By Mike Gustafson//Correspondent
In honor of the 2012 Golden Goggle Awards (you can still vote), I bring you the annual Shammy Awards – my attempt to honor the year’s best off-the-beaten-path moments from swimming. From Ryan Lochte’s “Funny Or Die” videos to Michael Phelps amazing, incredible, breath-taking golf putt, this year has been unforgettable.
Let’s get to it.
The Best Thing To Happen On A Pool Deck Ever Award: When Matt Grevers got down on his gigantic, gentle giant knee to propose to his longtime girlfriend and Tucson Ford teammate, Annie Chandler, a few days before Valentine’s Day, and her mouth hit the floor, and everyone in the stands cheered, and the video was posted online, and over 3,300,000 watched it… C’mon. It was the best thing to ever happen on a pool deck, at least in my lifetime. These two swimmers allowed us the privilege of witnessing a special moment in their lives. They showed us how much swimming matters in their own way. It won’t get better than that.
Weirdest Twitter Moment Award: It’s not every day you find out you’re swimming an individual event in the Olympic Games via Twitter. But that’s exactly what happened to Ricky Berens. After the Trials concluded, Bob Bowman tweeted that Michael Phelps was scratching the individual 200m freestyle. Which had an avalanche of consequences, including Ricky Berens movin’ on up to swim the individual. Ricky’s reaction on Twitter was great: “WAIT WHAT!!!!”
The WHO?! Award:There were so many jaw-dropping stories this summer, like Claire Donahue’s qualification hailing from Western Kentucky University, to Anthony Ervin coming from seemingly nowhere and qualifying in the 50m freestyle as a 31-year-old. But the best breakout story was Texas A&M’s Breeja Larson. I should know. I helped write some of the “Swimmer to Watch” in the Trials program, and I had Larson nowhere on the list. Congrats, Breeja.
The “Hey, Don’t Throw Things” Award: Being super, super, super famous isn’t always fun. I learned that watching Michael Phelps walk around one of last winter’s Grand Prix. While he was signing autographs, a fan threw a sweatshirt at him to sign, and it hit him. There was a moment when Phelps stepped back, clearly annoyed, and said, sternly, “I’ll sign this, but don’t throw things.”
Best Conversation between a Swimmer and Justin Bieber Award: When interviewed on NBC one night, Bob Costas turned to Missy Franklin and asked her to speak to the camera, directly to Justin Bieber. Missy was a big fan, and someone at NBC must have thought it would be fun to have her talk to Bieber… without Bieber actually being there. Most teenage girls would be fan-girling too much to keep cool. But Missy was her usual bubbly but articulate self, kept her poise, and pulled it off in front of a national TV audience. Just another reason why she’s becoming America’s favorite Olympian.
The Roomie Award: Coaches must have known what they were doing when they let Matt Grevers and Nathan Adrian room together at the Olympics. Both swimmers came away with individual gold medals. Both swimmers helped the medley relay to an Olympic gold. But the best moment came when Nathan Adrian tweeted a picture of Grevers’ bed, neatly made, that Adrian did himself in honor of his gold-medal roommate. Just another reason why Twitter enhanced watching these Olympics.
The “Rocky Balboa” Award: Leading up to the Olympic Trials, Scott Weltz trained by himself. He had to. UC-Davis cut his college swim team. Normally, when a school places an Olympian on Team USA, there would be parades and accolades. How awkward must it have been for his alma mater to congratulate Weltz? UC-Davis: “Uh, hey, congratulations Scott on making the Olympics and, oh yeah, sorry about that little small thing about cutting your swim team…” Kudos to the classy Weltz, who still wore a UC-Davis t-shirt after the race.
“Stop What You’re Doing and Watch This” Award: It was either the greatest pre-planned marketing strategy in National Governing Body history, or just a group of really fun people who were extremely bored throughout taper. Either way, the “Call Me Maybe” music video was the absolute perfect kick-off for the 2012 Olympics. It was fun, approachable, and creative. (PS – does this mean we’ll get more viral videos before each big swim meet?)
Courage Award: Swimmers are becoming more open, and to me, that’s a good thing. Amanda Beard came out with a book describing her eating disorder and drug abuse, among other things. Anthony Ervin went public about a suicide attempt in the years after the 2000 Olympic Games. Dagny Knutson has opened up about her own eating disorder. We forget swimmers are real people, with real lives, and sometimes, real problems. It takes courage to open up about these, and we’re all glad these swimmers are keeping with the sport and overcoming hardships.
Best Post-Olympics Media Cameo Award: Swimmers don’t get 365-day media coverage. After the Olympics, they have a few weeks to get their faces out there. But I thought Ryan Lochte’s “Funny Or Die” appearances were bold. Some might disagree, but I know a lot of other kids out there thought they were great.
Craziest Thing I Heard This Year: Whenever anyone says, “Michael Phelps is a great swimmer, but he’s not the greatest Olympian of all-time,” it takes all my power not to spin around, throw my hands in the air, and cry out, “FOUL!” Phelps has 22 Olympic medals. Eighteen of them are gold. He’s gone to four Olympics. He’s changed the sport of swimming forever. He single-handedly drove Olympic ratings in the U.S. this past decade. He was the reason why NBC broadcast eight days of Trials live, primetime. He’s the greatest Olympian ever. Period.