At the 2008 Olympics, the American swimmers managed to surpass their overall medal count from 2004 of 28 by racking up 31 medals – 12 gold, nine silver and 10 bronze. There were many new faces in 2008 contributing to the growing medal count. Having improved on the 2004 performance, the future looks bright for Team USA.
Everyone is wondering what events Michael Phelps may compete in come 2012. After winning an unprecedented eight gold medals and setting seven world records in 2008, Phelpl will look to add to his already historic resume in London. Ryan Lochte has also seen much success since the 2008 Olympics and was the first swimmer to break an individual world record in 2010, following the change in swimsuit rules. Nathan Adrian, Ricky Berens, and Eric Shanteau are up-and-coming stars, who may also look to make their way into the medal count for 2012. All three were members of world-record setting relays since Beijing at the 2009 FINA World Championships in Rome.
On the women’s side, Olympic gold medalist Natalie Coughlin has plans on returning for the 2012 Olympics faster than ever before. Coughlin is competing this summer at the FINA World Championships and she has said that she plans to carry that momentum to London. Since Rebecca Soni’s gold-medal swim in the 200m breaststroke in Beijing, she’s still one of the world’s top breaststrokers in both the 100m and 200m disciplines. Dana Vollmer has had a resurgence of standout swims since 2009 and will look to make her second Olympic Team in 2012.
When it comes to the open water 10k event, London will mark only the second time that the event has been contested in Olympic competition. The U.S. men’s 10k swimmer was recently decided at the 2011 FINA World Championships in Shanghai. Former Harvard swimmer Alex Meyer placed fourth, earning an automatic berth to the 2012 Olympic Games. As for the women, without a U.S. woman qualifying for London at the 2011 FINA World Championships, the U.S. spot is still up for grabs. Christine Jennings and Eva Fabian are two of the event’s frontrunners but the field is wide open.
With a strong core of veterans returning combined with the up-and-coming stars of the summer, there is no doubt that the 2012 Olympic Team will be one of the strongest teams the U.S. has had.
- Return of the King: No one is quite sure what events 14-time Olympic gold medalist Michael Phelps will look to compete in come 2012. Will Phelps challenge backstroke kings Aaron Peirsol or Ryan Lochte in the backstroke events, or will he attempt to take back his world record in the 200m free and win another gold medal? Could he try his hand at some sprint freestyle events, or will he stick to his tried-and-true 200m butterfly? Nobody knows, but don’t expect three-time Olympian Phelps to back down from a challenge.
- Reaching for the Stars: In the two years since Natalie Coughlin became the first American woman to win six medals in one Olympics, she has danced with the stars and judged Iron Chefs. The last time Coughlin competed on the international stage, she dominated the 100m backstroke, claimed bronze in the 100m free and 200m IM, helped the U.S. to silvers in two relays and won bronze in the 800 free relay. Oh, and she set American records in all of her events. Will the two-time Olympian be back for another shot at Olympic glory in London? Watch and find out.
- Suits vs. Swimmers: For the last few years, suits, not swimmers, have ruled the pool. More than 200 world records have fallen since the birth of the high-tech suit in 2008 months before the Olympics. Swimming fans everywhere debated whether it was the suit or the swimmer that led to the new times in the history books. But now the days of debate are behind us, as polyurethane suits have been banned from competition by FINA. The men will sport jammers, and the women will wear suits cut off at the knee at the next Olympics in 2012.
- The Veterans of the Sport: The veterans of the sport are back. While Jason Lezak hasn’t appeared on any USA Swimming National Teams since his infamous swim on the men’s 400m free relay in Beijing, he hasn’t been out of the pool. Lezak opted to compete at the Maccabi Games in Israel in lieu of a spot at the world championships in 2009, but the gold medalist has returned. Meanwhile, Dara Torres made history in 2008, becoming the oldest U.S. female swimmer to make the Olympic Team. After earning a spot on the U.S. team at the 2009 World Championships in Rome, the five-time Olympian is still mum on whether or not she will be back in 2012. Having dealt with injuries since Beijing, she’s still training and could try to make an unprecedented sixth U.S. Olympic swim team in 2012, earning a shot at that oh-so elusive individual gold medal.
- New Red, White & BLUE BLOOD: While veterans like Michael Phelps and Natalie Coughlin may be favored to make the 2012 Games, there are just as many spots for bright, new faces to shine on Team USA. With key former National Teamers such as Ian Crocker missing from competition, now more than ever is the chance for rookies to make their mark. Expect youngsters like 16-year-old Missy Franklin and 2011 World Championship team member Dagny Knutson to step up on the women’s side. For the men, look for athletes like 2008 Olympian Nathan Adrian, and 2009 World Championship medalist Tyler Clary to give the veterans a run for their money and quite possibly earn a spot on the 2012 Olympic Team.
- Nathan Adrian
- Ricky Berens
- Matt Grevers
- Cullen Jones
- Ryan Lochte
- Alex Meyer
- Michael Phelps
- Eric Shanteau
- Peter Vanderkaay
- Dave Walters
- Elizabeth Beisel
- Kasey Carlson
- Natalie Coughlin
- Jessica Hardy
- Kathleen Hersey
- Margaret Hoelzer
- Dagny Knutson
- Ariana Kukors
- Elizabeth Pelton
- Allison Schmitt
- Rebecca Soni
- Dana Vollmer
Pool swimmers are selected from the U.S. Olympic Team Trials in Omaha, Neb., which run from June 25-July 2, 2012. Open Water swimmers are selected from the top-10 finishers at the FINA World Championships in Shanghai and additional swimmers will be named from top finishers at the 2012 Olympic Marathon Swim Qualifier, which will take place in Setubal, Portugal, from Dec. 12-14. Each of the top-10 finishers will fill up the 10 of the remaining spots and each continental champion at the race will also receive an automatic qualifying spot.
- July 24-31, 2011: FINA Long Course and Open Water World Champs – Shanghai, China
- Aug. 2-6, 2011: ConocoPhillips National Championships (Pan Am Games Trials) – Palo Alto, Calif.
- Aug. 13, 2011: 10K Open Water World University Games – Shenzhen, China
- Aug. 14-19, 2011: World University Games – Shenzhen, China
- Oct. 15-21, 2011: Pan American Games – Guadalajara, Mexico
- Dec. 12-14, 2011: Olympic Marathon Swim Qualifier – Setubal, Portugal
- Dec. 17-18, 2011: Duel in the Pool – Atlanta, Ga.
- June 25-July 2, 2012: U.S. Olympic Team Trials – Omaha, Neb.
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