– Olympic champions and world-record holders Katie Ledecky
(Bethesda, Md.) and Caeleb Dressel
(Green Cove Springs, Fla.) who led Team USA with standout performances at this year’s Olympic Games, took home Athlete of the Year honors Tuesday at USA Swimming’s annual Golden Goggle Awards.
This year, the annual awards show that raises funds for the USA Swimming Foundation, was hosted by NBC sports personality and commentator Mike Tirico
and celebrate the accomplishments of the U.S. Olympic Swim Team, which claimed 30 medals this summer (11 gold, 10 silver and nine bronze) in Tokyo, Japan.
Dressel repeated as Male Athlete of the Year after taking home gold medals in all three of his individual events in Tokyo – the 100m freestyle, 100m butterfly and 50m freestyle. He also became just the fourth male swimmer to ever win five gold medals for the U.S. at a single Olympic Games, by swimming key legs on the men’s 4x100m freestyle and 4x100m medley relays in Tokyo to help Team USA earn gold medals in both of those races. Dressel previously won the award in 2019 for his performances at the 2019 FINA World Championships (individual athlete awards were not presented during the 2020 Golden Goggle Awards due to the cancellation and postponement of the majority of competitions).
“This [Olympic Games] was a lot different than Rio I think for a lot of people here, but especially myself,” Dressel said. “I feel like I was just a little kid – I had taken part in Rio and - being honest - the medals were a huge highlight, but not this year. It was a lot different. I tried to go into the camp after [U.S. Olympic Team Trials – Swimming] and the Games itself with big eyes and to take everything in, and I have some of the best memories of my life coming back. That is the most important part for me. The biggest ‘thank you’ I have is for my fellow Olympians, and of course the staff and [Gregg] Troy and everybody, but my fellow Olympians made such a big event—the biggest event in the world, the Olympics—they made it seem like something like exactly what it was, it was swimming. . . All of my teammates just made it feel like a normal swim meet, and that is all that I have ever wanted in the sport..”
With the four additional Olympic medals she earned in Tokyo (two gold and two silver), Ledecky became the most decorated female individual gold medalist in Olympic history. She won the 800m and inaugural 1500m freestyle events, finished second in the 400m freestyle with the fourth-fastest performance of all time, and anchored the 4 x 200m freestyle relay to a silver medal while setting the American record with the fastest split in the entire race (1:53.7). Ledecky also won four events at the Olympic Trials in Omaha (200m, 400m, 800m and 1500m freestyle).
“I want to thank my team – the Olympic team, the Olympic coaches, the staff, the managers, everyone at USA Swimming, my coach Greg Meehan who trained me over the past five years to get to this point,” Ledecky said. "It was an extra year of a lot of hard work – we had to find somewhere to train. I trained next to Simone [Manuel] every day in a backyard pool, and that is some time I will never forget, just showing up to the pool deck with Simone and Greg to put in the work to get to 2021. I’d like to thank my family, my brother and my uncle John who are here tonight, my grandmother who I know is back home watching. Your support has meant so much to me and those late-night Facetimes after medals in Tokyo were different, we didn’t get those hugs that we normally get, but to know that you guys were watching me and supporting me every step of the way, it always means so much to me.”
Breakout Performer and Female Race of the Year honoree Lydia Jacoby
(Seward, Alaska) is the only athlete to take home two individual awards for her gold medal-winning performance in the women’s 100m breaststroke in Tokyo. Swimming at her first international competition, 17-year-old Jacoby pulled off a major upset by winning the gold medal in the women’s 100m breaststroke over Lilly King, the defending Olympic champion. In making the Olympic team, Jacoby became the first swimmer from Alaska to ever qualify for a U.S. team. Jacoby was also integral on the 4x100m women’s medley relay, swimming a strong breaststroke leg in the final to help the U.S. secure the silver medal.
“It was an April of this year was the first time I realized I had a good shot of making the Olympic Team,” Jacoby said. “I was in California for a TYR Pro meet and Jessica [Hardy] told me that she thought I could take gold in Tokyo and I was like ‘Pfff!’….I’d like to say a huge thank you to everybody on the Olympic team and all of the staff and coaches who helped me along the way after Trials. I think they contributed drastically to my confidence, and it was so motivating being with everyone in those weeks leading to the Olympics. I think we are all a big family.”
(Clearwater, Fla.) took home Male Race of the Year honors for his gold medal-winning performance in the first-ever men’s 800m freestyle race contested at the Olympic Games. With 100m remaining, Finke was in fifth place. At the 750m mark, Finke was still in fourth place. But with an amazing surge over the final 50 meters, Finke became the first U.S. man to win Olympic gold in a distance free event since 1984, breaking the American record in the process (7:41.87).
Dressel, Zach Apple
(Trenton, Ohio), Michael Andrew
(Encinitas, Calif.) and Ryan Murphy
(Jacksonville, Fla.) teamed up to win Relay Performance of the Year honors for setting the men’s 4x100m medley relay world record (3:26.78) to continue the U.S. men’s gold streak in the event, winning their 14th straight Olympic gold from a non-boycotted Games.
(Beverly Hills, Mich.) received this year’s Perseverance Award. Lazor won the 200m breaststroke at the U.S. Olympic Team Trials in June, less than two months after the sudden passing of her father. Making her Olympic debut in Tokyo at age 26, she would go on to win the bronze medal, standing on the awards podium with her teammate, Lilly King, who won silver.
Dr. Cecil Gordon
and Bob Vincent
were awarded the Impact Award for their years of dedication as their terms as chairs of the USA Swimming Foundation Board of Directors and the USA Swimming Board of Directors respectively conclude.
2021 USA Swimming Golden Goggle Award Winners:
- Female Athlete of the Year: Katie Ledecky
- Male Athlete of the Year: Caeleb Dressel
- Female Race of the Year: Lydia Jacoby – 100m breaststroke
- Male Race of the Year: Bobby Finke – 800m freestyle
- Relay Performance of the Year: Men’s 4x100m Medley Relay
- Breakout Performer of the Year: Lydia Jacoby
- Perseverance Award: Annie Lazor
- Coach of the Year: Gregg Troy
- Impact Awards: Dr. Cecil Gordon and Bob Vincent
Since 2004, proceeds from the Golden Goggle Awards have benefited the USA Swimming Foundation, whose mission is to save lives and build champions. In addition to providing learn-to-swim grants to programs across the country, the USA Swimming Foundation supports the U.S. National Team and its development efforts aimed at strengthening the future of USA Swimming’s programs and services. In 2020, the Foundation broadened its focus to include providing grants to local clubs in need and supporting efforts to open our sport to more people than ever. New needs in the swimming community came to the forefront during the COVID-19 pandemic and the Foundation answered the call, providing COVID-relief grants to more than 700 clubs.