Commentary by Jeff Commings
PHOENIX, Arizona, November 8. THE same three athletes nominated for the Golden Goggle Award are up in the Female Athlete of the Year category, having earned the only gold medals for the United States at the world championships.
USA Swimming, which hosts the Golden Goggle Award ceremony, only uses performances from the big international meet of the year (Olympics, world championships, Pan Pacs). It is a shame that swims from other big meets, such as the national championships and the NCAAs, aren’t recognized for this honor, but that’s a conversation for another time. Let’s look at what these three nominees have done this year to deserve a spot on the list.
Haley Anderson won the 5K open water gold medal in Barcelona, a year after surprising with a silver medal in the 10K at the Olympics. Anderson did not qualify for the 10K at worlds, and only had the 10K to make her international mark in 2013. She did so in a big way, and will go into 2014 as the country’s top open water swimmer with a horde of tough ladies right on her heels.
Missy Franklin won six gold medals at the world championships, the most that any female has won at that meet and tying her with East Germany’s Kristin Otto for the most golds won at a major international competition. Not only was she a catalyst in all three relay wins, but she took her expected golds in the 100 and 200 backstrokes and held off fast-charging defending champion Federica Pellegrini in the 200 freestyle. No world records this year, but what Franklin was able to achieve in Barcelona takes not only major physical talent, but extreme mental toughness.
Katie Ledecky set out to prove that her 800 freestyle gold medal in London last year was no fluke, and her first final at the world championships silenced the doubters. She became the first American under four minutes in the 400 free, holding under world record pace for 300 meters. Her world record in the 1500 free is well documented, and though it is not an Olympic event might be regarded as the performance of the year. To round out her great meet, she won gold in the 800 free relay and got that world record in the 800 free that eluded her last year.
Golden Goggles pick: If you only look at the performances from world championships, Ledecky deserves this award. Her swims at the D.C. Metro high school championships, where she set the overall national record in the 500-yard freestyle and the independent school record in the 200 free, were the icing on the cake that was her phenomenal year.
Next week: Male Athlete of the Year
One week remains to place your vote in the eight Golden Goggles categories. Click here to vote.