The Official SwimSwam Ballot For The 2016 Golden Goggle Awards

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.


Below, we’ve posted all nominees, our pick in bold, and a brief explanation.



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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.


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.


  • 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.


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.


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.


It’s been too long without a Ledecky award. Give her the hardware, stat!


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.

In This Story


  1. boi says:

    the goatttt

  2. TAA says:

    I think lily King also swam at Wugs in 2015 but I’d still pick her

  3. bobo gigi says:

    I agree with everything except the relay performance of the year. I pick the men’s 4X100 free relay because USA was not the favorite and almost did a perfect race.

    • AvidSwimFan says:

      I agree that the 4×100 freestyle relay is the better pick for the same reason. It’s one of my favorite races to watch. The medal ceremony was the icing on the cake with Ryan Held tearing up and Caleb Dressel’s satisfied smile.

    • Steve Nolan says:

      Agreed, though I didn’t realize the medley won by so much. A huge margin of victory is the only way that one is gonna be as good as the free relay.

  4. Steve Nolan says:

    You didn’t pick Ervin’s 50 as best race, this list is invalid.

    (Though Phelps’s 200 IM was the most “peak-Phelps” looking race, given he won by so much. Still tho, ERVIN.)

    • AvidSwimFan says:

      I’m one of the few not as enamored by Ervin. My vote went to Ryan Murphy instead, even though I know he has no chance of winning. I think having both the 200IM and 200 fly nominated is a disservice to MP because the votes are bound to be split. Good luck to them all though. It’s a huge honor to be nominated.

      • Steve Nolan says:

        Ryan Murphy went faster in his 100 back later in the meet, hard to give that one swim of the year.

        Not to mention a 35 year old winning an event he won 16 years prior. That’s sort. Of awesome.

  5. Zanna says:

    Plummer got an individual bronze not silver.

  6. Years of Plain Suck says:

    I believe that the US Men’s 4×100 Medley Relay victory in 3:27.95 is also a TEXTILE WORLD RECORD.

    So it’s got that going for it, which is nice.

    Splits: 51.85 59.03 50.33 46.74

  7. paolo says:

    My “Italian” opinions:

    1) Breakout performer: Lilly King, easy choice.

    2) Perseverance award: the most difficult one between Kathleen Baker and David Plummer. In a strictly swimming point of view would be Plummer, but all considering my choice goes to Baker.

    3) Coach: Dave Durden, because of what he did in the Ncaa season for Cal and the great improvements have had, under his guidance, Ryan Murphy (double Olympic champs in the backstroke events and WR holder in 100 back, whilst the favorite at the beginning of the season was Larkin) and Josh Prenot (silver medalist, a few hundredths of a second short a really unexpected – at the beginning of the season – Olympic gold in the 200 breast).

    4) Relay performance: Men’s 4×100 free relay, because Usa wasn’t the favorite (France had won the previous Olympics and Worlds races), because it was a perfect race in a tactical point of view, because Phelps was at his best (the lone Olympic race he set the target time he had written at the beginning of the season), because was at the beginning of Olympics and gave a great enthusiasm at the whole Usa team.

    5) Female race of the year: another very difficult choice between Manuel’s 100 free and Di Rado’s 200 back, two surprising wins indeed and two great races. But, because Manuel’s win was a tie (and perhaps that race in the future will be reminded more like the first Olympic gold of Penny Oleksiak..), while Di Rado’s win wasn’t; and that was the last race of Maya; and she upset the Iron Lady with a spectacular finish, my choice goes to Di Rado’s 200 back.

    6) Male race of the year: I’m a great Phelps’ fan but Ervin’s 50 free deserves my personal choice. Manaudou was the huge favorite of the race, and Ervin wasn’t considered his greatest threat. Moreover, before trials Adrian and Dressel were seen as the likely Usa competitors at Olympics, whilst Ervin had had a controversial change of coach during the season. So, that race and that win is my choice.

    7) Female athlete: Katie Ledecky, really no doubt about it.

    8) Male atlete: Michael Phelps, because his career-end at 31 has been a great one, and he has done brave choices, like the 200 fly’s revenge and 3 individual races and 3 relays, also in his last season (even if Ryan Murphy’s season deserves every praise).

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About Jared Anderson

Jared Anderson

Jared Anderson just can’t stay away from the pool. A competitive career of almost two decades wasn’t enough for this Minnesotan, who continues to get his daily chlorine fix. A lifelong lover of writing, Jared now combines the two passions as Senior Reporter for, covering swimming at every level. He’s an …

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