As this summer draws to a close, the 2012 London Olympic Games loom just over the horizon.
With athletes all over the world preparing for the games, this is the perfect time to make predictions about the lucky few who will receive the highest honor any athlete can get: a chance at an Olympic gold medal.
The US men's swim team was the dominant pool force at the Beijing Olympics, raking in 31 medals and 12 golds.
The problem is that the 2008 team was largely composed of veteran competitors, and many of them have either retired or faded away (for example: Aaron Peirsol, 2008 Olympic gold medalist in the 100-meter backstroke, is now retired).
So this year, Team USA will see many young, ambitious swimmers come up through the ranks and compete for medals. This makes predictions much more interesting than in previous years because there is a lot more competition for open spots.
That being said, these are my predictions for top five USA Men's Olympic swimmers most likely to win multiple golds.
Competition at the last Olympic trials wasn't so much about "who will get to swim at the Olympics," but more about "who will be the first to finish in Michael Phelp's wake."
Phelps become the first athlete ever to win eight gold medals at a single Olympics. That's more medals than most Olympians get in their entire lives.
However, Phelps may not be as dominant this this upcoming Olympics.
He lost the 200-meter butterfly for the first time after a nine-year winning streak, and lost to Ryan Lochte in both the 200-meter individual medley and 200-meter freestyle at the 2011 world champs. He has also stated that he will not be swimming eight events at London as he did in Beijing, and this will likely be his last Olympics.
Even through all of this, Michael Phelps is still one of the world's fastest swimmers, and will at least win individual golds in the 100 and 200 butterfly.
Ryan Lochte won four medals at Beijing including two golds and two bronzes. This in itself is pretty impressive.
However, this time around, he is expected to do even better and become the single most dominant force in the pool.
So this raises the question: How has a man who, just last Olympics, got steamrolled by Phelps, expected to do so well this time around?
An article (mentioned in this interview) mentions that Ryan's main diet consisted of McDonald's during the Beijing Olympics.
Factors like nutrition can play a huge role in an athlete's swimming. Ryan says that he has started eating healthier. So a man, who was already a multiple gold-medalist, just got faster. Already, at the 2011 Shanghai World Championships, he became the first person to set a world record since the banning of the high-tech suits.
Ryan has said that he has thought about doing nine events in London, an unprecedented act, and I honestly think he has a chance to win all of them.
After Phelps and Lochte, the crop of USA swimmers expected to win multiple golds runs thin.
But 22-year-old Nathan Adrian, winner of a gold and bronze at the 2011 world champs, has shined and established himself as the USA's best sprint freestyler.
The problem for Adrian is that his best events, the 50 and 100 meter freestyle, are also the best events for Brazilian rocket César Cielo, the current world-record holder in both events.
The 100 is probably not an option for Adrian to win, since the Australian World champion James Magnussen and the French Olympic champion Alain Bernard are both competing in the same event as Cielo. But the 50 is a wide open field, except for Cielo. Adrian's win over the Brazilian at the 2010 Pan Pacific Championships proves that he is in strong contention for the gold.
Adrian is still young and is only getting better, so he has a great shot to win golds in the 50 and the 4x100 medley and free relays.
The 6'8" physical specimen, Matthew Grevers was a silver medalist at the Beijing Olympics in the 100-meter backstroke behind Aaron Peirsol. Now that Peirsol is retired, the obvious conclusion is that he will win the backstroke this time around.
Alas, the answer is not that simple.
If Ryan Lochte chooses to swim at least eight events, one of the events will almost certainly be the 100 backstroke. Lochte is a huge threat to Grevers and the other USA backstrokers, but Grevers was the one to beat Lochte at the 2008 Olympic trials, so the race will be close again between these two.
There are also two other backstrokers breaking onto the scene: Nicholas Thoman and David Plummer. Both of these guys have posted times faster than Grever's Beijing time. So competition for the USA 4x100 medley-relay backstroke spot alone will be heated. There are also two young French backstrokers, Camille Lacourt and Christian Diener, who have posted times faster than all of the above swimmers.
Even though the competition is overwhelming, this is Grever's year to shine.
Grevers is 6'8" with a 6'11" wingspan. He is more beast than man. This by itself gives him an edge over his competitors.
If he surprised once at the trials, he can do it again at the Olympics.
Matt is also a sprint freestyler, and is likely to get a spot on the 4x100 free relay. He has a shot to win golds in the 100-meter backstroke and 4x100 freestyle and medley relays.
Nicholas Thoman is another relatively new face on team USA.
He has the short course ( 25-meter length pool, not 50 meter ) world record in the 100-meter backstroke. Thoman was also on the gold medal winning 4x100 meter medley relay at the 2011 world champs.
This means he was ahead of Grevers and Lochte for the backstroke spot on the relay, which in turn means he has also posted the fastest time so far this year by any of the USA backstrokers.
Pretty good for a new face.
But Grevers is only one-tenth of a second behind Thoman in the rankings so this makes Thoman's lead in no way decisive. Thoman also has to deal with the two French backstrokers mentioned before.
And don't be fooled by his short-course world record. It doesn't necessarily mean he will get the long course world record. Thoman has a disadvantage swimming long course because there are fewer flip turns and turns are his specialty.
Thoman, like Grevers, has a shot to win golds in both the 100-meter backstroke and the 4x100 medley relay.
But for this new face to win, he will have step up and prove himself, as he has to beat either Lochte or Grevers to even earn a spot on the team, and he has to beat both to earn the spot on the relay for the second gold.