NEW YORK, New York November 17. OLYMPIC champions Michael Phelps (Baltimore, Md.) and Natalie Coughlin (Vallejo, Calif.) were in attendance to accept top honors tonight at the USA Swimming Foundation's Golden Goggle Awards. Phelps and Coughlin took home the awards for Male and Female Athlete of the Year, respectively. The Golden Goggle Awards, held at the New York Hilton and hosted by Bob Costas, celebrated the accomplishments of 2008 Olympic Swim Team at the 2008 Olympic Games in Beijing, China.
Phelps took home a total of three Golden Goggle Awards. His unprecedented eight Olympic gold medals and seven world records in Beijing earned him the Male Athlete of the Year award, as well as the Male Performance of the Year award for his stunning .one one-hudredth of a second win in the 100m fly at the Olympics. Phelps, along with teammates Garrett Weber-Gale (Milwaukee, Wis.), Cullen Jones (New Brunswick, N.J.) and Jason Lezak (Irvine, Calif.) won the award for Relay Performance of the Year for their come-from-behind gold medal and world-record breaking swim in the 400m free relay in Beijing. During Lezak's heroic swim, the team overtook the French team in the last 10 meters of the race to win the gold.
"It's been a fun year and hopefully there will be more to come," Phelps said.
Coughlin won top honors on the women's side, winning the Female Athlete of the Year trophy. Coughlin earned six medals at the Olympics – one gold, two silver, and three bronze, becoming the first woman in any sport, to win six medals in one Olympiad. In 2008, Coughlin broke the 100m back world record three times and set a total of 11 American records.
"This was a great year," Coughlin said. "This year was really special with so many records being broken and I'm really glad to have been a part of it."
Eric Shanteau (Lilburn, Ga.) claimed the Perseverance Award for his performance at the Olympics following his diagnosis with cancer just weeks before the 2008 Olympic Trials. After qualifying for the Olympic team in the 200m breast, Shanteau made the decision to live out his Olympic dream and compete in Beijing where he swam a lifetime-best time in his event. Following the Games, Shanteau returned home and had surgery to remove the cancerous growth. He is now cancer-free.
Rebecca Soni (Plainsboro, N.J.) was honored with two Golden Goggle awards, the Breakout Performer of the Year Award and the Female Performance of the Year Award for her stellar performance in the 200m breast at the Olympics in 2008. The USC senior took home a total of three Olympic medals in Beijing, a gold in the 200m breast and silvers in the 100m breast and 400m medley relay. Soni broke the world record in the 200m breast, and defeated heavy favorite Leisel Jones of Australia to win her first gold.
For the third year in a row, the Coach of the Year Golden Goggle award was presented to Bob Bowman (Baltimore, Md.), who coached four swimmers onto the 2008 Olympic Team – Michael Phelps, Peter Vanderkaay, Erik Vendt and Allison Schmitt. Bowman coached Phelps to a historic eight gold medals and seven world records in Beijing. All of his athletes, male and female, earned Olympic medals in the 800m free relay, and Vanderkaay earned a bronze medal in the 200m free. Bowman was a men's assistant coach in Beijing, marking his second appearance on the U.S. Olympic coaching staff.
Two special awards were also presented at the 2008 Golden Goggle Awards, the Athlete Humanitarian Award and the Impact Award. Both awards are presented in Olympic years only. The NCAA was the recipient of the Impact Award, an award given to the person or organization that demonstrates an overwhelming support for the sport of swimming throughout the Olympic quadrennial. Dr. Myles Brand, the president of the NCAA, accepted the award on its behalf.
The Athlete Humanitarian Award was presented to Olympian Cullen Jones for his work to promote diversity in the sport of swimming through visits to Boys' and Girls' Clubs and YMCAs to promote water-safety. Jones serves as a national spokesman for Make a Splash, the national, child-focused water safety initiative of the USA Swimming Foundation. Since its launch in February of 2007, Make a Splash has touched 750,000 kids through free or low cost swim lessons or water safety education.
Among the celebrity guests in attendance tonight were Donald Trump, Tiki Barber, David Blaine, Ana Ortiz ("Ugly Betty'), Heather Matarazzo, as well as Olympic legends Summer Sanders, Pablo Morales, Gary Hall Jr., Lenny Krayzelburg, Jenny Thompson, and Rowdy Gaines.
Special thanks to USA Swimming for contributing this report.