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Swimmers Katie Ledecky and Michael Phelps earn athlete of year honors at Golden Goggle awards


LOS ANGELES — Katie Ledecky won three trophies, including female athlete of the year, and Michael Phelps earned male athlete honors at the Golden Goggle awards as USA Swimming honored its top performers.

Ledecky beat out open water swimmer Haley Anderson and Missy Franklin for female athlete Sunday night at the 12th annual gala in downtown Los Angeles. The 18-year-old swimmer from Bethesda, Maryland, also won the award the last two years.

She towered over presenter Victor Espinoza, who rode Triple Crown winner American Pharoah.

"With Thanksgiving coming up, we all have a lot to be thankful for," Ledecky said. "We're all pretty blessed."

Ledecky won female race of the year for her 200-meter freestyle victory at last summer's world championships in Kazan, Russia. She earned nominations for two of her other winning races in Kazan. She shared the relay performance of the year award with Franklin, Leah Smith and Katie McLaughlin for their victory in the 800 free relay in Kazan. Ledecky won a record five golds at the world meet.

"Relay awards are my absolute favorite," a bubbly Franklin said.

Phelps won male athlete honors for the second straight year although he didn't compete at worlds as part of his punishment by USA Swimming for a second drunken driving arrest in 2014. Instead, he swam at the U.S. national championships in Texas, winning the 100 and 200 butterfly events with the world's fastest times this year, and the 200 individual medley.

He won the trophy over longtime rival Ryan Lochte and open water swimmer Jordan Wilimovsky. Phelps accepted the award from his friend Bob Baffert, trainer of American Pharoah.

"I can't tell you how happy I am to feel like me again," a serious Phelps said from the podium. "For a couple years, I was checked out. I'd like to really thank the people who have stood by me through all the ups and downs. I look forward to big things next summer for all of us."

Earlier in the week, Phelps announced his fiancee is expecting a child next spring.

Wilimovsky of nearby Malibu was a double winner. He earned male race of the year honors for his victory in the 10-kilometer open water event in Kazan and was named breakout performer. He has already qualified for next year's Olympics in Rio de Janeiro.

"This is awesome. I really didn't think I was going to win," Wilimovsky said after his first award. "It's really cool."

Bruce Gemmell, who guides Ledecky's career, earned coach of the year honors for the third straight time.

"Katie is a special girl," Gemmell said. "She's a pretty good swimmer, she's a better person."

Ledecky has committed to swim for Stanford but has deferred her enrollment until after the Rio Games.

The perseverance award went to Allison Schmitt, who in May revealed her struggle with depression after the 2012 Olympics. Phelps and his fiancee Nicole Johnson stood to applaud their friend.

"I have only begun to scratch the surface of dealing with depression," Schmitt said, tearing up as she spoke. "I have the goals to stop that stigma. Mental illness is real. It's an injury. If me speaking out saves just one life then I know it was worth it."

The winners were selected by a panel in combination with online fan voting.

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PHOTO: Missy Franklin, Olympic gold medalist in swimming, poses at the Golden Goggle Awards, Sunday, Nov. 22, 2015, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)
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