US Olympic Men's Swimming Team 2012: Updated News, Roster and Analysis

Avi Wolfman-ArentCorrespondent IIJuly 3, 2012

US Olympic Men's Swimming Team 2012: Updated News, Roster and Analysis

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    Riding the coattails of a monster rivalry, the men's U.S. swimming team will make plenty of noise at the 2012 London Olympics.

    But Uncle Sam's aquatic army is a lot deeper than its two lead dogs, Michael Phelps and Ryan Lochte, and the Americans should challenge for medals across almost every stroke and distance.

    Before they do, meet the men of America's Olympic swimming team.

Individual Qualifiers

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    50-meter Freestyle: Cullen Jones, Anthony Ervin

    100-meter Freestyle: Nathan Adrian, Cullen Jones

    200-meter Freestyle: Ryan Lochte, Ricky Berens*

    400-meter Freestyle: Peter Vanderkaay, Conor Dwyer

    1,500-meter Freestyle: Andrew Gemmell, Connor, Jaeger

     

    100-meter Backstroke: Matt Grevers, Nick Thoman

    200-meter Backstroke: Ryan Lochte, Tyler Clary

     

    100-meter Breaststroke: Brendan Hansen, Eric Shanteau

    200-meter Breaststroke: Scott Weltz, Clark, Burckle

     

    100-meter Butterfly: Michael Phelps, Tyler McGill

    200-meter Butterfly: Michael Phelps, Tyler Clary

     

    200-meter Individual Medley: Michael Phelps, Ryan Lochte

    400-meter Individual Medley: Ryan Lochte, Michael Phelps

     

    *Assumes spot vacated by Michael Phelps

Key Athletes

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    Michael Phelps

    Surprised? Didn't think so. The most decorated athlete in U.S. Olympic history is back for another run at the podium and should be a major player in London. Phelps qualified for the same five individual events he won in Beijing, but will only contest four after scratching the 200-meter freestyle. Add three almost certain relay nods, and Phelps could bring his career medal total to a record 23. Phelps says the London Olympics will be his last meet before retirement.

     

    Ryan Lochte

    Thanks in part to Phelps' dialed-back ambition, Lochte has been the world's best swimmer over the past three years. Lochte dominated the 2009 and 2011 FINA World Championships and has qualified for four individual events in London. Those four races include two showdowns against his budding rival Phelps.

     

    Matt Grevers

    The 6'8" Grevers opened eyes with a torrid 52.08 in the 100 backstroke final, raising hopes that the 2008 silver medalist could challenge for gold this time around. 

     

    Anthony Ervin

    Ervin, a 2000 double medalist, left competitive swimming eight years ago citing competitive burnout. He resurfaced in early 2011 and surprised many with a quick ascent to the sport's elite ranks. Now 31, Ervin qualified for the 50-meter freestyle and could be a factor in the medal hunt.

    Elsewhere on the comeback trial, 2004 triple medalist Brendan Hansen, 30, returned from a post-Beijing retirement to qualify in the 100-meter breaststroke.

     

    Cullen Jones

    Jones, a relay gold medalist from Beijing, surprised many by qualifying for the 50 and 100-meter freestyle events. He's a long shot to make podium noise in the 100, but the variability of the 50 free gives him a shot at his first individual medal.

Key Races

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    200- and 400-meter Individual Medleys

    The battle between Michael Phelps and Ryan Lochte for the title of world's best swimmer comes to a head in these two races, their only scheduled showdowns in London.

    Fittingly, those showdowns come in the individual medley, a race that tests a swimmer's versatility and overall aptitude. Phelps is the defending Olympic champion in both and the world-record holder at 400 meters while Lochte is the defending world champion in both and holds the 200-meter world record.

    At the U.S. Olympic Trials, they managed a counter-intuitive split, with Phelps winning the 200 and Lochte the 400.

    Can't follow all that? Ok. We'll make it simple. Lochte and Phelps are going to have two really close, really hyped races against each other in London.

     

    4 x 100-meter Freestyle Relay

    This event is known for producing tight finishes and tons of pre-race trash talk. Four years ago it was the French thumping their chests only to have their dreams dashed by Jason Lezak and a dramatic Team USA comeback. In 2000, the Americans talked a big game before losing to the hometown Aussies.

    This time around the Aussies and French are co-favorites, with the Americans are still licking their wounds from a bronze-medal finish at 2011 Worlds.

    The good news for Uncle Sam is that Ryan Lochte didn't swim the event at Worlds and neither did Cullen Jones, the 100-free runner-up at Trials. Add those two to a team featuring 100-meter trials champ Nathan Adrian and a re-charged Michael Phelps, and the United States should be right in the thick of things come London.

     

    100-meter Butterfly

    Michael Phelps swam two of his most memorable Olympic races in this event, winning both by less than one tenth of a second.

    In 2004, he beat fellow American Ian Crocker by a 0.05 seconds. Four years later he nipped Serbian-American swimmer Milorad Cavic by 0.01 seconds to keep his drive for eight gold medals alive.

    Now Phelps is back for an unprecedented three-peat, and Cavic remains one of his toughest competitors.


Main Challengers

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    A quick look at America's biggest challengers in the pool.

     

    Australia

    No surprise here, Australia has long been Team USA's chief rival for aquatic dominance. The latest luminary from Down Under is 21-year-old sprint freestyler James Magnussen. The brash upstart has gold-medal aspirations in the 50 and 100 free and should be a major factor in the 4 x 100 freestyle relay.

     

    China

    The Chinese aren't a traditional swimming powerhouse, but their time is coming. At the 2011 World Championships in Shanghai, distance freestyle superstar Sun Yang (pictured above) won four medals. Wu Peng added a bronze in the 100 fly as did China's relay team in 4 x 200 freestyle relay.

     

    Japan

    Kosuke Kitajima is a two-time defending Olympic champ in the 100 and 200-meter breaststroke, Takeshi Matsuda should be a factor in the 200 fly and Yuya Horihata looks like a bronze-medal threat in the 400 IM. The Japanese could also make noise in the 4 x 100 medley relay.

     

    France

    The French have elite-level sprinters in the freestyle and backstroke disciplines and should be major players in both freestyle relays (400 and 800-meters).

Prediction

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    With Phelps and Lochte riding shotgun, no nation will challenge America's best in the pool.

    The U.S. is a sure bet to medal in all three relay events and the Phelps-Lochte coalition should bring home six individual medals. Add medal contenders in at least three other events, and Team USA should finish well ahead of Australia at the men's medal table.