Michael Phelps, Katie Ledecky win Golden Goggle awards for Athlete of the Year


Michael Phelps and Katie Ledecky took top honors as the Male and Female Athlete of the Year for the second and third consecutive year, respectively, at the 2015 Golden Goggle Awards hosted by USA Swimming.

Ledecky’s World Championship efforts also earned her the Female Race of the Year (for the 200m freestyle, though her 800m and 1500m were nominated). She was also part of the Relay of the Year, alongside Missy Franklin, Leah Smith, and Katie McLaughlin.

In the acceptance speech, Franklin likened the relay squad to a sandwich: the sturdy end bread pieces were herself and Ledecky, while the peanut butter and jelly were Smith and McLaughlin. “This is our jam,” Ledecky laughed, noting the history of the women’s 4×200 freestyle relay at Worlds. The 2015 group earned the U.S.’ third straight victory.

Ledecky’s coach, Bruce Gemmell, was named Coach of the Year for the third consecutive year.

Father-to-be Phelps was named Male Athlete of the Year for the second consecutive year due to his dominant performance at the 2015 U.S. Nationals. There, he posted the top times in the world in three events – the 200m IM, 100m fly and 200m fly. Both his butterfly events were the fastest he’s been since 2009, and the 200m IM time was the fastest he’s been since the London 2012 Olympics.

Phelps listed Perseverance Award winner Allison Schmitt, his mother and sisters, and other people who “know who they are,” among those he was thankful for. He said he wasn’t sure if he would be alive today if they hadn’t stood by him.

MORE: Phelps “didn’t want to be alive” after DUI

“If me speaking out saves just one life, then I know it was worth it,” Schmitt said, as the audience rose to their feet to give her a standing ovation. After her own battle with depression, Schmitt wants to play a role in destigmatizing mental health and getting athletes help if they need it.

Jordan Wilimovsky, so far only one of two confirmed Rio Olympic team members, picked up two awards: Breakout Performer of the Year and Male Race of the Year.

Casey Wasserman, LA 2024 Olympic bid chairman, presented Wilimovsky with his Male Race of the Year award. Of a Los Angeles-hosted Olympic bid, Wasserman simply said, “we think it’s time.”

“Workaholics” actor Anders Holm hosted the event in Los Angeles. Singer Andra Day was the musical guest.

Franklin and Ryan Lochte will headline the U.S. contingent next at Duel in the Pool, a Ryder Cup-style meet against a European all-star team held December 11-12 in Indianapolis. NBC will air coverage Dec. 19 from 4-6 p.m. ET. The European roster is lead by Hungary’s Katinka Hosszu and Laszlo Cseh. The U.S. is 3-0 against the European team, though the most recent edition of the event in 2013 came down to a tiebreaking mixed medley relay.

2015 USA Swimming Golden Goggle award winners:

Female Athlete of the Year: Katie Ledecky

Male Athlete of the Year: Michael Phelps

Female Race of the Year: Katie Ledecky, 200m freestyle (2015 World Championships)

Male Race of the Year: Jordan Wilimovsky, 10K (2015 World Championships)

Relay Performance of the Year: Women’s 4×200 freestyle relay (Missy Franklin, Katie McLaughlin, Leah Smith, Katie Ledecky – 2015 World Chamionships)

Coach of the Year: Bruce Gemmell

Breakout Performer of the Year: Jordan Wilimovsky

Perseverance Award: Allison Schmitt

Japanese pair edges Americans for historic Grand Prix Final figure skating title

Riku Miura, Ryuichi Kihara

Riku Miura and Ryuichi Kihara won the biggest title ever for a Japanese figure skating pair, taking the Grand Prix Final and consolidating their status as the world’s top active team.

Miura and Kihara, last season’s world silver medalists, barely outscored world champions Alexa Knierim and Brandon Frazier in Turin, Italy, in both Thursday’s short program and Friday’s free skate to win the six-pair event that is a preview of March’s worlds.

The Japanese totaled 214.58 points, distancing the Americans by a mere 1.3 points after Frazier erred on both of their side-by-side jumping passes in the free skate. Italians Sara Conti and Niccolo Macii took bronze.

“We had a very late start to our season than initially planned, so as we have been performing at each event, I see us getting stronger, improving things,” said Frazier, who with Knierim had their best short program and free skate scores of the autumn.

Knierim and Frazier didn’t decide to continue competing together this season until July.

“I feel a little personally disappointed tonight just for myself for my jumps,” Frazier continued. “I was a little all over the place and, normally, I can execute better, so I feel a little bad, but I’m very proud of us overall. We’ve done a great job of improving each competition and looking forward to the second half of the season where we can start tapping into our best skating.”

GRAND PRIX FINAL: Results | Broadcast Schedule

Miura and Kihara, who partnered in June 2019 and train in Ontario, both waited with trepidation for their final score to be posted, worried that each’s separate mistake on jumps might cost them the title. When they learned they won, both burst into tears.

“This was the first time in eight years that I made a mistake with a Salchow, so I thought we might not get a good score, and it would be my fault,” Kihara said.

Miura and Kihara entered the competition ranked No. 1 in the world by best scores this season ahead of Knierim and Frazier, who in March became the first U.S. pair to win a world title since 1979.

Last season, Miura and Kihara became the second Japanese pair to make a Grand Prix podium and to earn a world championships medal. Their ascension helped Japan win its first Olympic figure skating team event medal in February (a bronze that could be upgraded to gold pending the Kamila Valiyeva case).

In Grand Prix Final history, Japan had won 11 gold medals and 40 total medals, all in singles, before this breakthrough.

Knierim and Frazier, already the first U.S. pair to compete in the Grand Prix Final since 2015, became the first U.S. pair to win a Grand Prix Final medal. The Final has been held annually since 1996, though it was canceled the last two seasons due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Miura and Kihara and Knierim and Frazier ascended to the top of the sport while the top five teams from the Olympics from Russia and China have not competed internationally since the Winter Games.

All Russian skaters are ineligible for international competition due to the war in Ukraine. China’s pairs, including Olympic champions Sui Wenjing and Han Cong, didn’t enter last March’s worlds and did not compete in the fall Grand Prix Series.

Later Friday, world champion Kaori Sakamoto of Japan led the women’s short program with 75.86 points, 1.28 ahead of countrywoman Mai Mihara. American Isabeau Levito, the 15-year-old world junior champion, was fifth of six skaters in her Grand Prix Final debut.

Canadians Piper Gilles and Paul Poirier topped the rhythm dance with 85.93 points, edging Americans Madison Chock and Evan Bates by .44. Both couples are bidding for the biggest international title of their careers. None of the Olympic medalists competed internationally this fall.

The Grand Prix Final ends Saturday with the men’s and women’s free skates and free dance, all live on Peacock.

OlympicTalk is on Apple News. Favorite us!

A Winter Olympic medal still being decided, 10 months later

Fanny Smith, Daniela Maier
It's still unknown whether Fanny Smith (green) or Daniela Maier (blue) is the Olympic ski cross bronze medalist. (Getty)

There is a second Winter Olympic medal result still in question, 10 months after the Games.

While the figure skating team event results are still unknown due to the Kamila Valiyeva case, the bronze medal in women’s ski cross is also in dispute.

Originally, Swiss Fanny Smith crossed the finish line in third place in the four-woman final at the Winter Games in February. Upon review by the International Ski Federation (FIS) jury, she was minutes later demoted to fourth place after making contact with German Daniela Maier near the end of the course. Maier, who originally was fourth, was upgraded to bronze.

“I tried to be OK with the fourth place. I was very disappointed, I have to say, [then] the jury was like this,” Maier said then. “I am really sorry for Fanny that it’s like this right now. … The jury decided like this, so accept it and be happy with the medal.”

Smith and the Swiss ski federation appealed. FIS reinstated Smith as the bronze medalist nine days after the race and six days after the Closing Ceremony. A FIS appeals commission met four times and reviewed video and written documentation for several hours before deciding that “the close proximity of the racers at that moment resulted in action that was neither intentional or avoidable.”

But that wasn’t the end. The case ended up reportedly going to the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS), whose rulings are usually accepted as final. The CAS process is ongoing, European media reported this week.

CAS has not responded to a request for comment. A FIS contact said Friday, “There is currently no update to provide in regards to the bronze medal in ski cross. Should there be any update, we will inform you.”

Smith said there should be news soon regarding the case, according to Blick.

Maier still has the bronze medal at her home and enjoys looking at it, according to German media, which also reported that the German ski federation expects Maier to win the case and keep the medal. Smith and Maier spoke extensively about it in recent training sessions and cleared things up. Maier said the best outcome would be bronze medals for both of them, according to the report.

For now, FIS lists Smith as the bronze medalist. The IOC lists Maier as the bronze medalist.

OlympicTalk is on Apple News. Favorite us!