Eighteen-time Olympic gold medalist Michael Phelps will continue his competitive swimming comeback at the 2014 Phillips 66 National Championships, the top national event for swimming in the United States.
The 2014 Phillips 66 National Championships—which features a wide variety of events for both men and women—will take place over the course of five days in sunny Southern California and feature some of the nation's most well-rounded athletes.
Top-level swimming is a grueling undertaking, and the United States national teams are often some of the top squads in international competitions. Tournaments like the Phillips 66 National Championships are where all of the international recognition begins.
The events in Irvine, California, will help determine which swimmers make the USA National Team for next year's world championships. It could also put plenty of top swimmers on the radar for the 2016 Olympic Games.
Here is all the information you need to stay current with one of the biggest events in aquatics.
US Swimming Nationals 2014
When: August 6-10
Where: William Woollett Jr. Aquatics Center in Irvine, California
Live Stream: USASwimming.org
|August 6||9 p.m. - 11 p.m. (Live)||Universal Sports|
|August 9||4 p.m. - 6 p.m. (Taped)||NBC|
|August 10||4 p.m. - 6 p.m. (Taped)||NBC|
|August 10||11 p.m. - 12 a.m. (Taped)||NBCSN|
Phelps is a man with little, if not nothing, left to prove in his chosen athletic pursuit. So, what could possibly bring the most decorated individual Olympian in history and an undisputed national treasure like Phelps back to serious competition?
As it turns out, boredom is what brings Phelps to Irvine and back into the media spotlight. Via Nicole Auerbach of USA Today:
Retirement was pretty boring, to be honest. It's funny — I literally would do nothing. If I was at home, I'd always try to, like, golf, or do something with friends, but everyone was working. Everyone had a job. I'd call and text people. I'd either go to the range and hit balls by myself. It got really boring. I'd never be home. I was always on the road traveling and seeing different people.
Nice life if you can get it. But those comments hint at Phelps' overall restlessness, and his energy and enthusiasm for swimming brings welcome attention to a sport that is often drowned out in the national media by the ever-popular team sports like football and basketball.
The 29-year-old pride of Baltimore will participate in the 100-meter freestyle, 100 butterfly, 200 individual medley and 100 backstroke, per Auerbach.
Phelps should dominate the 100-meter butterfly; he is still the world record holder in the long-course version of this event, with a time of 49.82 seconds.
Missy Franklin was one of the breakout stars of the London Games, winning four gold medals and a bronze. She has continued her excellent performances while away from the global spotlight.
She's primed to compete at the U.S. Nationals; Franklin won the 200-meter freestyle with a 1:58.30 time and took second place in the 100 backstroke at the Los Angeles Invitational in July, per The Associated Press (h/t ESPN.com).
She also set the American record in the 200-yard freestyle at the 2014 NCAA Championships, competing for UC-Berkeley.
The 19-year-old phenom will compete in four events in Irvine: the 100-meter freestyle, the 100-meter backstroke, the 200-meter freestyle and the 200-meter backstroke (all long course). As one of the top competitors in the world, Franklin is almost a sure bet to put on a show in California and make the USA National Team.
This event wouldn't be complete without an appearance from one of Phelps' main rivals, Ryan Lochte. The 30-year-old will be all over the proceedings at the U.S. Nationals, signing up to participate in a staggering six total events. It appears he has been feasting in preparation for this marquee event:
However, NBC Sports' Nick Zaccardi noted that these big-name swimmers might not participate in every event they sign up for, as they can still compete in different events at the Pan Pacific Championships:
Therefore, it’s not a big deal for swimmers such as Phelps, Lochte, Franklin and Ledecky to swim a packed schedule at Nationals. The priority is making the team for Pan Pacs in one event, and they can add to their plates in Australia.
What’s more, swimmers (Lochte especially) tend to enter more events at Nationals than they plan to swim to be safe. Expect some or all of the big names to scratch out of events next week (Ledecky surely must).
In what will surely be the most anticipated races on the docket, Lochte will square off with Phelps in all four of the latter's events, while also participating in the 200 freestyle and 200 backstroke. The big event will be the 200-meter individual medley, in which Lochte is the world record holder.
Phelps' return to the sport is a huge boost for its coverage and popularity, but focusing all the attention on him could detract from some of the other potential breakout stars at this event. This is indeed a must-see event for those interested in the United States' prospects in bigger competitions.