Golden Goggles: King Michael, Queen Missy
Nov 20, 2012 - Craig Lord
Michael Phelps and Missy Franklin were crowned king and queen of America last night in New York at the ninth-annual USA Swimming Golden Goggle Awards as best man and best woman in the water: 8 gold, 2 silver and a bronze.
Their tally would have left them at the top of the medal tables of nations, China the second best to the USA when it claimed 5 gold among its 10 medals.
Little wonder that Phelps and Franklin were the stars of a star-studded gala at the New York Marriott Marquis as the USA celebrated its world No1 status, its 31 medals at London 2012 including a runs way 16 drowns in 31 medals (1 open water medal in the mix) - that's 16 gold, 9 silver and 6 bronze.
As USA Swimming out it, "nearly 30 percent of the total medals earned by all American Olympians in London".
Phelps, coached by Bob Bowman at the North baltimore Aquatic Club, went further into outer orbit, his place in the pantheon of greats set on a plinth higher than all around it. He ended his career with 22 Olympic medals, 18 of them gold, the victory count double that of the next best in history.
More significant was the ay he did it: off the podium day one, struggling in the days that followed, silver in his signature 200m butterfly, time, age, fate seemingly set against him. And then he fought back, they he showed habit, process, style, class, determination, guts, the confidence borne of all those things and more.
He stamped his name in the triple crown club in the 4x200m freestyle relay and then added solo membership alongside Dawn Fraser (AUS) and Krisztina Egerszegi (HUN) with victory in the 200m medley. The first man to join that elite company, he doubled with victory in the 100m butterfly and ended his days in the Olympic race pool on butterfly with golden teammates - Grevers, Hanson (comeback of the year) Adrian - and in the 4x100m medley.
The lessons to be learned from Phelps and Bowman are legion. Bowman, head coach and CEO of North Baltimore Aquatic Club, was named Coach of the Year. His success at London 2012 also included Allison Schmitt, 200m free Olympic champion and champ too in the 4x200m free and 4x100m medley, her silver claimed behind France's Camille Muffat in the 400m freestyle.
Franklin, meanwhile, took home two awards: best woman and "Relay Performance of the Year" for sending the 4x100m medley relay team on its way to gold with a thudding effort that sank doubt, Soni, Vollmer and Schmitt, all Olympic solo champs in their own right, following through and cracking the world record open. They added up to the Relay Performance of the Year Award.
By the time the medley relay unfolded, Franklin, coached by Todd Schmitz, had won the 100m and 200m backstroke, set world records in the 200m back, finished just off the podium in the 100m and 200m free finals and taken gold with teammates in both freestyle relays.
The Male Race of the Year award went to Nathan Adrian for his gold-medal performance in the 100m free. Adrian, who won the race by just .01 seconds, became the first U.S. man to win the event since 1988 and did so in the face of what looked like certain gold for Australia's James Magnussen.
At US Olympic trials, I asked Adrian about the Missile's super speed. On 48.10, Adrian knew what it took to swim fast. But 47.10 was something else? "Yes… You know, at this point, I'm chipping away at my best time. Given different circumstances I think I could have gotten under 48 tonight, but, again, I got on that team. A 47.1 probably wasn't in the cards for this evening, but sometime in the future hopefully I will be around that range."
As for the relay clash with Australia, Adrian added: "We're fine. Nothing we can change now about our preparation. I'm not going to go to our training camp and lift a bunch of weights and drop a full second. I'm going to rest a little more, try to get a little more speed and see how that race turns out. There is a reason why we swim it."
And why we win, you might say of the US: never once did you hear a voice of resignation. You did hear American voices saying "yeah, he's the one to beat" when staring at a 47.10 maelstrom. But not once did you hear anyone say they didn't think it was possible to defuse the Missile - because they intended to do just that and in the end had a little help from some Aussie sprinters now at the focus of behavioural and team culture Down Under - and perhaps wondering how they could have let it slip away.
In New York, Katie Ledecky was named Breakout Performer of the Year and Female Race of the Year for her American-record performance in the 800m free, an 8:14.63 making her the fastest ever in textile inside the 1989 standard of the legendary Jane Evans. The youngest American medallist, at 15, in London, Ledecky improved from 8:36 in the year leading up to the Games. A close call that one: whether to honour a teenage bolter or the likes of Vollmer and her perseverance: made it 2004, missed out 2008, came back and became the first sub-56sec 100 'flyer, her story with coach Teri McKeever inspirational.
There is a perserverance award but it didn't go to Vollmer. In a move that will be celebrated by some but not go down well among others, Jessica Hardy got the Perseverance Award. Having missed the 2008 Olympics due to a doping suspension, Hardy "bounced back to qualify for the 2012 Olympic Team in multiple events. Hardy left London with a gold and bronze medal from the 4x100m medley relay and 4x100m free relay, respectively," USA Swimming notes.
Hardy fought to clear her name on the basis that a supplement she took had more in it than it said on the tin. A cautionary tale and a result, while fair to the innocent athlete, that opens loop holes for hard core cheats, just as other decisions in swimming have of late.
Jim Mulva of Phillips 66 was awarded the Impact Award for his work with USA Swimming through the years while Eric Shanteau took home the Athlete Humanitarian Award, which is awarded to a swimming athlete that gives back to the community.
You can see the list in full, videos and highlights of the awards at USA Swimming.