Skip to content

Our top swims of 2012

Dec 30, 2012, 2:54 PM EDT

Katie Ledecky and Rebecca Adlington Getty Images

After the American swim team won 31 medals (16 gold) at the London Olympics, 2012 could be called the year of the swimmer in the U.S. of A. Among that hardware haul were some extra special swims, courtesy of wide-eyed high school kids, grizzled veterans and everyone in between.

Here’s a list of five memorable swims in 2012, in no particular order.

Ryan Lochte, 400m IM, Olympic Trials
Lochte went on to win this race at the Olympics, but his victory over Michael Phelps at Trials might have been the better performance. The race occurred on the first night of finals at Trials, and it was the first time Lochte and Phelps would race each other at the meet. The CenturyLink Center was alive and had the atmosphere of an old-school heavyweight fight. Flames shot up from the deck as the two rivals – who happen to be good friends – made their way through all four strokes in the four-lap race. It was the most exciting race of the summer – including the Olympics. Lochte touched in 4:07.06, Phelps in 4:07.89. Phelps finished fourth in London.

Missy Franklin, 200m backstroke, Olympics
It wasn’t Franklin’s first medal in London, but it was probably her most memorable (at least individually). Franklin competed in six events at the Games – three individual races and all three relays. The 200m backstroke is her best event, which was obvious in London as she won the race in 2:04.06 seconds, a stunning three quarters of a second faster than the previous world record. The 17-year-old from Colorado became the first American woman to win Olympic gold in the race since 1972.

Nathan Adrian, 100m freestyle, Olympics
All we heard entering the men’s 100m freestyle was the name James Magnussen; he was the Australian sprinter who was supposed to dominate the field and win gold. Magnussen was the fastest swimmer heading into the final but Adrian, who was 23 at the time, spoiled Magnussen’s party in epic fashion. Adrian managed to out-touch the Aussie by .01 of a second – the closest possible margin in swimming. A disappointed Magnussen was left with the silver medal. “So many emotions,” Adrian said. “It was incredible.”

Katie Ledecky, 800m freestyle, Olympics
It’s not very often that 15 year olds make headlines at the Olympics. For a swimmer that age to beat the Olympic champion is even more rare. Ledecky did both, winning the 800m freestyle in London. The Maryland native qualified for the final as the No. 3 seed after clocking a time of 8:23.84. In the final, Ledecky went 8:14.63 and won by four seconds. 2008 Olympic champ Rebecca Adlington, a Brit who had almost the entire arena cheering for her, was almost six seconds slower in third. Ledecky’s performance was the second fastest 800m freestyle swim in history.

Michael Phelps, 4x100m medley relay, Olympics
This list would not be complete with Phelps, who ended his career on the final day of the swimming competition at the Olympics with a gold medal in the medley relay. He swam the third (butterfly) leg behind Matt Grevers and Brendan Hansen, and in front of Nathan Adrian. The squad finished two seconds shy of the world record, but that was not the point. Phelps put the finishing touches on a career that spanned four Olympics and which included 22 Olympic medals, more than anyone else in history. Nineteen of his medals are gold. Those are the types of numbers that will stand for a very long time.

Latest Posts
  1. Prefontaine Classic preview, schedule, broadcast info

    May 27, 2015, 4:01 PM EDT

    AP AP

    Several of the top U.S. contenders for World Championships medals will be in action.

  2. Mary Cain leaves Oregon, returns home to New York

    May 27, 2015, 3:20 PM EDT

    Mary Cain Getty Images

    Cain must be in top shape one month from now for the biggest domestic meet of the season.

  3. Kerri Walsh Jennings injures shoulder, forfeits match

    May 27, 2015, 11:51 AM EDT

    FUZHOU, CHINA - APRIL 25:  Kerri Walsh of USA reacts during the match against Taliqua Clancy and Louise Bawden of Australia during the Fuzhou Open 2015 on April 25, 2015 in Fuzhou, China.  (Photo by Kevin Lee/Getty Images) Getty Images

    Walsh Jennings has a history of shoulder problems.

  4. Katie Uhlaender, skeleton World champion, becomes track cyclist

    May 27, 2015, 8:59 AM EDT

    Katie Uhlaender Getty Images

    Uhlaender isn’t finished with her sliding career, though.

  5. Missy Franklin returns to Colorado, coach Todd Schmitz

    May 26, 2015, 8:13 AM EDT

    Missy Franklin Getty Images

    She may change coaches after the World Championships.

  6. James Magnussen out of World Swimming Championships

    May 23, 2015, 7:40 PM EDT

    James Magnussen Getty Images

    Nathan Adrian’s biggest rival in the 100m freestyle could still be an Australian.

  7. Rulon Gardner on returning to wrestling training, getting his gold medal back

    May 22, 2015, 3:44 PM EDT

    Rulon Gardner Getty Images

    The 2000 Olympic champion continues to struggle with weight loss.

  8. Rome mayor wants 2024 Olympic medal ceremonies in Colosseum

    May 22, 2015, 9:57 AM EDT

    Rome Colosseum Getty Images

    “We want to rebuild the arena of the Colosseum so that the athletes can be lifted in like the gladiators in the Roman times.”

  9. Olympians recall David Letterman appearances

    May 21, 2015, 11:49 AM EDT

    David Letterman, Tara Lipinski

    Skaters, skiers, gymnasts, track and field athletes and more.

  10. Russian Olympic boss sets Rio 2016 medal standings target

    May 21, 2015, 9:18 AM EDT

    Russia Getty Images

    Russia ceded its place as top challenger to the U.S. in recent Olympics.

  11. First set of Olympic rings unveiled in Rio de Janeiro

    May 20, 2015, 8:10 PM EDT

    Rio Olympic rings Getty Images

    They were a gift from a previous Olympic host city.

  12. Missy Franklin, more Olympians lead most marketable athletes list

    May 20, 2015, 3:07 PM EDT

    Missy Franklin Getty Images

    Usain Bolt dropped on the list and is no longer the top track and field athlete.

  13. German amputee keeps rivaling top long jumpers, eyes Olympics

    May 20, 2015, 1:38 PM EDT

    Markus Rehm Getty Images

    Markus Rehm jumped another personal best on Saturday, moving up the list of top active jumpers.

  14. David Letterman and the Olympics

    May 20, 2015, 1:09 PM EDT

    David Letterman Getty Images

    Letterman had a special correspondent at the 1994 and 1998 Winter Olympics.

  15. Caster Semenya: I can’t stop running because of gender controversy

    May 20, 2015, 12:53 PM EDT

    Getty Images Getty Images

    The Olympic silver medalist has been off the elite competition radar for nearly two years.

  16. Gwen Jorgensen’s triathlon bike helmet includes Paul Bunyan, Bucky Badger

    May 20, 2015, 11:56 AM EDT

    Gwen Jorgensen

    The World champion explained the origin of her design.

  17. Justin Gatlin: ‘All is fine’ with Beijing meet organizers

    May 20, 2015, 9:15 AM EDT

    Justin Gatlin Getty Images

    Gatlin’s agent also called the sprinter “misunderstood.”