The U.S. Olympic Swimming Team’s “Big Four”

With the dog days of summer upon us, the Copa America finished, the Euro 2016 coming to a close, and NBA Free Agency all but over (now that Kevin Durant has joined the “MVP” in Oakland), it is now time for us to turn our attention to Rio 2016. This year’s Olympic Games certainly come with quite the bit of controversy from the Zika virus to the contaminated bodies of water to the alleged corruption surrounding the Brazilian President. We have already seen several American athletes such as LeBron James, Steph Curry, and the USA’s number one cyclist, Tejay van Garderen, drop out of these Olympic Games citing these controversies as a major factor in their decision.

Despite all of that, the US will still be sending some of it’s greatest athletes to Rio. One of the most anticipated events for the Americans at every Summer Olympics is the 8-day swim meet that will be held at the Olympics Aquatic Stadium. Outside of Men’s Basketball, Women’s Soccer, and Women’s Gymnastics, swimming is what American Olympic fans watch. With the Olympic Qualifiers finishing up in Omaha yesterday evening and the Olympic Swimming Roster complete, here are a few swimmers (known as USA Swimming’s “Big Four”) to keep your eyes on when the Olympic Games kick-off on August 6, 2016.

Michael Phelps: Phelps returns to the Olympic Games this year, marking his 5th appearance at the Olympics. He is set to become the first male American swimmer to make this many appearances. Phelps will be swimming the 100M and 200M Butterfly and the 200M Individual Medley. (For those of you who don’t know, the Individual Medley is a race in which the competitors swim all four strokes; Butterfly, Backstroke, Breaststroke, Freestyle.) He has gold medals in the 100M Butterfly and 200M Individual Medley and a silver medal in the 200M Butterfly. He also holds the World Record in both the 100M and 200M Butterfly races. The World Record for the 200M IM belongs to fellow American, Ryan Lochte. These two squared off at the US Olympic Trials with Phelps out-touching Lochte and taking the first place seed in the event (Phelps v. Lochte). The race marked the fourth Olympic trials in which Phelps and Lochte finished first and second.. Phelps will be looking to add to his Olympic gold medal record (18) and most overall Olympic medals (22) this year in Rio. The 200M Butterfly will be held August 8th-9th, the 100M Butterfly is August 11th-12th, and the 200M IM is August 10th-11th.

Ryan Lochte: Lochte will be heading to Rio and competing in his 4th Olympic Games, making him only the 3rd male American swimmer to accomplish that feat. Lochte is the owner of 11 Olympic Medals (5 Gold, 3 Silver, and 3 Bronze) and he is tied with Mark Spitz and Matt Biondi for the second most medals earned by a male American swimmer. He also holds the second-most individual Olympic swimming medals. Lochte will be competing in the 800M Freestyle Relay and the 200M Individual Medley. He is a defending gold-medalist and world record-holder in the 800M Freestyle Relay. Though he holds the world record in 200M IM, he earned silver in the last Olympic games for the event. He will once again by facing off with fellow American and swimming rival, Michael Phelps, and is seeded second in the event. These two have competed in this event the last three Olympics with Phelps winning gold in all three and Lochte taking silver in 2004 and 2012 and Bronze in 2008. Lochte will be swimming in the 800M Freestyle Relay on August 9th and the 200M IM on August 10th-11th.

Katie Ledecky: Ledecky’s trip to Rio will mark her 2nd Olympic appearance. She stormed onto the scene in 2012 at the age of 15 with her dominant performance in the 800M Freestyle when she set the American record. She will be swimming the 800M Freestyle again this August and she has also added to 200M Freestyle, 400M Freestyle and 800M Freestyle Relay. Ledecky holds world records in the 400M Freestyle, 800M Freestyle, and 1,500M Freestyle (not an Olympic event). Katie has been so dominant in her young swimming career that she has yet to finish in any place other than first in any of her 15 international races. She is only 19 years old and she looks poised to make a long career as one of the best US Olympic swimmers. Ledecky will swimming the 400M Freestyle on August 7th, the 200M Freestyle on August 8th-9th, the 800M Freestyle Relay on August 10th, and will finish up with the 800M Freestyle on August 11th-12th.

Missy Franklin: Franklin has probably had the toughest week of any swimmer at these Olympic Trials. She qualified for the 200M Freestyle, 800M Freestyle Relay, and 200M Backstroke races, but failed to qualify for the 100M Backstroke and 100M Freestyle. Her failure to qualify in both of these events comes at a huge surprise. She was the defending gold medalist in the 100M Backstroke and she will most likely be left off of the defending gold medalist 400M Freestyle Relay team with her failure to qualify in the top 8 in the 100M Freestyle event. Franklin also finished 2nd in the 200M Backstroke, an event where she holds a world record and is the defending gold medalist. All in all, she still has quite a bit to look forward to as she heads to Rio and her 2nd Olympic Games. Missy will look to regain her composure and defend her gold medals. The 200M Backstroke and 800M Freestyle Relay will be held on August 11th-12th and the 200M Freestyle is August 8th-9th.

There are plenty of other swimmers part of both the Men’s and Women’s teams that are also worth keeping an eye on; in particular Connor Jaegar, Chase Kalisz, Abbey Weitzel, and Maya DiRado. Jaegar will be going to Rio in his 2nd Olympic Games,  swimming in the 400M Freestyle and 1500M Freestyle. He currently holds the American record in the 1500M Freestyle. Kalisz will be going to the Olympic Games for the first time and will be swimming in the 400M IM. He currently holds the 2nd fastest time in the world for this event. Weitzel will be joining Kalisz as a first time Olympic athlete, where she will be swimming in the 50M Freestyle, 100M Freestyle, and 400M Freestyle Relay. She holds the American record for the 50M Freestyle and won a silver medal in the 100M Freestyle at last year’s World University Games. DiRado will also be making her first Olympic appearance. She most notably upset Missy Franklin in the 200M Backstroke in the US Olympic Trials this year. DiRado will also be swimming in the 200M IM and 400M IM where she has been representing the US internationally in these events for the last three years.

The Olympics commence on August 5th with the Opening Ceremony and continue with the swimming events from August 6th through the 13th.

-Sean Demetrakis

Photo Credit: Getty Images

Stat/Record Credit: USA Swimming

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