A for Athlete

Golden Goggle Award Nominee (10/8/2008)

  • Breakout Performer of the Year

Matt Grevers

Swimming in his first major international competition, Matt Grevers made the most of the opportunity at the 2008 Olympics in Beijing. He earned a silver medal behind teammate Aaron Peirsol in the 100m back, and also won gold medals swimming in the preliminary heats of the 4 x 100m free and 4 x 100m medley relays. In the free relay, he teamed with Nathan Adrian, Ben Wildman-Tobriner and Cullen Jones to break the world record, an amazing feat for a relay preliminary swim. The 23-year-old Grevers also performed well at the Olympic Trials in Omaha, finishing second in the 100m back and fifth in the 100m free.

Christine Magnuson

Christine Magnuson turned a solid collegiate career into a fantastic international performance at the Olympic Games in Beijing. The 22-year-old, who competed at the University of Tennessee and won the 100y butterfly at the 2008 NCAA Championships, nearly matched that win in Beijing, capturing a surprise silver medal at the Olympics. Her time of 57.08 in the semifinals set the American record, and she came back in the final to nearly repeat that performance (57.10). She also won a silver medal on the 4 x 100 Medley Relay, teaming with Natalie Coughlin, Rebecca Soni and Dara Torres to break the American record by a full five seconds.

Rebecca Soni

Rebecca Soni repeats as a nominee in this category. But while she broke through in 2007, she broke out in 2008 with a performance of a lifetime in the 200m breaststroke in Beijing. The 21-year-old New Jersey native set her own dominating standard by defeating heavy favorite Leisel Jones of Australia, who many thought was unbeatable. Soni’s time of 2:20.22 broke the world record and earned the USC senior a gold medal. She also earned two silver medals, in the 100m breaststroke (behind Jones) and the 4 x 100m medley relay. Her relay performance, along with Natalie Coughlin, Christine Magnuson and Dara Torres broke the American record by five seconds.

  • Perseverance Award

This award is given to the athlete who came back from adversity, retirement, sickness, injury, etc., to have an outstanding performance(s) in 2008, with special emphasis on the 2008 Olympic Games.

Jason Lezak

Jason Lezak has been a member of the U.S. National Team since 1999 and has been a steady performer on U.S. relays since that time. He was a member of the 4 x 100m free relay in the Olympic finals in both 2000 and 2004, winning silver in 2000 and bronze in 2004. The 32-year-old also has been swimming in the 50m and 100m free at both the World Championships and Olympic Games since 2003 without ever winning an individual medal. Lezak managed to change all that history at the 2008 Games in Beijing. He anchored the sprint free relay with a miraculous 46.06 split, catching the French relay in the final strokes to earn gold and a world record for the U.S. Lezak, who served as a tri-captain for the men’s team this summer, also tallied his first individual medal by finishing third in the 100m freestyle final in Beijing.

Eric Shanteau

After finishing second at the 2008 Olympic Trials in Omaha in the 200m breaststroke, Eric Shanteau’s celebration on making his first Olympic team was noticeably reserved. Shanteau had all reason to go crazy after near misses, finishing third in both the 200m and 400m IM in 2004 and a fourth-place finish in the 100m breast earlier at the 2008 Trials. But the 24-year-old had good reason to contain himself. He had been diagnosed only a week earlier with testicular cancer, a sobering jolt at the pinnacle of his career, and only his family and coach knew of the news. After further medical tests, Shanteau made the decision to keep his place on the Olympic team and compete in Beijing. He underwent weekly blood tests and his doctors monitored his situation closely. Shanteau raced hard in China, finishing with a lifetime best 2:10.10 for 10th place, just .13 out of making the Olympic final. He returned to his native Atlanta after the Games and had surgery to remove the cancerous growth, and is now cancer-free.

Emily Silver

Not many athletes have to make the Olympic team twice. Emily Silver faced that exact situation this summer and had to manage the emotional highs and lows that came along with this. She was on cloud nine after placing fifth in the 100m free final at the Trials in Omaha to make her first Olympic team. On the very next night, in the semifinals of the 50m free, Silver touched the finishing wall and fractured a bone in her right hand.The break was serious enough to require a delicate surgery performed on July 8, with 17 screws inserted into her hand. Just a few days later, with the hand wrapped in a plastic bag, she began working her way back by kicking for part of a workout. It was only seven days after the surgery that she managed to swim. Her rehab continued to go well, though her training had been disrupted enough that the Olympic coaches wanted to make sure she was ready to perform in Beijing. A special time trial was set up for the evening of Aug. 7, and Silver had to duplicate her Omaha performance, by going 54.9, otherwise she would be left off the preliminary relay and not swim at all in Beijing. With the entire team cheering, Silver did exactly the time she needed – 54.9 – thus re-earning her spot on the relay. She helped the preliminary relay qualify in third place, and eventually won a medal matching her last name when the American women finished second in the final.

Dara Torres

Amazingly, Dara Torres has been retired for 12 of the last 16 years. But those “unretired” years have been special, as evidenced by her most recent Olympic performances as a 41-year-old. After a hiatus from the sport from September 2000 until August 2007 (and a baby girl born in 2006), she came back to become the first U.S. swimmer to make her fifth Olympic Games, winning both the 50m and 100m free events at the Trials in Omaha. She then made the most of that opportunity by wrangling three silver medals in Beijing. In China, Torres broke her own American record in the 50m free (24.07), missing gold by .01. She also recorded the first and third fastest 100m freestyle splits ever, anchoring the medley relay in a startling 52.27, and the 4 x 100m free relay in 52.44. The three medals bring her career total to 12, tying her with Jenny Thompson for second most by any U.S. athlete in any sport. Coincidentally, Torres was a presenter of this very award at the inaugural Golden Goggles in 2004.

  • 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 2008 Olympic Games.

Bob BowmanClub Wolverine/University of Michigan

Bob Bowman coached four swimmers onto the 2008 Olympic team, with Michael Phelps leading the way. Phelps earned eight gold medals in Beijing to become the most decorated athlete in Olympic history and also broke world records in seven of those eight events. Bowman also placed Peter Vanderkaay, Erik Vendt and Allison Schmitt on the team. All of his athletes earned medals in the 4 x 200m free relay, and Vanderkaay earned a bronze in the 200m free behind Phelps. Bowman was a men’s assistant coach in Beijing, making his second Olympic staff, and marking the eighth straight year in which he served on a National Team staff of the top U.S. trip. Bowman won the Golden Goggle in 2006 and 2007 as Coach of the Year and has been nominated for this award five straight years. He is currently the head coach of the North Baltimore Aquatic Club.

Teri McKeever – Cal Aquatics/University of California-Berkeley

Teri McKeever coached two swimmers onto the 2008 Olympic team in Beijing – Natalie Coughlin and Emily Silver. In China, Coughlin won six medals, the first U.S. woman to ever accomplish this at an Olympics (in any sport). Coughlin is now 11 for 11; she has swum 11 times at the Olympic Games and earned 11 medals. In Beijing, McKeever coached Coughlin to one gold (100m back), two silvers and three bronze medals. She also became the first woman ever to win back-to-back 100m backstroke Olympic titles. McKeever also coached Silver, who broke her hand while touching the wall in the semifinals of the 50m free July 5 at the Trials in Omaha. Silver was forced to have surgery to repair the break a few days later and then immediately began her rehab to prepare for the Games. McKeever is still the only woman to serve on a U.S. Olympic team staff (2004 and 2008) and currently is the head women’s coach at Cal.

Eddie Reese – Longhorn Aquatics/University of Texas

Eddie Reese more than justified his selection as Olympic team head men’s coach by placing eight men onto the Olympic team in 2008, including three-time medalist Aaron Peirsol, who won two gold medals in Beijing, both in world record time. Reese, who served on his sixth straight Olympic team staff, also coached Brendan Hansen, Ian Crocker, Garrett Weber-Gale, Eric Shanteau, Scott Spann, Ricky Berens and David Walters onto the Olympic team. This was the third time that he has served as a head coach of an Olympic team (also in 1992 and 2004). The longtime coach at the University of Texas (30 years) won the Golden Goggle for Coach of the Year in 2004 and 2005.

Dave Salo – Trojan Swim Club/University of Southern California

Dave Salo placed three athletes onto the 2008 Olympic team – Rebecca Soni, Larsen Jensen and Klete Keller. Soni, the only first-time Olympian of the trio, recorded perhaps the most shocking U.S. victory since Misty Hyman in 2000 by dominating the 200m breaststroke and Leisel Jones of Australia to win gold with a world record. She also won two silver medals in the 100m breaststroke and on the 4 x 100m medley relay. Salo also coached Jensen to an individual bronze medal in the men’s 400m free. In Beijing he was the head coach for the country of Tunisia. He is a two-time Olympic coach in 2000 and 2004, and is in his third year as head coach at USC.

Gregg Troy – Gator Swim Club/University of Florida

Gregg Troy earned his second appointment onto an Olympic team staff by coaching Ryan Lochte and Caroline Burckle onto the team in Beijing. Troy guided Lochte, one of the best all-around swimmers in the world, to two gold and two bronze medals at the Olympics, with both gold medals in world record time (200m back and 4 x 200m free relay). Lochte now has a total of six Olympic medals over the past two Games. Burckle was an integral part of the women’s 4 x 200m free relay, swimming the third leg in the final and helping the relay to a bronze-medal finish. Troy, who also served on the 1996 Olympic team staff, is in his 11th year as head coach at the University of Florida and was head men’s coach for the U.S. at the 2008 short course World Championships in Manchester, England in April.

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 2008 Olympic Games.

2008 Olympic Games – Men’s 4 x 100m Free Relay

After winning the silver medal in this race in 2000 and bronze in 2004, the U.S. men re-captured the gold medal in thrilling style at the Games in Beijing. After some pre-race trash talking by the French, the U.S. men got down to business. Michael Phelps led off the relay in 47.51 to set an American record in the 100m free, and led the French by four-tenths of a second. Garrett Weber-Gale (47.0) and Cullen Jones (47.6) then swam strong legs, handing off to Jason Lezak, the reliable U.S. anchor. Lezak, who trailed by .59 seconds at the start and by .82 at the 50-meter mark, swam perhaps the most miraculous final 50 meters ever, catching Alain Bernard of France (the eventual gold medalist in the 100m free) and launching one of the most intense celebrations the U.S. has ever had. Lezak ending up splitting an unheard of 46.06 to give the U.S. a .08 victory (3:08.24 to 3:08.32) and the quartet broke the world record by four seconds.

2008 Olympic Games – Men’s 4 x 200m Free Relay

What a difference four years makes. In 2004, the U.S. men were definite underdogs and had to pull off the perfect swim to win the gold medal by edging the Australians by .13 seconds, with Klete Keller holding off Ian Thorpe. In 2008, this may have been the race in which the U.S. was the most heavily favored, with five men ranked in the top 12 in the world, including Michael Phelps, the fastest by nearly two seconds. The U.S. men had the goal to break the seven minute mark, and after dominating from start to finish, and crushing the field by 5.14 seconds, the relay met its goal, going 6:58.56. Phelps led off with the second fastest performance ever in the 200m free (1:43.3) and then Ryan Lochte extended that lead to over four seconds (1:44.2), before Ricky Berens (1:46.2) and Peter Vanderkaay (1:44.6) put the finishing touches on the incredible swim.

2008 Olympic Games – Men’s 4 x 100m Medley Relay The U.S. men kept alive the streak of never losing this race at an Olympic Games at which it competed, and won for the 12th consecutive time in Beijing. Whereas in the past the U.S. men have blown away the competition, this time Australia was a formidable opponent, chasing the U.S. the entire way, with both relays finishing under the previous world record (3:29.34 – 3:30.04). The relay took on some added pressure as Michael Phelps was striving to win his eighth gold medal and become the first athlete in any sport to do this at an Olympic Games. Aaron Peirsol, ever consistent, put the U.S. in front with a solid lead-off (53.1) and handed off to former world record holder, Brendan Hansen, who swam a 59.2 to keep the U.S. in the hunt. Phelps then calmly swam the fastest 100m butterfly split in history (50.1) to give a lead of eight-tenths of a second to Jason Lezak. The U.S. team captain split 46.7 to hold off Australian world record holder Eamon Sullivan and ensure the U.S. victory.

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 2008 Olympic Games.

Natalie Coughlin: 100m Backstroke at Olympic Games

Though she has been the world favorite in the 100m backstroke the last six or seven years, oddly enough, Natalie Coughlin was not the favorite leading into the finals of this event in Beijing. The world record that she had held since 2002 had been abruptly broken by Kirsty Coventry of Zimbabwe in the semifinals at the Games. Despite this, the 25-year-old Coughlin maintained her composure and launched a valiant effort to become the first woman to ever win back-to-back Olympic titles in the 100m back. She took a .40 lead at the 50-meter mark, and then fought off the field over the final 25 meters for a .23 victory over Coventry and the coveted gold medal. Her swim scored 1026 points on the international performance rankings, which allow swims from different events to be compared.

Christine Magnuson: 100m Butterfly at Olympic Games

Christine Magnuson performed like a seasoned veteran in earning a silver medal in the 100m butterfly in the finals in Beijing. While swimming in her first major international competition, the 22-year-old stayed calm on the most important of stages and kept the Australians from going 1-2 by splitting up the duo of Libby Lenton and Jessicah Schipper. Magnuson broke the American record in the semifinals (57.08), and then in the final, she narrowly missed breaking the record again (57.10), finishing .37 behind Trickett. She made her first Olympic team by winning the 100m fly at the Trials in Omaha. Her swim earned 1003 points on the international performance rankings.

Rebecca Soni: 200m Breaststroke at Olympic Games

Leading into Beijing, there may have been no female event that had more of an overwhelming favorite than Leisel Jones (Australia) in the 200m breaststroke. Jones had been sensational for four years, including setting a world record that most thought would never be broached. But Rebecca Soni must not have been paying attention to all the Jones press. In the race in Beijing, she put pressure on Jones right from the start, staying within two tenths of a second at the 100-meter mark, and then edging in front of her by .01 at the 150 turn. In that final 50 meters, Soni turned up the volume by pulling away from Jones, out-splitting her on the last 50 by 1.8 seconds. Her final time of 2:20.22 broke Jones’ world record and scored 1029 points on the international performance rankings.

Dara Torres: 50m Free at Olympic Games

Birthdays obviously don’t mean very much to Dara Torres, as the 41-year-old qualified for her fifth Olympic Games and proved she is still one of the world’s best sprinters. After breaking the American record two times at the Trials in Omaha and winning the 50m free, Torres was still somewhat of a long shot to medal in Beijing. After two solid swims in the preliminaries and semifinals, Torres was well-positioned in the final, qualifying as the top seed in lane four. She exploded off the blocks and held a slight lead heading into the final meters, eventually earning the silver medal, just .01 seconds behind Britta Steffen of Germany (24.06 to 24.07). Torres became the oldest medalist in Olympic swimming history from any country (male or female), and re-broke her American record. Her swim scored a total of 1019 points on the performance rankings.

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 2008 Olympic Games.

Ryan Lochte: 200m Back at Olympic Games

Ryan Lochte punctuated a successful summer by capturing the gold medal in his best event, the 200m backstroke, in a hard-fought race with teammate Aaron Peirsol. In a cat-and-mouse style race, neither Lochte nor Peirsol took the early lead. That position went to Arkady Vyatchanin of Russia in lane eight, who led for 150 meters before eventually fading to third. Lochte and Peirsol could not have been closer during those first three laps, within one tenth of a second at all three turns, and deadlocked at the 150. In that final lap, however, Lochte made his move and pulled away from Peirsol for a .39 seconds victory (1:53.94 to 1:54.33) over the defending Olympic champion. His winning time was also a world record, the second time he has broken that mark, and earned 1018 points on the international performance rankings.

Aaron Peirsol: 100m Back at Olympic Games

Aaron Peirsol had not lost the 100m backstroke in a major competition since the 2001 World Championships, and he continued that impressive streak at the Beijing Olympic Games. After breaking his own world record at the Trials in Omaha (52.89), Peirsol entered the Games as a solid favorite. But after the semifinals, he was only the fifth best qualifier and defending his Olympic title from 2004 seemed like it was going to be a big challenge. Peirsol turned at the halfway point of the race .54 seconds behind Liam Tancock of Great Britain, but quickly erased that deficit and blitzed the entire field on the second 50. His final time of 52.54 was his fifth world record in this race and earned 1022 points on the international performance rankings.

Michael Phelps: 400m IM at Olympic Games

The first event of the Olympic Games for Michael Phelps was a pivotal one. Before the race, there was much chatter that the 400m IM might be his toughest race, with both teammate Ryan Lochte and Laszlo Cseh of Hungary posing major threats. After the 200-meter mark, that chatter appeared to be valid, as Phelps was in a very tight battle with Lochte, who trailed by only two-tenths of a second. But in the breaststroke leg, which had been Phelps’ weakest, the defending Olympic champion pulled away from the rest of the field to open a full second lead, and never looked back. It turns out his breaststroke split was the fastest in the entire final. His final time of 4:03.84 broke his own world record by nearly 1.5 seconds, the eighth time he has broken this mark. The swim earned 1037 points on the performance rankings, the second best swim in history.

Michael Phelps: 100m Fly at Olympic Games

The 100m butterfly for Michael Phelps was a spectacular swim for many different reasons. First, he had an incredible amount of pressure building as he attempted to win eight gold medals at the Beijing Olympics. A victory in this race would tie Mark Spitz for seven gold medals in one Olympic Games. And it had the drama of a finish that the world will remember for a long time. In seventh place at the 50-meter turn, Phelps trailed Milorad Cavic of Serbia by .62 seconds. In his usual style, he slowly caught the rest of the field, but Cavic still maintained a lead with just meters to go. On the final lunge to the wall, Phelps was forced to take an extra stroke, and turning over his arms as fast as he could, he managed to nip Cavic by .01 seconds, the slimmest of margins. To the naked eye in real time, it is still unfathomable how Phelps was able to get his hands on the wall first, but the slow-motion video and photos showed the true story…gold medal number seven for Phelps. It was the only swim that was not a world record, but his lifetime best time of 50.58 still scored 1024 points on the international performance rankings

Female Athlete of the Year

This award is given to the top female swimmer of the year, with special emphasis on achievements at the 2008 Olympic Games.

Natalie Coughlin

Natalie Coughlin has turned into the model of consistency. Her performances at both the Olympic Trials and Olympic Games in 2008 added to the many superb national and international competitions she has had dating back to 2001. Coughlin was a perfect six for six at the Games, earning a medal in each event she swam. She won one gold, two silver and three bronze, with the gold coming in the 100m backstroke, where she won her second Olympic title in that event. She is the first person to have swum in 11 races at the Olympic Games (2004 and 2008) and earned 11 medals. In 2008, Coughlin, who represents Cal Aquatics, broke the 100m back world record three times and set a total of 11 American records.

Coughlin’s 2008 at a glance:

· Won six medals – one gold, two silvers, three bronze – at 2008 Olympic Games.

· Became the first American woman in any sport to win six medals at one Olympics.

· Won the gold medal in 100m back to defend the Olympic title in that event from 2004. First woman in history to win two 100m back Olympic titles.

· Broke the world record in 100m back three times in 2008 and American record five times.

· Broke American record two times in 100m free, and won bronze medal for second straight Olympic Games in that event.

· Earned a bronze medal in the 200m IM in Beijing and earlier in year broke the American record in this event.

· Led off the 4 x 100m free relay and 4 x 100m medley relay (with an American record 58.94) and swam the second leg on the 4 x 200m free relay, helping the American women to two silver and one bronze medal.

· Received her fifth straight nomination in this category, the only female swimmer to earn this honor.

Margaret Hoelzer

Margaret Hoelzer peaked at just the right time in 2008, with excellent competitions at both the Olympic Trials and Olympic Games. After moving from Charlotte to Seattle in April to train with King Aquatics just two months before the Trials, Hoelzer saw immediate results. At the Trials in the 200m backstroke, she broke her first world record by eclipsing the mark of her former Auburn teammate, Kirsty Coventry, going 2:06.09, her best time by a full second. Earlier in the meet, she had surprised many by finishing second in the 100m backstroke with a personal best time. In Beijing, Hoelzer swam a solid 100m back, earning a bronze medal. In the 200m back, she steadily moved from seventh after the prelims and fifth after the semifinals to finish with a silver medal, just .14 of a second slower than her Omaha swim. The 25-year-old also swam the backstroke leg of the 4 x 100m medley relay in the preliminaries in Beijing, helping the women to a silver medal finish.

Hoelzer’ 2008 at a glance:

· Won three medals – two silvers and one bronze – at the 2008 Olympic Games.

· Broke the world record and won the title in the 200m backstroke at the Trials in Omaha.

· Finished second in the 100m back at the Trials.

· Earned a silver medal in the 200m back and bronze in the 100m backstroke in Beijing; also won a silver medal as member of preliminary 4 x 100m medley relay.

Katie Hoff

Katie Hoff had another successful year in 2008, with a three medal performance in Beijing, along with a world record and numerous American marks throughout the year. Hoff completed an unprecedented schedule in Beijing, becoming the first American woman to swim in five individual events (only Shirley Babashoff had qualified for five events in 1976, but she did not swim the 400m IM at the Games). She returned from China with one silver (400m free) and two bronze medals (400m IM and 4 x 200m free relay). She also was fourth in the 200m free (American record) and 200m IM. In Omaha, Hoff took first in five events, the 200m, 400m and 800m free, as well as the 200m and 400m IM. She set a world record in the 400m IM, and American records in the 200m free and 200m IM. Earlier in 2008, the 19-year-old swimmer from the North Baltimore Aquatic Club broke the 400m free American record of Janet Evans, which had stood for nearly 20 years. Hoff now has 14 career national titles.

Hoff’s 2008 at a glance:

· Won three medals at the 2008 Olympic Games – silver in 400m free, and bronze in the 400m IM and 4 x 200m free relay.

· Anchored the 4 x 200m free relay with a 1:54.73 to help Team USA win a bronze medal. Her split was the second-fastest all time.

· Broke the world record at the Olympic Trials in June in the 400m IM (4:31.12).

· Also broke four American records in 2008 (200m free, 400m free and 200m IM).

· Finished Trials with five victories (200m, 400m and 800m free, and 200m and 400m IM).

· Earned the women’s Kiphuth High Point Award at the Trials.

· Received her fourth straight nomination in this category.

Rebecca Soni

Rebecca Soni made the most of her opportunities in 2008, in particular, surprising then world-record-holder, Leisel Jones of Australia, with her astonishing swim in the finals of the 200m breaststroke in Beijing. Soni rocketed to a gold medal and world record, leaving the field at her feet in the final 50 meters. The 21-year-old also won a strong silver medal in the 100m breast, as well as swimming a key leg on the 4 x 100m medley relay, earning a silver medal in that race. At the Trials in Omaha, Soni, who represents the Trojan Swim Club, easily won the 200m breast with a personal best (at the time) of 2:22.60.

Soni’s 2008 at a glance:

· Won three medals at the Olympic Games in Beijing – gold in the 200m breast, and silver in the 100m breast and 4 x 100m medley relay.

· Broke the world record and American in the 200m breast (2:20.22), her first world mark. Also broke the American record in the preliminary heats.

· Won the 200m breast at the Trials.

· Breaststroke split of 1:05.94 on the relay at the Games was fastest ever by an American woman.

· Earlier in the year, won the 100y and 200y breaststroke at the NCAA Championships.

Male Athlete of the Year

This award is given to the top male swimmer of the year with special emphasis on achievements at the 2008 Olympic Games.

Jason Lezak

With age often comes wisdom. And in this case, a bit of magic too. Jason Lezak, at age 32, had some of both at the Olympics in Beijing. The wisdom came from his valuable experiences on the 2000 and 2004 Olympic teams, which both left Lezak wanting a better result for these Games in 2008. The magic came simply from a miraculous swim that left all of America in wonderment. Lezak finally earned his first individual medal at an Olympics or World Championships after just missing on numerous occasions. His tie for third place in the 100m free finally earned him a place on the podium. But it was his anchor leg on the 4 x 100m free relay that left most awestruck. He entered the water trailing Alain Bernard of France by .59 seconds, and that deficit grew to .82 at the halfway point of that final leg. But Lezak pulled the rabbit from the hat over the final 50 meters, hopping by the Frenchman in the final meters to squeak out a gold medal victory for Team USA. His split of 46.06 stands as the fastest ever in the history of the sport. Lezak also anchored the 4 x 100m medley relay to a gold medal and world record. He left Beijing with two gold medals and one bronze, and now has seven career Olympic medals.

Lezak’s 2008 at a glance:

· Won three medals at the 2008 Olympic Games – golds in the 4 x 100m free and 4 x 100m medley relay, and a bronze in the 100m free.

· Helped both relays to world record performances; the free relay broke the world mark by an amazing four seconds.

· Won first individual Olympic medal in the 100m free, tying for third with Cesar Cielo of Brazil at 47.67.

· Broke the American record in the semifinals at the Trials in Omaha (47.58). Finished second in the 100m final to make his third straight Olympic team.

Ryan Lochte

Ryan Lochte keeps stepping up his game, and 2008 was no exception. In order to get noticed on a very crowded and impressive U.S. men’s team, Lochte had to take on two of the biggest names in the sport – Michael Phelps and Aaron Peirsol. In Beijing, Lochte notched his first individual gold medal, winning an epic head-to-head race in the 200m backstroke with Peirsol, with the U.S. going 1-2. In that race, Lochte broke the world record that he and Peirsol jointly held. The 24-year-old also won bronze medals in the 200m and 400m IM and gold on the 4 x 200m free relay, which won by over five seconds. Earlier in the year at the World Championships in Manchester, England, Lochte captured four gold and two silver medals, and broke three world records.

Lochte’s 2008 at a glance:

· Won four medals at the 2008 Olympics in Beijing – two gold and two bronze.

· Broke the world record and won gold in the 200m back in Beijing.

· Broke the world record and won gold as part of the 4 x 200m free relay in Beijing (split of 1:44.28 was personal best).

· Won bronze medals in the 200m and 400m IM, completing a 1-3 USA finish in each race with Michael Phelps.

· Became the first male swimmer since 1976 (John Naber) to win two individual medals on the same day at the Games (gold in 200m back, bronze in 200m IM).

· Earned three second place finishes at the Trials in Omaha – 200m back, 200m IM and 400m IM.

Aaron Peirsol

Though he may have a laid back attitude outside the pool, when it comes to racing, Aaron Peirsol is as tenacious as they come. For the past eight years he has been nearly unbeatable, and in Beijing, on his third Olympic team, he won two gold medals and one silver, giving him seven career Olympic medals. The 25-year-old notched his second straight Olympic title in the 100m backstroke, an event he has not lost at a major international meet since 2001. He also won a silver medal in the 200m backstroke in a fantastic race with U.S. teammate Ryan Lochte. It was his third medal in this event dating back to 2000 (silver in 2000, gold in 2004). Peirsol also led off the gold medal-winning 4 x 100m medley relay and staked the U.S. to a key .64 seconds lead over eventual silver medal-winner Australia. At the Trials in Omaha, he won both the 100m and 200m back, both in world record times.

Peirsol’s 2008 at a glance:

· Earned two gold and one silver medal at the 2008 Olympic Games. Has seven career Olympic medals (5 gold/2 silver).

· Won the 100m back in Beijing for the second straight time.

· Won silver in the 200m back. Has three career medals in 200m back in three Olympics.

· Was a member of the 4 x 100m medley relay which won gold and set the world record.

· Broke the 100m back world record two times – once at the Trials and once at the Games – and the 200m back world record once. Has 10 career world records.

· Won both the 100m and 200m back at the Olympic Trials.

· Received his fifth straight nomination in this award category.

Michael Phelps

It is difficult to find the words to describe the year that Michael Phelps had in the pool. His performance in Beijing captured the hearts and minds of swimming fans around the world, but also of people who had never before paid attention to the sport. Entering Omaha and Beijing, Phelps had to manage an enormous amount of pressure, and lofty expectations from so many people, in particular, the media. His perfect performance in Beijing – eight gold medals in eight swims – surpassed Mark Spitz’s seven gold medals at the 1972 Games. Combined with his six gold and two bronze medals in 2004 Games, the 23-year-old has 16 career Olympic medals (14 gold, 2 bronze). He is now the most decorated Olympian in history in any sport. At the Water Cube, he won five individual races – the 200m free, 200m IM, 400m IM, 100m fly and 200m fly – and was also a member of all three gold-medal-winning relays. Phelps also won the same five individual events in Omaha. On the year, he broke six world records and now is tied with Mark Spitz for most individual world records (total of 26 in career).

Phelps’ 2008 at a glance

· Won eight gold medals at the Beijing Olympic Games – seven of those with world records.

· Won the 200m free, 200m IM, 400m IM, 100m fly and 200m fly, as well as the 4 x 100m free relay, 4 x 200m free relay and 4 x 100m medley relay.

· Victory in 100m fly was .01 seconds over Milorad Cavic, in one of the most amazing finishes in swimming history.

· Butterfly split of 50.15 on the medley relay was the fastest in history.

· Broke the American record in the 100m free leading off the 4 x 100m free relay (47.51).

· Won the same five individual events at the Olympic Trials in Omaha.

· Won the Kiphuth Award for high point scorer at the Trials in Omaha.