For the first time in Golden Goggles history, three athletes took home Athlete of the Year honors Sunday at USA Swimming’s Golden Goggle Awards. It was a banner year for world champions Kate Douglass (Pelham, N.Y./New York Athletic Club) and Katie Ledecky (Bethesda, Md./Gator Swim Club), as the pair tied to receive the Female Athlete of the Year honor. Fellow world champion and U.S. World Championships team captain Ryan Murphy (Ponte Vedra Beach, Fla./California Aquatics) received the Male Athlete of the Year honor.
The Golden Goggle Awards are USA Swimming’s annual celebration of the year’s top accomplishments by American swimmers, with this year’s focus primarily on the World Aquatics Championships – Fukuoka 2023. The U.S. team finished the pool meet with 38 medals (7g, 20s, 11b) – 13 more than any other competing federation, to earn Team of the Meet distinction. This marks the 20th anniversary of the annual Golden Goggle Awards show and auction, which benefits USA Swimming and the USA Swimming Foundation.
2023 USA Swimming Golden Goggle Award Winners:
• Female Athletes of the Year: Kate Douglass and Katie Ledecky
• Male Athlete of the Year: Ryan Murphy
• Female Race of the Year: Katie Grimes, 10k
• Male Race of the Year: Bobby Finke, 1500m freestyle
• Relay Performance of the Year: 4x100m women’s medley
• Breakout Performer of the Year: Jack Alexy
• Perseverance Award: Lydia Jacoby
• Coach of the Year: Dave Durden
• Impact Award (USA Swimming): Eddie Reese
• Impact Award (USA Swimming Foundation): Tim and Jennifer Buckley
• Fran Crippen Open Water Swimmer of the Year: Katie Grimes
• Alumni of the Year Award: Lenny Krayzelburg
Ledecky picked up her fifth-consecutive world championship title in the 1500m freestyle and her sixth-consecutive title in the 800m freestyle. These wins also earned her the distinction of being the first swimmer to win five titles in two different events. Ledecky has won the Female Athlete of the Year honor nine times.
“Well thank you, this is cool!” Ledecky said. “Just thinking back to 20 years ago why I started in the sport. It was because my mom and dad knew and saw that swimming in a summer league swim team could make me a lot of new friends. I know that my parents were right because this room is filled with a lot of my friends, and I love the mission of the USA Swimming Foundation because it’s inspiring swimmers to learn how to swim and I know they’re going to meet a lot of friends through this sport.”
Douglass tied for the most medals (six total - two gold, three silver and one bronze) by a female swimmer at these world championships. She also claimed individual gold in the women’s 200m individual medley.
“Katie said it all, she’s done this a few times so congrats to her too,” Douglass said. “I want to thank the USA Swimming Foundation for supporting all of us athletes, my family, my coach Todd DeSorbo at UVA and my teammates that are here today.”
As one of the men’s captains for the U.S. team in Fukuoka, Murphy collected gold in the 100m backstroke and as the lead-off leg of the men’s 4x100m medley relay, silver in the 200m backstroke, and bronze in the mixed 4x100m medley relay.
“It is incredible to get an award from Matt Grevers,” Murphy said. “A pivotal part in my career was 2012 Olympic Trials. I made the trials finals in the 100 back in lane two as a 16-year-old. I got to watch Grevers and Nick Bowman celebrate making the Olympic Team. They were the number one and number two times in the world and right after that race, I was in the media zone not five minutes after when Matt Grevers walks by me, taps me on the shoulder and says ‘You’re next, kid.’ I think that level of confidence you had in me - that little urge to believe in myself, meant a lot to me and in my career and it helped propel me to a lot of the success that I had. Go USA.”
Grimes (Las Vegas, Nev./Sandpipers of Nevada) was the most nominated athlete at this year’s Golden Goggle Awards with four individual nominations and was the only athlete to take home two individual honors for Women’s Race of the Year and Fran Crippen Open Water Swimmer of the Year. This year marks the first time the latter award has been given at Golden Goggles instead of USA Swimming’s annual meetings in honor of Fran Crippen, who tragically died in an international competition in 2010.
“It’s such an honor to receive this award in honor of Fran Crippen,” Grimes said. “He really changed the trajectory of the sport for swimmers like Mariah Denigan and me.”
Grimes became the first athlete to secure a spot on the 2024 U.S. Olympic Team with her bronze-medal win in the 10k open water swim which came down to a photo finish, besting the two previous Olympic champions in the event by .1 seconds for a time of 2:02:42.30. Grimes’ Olympic berth makes her only the fourth American woman to qualify for the Olympic open water event.
Finke (Clearwater, Fla./St. Petersburg Aquatics) earned silver in 14:31.59 in a hard-fought race in the men’s 1500m freestyle, garnering him this year’s Male Race of the Year honor – his third-straight win of the award. The time set a new American record by more than five seconds. Nearly eight seconds now separates Finke and the next-fastest American in 1500m freestyle event history.
Relay performance of the year went to the women’s 4x100m medley relay of Regan Smith (Lakeville, Minn./Sun Devil Swimming), Lilly King (Evansville, Ind./Indiana Swim Club), Gretchen Walsh (Nashville, Tenn./Nashville Aquatic Club) and Douglass who won gold in a time of 3:52.08. They were the only team under 3:53 and extended the Americans’ win streak in the event to four consecutive world championship titles.
“We also have a small surprise tonight,” King said. “We’ve always said we support our prelim swimmers, but tonight we have awards for our prelim swimmers. Could we have Abbey Weitzeil and Lydia Jacoby join us on stage? We could never, ever swim this relay without our prelim swimmers.
"We’re so thankful for them and we’re the only country in the world that could have eight people on our medley relay, and I really think this relay for us is our main event. It’s a great way to cap off the meet. It’s the greatest event in swimming, in my opinion, and we want to thank everyone here.”
Breakout Performer of the Year went to Jack Alexy (Mendham, N.J./California Aquatics). After slipping on his start in the semifinals and entering the 100m freestyle final in lane eight, Alexy captured silver with a time of 47.31. The swim made him the second-fastest American in event history. He also won silver in the 50-meter freestyle in addition to three relay medal performances (one gold, one silver and one bronze) in his world championships debut. Alexy’s five medals were the most of any American male at the meet.
This year’s Perseverance Award went to Lydia Jacoby (Seward, Alaska/Seward Tsunami Swim Club) . Following her gold-medal finish in Tokyo 2020, Jacoby went to Abu Dhabi to compete in the short course world championships just months later but left due to illness prior to her signature 100m breaststroke event. She then missed qualifying for the long course world championship team in 2022. After taking time off and joining the swim program at the University of Texas, Jacoby qualified for the 2023 world championships in two individual events. She would go on to win gold in the women’s 4x100m medley relay as well as an individual bronze in the 100m breaststroke.
“This means so much,” Jacoby said. “I was up here in 2021 straight out of the Olympic Games at 17 receiving breakout swimmer of the year, and I would have never imagined that in just two years I would be up here receiving an award for perseverance…for everyone in this room who has struggled with something and has overcome something in the last two years, whether that’s in the office, in the pool, at work, at home, in your personal life or even in your head, I’d like to accept this award on behalf of all of you so thank you so much.”
Coach of the Year honors went to Dave Durden of California Aquatics. Durden’s six California athletes won 20 medals this year in Fukuoka, including individual gold medals for Hunter Armstrong and Murphy. His athletes represented three-fourths of the men’s 4x100m medley relay (Murphy, Dare Rose and Alexy) that set a championship record in the event on their way to a gold medal.
“It just says a lot about our staff; it says a lot about our athletes that competed in Fukuoka for the USA – certainly proud of them too,” Durden said in a recorded acceptance speech. “I’m certainly very flattered and very honored. Go Bears.”
Eddie Reese of the University of Texas and longtime USA Swimming Foundation supporters Tim and Jennifer Buckley were awarded the Impact Awards for their contributions to the sport.
“Awards are not really my thing - you guys are my thing,” Reese said. “We’re the best sport in the world and we’ve got the best people in the world doing it. I love it because of that. It’s given me a lot of opportunities. It’s never been a job; it’s always been a lifestyle. I know I use the word retirement, but I brought that out of my dictionary 10 years ago, but I’m really just going to change jobs.”
Given for the first time in 2023, the USA Swimming Alumni of the Year Golden Goggle Award is presented to a standout National Team alum who has and continues to give back to the sport following retirement. This individual also lives by the ideals of the USA Swimming Foundation’s mission to save lives, build champions and impact communities. The inaugural recipient of this year’s award was four-time Olympic gold medalist Lenny Krayzelburg.
“Well, this was a surprise for sure. I wasn’t expecting it, I just thought I was just giving an award, not receiving one,” Krayzelburg said. “Obviously my success in the sport started at home with my family, but it was the people who came along the way and helped me achieve my great success. It’s only because of their support and their commitment that I was able to achieve great success in the pool. Beyond the pool, you’re only as good as the people you surround yourself with and it starts respect, love, trusting people and giving people an opportunity to dream big and succeed.”
Proceeds from the Golden Goggle Awards support USA Swimming, while funds raised through the silent and live auctions benefit the USA Swimming Foundation, whose mission is to Save Lives, Build Champions, and Impact Communities. The USA Swimming Foundation provides learn-to-swim grants to programs across the country and supports the U.S. National Team and its development efforts aimed at strengthening the future of USA Swimming’s programs and services.
Keep up with all the latest USA Swimming news by following @usaswimming on Facebook, X and Instagram. Check out our News Notebook
which details programs, athletes and clubs that have made the headlines.