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Swimmers Lochte, Soni win athlete of year honors

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BEVERLY HILLS, Calif. (AP)

World champions Ryan Lochte and Rebecca Soni won male and female athlete of the year awards Sunday night at the Golden Goggles honoring the year's top American swimming performances.

Michael Phelps won for male race of the year and shared a relay award after earning a leading six nominations.

Lochte ended Phelps' two-year ownership of the athlete of the year award.

Lochte set two world records at the world championships in Rome, winning the 200-meter individual medley and the 800 freestyle relay. He earned five medals, including four golds. He defeated Phelps and Aaron Peirsol for male athlete of the year.

"Jeah!" Lochte shouted, using his signature phrase while raising the trophy in the air.

"I just want to say thank you to my parents. They've been 100 percent with me my entire swimming career. Aaron Peirsol and Michael Phelps, you guys have pushed me to limits I didn't even know and I wouldn't be here without you."

The two-time Olympian from Daytona Beach, Fla., also shared the relay performance of the year award. Lochte, Phelps and teammates Matt Grevers and Nathan Adrian won the 400 freestyle relay in Rome by 0.31 seconds over Russia.

"The preliminary guys got us into the finals," Phelps said, asking for a round of applause for the morning swimmers.

Phelps was nominated for being on the two other relays in that category.

Soni set a world record and won a gold medal in the 100 breaststroke in Rome. The Olympian from Plainsboro, N.J., also earned a silver in the 50 breaststroke.

Phelps was honored for his 100 butterfly performance at the world meet. The 14-time Olympic gold medalist won a gold medal and set a world record in the event, becoming the first person to swim under 50 seconds.

Ariana Kukors of Auburn, Wash., won the female race of the year award for her 200 individual medley in Rome. She twice broke the world record on her way to earning her first gold medal at an international meet.

Eddie Reese of Texas won coach of the year honors. He had six athletes on the men's team at the world meet, including Peirsol, who won two golds in world-record time, and Eric Shanteau, who won his first three medals at a major international meet.

"There needs to be a night where swimmers are recognized even though the way they've dressed tonight I don't recognize them," Reese said. "Anytime a coach gets a trophy, particularly me, there's a lot that goes into this that doesn't come from me."

Dana Vollmer of Granbury, Texas, won the perseverance award. The 2004 Olympian bounced back after failing to make the Beijing Olympic team to win a silver and bronze at the world championships, and a NCAA title at California.

Tyler Clary of Riverside, Calif., won breakout performer of the year. He earned a silver in the 400 IM and finished fifth in the 200 fly in Rome.

NBC sports announcer Dan Hicks hosted the awards at the Beverly Hilton hotel. Among the presenters were Olympic sprinter Allyson Felix, former Los Angeles Dodgers manager Tom Lasorda, and actors Owen Wilson and Greg Kinnear. Fans voted online to decide the winners.


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