I love the Olympics. Ask anyone in my family or my friends and they'll tell you when the Olympics are on TV no one is allowed to change the channel. It's one of the only times I listen to news on the radio, just so I can hear the medal count. I would be lying if I said that some of the appeal of the Olympics to me isn't the fact that it's the one time that a variety of hot athletes are on parade for about two weeks of my summer or winter. I've scoured the faces of Olympians to bring you the hottest and most promising swimmers to watch out for at the 2012 London Olympics which starts on July 27 with the opening ceremony.
Male Swimmers to Look Out for on Team USA
1. Ryan Lochte
Prior to the 2008 Olympics it could be said that Ryan Lochte stood in Michael Phelps's shadow to the non-swimming world. However, in Beijing he burst onto the scene and became a successful Olympic swimmer winning 4 Olympic medals and capturing female fans across America with his devilish good looks. Winning the gold in the 200 m freestyle, 200 m backstroke, 200m individual medley, and the 400 m individual medley at the 2011 World Aquatic Championships, Lochte is sure to win himself some gold medals in the London Olympics. Known for his laid back style, former Florida Gator, Lochte spent four years swimming for the University of Florida before turning pro. At the age of 27, this potentially could be his last Olympics, so make sure to watch him swim.
2. Nathan Adrian
Recent Berkley graduate (with honors too!) proves you can do everything and anything you want with a little bit of time management. While a full time student and a varsity athlete for the Cal Golden Bears, Adrian also competed as an amateur in the aquatic world championships. He even won a gold medal at the 2008 Beijing Olympics for swimming in the 4x100 freestyle relay heat which later was swam by Michael Phelps, Cullen Jones, Garrett-Weber-Gale, and Jason Lezak upsetting the French and smashing the world record. As a sprinter, keep an eye out for him to swim the anchor in relays such as the 4x100 freestyle and individual medley relay. Also catch him in the 100m freestyle. We'll cross our fingers, or maybe not, that his suit doesn't split when he's on the block like it did in the 2012 Indianapolis Grand Prix.
3. Michael Phelps
If you don't know who Michael Phelps is at this point, I'm pretty sure that you've lived under a rock for the past eight years. Olympic wonder boy, Phelps has won an astounding total of 16 medals, 14 gold and two bronze, and is back to win some more. After seriously questioning his career in swimming, Phelps started training again in 2010 with the goal of returning to the Olympics one last time. Proving to the world he still has in it him, Phelps will be swimming in the 200m and 400m Individual Medley and as well as 100m and 200m butterfly and a handful of relays. Make sure to watch one of the greatest Olympic athletes of all time, because don't you want to be able to tell your kids you watched a significant achievement in not only the Olympics but sports history?
4. Tyler Clary
Tyler Clary is somewhat of a Renaissance man. He not only dominates in the pool, but also dabbles in DJ-ing. Winner of the 2009 Golden Goggles for his break out performance in the 2009 World Aquatic Championships, Clary swam for the University of Michigan before turning pro in 2010. Finishing third to Phelps and Lochte in the 400m Individual Medley and qualifying for the 200m Individual Medley and the 200m back stroke, Clary proves himself to be an up and coming swimmer for Team USA. For all those sensitive soul lovers out there, look no farther! Clary changed his legal name, Scott Flowers, to honor his step-father for all the support. A promising young swimmer with a soft spot, what else could you asks for?
5. Brendan Hansen
At the age of 30, Brendan Hansen decided to come back to the world of swimming after being absent from it for 3 years. After encouragement from his wife and the return of his longtime rival Japan's Kosuke Kitajima he's decided to return to the pool and is determined to show the world he is the best breaststroker in the world. You might recognize Hansen's name from the 2004 and 2008 Olympics in which he swam and medaled in the 100m breaststroke, 200m breaststroke, and the 4x100 medley relay. Hansen qualified to swim the 100m breaststroke at the US swimming trials with the fastest time. He hopes to beat Kitijima and finally claim gold in the individual breaststroke events. If you have any doubts about whether Hansen can perform with the top swimmers from other countries, he has completed triathlons since his retirement and remember that Jason Lezak was 32 when he was able to overtake France's Alain Bernard in the 4x100 freestyle relay in 2008. Age is only but a number.
Female Swimmers to Look Out For on Team USA
1. Missy Franklin
Do you remember the summer of when you were 17? I do and it definitely wasn't going to London to swim in the Olympics. Named FINA Swimmer of the Year in 2011, Franklin proves to be one of the most promising swimmers for Team USA in London. At the young age of 13, she tried out for Team USA in 2008. I don't know about you, but when I was 13, my life was more about when my acne would go away then will I make the Olympic team or not. Making her Olympic debut, she will be swimming in the 100m backstroke, 200m freestyle, and the 200m backstroke in addition to participating in relays. If you don't get the chance to see Franklins swim, don't sweat because I predict we'll see her around at Rio de Janeiro in 2016 for the Olympics. Remember she only is 17.
2. Rebecca Soni
Sometimes it seems as if athletes come out of nowhere and achieve great success. Looking at Rebecca Soni's record, you can see she is one of those athletes. In her Olympic debut Soni won three medals, one gold and two silver, and beating Australia's Liesl Jones, who was predicted to win gold, in the 200m breaststroke. Before shocking the world with her Olympic win in the 200m breaststroke, Soni swam for the USC Trojans and participated in mainly national competitions. It was after her Olympic win that her winning streak continued. She's a favorite to place in the top two for the 100m and 200m breast stroke. While out of the pool I can imagine her cozying up to her boyfriend, fellow Olympian Ricky Berens.
3. Dana Vollmer
What was your biggest accomplishment when you were 12? Mine was graduating elementary school and entering the scary "grown up" world of middle school. However, Vollmer's idea of "grown up" at age 12 was swimming at the Olympic trials. Failing to qualify for the 2008 Olympics only fueled Vollmer to secure herself a spot on the 2012 Olympic team. One of the top contenders for the 100m butterfly, Vollmer will most likely walk away with a medal. Fun fact she swam at University of Florida before transferring to Cal Berkley.
4. Natalie Coughlin
Natalie Coughlin is a woman of many talents. She's won six medals in the 2008 Olympics, enjoys cooking, and raises chickens. Wowing the world in the 2004 Olympics, the 29 year old Coughlin is back on Team USA. A former UCLA Bruin, Coughlin has had great success in the past two Olympics winning a total of 11 medals in her two Olympic appearances in 2004 and 2008. She's even served as a role model to new Olympic swimmer, Missy Franklin. Although her Olympic trials did not have the outcome she hoped for, Coughlin only qualified to swim the 4x100 freestyle relay. She will still be a valuable part of the team serving in a leadership role among the swim team. Most likely her last Olympics catch Coughlin in the pool during the 4x100 freestyle relay.
5. Elizabeth Beisel
Currently a Florida gator, Beisel was the youngest swimmer for Team USA in the 2008 Olympics. She qualified and placed fourth in the 400 m individual medley final race during the 2008 Olympics and has continued to improve. She was named the SEC Female Swimmer of the Year in 2012 . Showing that she wants to stand on the podium in the Olympics, Beisel touched the wall first at the swimming trials and won gold in the 400m individual medley at the World Championships. Beisel has helped the Florida Gators place third nationally, so one can only imagine how much she will be able to contribute during the Olympics.
Swimmers Who We Want to Suceed
1. Eric Shanteau
Maybe there is a trend with athletes who are diagnosed with testicular cancer, they don't let it beat them but instead they beat it. Shanteau competed in the 2008 Olympics, but did not medal. Considering that he was diagnosed with testicular cancer around the time of US swimming trials in late June and he decided to forgo treatment in lieu of competing in the Olympics, Shanteau might have as well won a gold medal. After returning from Beijing, he underwent necessary treatment in order to ensure his health. While some would take time off to fully recover before partaking in any rigorous activities, let alone continue as a professional athlete, Shanteau took a page out of fellow testicular cancer survivor, Lance Armstrong, and continues to impress the swimming world with his performance. Winning a total of 4 medals in the 2009 and 2011 World Championships, Shanteau is here to stay and swimming faster than ever. Look out for Shanteau in the 100m breaststroke with fellow American medal contender, Brendan Hansen.
Swimmers We Wish that Made the Olympic Team
1. Katie Hoff
Possibly a "victim" of media hype, Katie Hoff was dubbed the "female Michael Phelps" before the start of the 2008 Olympics. Mainly because of a number of similarities, training at the same club and tackling a difficult set of races, great expectations were placed on Hoff's shoulders. Coming out of Beijing with two bronze and silver, which is no easy feat in the competitive world of swimming, the media that put so much pressure on the then 19 year old Hoff was quick to say that she had a disappointing Olympics. Looking at her list of wins, one can easily see that prior to being put on the same level as Michael Phelps, Hoff succeeded and that after having the world expect her to do what Michael Phelps did, something about her swimming changed. Although she won't be competing in the 2012 Olympics due to a poor swim at trials along with a side of sickness, I'm really hoping that Katie Hoff will compete in the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janiero to do what she does best: swim. In addition I want her to show the media that even though she isn't a female Michael Phelps she is the only Katie Hoff and that is more impressive and important than anything else.