The official nominations and details for the 2019 USA Swimming Golden Goggles Awards gala have been announced, and so its time for us to present our official SwimSwam ballot.
Note that these votes are based on who we think should win, not he we think will win. This year, however, is more straightforward than most, with the exception of the Female Swimmer of the Year and maybe a few minor quibbles in other categories.
Make your official votes for the 2019 awards here (scroll down to the end of the page).
2019 Golden Goggle Awards Nominees
Breakout Performer of the Year
With increased media coverage, it’s harder and harder to define the term “breakout,” because Regan Smith has been on this trajectory for years. Still, she broke 2 World Records in individual events and another as part of a relay on her first World Championship team. Can’t ignore those numbers.
In the classical sense of “perseverance,” Ashley Twichell certainly is that. She’s been grinding and grinding to make the transition from the pool to open water, and at age 30 this year earned her spot on the Olympic team.
But, she’s up against two monster perseverance stories. Katie Ledecky was very ill (details are still hazy, but she was sick enough to skip a race), but still came back to win a gold in the 800 free. Nathan Adrian, meanwhile, had cancer in the early part of the season, and while he didn’t come away with the same individual medals haul as did Ledecky, he was a very important leg on the American relays, including their Championship Record 400 free relay. He also pulled double duty with the Pan American Games.
So, which takes the cake – Ledecky’s singular point of perseverance to the highest height? Or Adrian’s season-long perseverance and fight to get back into world class shape after a life-altering diagnosis?
We’ll take Adrian here. Mr. Reliable got it done again.
Coach of the Year
This debate, to me, comes down to 3 coaches: Meehan (Stanford), Parratto (Riptide), and Troy (Gator Swim Club). Then the conversation essentially boils down to 3 questions:
- How much value do you give to a singular superstar versus success by a number of swimmers?
- How many style points does Parratto get given the crushing of World Records done by Regan Smith at only 17?
- How many style points does Gregg Troy get for coaching the one swimmer involved in all of the American mens’ gold medals?
To me, Meehan has the right combo of results. Ledecky and what she did, plus Simone and her raw medal haul, and Katie Drabot grabbing a bronze medal in the 200 fly. While not really what USA Swimming is focused on, he’s also the only nominee on the list to have won the NCAA team title in 2019.
The only knock is that a few swimmers (Ella Eastin) were off their bests at Worlds. But, I’d rather focus my pick on the highs rather than the lows.
Bauerle is kind of a darkhorse pick here, as among the nominees his group had the most co-ed success at Worlds. Between Smoliga’s 2 medals (including 50 back gold), Flickinger’s 200 fly silver (and a great season overall), and Jay Litherland‘s 400 IM silver, Bauerle’s pros stepped up when needed. His college teams didn’t have a great year, but his post-grads put together a very good season.
Relay Performance of the Year
- Women’s 4x100m Medley Relay (2019 FINA World Championships)
- Mixed 4x100m Freestyle Relay (2019 FINA World Championships)
- Men’s 4x100m Freestyle Relay (2019 FINA World Championships)
Mixed relay World Records just aren’t that cool. The men’s 400 free relay got a lot of early meet hype. But this one’s pretty easy to me: the women’s 400 medley, led off by Regan Smith‘s World Record, had it all. Capstone on the meet, 2 World Records, and utter dominance over a very good Australian team. The US had the fastest split on three legs of the medley relay in a World Championship final. The other leg, Kelsi Dahlia’s butterfly, was 2nd-best in the final.
Female Race of the Year
- Simone Manuel – 100m Freestyle (2019 FINA World Championships)
- Katie Ledecky – 800m Freestyle (2019 FINA World Championships)
- Olivia Smoliga – 50m Backstroke (2019 FINA World Championships)
- Regan Smith – 200m Backstroke semifinals (2019 FINA World Championships) (SwimSwam Official Selection)
- Lilly King – 100m Breaststroke (2019 FINA World Championships)
Race of the year? Lots of good stories, but taking 7-tenths off Missy Franklin’s 7-year old World Record in the 200 back seals this for Regan. If it was in the final and not the semi-final, then I think it’s a slam dunk. Looking less at clocks and more existentially, Simone pulling another (upset?) in the 100 free was super cool. So if you don’t like awarding a semis swim, that’s the 2nd-best option.
Male Race of the Year
- Caeleb Dressel – 50m Freestyle (2019 FINA World Championships)
- Caeleb Dressel – 100m Freestyle (2019 FINA World Championships) (SwimSwam Official Selection)
- Caeleb Dressel – 50m Butterfly (2019 FINA World Championships)
- Caeleb Dressel – 100m Butterfly semifinals (2019 FINA World Championships)
- Jay Litherland – 400m IM (2019 FINA World Championships)
With deference to Jay Litherland, which again I think is one of the more underrated stories to come out of Worlds for a US men’s team that is looking for positive signs heading into Tokyo, this award will be Dressel’s. Which race? They were all good wins. It won’t be the 50 fly. I think the 100 free, going 46.96 and sub-47, is the choice here. No, it wasn’t a World Record, but it was in the final, and it was a history-making time none-the-less. I know that’s the opposite logic to the 200 back choice above. Don’t hold me accountable for that in the comments. The 100 fly will probably win this one anyway.
Female Athlete of the Year
I hear you. Regan Smith came on late at the World Championships and had one heck of a performance over a couple of days. But, when you’re on the American swim team, the glory has always gone to the swimmer who does it for the entire length of a grueling meet. The only hesitation I have is that I hate when Mel’s obviously pro-American choices actually come true, because it encourages him to do it again. And Simone won again. Because she’s an absolute juggernaut when the lights turn on. At this point, how can you pick against her?
Male Athlete of the Year
- Caeleb Dressel (SwimSwam Official Selection)
Our pick: Zach Apple, for his 2 individual golds at the World University Games and some good relay swims at Worlds.
JK. It’s Caeleb.