By USA Swimming | Monday, September 30, 2019
BREAKOUT PERFORMER OF THE YEAR
This award is given to the athlete whose performance(s) stand out in relation to other years, with special emphasis on the 2019 FINA World Championships.
The former Georgia Bulldog standout had a stellar 2019, headlined by the first individual worlds medal of her career, which she earned via a silver medal in the 200-meter butterfly at the 2019 FINA World Championships. Flickinger excelled domestically as well, becoming one of only five female swimmers to earn 10 top-three finishes in TYR Pro Swim Series events. She also bested five of her personal-best times, lowering career marks in the 100m fly, 200m free, 800m free, 200m back and 400m IM.
Individual medals in the 400m IM had narrowly eluded Jay Litherland at the 2016 Olympic Games, 2017 World Championships and 2018 Pan Pacific Championships. In his only race in Gwangju, he entered the final 100 meters of the 400 IM over three seconds behind leader Daiya Seto of Japan. While the lead looked insurmountable, Litherland turned on the burners with a 56.99 freestyle split, nearly catching Seto. Litherland finished with a time of 4:09.22—a personal best— and a long-awaited silver medal at a major international competition.
Hannah Moore had only taken to open water swimming a year ago, then unexpectedly found herself disqualified during the 10-kilometer race at the 2019 Open Water Nationals in Miami in May. With a fighting spirit, she rebounded two days later to qualify for her first FINA World Championships team with her third-place finish in the 5k. Once in South Korea, Moore swam to a tie for the bronze medal in the 5k with Leonie Beck of Germany and just two seconds behind the gold medalist. The bronze medal was one of only two individual medals captured by an American swimmer at the FINA Open Water World Championships.
Regan Smith shined in her lone individual event at the 2019 FINA World Championships. In the semifinals of the women’s 200m backstroke, she dropped her personal best by nearly three seconds to smash Missy Franklin’s 2012 world record with a time of 2:03.35. The following day, the 17-year-old would go on to win the gold in the 200m back – her first World Championships medal. Smith pocketed another gold in Gwangju after leading off the 4x100m medley relay, where she also broke the 100m back world record with her time of 57.57 en route to Team USA’s world-record breaking relay performance. Smith also won five events in TYR Pro Swim Series competitions and captured a national title in the 200m butterfly at the 2019 Phillips 66 National Championships.
This award is given to the athlete who came back from adversity, retirement, sickness, injury, etc., to have an outstanding performance(s) in 2019, with special emphasis on the 2019 FINA World Championships.
After beating cancer, Nathan Adrian is back to beating his competition in the pool. Just seven months after his testicular cancer diagnosis, Adrian anchored the 4x100m free relay at the FINA World Championships to a World Championship record and a gold medal. He also anchored the 4x100m medley relay to secure silver for Team USA. Just a couple of weeks later, he was making his Pan American Games debut in Lima, Peru where he would win five medals (two gold and three silver) – more than any American man.
While competing in the 400m free on day one of the 2019 FINA World Championships, six-time Olympic medalist Katie Ledecky knew she wasn’t feeling right. A sickness had overcome her to the point where she had to go to a hospital in South Korea to receive care. As the event went on, Ledecky had to drop out of the 200m and 1500m freestyle races. On the second-to-last day of the competition, Ledecky willed herself back to the pool and concluded her competition by winning the 800m free world title with a gutsy final 50 meters to pull away from the field. “Each swim at these meets is unique and has its own story, this one definitely has one that I’ll be telling for a while,” Ledecky said.
As the lone female in her 30s on Team USA’s World Championships roster, Ashley Twichell was trying to break new ground at the 2019 FINA Open Water World Championships. While she has seen tremendous success at Open Water World Championships for a number of years, an Olympic berth had very narrowly eluded her in both 2012 and 2016. Twichell had the chance to make an Olympic team at the 2019 FINA Open Water World Championships, where she needed a top-10 finish in the 10-kilometer race to qualify for Tokyo. A nearly two-hour race came down to the wire in South Korea – with just four seconds separating first place and missing the Olympic cut – but fortunately Twichell touched in sixth place, securing her first Olympic Team slot.
COACH OF THE YEAR
This award is given to the coach whose athlete(s) performed at the highest level throughout the year, with special emphasis on the 2019 FINA World Championships.
Longtime University of Georgia coach Jack Bauerle served as an assistant coach on this year’s FINA World Championships team and had six athletes on the Team USA roster: Hali Flickinger, Olivia Smoliga, Chase Kalisz, Jay Litherland, Melanie Margalis and Andrew Wilson. The Bulldog swimmers saw great success in Gwangju, as they combined for seven medals. He also coaches nine of the athletes on the 2019-2020 National Team.
In his 14th season at the head of Indiana University, Ray Looze led the Hoosiers to one of the most successful seasons in program history. The 2018-19 season was the first time that both the men’s and women’s swimming and diving teams won Big Ten team titles. The Hoosier teams continued their successes at the 2019 NCAA Championships, where the Indiana men came away with third-place honors while the women’s team finished 10th. Looze was selected as an assistant coach on Team USA’s staff at the 2019 FINA World Championships, where six current or former Hoosiers swam their way to a combined 13 medals, including Lilly King, who won three gold medals in Gwangju.
Greg Meehan, Stanford women’s head coach and last year’s Golden Goggles Coach of the Year, once served as the head coach for the women’s team at this year’s FINA World Championships. He also coached Simone Manuel, Katie Ledecky, Katie Drabot, Ella Eastin and Brooke Forde on the Team USA roster at Worlds to a combined 11 medals in Gwangju. Meehan has also led Stanford to back-to-back-to-back NCAA Championship titles in 2017, 2018 and 2019.
Mike Parratto, the Head Coach of Riptide Swimming in Minnesota, had one of the most memorable seasons in his 30-plus years of coaching. While Parratto has coached the likes of Jenny Thompson among other former U.S. National Team members, Parratto’s 2019 season was highlighted by the continued emergence of Riptide swimmer Regan Smith. At just 17 years old, Parratto’s talented young backstroker won two gold medals at the 2019 FINA World Championships and managed to set world records in the 100m and 200m backstroke and 4x100m medley relay along the way. For both Smith’s and his club’s successes, Parratto was recognized as the 2019 ASCA Coach of the Year.
Gregg Troy, of Gator Swim Club, coaches Caeleb Dressel, who won eight medals at the 2019 FINA World Championships – more medals than any swimmer at a single long course world championships competition in history. Troy also served as an assistant coach on the World Championships team and coaches three of the men on the 2019-2020 National Team: Dressel, Ryan Lochte and Mitch D’Arrigo. This year, the three-time NCAA Coach of the Year was also inducted into the Florida Athletics Hall of Fame.
RELAY PERFORMANCE OF THE YEAR
This award is given to the best team relay performance, male or female. The performance considered must be a finals performance, with special emphasis on the 2019 FINA World Championships.
Women’s 4x100m Medley Relay, 2019 FINA World Championships
The performance of the women’s 4x100m medley relay at the 2019 FINA World Championships was one of the defining moments of the competition – two world records in just one race. Regan Smith, just two days after setting the world record in the 200m backstroke, set a new world record in the leadoff leg of the relay, going 57.57 in the 100m backstroke. Though the blazing start gave Team USA a commanding lead, the rest of the relay also had strong swims. Both Lilly King’s breaststroke split and Simone Manuel’s freestyle split were the fastest times of their respective relay legs, and Kelsi Dahlia’s butterfly split of 56.16 was only bested by 100m butterfly world champion, Maggie McNeil. The four American women set a world record of 3:50.40, besting the previous mark of 3:51.55 set by Team USA in 2017.
Mixed 4x100 Freestyle Relay, 2019 FINA World Championships
Caeleb Dressel, Zach Apple, Mallory Comerford and Simone Manuel set a world record of 3:19.40 in the mixed 4x100m free relay at the 2019 FINA World Championships. Dressel gave the team a slim lead after the first leg by three-hundredths of a second. From there, each swimmer did their part to hold on to that lead, with Manuel anchoring the team to gold. The four Americans bested the previous world record, which was also set by Team USA—a relay team also comprised of Dressel, Comerford and Manuel— at the 2017 FINA World Championships.
Men’s 4x100 Freestyle Relay, 2019 FINA World Championships
On the opening night of the 2019 FINA World Championships, the men’s 4x100m freestyle relay team of Caeleb Dressel, Blake Pieroni, Zach Apple and Nathan Adrian landed the first gold medal of the competition for Team USA. The American relay set a new championship record in 3:09.06, but it was Zach Apple who stole the show individually, going 46.86 to become the only swimmer in the field to record a sub-47 split. Adrian drove home Team USA with a 47.08 anchor split to hold off Russia and solidify a gold medal for the Americans. The medal was not only a first of the competition for Team USA, but it was an emotional first medal for Adrian following his bout with testicular cancer. After the race, Pieroni said about Adrian,
FEMALE RACE OF THE YEAR
This award is given to the female swimmer with the greatest single individual race of the year, with special emphasis on the 2019 FINA World Championships.
Simone Manuel, 100m Freestyle, 2019 FINA World Championships
Simone Manuel once again found a way to get it done when she set an American record en route to gold in the 100m free with her time of 52.04 at the 2019 FINA World Championships. Swimming from lane one, she also beat the current world record holder and previous world record holder in the final to do so. Manuel also became just the second woman to win this race more than once.
Katie Ledecky, 800m Freestyle, 2019 FINA World Championships
Despite battling illness throughout the World Championships, Katie Ledecky returned to the Gwangju pool for the 800m free. Ledecky traded leads with Italy’s Simona Quadarella throughout the race until the final turn. Ledecky made that final turn just one-tenth-of-a-second behind Quadarella but exploded through the final 50 meters to win gold by over a body length. The win gave Ledecky her lone gold medal from South Korea, and her fourth-consecutive world title in the 800m free.
Olivia Smoliga, 50m Backstroke, 2019 FINA World Championships
Olivia Smoliga broke her own American record in the 50 back at the 2019 FINA World Championships with her time of 27.33, besting reigning world champion Etiene Medeiros of Brazil for the gold. This win marked Smoliga’s first individual world championship title and puts Smoliga as one of only two American women to ever go sub-27.5 in the event.
Regan Smith, 200m Backstroke (Semifinals), 2019 FINA World Championships
Regan Smith entered heat two of the 200m backstroke semifinals as the youngest competitor in the pool, swimming alongside four of the top-10 swimmers in the world in this event. After touching the wall more than three seconds ahead of the competition, Smith looked at the electronic board with shock when she realized her time of 2:03.35 had bested Missy Franklin’s world-record. Franklin’s mark, set back at the 2012 London Olympics, had been thought to be one of the most daunting female records on the books. Now, it is the 17-year-old Smith who sits atop the 200m backstroke world record list.
Lilly King, 100m Breaststroke, 2019 FINA World Championships
The women’s 100m breaststroke added yet another exhilarating chapter to the ongoing battle between breaststroke powerhouses Lilly King and Russia’s Yuliya Efimova. For the last few years, the two juggernauts have battled back and forth creating a true rivalry. King had the lead by four-tenths as the duo made the 50m turn, but Efimova’s explosion off the turn resulted in a neck-and-neck position with King entering the final 25 meters. King pulled ahead right before the final 15 meters and eventually out-touched Efimova by over half a second. King’s final time of 1:04.93 was the 11th-fastest mark of all time. In the history of swimming, only five women have been able to crack the 1:05 mark, and King has now done so on five occasions.
MALE RACE OF THE YEAR
This award is given to the male swimmer with the greatest single individual race of the year, with special emphasis on the 2019 FINA World Championships.
Caeleb Dressel, 50m Freestyle, 2019 FINA World Championships
July 27, 2019 marked a historic day for Caeleb Dressel, as he won three world championships gold medals in a single day for the second time in his career. Dressel dominated from start to finish in this race and came out on top in 21.04, marking the fastest 50m freestyle in the past 10 years and the fourth-best swim of all time. The performance also bettered his own American record in the event, giving him five American records set in Gwangju. With the 50m victory, Dressel also repeated his sweep in the 50 and 100m freestyles from 2017, joining Russian swimming legend Alexander Popov as the only swimmer to ever sweep the events at two different world championships.
Caeleb Dressel, 100m Freestyle, 2019 FINA World Championships
Caeleb Dressel set an American record when he turned in the third-fastest performance in history with a time of 46.96 in the 100m free at the 2019 FINA World Championships, besting reigning Olympic champion Kyle Chalmers of Australia for the gold by twelve-hundredths of a second. With the win, Dressel became the first American to win back-to-back gold medals in the event since Matt Biondi in 1991. Not only was Dressel’s 46.96 time a new American record, but it marked the first time an American has cracked the 47-second mark.
Caeleb Dressel, 50m Butterfly, 2019 FINA World Championships
The first of four individual gold medals for Caeleb Dressel came by way of the 50m butterfly, an event that no American had previously won on the world championships stage. While just eight-hundredth of a second shy of world-record time, Dressel’s time of 22.35 was the second-best swim in history and was good for a new championship and American record. The impressive swim, along with his 22.57 semifinals swim, are the only two American performances inside top-10 all-time swims in the event.
Caeleb Dressel, 100m Butterfly (sf), 2019 FINA World Championships
Caeleb Dressel surprised even himself with his quickness when he broke Michael Phelps’ 10-year-old world record during semifinals of the 100m butterfly at the 2019 FINA World Championships. His time of 49.50 broke the mark by .32. Dressel later went on to become just the fourth man to win multiple titles in this event when he won his fifth gold medal of the World Championships, posting the second-fastest time ever in the event (49.66) during finals.
Jay Litherland, 400m Individual Medley, 2019 FINA World Championships
Midway through the race, Jay Litherland was clearly in position to earn a medal in the 400m individual medley at the World Championships in Gwangju. However the gold medal seemed unlikely as he turned at 300m some 3.3 seconds behind leader Daiya Seto, the two-time world champion from Japan. At the 350m mark, Litherland was still over two seconds behind Seto, but he did not give up, and closed with a blazing freestyle split of 56.99 to finish with a silver medal, just .27 behind Seto. It was the first international medal for the 23-year-old Athens Bulldog swimmer.
FEMALE ATHLETE OF THE YEAR
This award is given to the top female swimmer of the year with special emphasis on achievements at the 2019 FINA World Championships.
The 22-year-old breaststroke phenom proved herself in Gwangju, totaling three gold and one silver medal to become the second-winningest American female in the competition. King defended her 2017 world titles in the 50 and 100m breaststroke in impressive fashion, becoming the only swimmer in the 100m breaststroke to go sub-1:05 and the only swimmer in the 50m breaststroke to touch in under 30 seconds. Prior to her success in South Korea, King’s 2019 was highlighted by NCAA titles in the 100 and 200y breaststroke, making her the winningest breaststroker in NCAA history with eight career titles.
While Katie Ledecky left Gwangju short of what she wanted to accomplish; her 2019 season was still one of tremendous success. Along with her world title in the 800m freestyle, Ledecky claimed silver in the 400m freestyle and 4x200m freestyle relay, increasing her world championships career-medal total to 18, which is the second-highest total by a female all-time, behind Natalie Coughlin’s 20. Domestically, Ledecky saw tremendous success at TYR Pro Swim Series events, becoming the only female swimmer in the nation to win 10 events, which she did in just three TYR Pro Swim Series appearances.
Simone Manuel finished the 2019 FINA World Championships with more medals than any woman at a single FINA World Championships when she brought home seven – four gold and three silver. She also became the first American woman to win the 50m freestyle at the World Championships since Amy Van Dyken in 1998. She is also the only American woman to win both the 50 and 100m freestyles at the World Championships. In addition to her two American records set in Gwangju, she also anchored the mixed 4x100 free relay and the 4x100 medley relay to two world records.
Regan Smith made the most of her time in Gwangju, as she came away with gold medals in the two events she competed in—the 200m backstroke and women’s 4x100m medley relay. The Minnesota native also set new world records in the 100m backstroke, 200m backstroke and as part of the women’s 4x100m medley relay. While her performance in Gwangju was the highlight of her 2019 season, Smith also won five TYR Pro Swim Series events and captured a Phillips 66 National Championships title in the 200m butterfly.
MALE ATHLETE OF THE YEAR
This award is given to the top male swimmer of the year with special emphasis on achievements at the 2019 FINA World Championships.
A dominating series of swims in Gwangju left 22-year-old Caeleb Dressel with one of the most memorable world championships performances in the 46-year history of the competition. Dressel’s eight world championships medals was a mark that no other swimmer has ever accomplished, while his six gold medals tied for the third-most by a male swimmer at a single world championships competition since 1973. Dressel also added his name to the record books by recording world records in the 100m butterfly and as part of the mixed 4x100m freestyle relay, while also capturing American records in the 50m freestyle, 100m freestyle and 50m butterfly. His American-record-breaking performance in the 50m butterfly also earned Dressel the first gold by an American in the event’s history. On the second-to-last day in Gwangju, he won three gold medals in one day, which has only been accomplished once before — also by Dressel in 2017.