World champions Katie Ledecky (Bethesda, Md.) and Bobby Finke (Clearwater, Fla.) took home Athlete of the Year honors Monday at USA Swimming’s annual Golden Goggle Awards. The annual awards show, benefitting the USA Swimming Foundation, celebrated the accomplishments of the USA Swimming Team at the 2022 FINA Swimming World Championships earlier this year in Budapest, Hungary.
2022 USA Swimming Golden Goggle Award Winners:
• Female Athlete of the Year: Katie Ledecky
• Male Athlete of the Year: Bobby Finke
• Female Race of the Year: Katie Ledecky, 800 Free
• Male Race of the Year: Bobby Finke 800 Free
• Relay Performance of the Year: Women’s 4x200 Free Relay
• Breakout Performer of the Year: Leah Hayes
• Perseverance Award: Leah Smith
• Coach of the Year: Anthony Nesty
• Impact Awards: Carol Zaleski, Bill Maxson
Ledecky won gold in all four of her events at this year’s World Championships. She also became the first swimmer to ever five-peat as a world champion when she won the 800m freestyle. Her winning time of 8:08.04 was more than 10 seconds ahead of the field.
“Thank you to USA Swimming, USA Swimming Foundation and all of our coaches and staff in Budapest,” Ledecky said. “Thank you to my family – my parents, my brother – for keeping me motivated, keep me grounded. Thank you to TYR, I always feel confident diving in the water. Thank you to everyone at Florida, you’ve made it home for me. I love being a Gator.”
Finke set two American records while winning gold and silver in the 800m and 1500m freestyle, respectively, at this year’s World Championships. His 800m win marks the first gold for an American man in this event.
His winning time of 14:36.70 in the 1,500m was nearly three seconds faster than his gold medal performance at the 2020 Olympic Games. He also won the United States’ second medal in the event since 2015.
“Thank you to USA Swimming, USA Swimming Foundation and my sponsor, TYR,” Finke said. “Thank you to the USA Swimming staff who were with us in Croatia and Budapest. Being part of USA Swimming is a dream come true. Being on the same team as guys like Nic Fink, Ryan Murphy and Carson Foster – it means a lot.”
Ledecky, Bella Sims, Leah Smith and Claire Weinstein teamed up to win Relay Performance of the Year honors for their women’s 4x200m freestyle relay. The group captured gold in a meet-record time of 7:41.45. Ledecky’s 1:53.67 split was the third-fastest relay split of all time.
Smith also won this year’s Perseverance Award. Last year, Smith advanced to three finals of the U.S. Olympic Team Trials – Swimming but narrowly missed making the U.S. Olympic Team. In addition to her gold as a member of the 4x200m freestyle relay, she picked up a U.S. national title in the 200m individual medley and earned a bronze finish in the 400m freestyle at World Championships.
“The past two years of my life have been such a journey,” Smith said. “There are a lot of people I have to thank for being able to stand up here tonight. Persevering would not be possible without all of the people in the village you have behind you. I am so thankful for my people in my village.”
Ledecky and Finke’s coach Anthony Nesty won this year’s Coach of the Year honor. The head coach at the University of Florida, he served as the head coach of the U.S. men and an assistant coach for the U.S. open water team in Budapest. His collegiate and pro groups combined to send seven swimmers to the FINA World Championships and collect 12 medals in the pool. In total, the U.S. men tallied 20 medals and sent two Americans to the podium in six individual events
The youngest American on the roster to earn a medal, Leah Hayes was named this year’s Breakout Performer. In a World Junior Record time of 2:08.91, she won bronze in the 200m individual medley.
“Thank you to my family and my friends for continuously supporting me,” Hayes said. “And to my coach for growing my swim career. I especially want to thank Team USA. If not for your kindness and support in Budapest, I know for certain I would not have been to accomplish what I did. You made me feel comfortable, comfortable enough to compete against the world’s best. I would not have been able to do it without you all.”
Carol Zaleski and Bill Maxson were awarded the Impact Award for their contributions to the sport. Zaleski started as a volunteer at a local YMCA in Pennsylvania and worked her way to leadership roles in USA Swimming and FINA. Some of her most noted accomplishments include longest tenure as a Board of Directors member (39 years), four two-year terms as USA Swimming’s president, the first female Olympic swimming deck referee, and first female and longest tenured member of FINA’s Technical Swimming Committee (34 years).
“I hope my legacy upon retirement reflects two principles,” Zaleski said. “One, that it’s an honor and a privilege to be involved in the sport. And second, if all decisions are based on what’s in the best interest of the athletes, good decisions will be made.”
Maxson has served in several capacities with the USA Swimming Foundation and USA Swimming over the years, including as USA Swimming Foundation Chair, president of USA Swimming for four years, and as a member of the U.S. Olympic Committee Board of Directors. He joined the USA Swimming Foundation board in its infancy and has shaped the direction and purpose of the Foundation over the past eight years of incredible growth.
“I always felt like I got more out of my relationships through USA Swimming than I put into it,” Maxson said. “Especially the work with the (USA Swimming) Foundation, it’s really touched my heart.”
Since 2004, proceeds from the Golden Goggle Awards have benefited the USA Swimming Foundation, whose mission is to Save Lives, Build Champions, and Impact Communities. In addition to providing nation-wide learn-to-swim grants, 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.
The USA Swimming Foundation awarded more than $940,000 in learn-to-swim grants during this year’s grant cycle – the most awarded in the organization’s history. These grants were distributed across 142 recipients, supporting both youth and adult lesson-providers nationwide. These grants will provide 17,500 individuals the opportunity to learn this lifesaving skill.
Supporting learn-to-swim efforts is just part of the USA Swimming Foundation’s mission to grow the number of swimmers in the U.S. The USA Swimming Foundation also provided $1.13 million in support to the USA Swimming National Team and $268,000 in support to USA Swimming member clubs through programs such as the Donor-Athlete Partnership Program and Community Impact grants - a program developed during the pandemic in 2020 with the goal to increase competitive opportunities in historically impoverished or racially diverse communities. With the support of generous donors and partners such as Phillips 66, the USA Swimming Foundation looks to grow these programs and bring even more people to the sport of swimming. Learn more about these programs by visiting https://www.usaswimming.org/foundation