On Sunday night, the upper echelon of the competitive swimming world gathered together to honor the best in swimming at the 10th annual Golden Goggle Awards. The event, put on by USA Swimming, awarded its top honor, male and female swimmer of the year, to Ryan Lochte and Katie Ledecky for their impressive performances at the 2013 World Championships in Barcelona, Spain.
The evening was emceed by comedian Kevin Nealon whose jokes belly-flopped most of the night until the audience relaxed toward the end of the evening. The entertainment included three separate Cirque de Soleil performances that were sandwiched between awards.
Female Swimmer of the Year wasn’t the only award that Katie Ledecky walked away with on Sunday. The 16-year-old from Washington D.C. also grabbed the first award of the evening for Female Race of the Year for which she was nominated twice, once for her 800 meter freestyle race in which she came from behind to not only win, but to break a world record. However, it was her impressive 1500 meter freestyle race that shattered the existing world record by a staggering six seconds that won her the award. She beat out Olympic darling Missy Franklin (who won six gold medals in Barcelona) and open water swimmer Haley Anderson for the trophy.
Lochte had a similar evening to Ledecky, apart from actually being present at the LA-based awards (Lochte suffered a knee injury after a fan jumped on him and knocked him to the ground, leaving the swimmer unable to travel). He also picked up the Male Race of the Year accolade for which he was also nominated twice, once for his 200 meter Individual Medley race that he dominated, out touching the competition by 1.3 seconds to win gold. He also won the 200 meter backstroke from start to finish, but it was his win in the 200 IM that snagged him the Golden Goggle trophy. Lochte beat out Matt Grevers who was nominated for his 100 meter backstroke race that won him gold at the World Championships.
Chase Kalisz took home the Breakout Swimmer of the Year trophy for his silver in the 400 meter IM in Barcelona. The 19-year-old who trains at the North Baltimore Aquatic club (the famous training facility of Michael Phelps) beat out three other up-and-comers who had impressive performances at the 2013 World Championships.
The Perseverance Award was given to Megan Romano who anchored the women’s 4X100 freestyle team that won the gold medal at the worlds, beating out the Australians on the last leg. Romano narrowly missed out on the 2012 Olympics, but she hung on and was very impressive in Barcelona.
Katie Ledecky’s talent even brought an award to her coach, Bruce Gemmell, who took home the prize for Coach of the Year. Bruce Gemmell’s coaching helped Katie grab four gold medals in Spain and break two world records. He beat out four other nominated coaches, some of whom had been nominated six plus years in a row.
Fan favorite Missy Franklin would not go home empty handed, despite losing to Katie Ledecky in the Female Swimmer of the Year and Female Race of the Year categories. Franklin and teammates won the Relay Performance of the year award for their 4X100 meter freestyle race that they won down the stretch thanks to Megan Romano’s great leg. Sharing the award was Shannon Vreeland (who was not present), and Natalie Coughlin.
Highlights of the evening included an appearance by Anders Holm, comedian and writer of the hilarious show “Workaholics” on Comedy Central. Holm, who also swam at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, was easy and hilarious in his short stint. I smell a future hosting job.
Ryan Lochte’s coach had to accept the swimmer’s Golden Goggle award for Male Swimmer of the Year in his absence. Jon Urbanchek said Ryan wasn’t able to be there because he suffered a bad tackle and teased that there’s no one at the University of Florida who could tackle like that. He also got laughs when he used Lochte’s signature phrase, “jeah” to close the speech.
A definite highlight was a presentation on the “Make a Splash” initiative from the USA Swimming Foundation presented by Rowdy Gaines and Cullen Jones. The foundation focuses on preventing drowning by giving kids swimming lessons to ensure as many kids as possible are water safe. The foundation has been around for five years and has reached approximately two million kids.
Another touching moment was during Katie Ledecky’s acceptance speech when she reminisced about the fun she had at the World Championships with the other girls, having dance parties and painting their nails. As serious and impressive as these athletes are, it’s nice to know that the teenager is still having some normal fun.