Golden Goggles Preview: Female Race of the Year

Commentary by Jeff Commings

PHOENIX, Arizona, October 25. THE Golden Goggles is about a month away, and I can only hope the ladies are making plans to go shopping for that dress that will wow the fans when they walk the red carpet. As for the guys — well, most of them will wait until the last minute.

But we’ve been thinking about this annual event since the nominees were announced last month, and each week I’ve been predicting the winners of the awards that will be presented at the November 24 event. Today’s it is the exciting Female Race of the Year.

Haley Anderson’s 5K at the world championships. Haley Anderson wanted to swim the 5K. It was the event in which she won Olympic silver the year before, and the chance to upgrade to world silver was an exciting prospect. But she didn’t qualify to swim the 10K at worlds, leaving her with just the 5K, somewhat of a sprint for her. With no other event to prove herself on the world stage, Anderson let everyone chase her in the Mediterranean waters, and won by just two tenths of a second. It was a gutsy race, and gave her some ammunition for the three years leading up to Rio.

Missy Franklin’s 200 free at world championships. A surprising win for Franklin, given that she had never won a medal in the 200 free internationally. But after placing fourth in the event in London, Franklin made some big strides in her freestyle, and showed some incredible front-end speed when she took the race out hard and held on as very few can, winning with a 1:54.81. She withstood a charge from defending champion Federica Pellegrini, who is the most unpredictable swimmer in the pool but always seems to find herself at the world championships. Franklin is now the women to beat in two strokes, and that makes her special.

Katie Ledecky’s 800 free at world championships. At the 300-meter mark of this event, just about everyone watching the 800 free final thought the week had finally taken its toll on Katie Ledecky. She had raced 4,800 meters before diving in for the final, and for the first time in a distance race, she wasn’t leading. But after 400 meters, she started creeping up on Lotte Friis and nearly negative split her race. Oh, and she broke the world record, a record everyone had been anxious to see her break since she won gold at the Olympic last year. A gutsy strategy that paid off in gold and a world record time of 8:13.86.

Katie Ledecky’s 1500 free at world championships. It’s not an Olympic event, which is why it’s always exciting to see the race swum at the world championships. It’s an opportunity for the women to show that they are just as tough as the men, and can handle swimming a mile. And in this case, it was one of the most buzzed-about races of the entire meet. At one point, three swimmers were under world record pace, led by Katie Ledecky and Lotte Friis, who zeroed in on each other’s pace and matched it for nearly 16 minutes. A blistering final 100 not only shocked the crowd but sent the swimming community into a frenzy as the final pre-techsuit world record fell to Ledecky with a 15:36.53. There’s no doubt that Ledecky is well on her way to becoming the best distance swimmer in history.

Golden Goggle Award Pick: Ledecky in the 1500 free. I was privileged to watch both of Ledecky’s swims and Franklin’s 200 free, and while all three made the hair on the back of my neck stand on end, only Ledecky’s 1500 freestyle rendered me speechless.

Next week: Analyzing Male Race of the Year

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