Not often that Michael Phelps is granted anything resembling a consolation prize but last night in Greensborough, N.C., the man who this year emerged as the most decorated Olympian of London 2012, his tally making the Games his third Olympics at which he achieved that feat of most medals by any athlete across all sport, and emerged too as the most decorated Olympian of all-time, with 18 gold in 22 medals, was not considered the USA Swimming Athlete of the Year.
The honour went to the best woman on the blocks, winner of five medals, medalist Missy Franklin, the 17-year-old billboard act who could not make it to the United States Aquatic Sports Convention in person but sent a worthy thank you message: “I couldn't have done any of this without USA Swimming. They have taught me so much and given me the most incredible experiences that have made me who I am as a person and a swimmer.
"I really didn't think my life could get any better. This summer, being part of the Olympic Team, was an unbelievable experience. Our team was so close, we had so much fun, and I love them all. It was an honour for us to be in London representing the USA.”
Franklin won four gold medals and a bronze in London, her starring solo role as winner of the 100m and 200m backstroke, a world record delivered in the longer race.
If her success was hardly unexpected, then the 22sec improvement in the year to a sub 8:15 gold medal in the 800m freestyle brought 15-year-old Katie Ledecky the Phillips 66 Performance Award that celebrates the "top individual swimming performance of the year", Phelps granted the 2012 Athletes’ Appreciation Award that recognises "the individual or organisation perceived by the committee to have contributed most significantly to the Athletes' Movement" in the US.
Wells O’Brien collected the 2012 USA Swimming Award for contribution to the sport. The citation read: "O’Brien has been a member and volunteer in the sport since 1983. He served as the Secretary and General Counsel of USA Swimming for 16 years from 1994 to 2010 amd was an official on the pool deck for over 20 years.
"O’Brien was the head referee at the 2004 U.S. Olympic Swim Trials in Long Beach, Calif., and also represented the official at the 2004 Olympic Games in Athens, Greece."
In accepting the award, O'Brien said: "Thank you to all the members of USA Swimming. I want to thank the people I’ve worked with over the years and for all the help with the projects I have been a part of. Thank you for this award. It means a lot to me."
The list of winners:
Meanwhile, in related news from the US, Chris an Matt Hales, Co-Founders at Goggles For Guppies are celebrating their own contribution to swimming. They have entered a partnership with the USA Swimming Foundation. "Goggles for Guppies is now the official distributor of donated swim gear (suits, goggles and caps) to more than 500 Make-a-Splash Local Partners - qualified swim lesson providers that provide life saving learn-to-swim lessons for at-risk children throughout the United States," a Guppies statement noted. "Working together to help end childhood drowning in the United States, we can create a nation where every child has the opportunity to learn to swim and we can expand our reach further than we ever thought possible."