Olympic Swimming 2012: Dominant US Women's Team Is One of History's Best

Alessandro Miglio@@AlexMiglioFeatured ColumnistAugust 4, 2012

The U.S. women's Olympic swimming team came to London with plenty of promise. Eight gold medals and 13 overall later, they will leave the 2012 Games with an abundance of hardware.

Not since the days of Theresa Andrews, Tracy Caulkins, Mary Meagher and Nancy Hogshead have the U.S. women had such a dominant run at the Olympics. That team won 12 gold medals and 19 overall at the 1984 Los Angeles Games, crushing the competition. 

The 2012 American team led by Missy Franklin, Dana Vollmer, Rebecca Soni and Allison Schmitt would have given them a run for their money.

Many great swimmers have come and gone for Team USA over the past 28 years. From Janet Evans to Dara Torres to Natalie Coughlin, great Olympians have jumped in the pool for American women. But the team has not quite seen a dominant team effort since those 1984 Games. 

The eight gold medals this year's team tallied were more than the U.S. women had won in the past two Olympics combined. Thirteen overall medals is the most they have won since winning 16 at the 2000 Games in Sydney.

London's elite got off to a modest start this summer, winning a bronze medal in the 4x100-meter relay, an event they have not dominated for years. Elizabeth Beisel, one of the American teenagers poised to keep the women atop the swimming world for years, had won silver in the 400-meter individual medley earlier same day. Allison Schmitt would match that silver in the 400-meter freestyle the next day.

Then the gold medals started to pile up and world records began to fall.

Dana Vollmer cracked the 56-second barrier in the 100-meter butterfly, setting a world record as she opened up the gold medal tap. Teen phenom Missy Franklin won her first gold medal of four the next day as she continued her daunting 15-race program. 

Rebecca Soni soon broke the world record in the 200-meter breaststroke. She broke it again the next day. Schmitt would get her first gold medal in the 200-meter freestyle, winning it in Olympic record style. Franklin continued her magical run by breaking the 200-meter backstroke world record. 

Even unknown 15-year-old Katie Ledecky—America's youngest Olympian—got in on the fun, capturing a gold medal in astonishingly dominant fashion over world record-holder Becky Adlington in the 800-meter freestyle.

Team USA even broke long gold medal droughts in the 4x200-meter relay and the aforementioned 200 back.

The 2012 Games culminated with a dominant, world record-breaking performance in the 4x100-meter team medley for the American women.

As it turned out, having three newly minted world record-holders start off the relay was rather luxurious. Franklin, Vollmer, Soni and Schmitt obliterated the competition by nearly two seconds, emphatically proclaiming Team USA's dominance in their final race at the aquatic center.

That exclamation point was only the beginning. What might be frightening for the swimming world at large is that this could only be a harbinger of things to come.

Vollmer and Soni might be in their mid-20s, but this is a powerful U.S. women's team with a youthful undercurrent. Franklin, Beisel and Ledecky are going to be in their primes or close to it at the 2016 games, and they all have room for improvement. The U.S. trials also saw a host of young women nearly qualify for London.

The future is indeed bright for Team USA. It is going to be a wildly fun ride for the American swimmers for the foreseeable future.


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