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2012 Olympics Preview: USA Swimming

In Sports on August 12, 2011 at 1:44 am

by:  Jordan Goldberg

 

The 2011 World Championships in Shanghai and the National Championships in Stanford provided us with many intriguing new developments in the world of USA Swimming. From the possible end of an era to the emergence of some talented youngsters, there is a lot to be excited for in 2012.

 

Is Ryan Lochte the best swimmer in the world?

Ryan Lochte dominated the World Championships, defeating Michael Phelps head-to-head in the 200m Freestyle and 200m Individual Medley, two of Phelps’ favorite events. Lochte set a new world record in the IM, the first new world record that had been set since the Speedo LZR suit was banned in 2009. Historically, Lochte has been dominated by Phelps in most events. His dominance at the World Championships makes him the heir apparent to the title of Best Swimmer in the World.

 

What is wrong with Michael Phelps?

Michael Phelps did not dominate the World Championships the way he has dominated every meet he has entered over the last few years. Is he getting old? Is he distracted by the criticism that followed the emergence of a photo of him taking a bong rip? I don’t think so. I think he just didn’t take this meet as seriously as he usually would; he took an extended break from training after the 2008 Olympics and only trained for six months before these past World Championships. I think no one would be surprised if the 2012 Olympics, already announced as Phelps’ last, became another showcase of Phelps’ dominance.

 

Missy Franklin: Child Star

Missy Franklin is 16. No one who saw her swim at the World Championships would have guessed that, as she won gold medals in the 200m backstroke (which she set the American record in), 4x200m freestyle relay, and 4×100 medley relay, silver in the 4×100 freestyle relay, and bronze in the 50m backstroke. She swam leadoff in the 4x200m freestyle relay, and her time would have won her a gold medal in the individual 200m freestyle. She swam the anchor leg for the medley relay, which is an extremely high-pressure situation-especially for a 16 year old in the biggest meet of her life. Not bad for someone who is barely old enough to have her driver’s license (which she got just before the World Championships). As if that wasn’t impressive enough, she then went on to finish second in the 50m freestyle and first in the 100m freestyle and 100m backstroke in the USA National Championships just two days after the world championships ended.

Missy will be just 17 at the 2012 Olympics, yet she could win multiple medals (even multiple gold medals). That would be incredible, and hers will be one of the storylines that I follow most closely.

Missy Franklin is not just a good swimmer, however. She is also a person of high character. She is a citizen of both the United States and Canada. Her parents urged her to swim for Canada, as it is less competitive. Missy, citing her patriotism, chose to compete as an American. I think she made the right decision.

 

Relays

The United States traditionally dominates both the men’s and women’s relays. Four of the six relays in Shanghai were won by the USA, with the 4×100 free relay for both genders being the only exceptions. The men finished third and the women finished second. Will American dominance of the relays continue in 2012?

 

World Records

Only two world records have fallen since the Speedo LZR was banned, and both were in the World Championships this year. Perhaps the international stage helped propel those swimmers to faster times. If so, the London Olympics could see many records fall. Ryan Lochte, Michael Phelps, Missy Franklin, and just about every American relay team could be in position to break world records in London, along with many other Americans. I certainly hope they break more than a few.

 

These are just a few reasons why swimming will be (arguably) the most anticipated event at next summer’s games.  One thing is for sure, the Americans will be ready to crowd the medal stand in London.  Only 350 more days left to go.  No biggie.

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