SwimSwam’s Official Ballot for the 2022 Golden Goggles Awards

The official nominations and details for the 2022 USA Swimming Golden Goggles Awards gala have been announced, and it’s time for us to present our official SwimSwam ballot.

Note that these votes are based on who we think should win, not who we think will win, though we’ve tried to indicate our predicted winner for each award as well.

The 2022 Golden Goggles Awards show will be held on November 21, 2022 in New York City.


Breakout Performer Of The Year

This award is given to the athlete whose performance(s) stand out in relation to other years, with special emphasis on the 2022 World Championships.

There were a lot of amazing breakouts in 2022, To me, there are three who standout ahead here: Hunter Armstrong with a nobody-expected-it World Record in the 50 back; Leah Hayes won a World Championship bronze medal at only 16 that isn’t getting nearly enough hype; and Carson Foster, who has been knocking on the door for a minute, busting through for silver medals in both IM races.

By definition of the award, Hayes is our pick. Armstrong (who was robbed with no nomination for race of the year his 50 back World Record because he did it at Trials and not Worlds) was on the Olympic Team last year; and Foster was #1 in the world last season in the 400 IM, albeit not at the right meet. Hayes was the most unlikely medalist for the US at the World Championships.

I think the award will probably go to Foster though as sort of a ‘perseverance light’ honor. He didn’t ‘suffer’ for long enough to be nominated for that award, but finally getting his big swim at the big meet was a great story.

Huske and Curzan both had great World Championship meets and stacked up medals, but neither felt like the same amplitude of breakout as others on the list. Curzan, for her part, was better in her signature event, the 100 fly, last year.

Perseverance Award

This award is given to the athlete who came back from adversity, retirement, sickness, injury, etc., to have an outstanding performance(s) in 2022, with special emphasis on the 2022 FINA Swimming World Championships.

Lilly King winning the 200 breaststroke at the World Championships after getting COVID a month before the meet was gutsy. But Leah Smith hanging on after her Olympic year disappointment, where she easily could have retired, to win a gold medal in the 800 free relay and a bronze medal in the 400 free, was big, and to me has more of a long-term perseverance narrative.

King will probably win, though, just because of COVID being the topic-du-jour.

The nomination of Urlando is a callback to his shoulder injury in 2020 and then making his first senior international team (if we ignore the roster selection error in 2018) in the 200 fly, placing 5th. He also had a great NCAA season, but I don’t think the official electorate really gives much weight to NCAA performances in these selections.

Coach Of The Year

This award is given to the coach whose athlete(s) performed at the highest level throughout the year, with special emphasis on the 2022 FINA Swimming World Championships.

This is a very competitive race this year, and one that could rightfully be given to any of the four nominees.

Eddie Reese did a great job with Carson Foster and seems to have Shaine Casas on track to meet his prodigious potential. Ron Aitken continues to build his mostly-junior-aged group to new heights – including half of the thrilling women’s 800 free relay final in Claire Weinstein and Bella Sims. Todd DeSorbo led his Virginia Cavaliers to a second-straight NCAA title, and Alex Walsh grabbed a gold medal in the 200 IM.

But even with one of his athletes, Caeleb Dressel, leaving the meet early, Anthony Nesty sticks out slightly ahead in this one. Katie Ledecky had her best season in years after joining his training group, Bobby Finke sustained his Olympic success for gold and silver at Worlds, and Natalie Hinds is swimming best times at 28 years old.

He managed all of that while leading the US men’s team at the meet. That US men’s team persevered even without Dressel for most of the meet – there can be debate about how much the head coach is or isn’t responsible for there, but it has to count for something that they recovered from a hit-and-miss Olympic performance.

Nesty’s former boss Gregg Troy won the award last year. This year, it seems like that should all shift to Nesty.

Relay Performance Of The Year

This award is given to the best team relay performance, male or female. The performance considered must be a finals performance, with special emphasis on the 2022 FINA Swimming World Championships.

  • Women’s 4×200 free relay (SwimSwam Official Selection)
  • Men’s 4×200 free relay
  • Women’s 4×100 medley relay
  • Men’s 4×100 free relay
  • Mixed 4×100 medley relay

The US swam well in a lot of relays at the World Championships, but the women’s 800 free relay was easily the thrill of the meet. An unlikely foursome of Claire Weinstein, Leah Smith, Katie Ledecky, and Bella Sims swam 7:41.45 to break the Championship Record, including a monstrous Katie Ledecky 3rd leg (and a bold choice to use her there). The two youngest swimmers of the relay, Claire Weinstein (15) and Bella Sims (17) swam the pressure-packed leadoff and anchor legs, and handled their business, while the veteran Leah Smith bounced back from a disappointing 2021.

Everything about this relay screams ‘obvious winner’ in this category.

Female Race Of The Year

This award is given to the female swimmer with the greatest single individual race of the year, with special emphasis on the 2022 FINA Swimming World Championships.

The nominees are the five individual gold medals from the World Championships.

I have two favorites on this list: Torri Huske breaking the American Record to win the 100 fly (even if that race didn’t include Sarah Sjostrom or Maggie MacNeil), and Alex Walsh swimming 2:07.13 to become the fastest American ever in textile. Those were the two swims that felt like they’d stand out in a history book about swimming in 2022.

I’m going to give our official vote to Huske and the 100 fly, and I think that’s what the electorate will select too. An American Record and a gold medal gives that swim an edge on the rest.

Male Race Of The Year

This award is given to the male swimmer with the greatest single individual race of the year, with special emphasis on the 2022 FINA Swimming World Championships.

Big USA Swimming sub-Tweet here by including two silver medalists in Olympic events ahead of gold medalists in non-Olympic events, where the US swept the titles (Fink, Ress, Dressel).

But at any rate, first I’ll whittle it down to the two gold medalists (Bobby Finke, 800 free; Ryan Murphy, 200 back). From there, I look at Finke breaking an American Record, swimming a best time, and winning an amazing four-swimmer battle over huge names Florian Wellbrock, Mykhailo Romanchuk, and Gregorio Paltrinieri. That swim was so fun to watch.

Female Athlete Of The Year

This award is given to the top female swimmer of the year with special emphasis on achievements at the 2022 FINA Swimming World Championships.

This list includes the individual gold medalists, plus double silver medalist Katie Grimes.

If Katie Ledecky won it last year, and blew away her 2021 times in 2022, how can she not win it again this year? I think that stoopid relay leg of 1:53.67 on the 800 free relay, in a moment where the US needed their hero, cemented this award for her. She won 4 gold medals in 4 entries at the World Championships. She had the most individual gold medals for Team USA, the most total gold medals for Team USA, and became the most-decorated female swimmer in World Championship history.

It feels like a broken record, but pencil in #8 for Ledecky.

Male Athlete Of The Year

This award is given to the top male swimmer of the year with special emphasis on achievements at the 2022 FINA Swimming World Championships.

It’s so odd to not see Caeleb Dressel’s name on this list, but that is 2021 in a nutshell.

Bobby Finke scored a gold, a silver, and two American Records. Carson Foster scored two silver medals. Nic Fink scored an individual gold in a non-Olympic event, silver in an Olympic event, silver in the men’s 400 medley relay, and gold in the mixed 400 medley relay. Ryan Murphy took silver in the 100 back, gold in the 200 back, and two relay medals.

All solid resumes, but there’s no Ledecky-esque multiple individual gold medals to make a clear favorite. When reading through those results, the one thing that jumps out at me is a pair of American Records for Finke. So even without any relay medals, we’ll give Finke the nod here.

Fun fact: he would be the first distance swimmer to win this award since it was first given in 2004, and only the (Michael Phelps x7, Aaron Peirsol x1, Brendan Hansen x1, Ryan Lochte x4, Caeleb Dressel x3, and Ryan Murphy x1).

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2 months ago

No clue why Murphy’s 200 BK is nominated for male race of the year. Slowest winning time at an OG or WCs since 2005, and was off his PB by almost 1 second. Ress’s 50 BK, Fink’s 50 BR, Carson’s 200 IM, and Armstrong’s WR at trials all felt like better nominees.

SuperSwimmer 2000
Reply to  HJones
2 months ago

They place an emphasis on Olympic events. They’ll rarely nominate 50s. It may not have been the best time and may not win, but it’s their way of giving a nod to a guy who won gold in an Olympic event. That’s why that race is nominated.

SuperSwimmer 2000
Reply to  HJones
2 months ago

And they’re rarely going to nominate a trials swim unless it just shatters a WR. It’s all about the emphasis on Worlds or Olympics or whatever the major international meet is.

2 months ago

With regard to the female race of the year, I respectfully disagree. Katie Ledecky posted the fifth fastest all-time performance in the women’s 800 meter freestyle. Also, that’s after swimming 4800 meters prior to the final of the women’s 800 meter freestyle. It’s the second fastest all-time performance in the women’s 800 freestyle at the FINA World Aquatics Championships, an international competition where the women’s 1500 meter freestyle (heats, final) is contested.

2 months ago

I thought maybe claire weinstein would have a shot at breakout performer

2 months ago

Carson had a relay gold as well when you’re competing resumes for male athlete of the year. I’d still lean Finke, but the 800 free relay gold is worth mention.

2 months ago

I have to agree that Hunter was “robbed”. Even though the 50 back is not an Olympic event, isn’t he the only US World Record set this year? And if so, isn’t a World Record still a pretty big deal, no matter what it’s set in? It is still an event at a FINA santioned meet/event… I’m very confused…

Reply to  fairisfair
2 months ago

MOC and Titmus both set two world records, both in Olympic events, this year. Watch neither of them be close to SwimSwam’s top pick for female swimmer of the year lol.

Reply to  Sub13
2 months ago

I’m sure MOC and Titmus will get honourable mentions for female swimmer of the year, if we’re talking about swimmers that solely fulfill the criteria of multiple world records this year that won’t get an honourable mention its Madi Wilson

water baby
Reply to  Sub13
2 months ago

this list is US only…

Reply to  water baby
2 months ago

Should have said that in the headline

Reply to  KatyJ
2 months ago

the article is about the golden goggles which is literally a USA Swimming event ?? where they honor team USA?

PK Doesn't Like His Long Name
2 months ago

Thank you for voting for the women’s relay, thought I was taking crazy pills reading the other thread and seeing no one other than the names mention it. The other relays were about where they should have been based on the sum of their parts, that relay vastly exceeded the sum of its parts, it basically went best time-best time-best time-massive best time.

James Beam
2 months ago

I thought Luca’s shoulder injury was in 2020, before he got to UGA? I didn’t think it was in 2022….

2 months ago

Here’s my bad take: Bobby Finke should win Male Athlete Of The Year, he is the best candidate. But as someone who is a bigger fan of NCAA swimming than I am of the big international competitions (I do love both though!), I’m a little disappointed that the best option is someone who chose not to prioritize NCAAs and inexplicably left the SCY 1000 record in Clark Smith’s possession.

Reply to  Willswim
2 months ago

Finke got Covid a month out from NCAAs. He didn’t choose to not prioritize the meet.

About Braden Keith

Braden Keith

Braden Keith is the Editor-in-Chief and a co-founder/co-owner 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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