Golden Goggle Predictions
By Mike Gustafson//Correspondent
Roll out the red carpet. Bring out the lights, cameras, media, and microphones. Tonight is your one opportunity, swim fans, to see not only the biggest stars in USA Swimming – but how they dress.
At 7pm eastern, the annual Golden Goggle Awards takes place in the city that never sleeps, New York. You can watch the Golden Goggles streamed LIVE on usaswimming.org/goldengoggles. You’ll want to. Not only will we witness the final “Michael vs. Ryan” competition (both are nominated for the Male Athlete of the Year Award), but we will also see how these swimmers suit up. Literally, in suits and ties.
Here are my picks for tonight’s awards. Don’t quote me. Like the Olympics, anything can happen. But the real point of tonight’s awards are a celebration of who competed this summer. Who helped make our Team USA great in London….
Breakout Performer of the Year Award:
Katie Ledecky. While other nominees in this category are worthy, such as Breeja Larson, who recently smashed the American Record in the 100 yard breaststroke, no one had a bigger impact on the Olympics than Ledecky. Ledecky was unknown in 2011 – like many other nominees in this category – but she is now a force to be reckoned with. She’s an Olympic gold medalist. Going from unknown to “Olympic Gold Medalist” is worthy of the “Breakout Performer Award.”
Honestly, I would have given this award to Scott Weltz – a swimmer who qualified for the Olympics after his college swim team (UC Davis) was cut – but he isn’t nominated in this category. Anthony Ervin is a worthy candidate, considering the dark times he endured between his 2000 Olympics and the 2012 Olympics. Tyler Clary is another worthy candidate, considering he’s had to swim in the shadows of Michael Phelps and Ryan Lochte his entire career. But I have to go with Davis Tarwater. Tarwater barely missed the Olympics in 2008. He barely missed it in 2012. But when Phelps scratched the 200 freestyle, Tarwater (who finished 7th) finally made the team. Reports were that Tarwater was heading home, thinking he had missed the team, when he got the call to return to the sport of swimming and get ready for the Olympics. This is a guy who defines the word “perseverance.”
Coach of the Year
Many great nominees in this category, but I’d give the award to Bob Bowman. It’s not every day you coach the Greatest Olympian in History. Bowman was largely responsible for Phelps’ success these past 12 years. Bowman deserves this award for producing the man who changed our sport forever. Also, Bowman proved he’s not just a one-trick pony with Allison Schmitt. Schmitt was one of the pleasant surprises at the Olympics, dominating the 200m freestyle on her way to 5 Olympic medals.
Relay Performance of the Year
So many outstanding relays, but one sticks out: The women’s 4x200 freestyle relay. Olympic record. Gold for the first time since 2004. A huge statement win, a momentum-building win. There you saw just how dominant Allison Schmitt’s freestyle was in London. She blew away the field in her anchor leg, and you could hear the chants of an entire nation, “USA! USA!”
Female Performance of the Year
You almost hate to choose. From Missy Franklin’s 200m backstroke, to Schmitty’s 200m freestyle, to Ledecky’s insane 800m free, so many great performances were turned in from our USA women that almost everyone deserves the award. But Rebecca Soni’s incredible sub-2:20 deserves this. Soni has been absolutely dominant in the 200m breaststroke, winning both golds in 2008 and 2012. She broke through that 2:20 barrier, a time she has been floating around for years. It was an incredible swim by one of the greatest breaststrokers in history.
Male Performance of the Year
Every single nominee had an incredible swim. Adrian’s 100 free. Grevers’ 100 back. Phelps’ 200 IM. Clary’s 200 back. But I’ll predict Ryan Lochte will win this award for his incredible, once-in-a-lifetime 400 IM swim. There was so much pressure. Michael vs. Ryan. Ryan vs. Michael. An entire world watching. The opening night of the Olympic competition. No one knew what was going to happen. Lochte not only emerged victorious, but he dominated swimming’s toughest event. This was one of the great swims in Olympics history, when Lochte soundly defeated the Greatest Ever in an event Phelps once dominated.
Female Athlete of the Year
Welcome to the Missy Franklin era. Missy qualified for the Olympics in a Phelpsian seven events. She won five medals, four of them gold. She not only dominated the pool, but outside of the pool. She became America’s sweetheart, always smiling, talking to Justin Bieber through the TV cameras, saying the right things, being very articulate and poised well beyond her years in after-race pool deck interviews. The Cal-bound swimmer is a once-in-a-generation type of athlete, and she deserves this award for an incredible Olympics.
Male Athlete of the Year
While we welcome one new superstar, we say goodbye to another. Michael Phelps will win this award and then say goodbye to the sport of swimming. No other athlete has dominated like Phelps has. He has changed the sport forever. NBC televised the Olympic Trials live for eight nights, primetime. USA Swimming membership is at an all-time high. The sport has never been more popular. Much of this is because of Phelps. He said he wanted to grow the sport, and that is exactly what his performances in the pool have done. Hopefully we’ll see Phelps around on pool decks in the future, in some capacity. Here’s to the final farewell of a remarkable career.