The Battle for Swimming Supremecy Begins in London
Athletes from around the world will hit the pool today for the beginning of eight straight days of swimming. The swimmers garner a great deal of attention whenever the Summer Olympics come around due to the fact that a country which excels in the pool can add a massive amount of medals to their tally. Excluding the marathon, a total of 32 medal events make up swimming at the games for a total of 96 opportunities for countries to gain medals. So who are the men and women to watch?
Let’s begin with the men. Michael Phelps, aka super-fish, will be looking to dominate in London just as he did in Athens and Beijing. Despite Ronda Rousey’s opinion (check it out on youtube if you have a chance), Phelps is one of the world’s best athletes. He already owns the records for most gold medals in a single Olympics with 8, as well the record for most gold medals in Olympic history with 14. Phelps now needs just 3 medals to break gymnast Larisa Latynina’s record of 18 Olympic medals. It seems only a matter of time before Phelps accomplishes this feat. He should dominate the butterfly but will have some competition in the medley as teammate Ryan Lochte has matched him step for step this year. Look for Lochte to give Phelps his biggest test in the 400m medley where he is ranked first overall (with Phelps ranked second). The Men’s 200M IM will be the glamour event of the pool and is one of the hottest tickets for these games and is being billed as the big Phelps/Lochte showdown. Beijing’s double silver medalist in the medleys, Hungary’s Laszlo Cseh, is the best bet for a darkhorse to spoil an American 1-2 party.
In other singles events, Lochte is also favored in the 200m backstroke and the 200m freestyle, especially with Phelps not competing this time around. Aside from Lochte, the short distance freestyle events will feature two Aussies medal contenders in James Magnussen and James Roberts. Another contender to watch is Yannick Agnel of France who is ranked in the top three in both the 100m and 200m free. Look for these races to be fast paced, exciting and close. The 50m sprint is one event that is almost always fun to watch.
China and Korea are favorites to own the longer distances as Yang Sun of China and South Korea’s Tae Hwan Park have both looked incredible this year in the 400 m and 1500 m respectively. Japan are favoured to pick up medals in the back stroke and breast stroke events. The legendary Kosuke Kitajima will be looking to repeat the double gold he achieved in the breaststroke four years ago in Beijing.
Canada’s Medal hopes on the men’s side lie with bronze medalist at Beijing and double silver medalist at the 2011 world championships, Ryan Cochrane. His best event is the 1500m. Brent Hayden will also look to repeat his performance at the worlds where he grabbed silver in the 100m freestyle.
As always seems to be the case, the relays should be the Americans’ to lose. However they do need to watch out for countries like France, Australia, China and Japan who all field strong teams, and will be looking to pull off an upset.
Today’s medal festivities for the men begin with the 400m medley and the 400m freestyle so we will get to see super-fish, Lochte, Cseh, Park and Sun in action which should very entertaining.
On the women’s side, the Americans will also be favoured to bring home a large medal haul in the pool. Missy Franklin is the golden girl of the American team. She is participating in 7 events and has a legitimate chance to bring home 7 medals. Franklin is a gold medal favorite in the backstroke. Franklin will face stiff competition in Anastasia Zueva from Russia. Another American hopeful is Allison Schmitt who will look to overcome France’s Camille Muffat as well as Kylie Palmer and Bronte Barratt to stake her claim in the 200 m and 400 m freestyle events. Meanwhile Rebecca Soni is the gold medal favorites in the breaststrokes respectively. Caitlin Leverenz and Elizabeth Beisel are the top challengers in the medleys as they attempt dethrone the double Olympic champion from Beijing, Australia’s Stephanie Rice.
The Europeans are very strong in the spring freestyle distances. The Number 1 ranked swimmer in these events is Ranomi Kromowidjojo of the Netherlands. Sweden’s Sarah Sjostrom, who also looks good in the butterfly, will be a top contender, as will Germany’s Britta Steffen.
And what of Great Britain, our gracious hosts? Britain has a very strong women’s team in the pool, Francesca Halsall will attack the shorter distances while Rebecca Adlington will look for gold in the longer swims as she is ranked 2nd in the 400m and 1st in the 800m freestyle. The British will also look for a medal from Hannah Miley in the medley.
The Canadian women also have hopes in the pool. Jillian Tyler, Tera Van Beilen and, bronze medalist at the worlds, Martha McCabe will be contenders in the breaststroke events, while Julia Wilkinson and Sinead Russell will take on the backstroke. In the medley, Erica Morningstar should have a good showing as well.
The women start today with the 400m medley and the 4X100 freestyle relay which should feature a war between the US, the Netherlands, Germany and the Aussies.
So as you can see there is much more to focus on than just Michael Phelps at the Aquatics Center and the next eight days promises to be fast-paced and full of great performances. I can’t wait for the first splash.
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… and thats the Last Word.