NEW YORK, November 16. USA Swimming announced the recipients of its awards for 2004 at the inaugural Golden Goggles in New York City on November 15.
Athens superstar Michael Phelps took home two of the 10 awards presented, earning accolades for Male Athlete of the Year and Male Race of the Year (Olympic 100m butterfly).
“Every Olympian here tonight is an Olympian for life and that’s something no one can ever take away,” said Phelps in accepting the Male Athlete of the Year award. “The Olympics was the best experience of my life.”
Earlier in the evening, Phelps made a public apology to the crowd of fellow Olympians and USA Swimming Foundation donors for his drunk driving arrest just over a week ago. “Recently, I made a mistake,” said Phelps to the crowd of 650. “I take full responsibility. I’ve learned from it, and hopefully my experience will stop others from making the same mistake. As I look out at the people who best exemplify the standards I admire, my fellow Olympians, I want to say I’m sorry.”
Dick Ebersol of NBC Sports, who was presented with the Impact Award for his role in raising swimming’s awareness level, and swimming legend Mark Spitz both praised Phelps later in the night.
“If you’re a parent or a coach of one of these swimmers, you have so much to be proud of,” said Ebersol. “There was no one in Greece that we as a country had more reason to be proud of than Michael Phelps. There’s great cynicism in our country about people who have big goals. In Athens, Michael was a winner not only in the pool, but in life, and he still is today.”
Natalie Coughlin, who led the U.S. women with five medals in Athens, including two gold, was named Female Athlete of the Year. No female athlete in any sport won more medals than Coughlin in Athens.
Coughlin was also part of the relay team that took home Relay of the Year honors. The 4x200m free relay team in Athens, which broke the oldest world record on the books — and the last remaining global mark held by East Germans — earned that achievement. The team in finals was made up of Coughlin, Carly Piper, Dana Vollmer and Kaitlin Sandeno. When the group went to the stage to collect its award, they called up prelim swimmers Lindsay Benko, Rhi Jeffrey and Rachel Komisarz to honor their contributions.
Sandeno had already made an earlier trip to the podium when she was named winner of the Comeback of the Year award. Sandeno, who almost quit the sport due to stress fractures in her back, had a stellar 2004, coming home from Athens with three medals, one of each color.
Larsen Jensen, who shattered the American record and gave Grant Hackett a run for his money in the 1500 free in Athens, was named the Breakout Performer of the Year.
Men’s Olympic Head Coach Eddie Reese was voted the Doc Counsilman Coach of the Year.
Gary Hall Jr. was presented with the Athlete Humanitarian award for his work with the Juvenile Diabetes Foundation.
The Female Race of the Year honor went to Amanda Beard for her gold medal performance in the 200 breast in Athens.
The sold-out Golden Goggles was the first major project of the new USA Swimming Foundation, the fundraising arm of USA Swimming. The black-tie event featured the entire 2004 U.S. Olympic swim team.
Also attending were some of the great names in American swimming, past and present: B.J. Bedford, Matt Biondi, Coach Peter Daland, Josh Davis, Donna De Varona, Rowdy Gaines (one of the key organizers of the event), Dr. Gary Hall, Sr., Mark Henderson, Steve Lundquist, Mary T Meagher, Pablo Morales, Bill Mulliken, John Naber, Summer Sanders, Mark Spitz, Dara Torres, to name just a handful. Tracy Caulkins Stockwell, who lives in Brisbane, Australia, came the farthest to lend her presence to the gala affair.
Bruce Hornsby provided musical entertainment.