cierra Runge on a historically dominant 4×200 free relay and coached the American men to a sweep of the Rio relays and 8 total gold medals in 16 events.
RELAY PERFORMANCE OF THE YEAR
- Men’s 4x100m Freestyle Relay, 2016 Olympic Games
- Women’s 4x200m Freestyle Relay, 2016 Olympic Games
- Men’s 4x100m Medley Relay, 2016 Olympic Games
The men’s medley gets a bump for Ryan Murphy‘s leadoff world record in the 100 back. But that’s not all. Despite Great Britain and Australia coming into the Olympics with a ton of buzz in this relay, the American men actually won the event by a wider margin (1.29 seconds) than the heavily-favored, insanely-loaded Australian women did in the 4×100 free relay (1.24 seconds). The men’s medley was also the best swim of the entire Olympics for Nathan Adrian and gains some notoriety for Phelps’ 23rd and presumably final gold medal at the Olympics.
FEMALE RACE OF THE YEAR
- Maya DiRado, 200m Backstroke, 2016 Olympic Games
- Lilly King, 100m Breaststroke, 2016 Olympic Games
- Katie Ledecky, 800m Freestyle, 2016 Olympic Games
- Simone Manuel, 100m Freestyle, 2016 Olympic Games
This one is a toss-up of priorities. Ledecky’s 800 was dominating in a way few other swims in Olympic history have been. On the other hand, Manuel’s 100 free upset was maybe the most memorable race and represented both a huge historical breakthrough (the first black woman to win Olympic swimming gold) and a gigantic power shift for the oft-maligned American sprint corps. Who knows, maybe Ledecky has hurt her own chances with this award by desensitizing us all to absurd blowout wins. Or maybe USA Swimming did that by not including her 400 free on the ballot when some feel that was a more impressive swim than her 800.
It’s so hard to pick against Ledecky, and it should also be noted that DiRado’s incredible 200 back upset gets really undersold here, if only because her competition for this award is so fierce.
MALE RACE OF THE YEAR
- Anthony Ervin, 50m Freestyle, 2016 Olympic Games
- Ryan Murphy, 100m Backstroke, 2016 Olympic Games
- Michael Phelps, 200m Butterfly, 2016 Olympic Games
- Michael Phelps, 200m Individual Medley, 2016 Olympic Games
Logic might dictate going for the world record, but Murphy’s world record actually didn’t come in the individual 100 back – it was leading off the medley relay. There could be some worry that Phelps Phans will have their ballot power split between to voting options, but the historical significance of an Olympic four-peat in the 200 IM is too hard to pass up. That big win also came at exactly the moment Phelps was starting to look more human than he ever had, coming off a 200 fly/4×200 free relay double and then pairing this IM with a 100 fly semifinal on the same night. A patient-yet-dominating win once again showed Phelps leagues ahead of his competition even when his age was finally starting to show.
FEMALE ATHLETE OF THE YEAR
It’s been too long without a Ledecky award. Give her the hardware, stat!
MALE ATHLETE OF THE YEAR
Again, Murphy could get a bump for his world record, and Ervin’s return to the top of the 50 free 16 years later is inspiring. But can you pick against the GOAT, especially when he led all swimmers with 5 golds and a silver in Rio? No, you cannot.