Commentary by Jeff Commings
PHOENIX, Arizona, November 2. THE first year without Michael Phelps on the international stage was felt by Team USA at the world championships in Barcelona, where the men only won three individual events, compared to the nearly one dozen picked up in the Phelps era.
But the two men who won gold in Barcelona continue the legacy of American swimming, and they are nominated for the Golden Goggle Award for Best Male Race of the Year. Below are the nominees.
Matt Grevers, 100 back gold. Grevers used the anger of not making the 2011 world championships to win Olympic gold in 2012. Grevers had every reason to cut back on his training in 2013, particularly in the days and weeks leading up to his wedding to Annie Chandler. But possibly the wedding sparked a new level of energy in Grevers, and he was able to hold off challenges from two Frenchmen and American teammate David Plummer to take his first individual world championship gold medal with a 52.93. Grevers continued a legacy that started with such legends as Rick Carey, Lenny Krayzelburg and Aaron Peirsol and could hold through the Rio Games.
Ryan Lochte, 200 back gold. Like Grevers, Lochte had every reason to not perform up to expectations in 2013. With the time spent filming a reality show and various cameos on TV shows, Lochte had a lot of ground to cover once he got back into full-time training. In showing his remarkable amount of talent, Lochte got back on top in the 200 back after losing his Olympic title in 2012 with a 1:53.79. The 200 backstroke is becoming one of the most competitive events at the elite level, and Lochte showed he’s up to the challenge to lead the way to Rio 2016.
Ryan Lochte, 200 IM gold. With Phelps out of the picture, Lochte seemed like a lock to win the 200 IM at the world championships, even after Japan’s Kosuke Hagino presented a hefty challenge early in the year. Using his talents in all four strokes, Lochte was never challenged, winning with a 1:54.98 and starting a likely three-year journey to his first 200 IM Olympic gold.
Golden Goggles pick: Lochte in the 200 back. This was a hard choice between both of Lochte’s gold medal swims, because both were equally outstanding. But the 200 backstroke was the toughest race for Lochte to win in Barcelona, given the outstanding field of talent. Plus, it was a great return to the top after winning bronze in London.
Next week: Female Athlete of the Year