Jun 26, 2013, 5:28 PM EST
When watching this week’s USA Swimming national championships, take a minute to think about the year 2001.
A boy named Michael Phelps began his record-smashing career in earnest the year after the Sydney Olympics. He set his first world mark in the 200-meter butterfly at the 2001 spring nationals, then did it again to win the world title in Fukuoka, Japan, four months later.
Certainly it’s ambitious to predict a Phelpsian feat at the IUPUI Natatorium in Indianapolis this week, but what happened 12 years ago shows that seeds for the next Olympics can be planted three years early.
That in mind, here are five U.S. swimmers who may not be familiar names yet, but they might just be setting the table for Rio with their performances this week and at the world championships next month.
Chase Kalisz: Fittingly, the list starts with a North Baltimore Aquatic Club product. No doubt if you follow Phelps on Twitter, you’ve seen Kalisz’s handle. Kalisz, 19, began training with Phelps between the Beijing and London Olympics and reached the finals of the 2012 Olympic trials in two of Phelps’ events – taking fifth and sixth, respectively, in the 200 and 400 individual medleys. He’s seeded third in both events in Indianapolis. It wouldn’t be a shock to see him pass gold medalists Tyler Clary or Conor Dwyer (Ryan Lochte might be a stretch) to snatch a world championships spot.
Becca Mann: Could 15 be the magic age for U.S. female swimmers? Seven-time world champion Katie Hoff made her Olympic debut at 15. Missy Franklin was 15 when she swam in her first major international meet. Katie Ledecky won 800 free gold in London at 15 as well. Mann, a novelist, tried to beat them all by flirting with the London Olympic team at age 14 last year, making three trials finals with two fifth-place finishes. She’s already on the worlds roster for open-water swimming and has five more events to try to make the team in the pool. Her best shot may be in the grueling 1,500 free, a non-Olympic event where she’s seeded third.
Maya DiRado: No U.S. woman has medaled in the 200 butterfly at an Olympics since Misty Hyman stunned Sydney in 2000. It’s the longest drought for USA Swimming in any individual event – man or woman. DiRado could be the answer. She’s shaved five seconds off her personal best in the event in 2013, capped by a second-place finish to make her first world championship team Tuesday. The Stanford star is scheduled for several more swims in Indianapolis, including the 400 IM, where she’s seeded fourth.
Jack Conger: Conger, 18, was a high school sensation in the D.C. area and will begin swimming for NCAA powerhouse Texas next season. On the national scene, Conger’s task is tough. Of his four events at nationals, he was seeded highest in the 200 backstroke – third – looking up at the last two Olympic champions Clary and Lochte. There’s also his prep rival, Florida’s Ryan Murphy, to contend with on the road to Rio.
Kevin Cordes: If there’s one opening for a young U.S. man to break through internationally, it’s in the breaststroke. It’s the only discipline Phelps and Lochte haven’t taken up at major meets. It’s also lacking star power with Brendan Hansen and Eric Shanteau not competing this week. Enter the Arizona Wildcat Cordes, 19, a threat in the 50, 100 and 200 breast. How good is he? Cordes won the 200-yard breast at the NCAA Championships in a time two seconds faster than anyone else ever and lowered his American record in the 100 en route to being named NCAA Swimmer of the Year – as a sophomore.
Dec 18, 2014, 4:39 PM EST
“He was incredible at that, almost befriending you, and then he’d slip the knife in your back.”
Dec 18, 2014, 3:33 PM EST
Colbert had a memorable time at the 2010 Olympic speed skating oval and in an interview with Bob Costas in Vancouver.
Dec 18, 2014, 12:00 PM EST
Olympic champion tore an ankle ligament in November.
Dec 18, 2014, 11:14 AM EST
Vonn entered five races in Vancouver 2010. She may never do that again at a global championship.
Dec 17, 2014, 5:38 PM EST
Decision details Gay’s acquisition and use of performance-enhancing drugs.
Dec 17, 2014, 5:31 PM EST
Fukushima’s previous governor pitched the area to be part of Tokyo 2020, too.
Dec 17, 2014, 3:29 PM EST
A look at host nation medal contenders for Rio 2016.
Dec 17, 2014, 2:37 PM EST
“It is breach of privacy with malicious target to soil my name.”
Dec 17, 2014, 1:51 PM EST
Japanese teen says he wasn’t satisfied winning silver in Sochi.
Dec 17, 2014, 9:55 AM EST
History shows that’s quite an ambitious goal.
Dec 16, 2014, 7:12 PM EST
USOC could wait until February to announce its city.
Dec 16, 2014, 11:36 AM EST
Bacteria found next to the starting point for Rio Olympic sailing events.
Dec 16, 2014, 9:57 AM EST
South Korea’s most decorated LPGA Tour player would have a tough time qualifying for Rio 2016.
Dec 15, 2014, 1:51 PM EST
Two retired running backs could join a long list of NFL Olympians.
Dec 15, 2014, 1:38 PM EST
Roger Federer won the Swiss men’s award, in a year he didn’t win a Grand Slam, over a Slam winner and a two-time Sochi gold medalist.
Dec 15, 2014, 11:49 AM EST
The USOC is expected to announce if it will bid for the 2024 Olympics on Tuesday, and possibly name the city.
Dec 15, 2014, 11:06 AM EST
Thirteen finals will be in morning sessions.
Dec 15, 2014, 7:44 AM EST
Another challenger to a potential U.S. bid.
Dec 14, 2014, 8:39 PM EST
The meaning behind “Vinicius” and “Tom.”
Dec 14, 2014, 5:35 PM EST
Kenworthy got the best of his Sochi Olympic podium teammates.
- Stephen Colbert and the Olympics 0
- U.S. will bid for 2024 Olympics, no city chosen yet 5
- Adrian Peterson won’t try for Olympics, but other RBs might 2
- Rio Olympic track and field schedule released 1
- Rome to bid for 2024 Olympics, possible events in Vatican City 0
- Yuzuru Hanyu repeats as Grand Prix Final champion (video) 0
- Ashley Wagner denies Russian sweep at Grand Prix Final (video) 0
- Emotional Bode Miller medals in race that mattered most (61)
- Russian women kissing after relay victory at World Championships causes stir (60)
- IOC drops wrestling from 2020 Olympics (47)
- South Korea filing official complaint over Yuna Kim’s Olympic silver (39)
- Zola Budd, 47, dominates college runners in 5K (33)