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Golden Goggles Preview, part 1

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USA Swimming’s Golden Goggles are Monday night in New York, and we’re expecting everyone from Michael Phelps (hopefully adorned in all 22 medals) to Ryan Lochte (hopefully not wearing a shirt under his jacket) to show for the event that honors the best athletes and performances in American swimming each year. But before that, a few predictions: here’s how NBC swimming writer Jason Devaney, Olympic trials swimmer (turned NBC online producer) Ryan Hurley, and OlympicTalk’s Matthew Kitchen decided to vote for this year’s awards. Click here for Part 2.
**Breakout Performer nominees
Camille Adams, Haley Anderson, Katie Ledecky, Breeja Larson, Scott Weitz

Jason: Katie Ledecky – Most people didn’t know who Katie Ledecky was in 2011. She was considered a contender at the Olympic Trials and she ended up winning the 800m freestyle by six seconds. In London, the 15-year-old beat reigning Olympic champion and world record holder Rebecca Adlington by more than four seconds. And she was a half second shy of the world record! C’mon people, vote for Katie.

Ryan: Katie Ledecky – In 2011 she won U.S. Junior Nationals, in 2012 she won gold at the London Olympic Games.  The fearlessness with which the 15-year-old Olympic rookie swam, against an incredibly talented and experienced 800m field, was truly awe-inspiring.

Kitchen: Katie Ledecky – Everything they said. For my money, no one was more impressive in London than Katie. It was the most exciting swim race of the Games.
**Perseverance nominees
Tyler Clary, Anthony Ervin, Jessica Hardy, Davis Tarwater

Jason: Jessica Hardy – Ultimately I went with Hardy over Clary because she endured a difficult ordeal after test positive for a banned substance in 2008. She wasn’t allowed to compete in Beijing, was suspended for a year, and was branded a cheat. However, it was eventually ruled that Hardy did not knowingly ingest the substance, clenbuterol. Hardy made the London team and won two medals (gold and bronze).

Ryan: Tyler Clary – Clary took a bath this year after his (misinterpreted) comments about Phelps’s work ethic. After countless second and third place finishes behind Phelps and Ryan Lochte, Clary finally earned his gold medal.

Kitchen: Davis Tarwater – I get the struggle Hardy went through to get back in the pool after being banned in Beijing, but Tarwater’s journey arguably defines “perseverance.” After barely missing qualifying for three straight Olympics (with a retirement thrown in for good measure), a scratch by Michael Phelps in the 200m finally got Davis to London. He made the most of it, helping the team win gold in the relay.
**Coach of the Year nominees
Bob Bowman, Todd Schmitz, Teri McKeever, David Salo, Gregg Troy

Jason: Todd Schmitz – Bob Bowman coached Michael Phelps, Teri McKeever led the U.S. women’s team in London to 14 medals, and Gregg Troy’s four swimmers, including Ryan Lochte, won a combined nine medals. But this award has to go to Todd Schmitz, the genius behind 17-year-old Missy Franklin. Schmitz coached her to five medals in her Olympic debut, including four gold. She also broke two world records.

Ryan: Teri McKeever – With the entire U.S. Women’s Team swimming so well across the board in London, McKeever deserves credit for setting a high bar.  She guided a relatively young group to 15 total medals – 8 of which were gold, compared to only 2 in Beijing.

Kitchen: Bob Bowman – You could argue that coaching Phelps is hardly coaching, but from all the reports we heard about him being lazy for three years (and for how much golf he’s played since London) I imagine getting Phelps motivated after Beijing was his hardest task. Bowman got Phelps over the losing hump after the first race, helped him to win six more medals, and coached Allison Schmitt to five medals just for fun.
**Best Relay Performance nominees
Women’s 4x200m free relay, men’s 4x200m free relay, women’s 4x100m medley relay, men’s 4x100m medley relay

Jason: Women’s 4x100m medley – The Women put together an all-star team that included Missy Franklin, 100m/200m backstroke winner; Rebecca Soni, 200m breaststroke champion and 100m breaststroke silver medalist; Dana Vollmer, 100m butterfly winner; and Allison Schmitt, 200m freestyle gold medalist. They joined forces and broke the world record to win the race for the U.S. for the first time since 2000.

Ryan: Women’s 4 x 100 medley – In the toughest category to pick, the women’s medley out-touched the men’s, mainly because  they set a new World Record.  Both teams won gold, and featured four individual medalists in London, but Franklin, Soni, Vollmer and Schmitt have the edge here.

Kitchen: Men’s 4x100m medley – I could not be more impressed by the what the women did in the 4x100m medley, but the men’s medley team included individual gold medalists Matt Grevers and Nathan Adrian, and capped Phelps’s career with one more gold, the 18th of his career. You’re just not going to beat that.

Ashley Wagner handed Puffs box in emotional press conference (video)

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KANSAS CITY — Ashley Wagner was on the verge of tears (of joy) after taking silver at the U.S. Championships. A U.S. Figure Skating official came to her aid during a press conference, passing a box of Puffs onto the table.

A reporter told Wagner, 25, that it’s believed she’s the oldest U.S. women’s podium finisher since at least World War II. Wagner, not much of a fan of age remarks, smiled.

“Oh my god, you had to mention a World War,” she said. “I’m getting emotional, just because this is so hard, what I do, and I am so proud that I am still here today because I was 15 or 16 at my first world championships [16, in 2008], and I’m here, and I’m 25, it’s almost 10 years later. That’s something that you just don’t see in this sport. I’m here because I love it, and I am so stubborn.”

At that point, the green box of Puffs, one of U.S. Figure Skating’s sponsors, appeared to Wagner’s right.

“My passion is what fuels me,” she continued, “and I’m really proud of myself. I hope one day people will look back. I’m always here because I work to be here, and that’s something that I’m really proud of.”

MORE: Gracie Gold comments after sixth-place finish

Karen Chen holds off Ashley Wagner for shocking U.S. title

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KANSAS CITY — Karen Chen was as surprised as anyone that she won the U.S. title.

“I’m just in complete shock,” said Chen, who was eighth last year. “It was hard for me to believe that this day would come.”

Chen, 17, overcame nearly two seasons’ worth of struggles to win her first national championship Saturday night. She posted the highest short-program and free-skate scores and topped a field that included three Olympians.

Most notably Ashley Wagner, who finished second, 2.44 points behind. Wagner, a three-time U.S. champion and 2016 World silver medalist, just missed becoming the oldest women’s gold medalist in 90 years.

Wagner didn’t seem to mind her first U.S. silver medal, though, because she’s surely going to be on the three-woman world championships team named Sunday.

“This is perfect for me,” said Wagner, who came into the week as the clear favorite. “It gives me the opportunity to go in [to the world championships] with my head down and keep on working. I know where I lost my points. … I’m not planning on peaking here.”

Mariah Bell, who shares a coach with Wagner, jumped from sixth after the short program to finish third and likely lock down the last worlds spot. Full results are here.

Gracie Gold, who finished fourth at the Olympics and the last two worlds, tumbled to sixth place and is likely to miss worlds for the first time in her five-year senior career. Gold reflected on her disastrous season afterward.

It was also a heartbreaking day for 2010 Olympian Mirai Nagasu, who fell from second after the short program to finish fourth, 3.02 behind Bell.

Nagasu had four of her jumps called under-rotated in her free skate. Nagasu was heartbreakingly left off the 2014 Olympic team. It looks like she finished one spot shy of making the worlds team, which is chosen by a committee.

“I am speechless,” Nagasu said. “I knew I was ready, and I just didn’t deliver tonight. … This isn’t the way I wanted it to go, but I think that people are defined by how they react to things.”

Like Chen. The Fremont, Calif., native burst onto the scene two years ago, finishing third at nationals behind Wagner and Gold at age 15.

She was too young to be selected for the 2015 Worlds team. Little had been heard about Chen since (though plenty has been from U.S. men’s leader Nathan Chen, also 17 years old but unrelated).

She dropped to eighth at the 2016 U.S. Championships and came into Kansas City as the seventh-ranked U.S. woman this season. Struggling to find comfortable boots — a common skater problem — has plagued her. She went through 14 pairs in a four-month stretch.

But Chen felt plenty comfortable Thursday, performing a rare clean program for the lead.

“I skated the short of my dreams,” Chen said. “I wanted to follow it up with a close to perfect long.”

It was pretty darn close. Chen landed all of her jumps clean, including seven triples.

“This moment was something that I really dreamed about,” Chen said. “It was far from reality.”

Wagner will likely be leading a world championships team with two rookies in Chen and Bell.

It’s the most pressure-packed worlds of the four-year cycle, because the skaters’ placements determine how many Olympic spots each nation receives.

To ensure the maximum three spots at the Olympics, the top two U.S. finishers at worlds must add up to no more than 13 (sixth and seventh, for example).

Japan and Russia will send three skaters each with the talent to finish in the top five. Canadian champion Kaetlyn Osmond is also a medal threat. Wagner, sitting next to Chen and Bell, stressed that they should “tune out the noise” going into the biggest competition of their careers.

“It is so easy to be devoured by you guys because you all have eaten me alive before,” Wagner, who made her worlds debut in 2008, told the media. “Karen just has to deliver what she did here, Mariah has to do the same thing, and we’ll be set.”

Earlier Saturday, Maia and Alex Shibutani were beaten in the free dance but held on to repeat as U.S. championsHaven Denney and Brandon Frazier were the best of a flawed pairs field to earn their first U.S. title.

The U.S. Championships conclude Sunday with the men’s free skate (4 p.m. ET, NBC, NBCSports.com/live and the NBC Sports app). Nathan Chen, 17, is in position to become the youngest U.S. men’s champion in 51 years.

Check out NBCsports.com/USFIGS for all-access coverage all weekend.

VIDEO: Tara Lipinski reflects on winning 1997 U.S. title at age 14