Ryan Lochte, Rebecca Soni Win Top Honors at the USA Swimming Foundation Golden Goggle Awards

LOS ANGELES, California, November 23. WORLD Champions Ryan Lochte (Daytona Beach, Fla.) and Rebecca Soni (Plainsboro, N.J.) took home top honors Sunday night at the sixth annual 2009 USA Swimming Foundation Golden Goggle Awards. Lochte and Soni were named Male and Female Athlete of the Year during the star-studded gala held at the Beverly Hilton.

Tonight's event, hosted by Emmy-nominated sports broadcaster Dan Hicks, celebrated the accomplishments of the 2009 FINA World Championship swim team that competed in Rome this summer. The U.S. team left Italy as the decorated team of the championships, taking home 24 medals overall and setting 10 world records and 23 American records.

Lochte's Male Athlete of the Year title reflected his dominant performance this summer. The two-time Olympian, set two world records in Rome (200m IM and 800m free relay) and took home a total of five medals, four gold and one bronze. He was also the National Champion in the 200m and 400m IM.

Soni, who won the Female Athlete of the Year award, set the world record en route to winning gold in the 100m breast in Rome. She also earned a silver medal in the 50m breast. The USC graduate was also the NCAA Champion in both the 100y and 200y breast.

Lochte picked up his second award of the evening for his performance on the men's 400m free relay team. Lochte earned the award with teammates Michael Phelps (Baltimore, Md.), Matt Grevers (Lake Forest, Ill.) and Nathan Adrian (Bremerton, Wash.) The U.S. won the gold medal by just .31 over Russia and .68 over France.

Following his Golden Goggle win for the relay, Phelps' second award of the night came in the Male Race of the Year category. His 100m fly swim at World Championships earned him the honor, as he won both the gold medal and broke the world record in the event. With his swim, Phelps also became the first person in history to swim the event in under 50 seconds.

The Female Race of the Year award went to Ariana Kukors (Auburn, Wash.) for her record-breaking performance in the 200m IM at Worlds. She broke the world record in the event two times throughout the course of the meet and beat out 2008 Olympic champion Stephanie Rice on the way to her first international gold medal.

Dana Vollmer (Granbury, Texas) claimed the Perseverance Award for her strong performance in 2009. The 2004 Olympian bounced back from missing the 2008 Olympic Team to have an extremely strong year that included a NCAA title with her college squad at Cal, as well as a bronze and silver medal at World Championships.

Tyler Clary (Riverside, Calif.), who earned a silver medal in the 400m IM and finished fifth in the 200m fly at Worlds, was honored with the Breakout Performer of the Year Award.

The Coach of the Year Golden Goggle award was presented to Eddie Reese (Austin, Texas), who coaches at the University of Texas and Longhorn Aquatics. This year, Reese placed six athletes on to the men's team at World Championships, which included Aaron Peirsol, Eric Shanteau, David Walters, Ricky Berens, Garrett Weber-Gale and Jackson Wilcox. In Rome, Peirsol won two gold medals in world record time. Shanteau won his first three medals at a major international meet, and Walters, Berens and Weber-Gale all took home relay gold.

Among the celebrity guests in attendance tonight were Greg Kinnear, Owen Wilson, Tommy Lasorda, Allyson Felix and Brooke Burns as well as Olympic legends Summer Sanders, Lenny Krayzelburg, Tracy Caulkins, Nancy Hogshead-Makar, John Naber, Steve Lundquist and Rowdy Gaines.

AT&T will provide highlights from the 2009 Golden Goggle Awards on Wednesday, November 25 on www.att.net. Red carpet footage will also be available on www.swimnetwork.com.

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