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.
Mar 7, 2014, 3:28 PM EST
Full Day 1 recap of events in Sopot, Poland.
Mar 7, 2014, 2:15 PM EST
Ukraine official has said delegation may leave Sochi if Crimea situation escalates.
Mar 7, 2014, 1:52 PM EST
White House spokesman says case of beer will be delivered soon.
Mar 7, 2014, 1:39 PM EST
Races for World Cup crystal globes heat up in Sweden.
Mar 7, 2014, 11:52 AM EST
Zero Americans won medals in Sochi. Two made the podium in one day in Inzell.
Mar 7, 2014, 10:51 AM EST
Canada’s gold-medal goalie headed for Columbus, Ga.
Mar 7, 2014, 10:30 AM EST
Watch the ceremony from Fisht Stadium in Sochi.
Mar 7, 2014, 9:58 AM EST
Security guard, ex-girlfriend testify on fifth day of murder trial.
Mar 7, 2014, 9:49 AM EST
Same agency that confirmed Yuna Kim is dating a South Korean hockey player.
Mar 7, 2014, 6:59 AM EST
Lead singer rubbed blue substance on his face during their performance.
Mar 7, 2014, 6:31 AM EST
Ukraine athletes set to compete in Russia amid Crimea situation.
Mar 6, 2014, 6:43 PM EST
1984 and 1988 Olympic champion joins Arizona Cardinals staff.
Mar 6, 2014, 6:28 PM EST
Teemu Selanne’s socks among more than 50 items on display.
Mar 6, 2014, 6:10 PM EST
“They need skateboarding more than we need them.”
Mar 6, 2014, 5:31 PM EST
Tatyana McFadden eyes history in homecoming. Military vets share common sledge hockey bond. Model/Amazing Race contestant helps bring snowboading to Paralympics. Husband and wife team go for skiing gold. Former Austrian World Cup Alpiner learns to ski again.
Mar 6, 2014, 1:21 PM EST
New U.S. sprint star, world records watch, Jamaican back from failed drug test.
Mar 6, 2014, 11:33 AM EST
Austrian Olympic champion takes victory in Sweden.
Mar 6, 2014, 10:28 AM EST
Universal Sports has live online coverage all weekend.
Mar 6, 2014, 9:46 AM EST
Oscar Pistorius kneeled, cried, prayed while holding girlfriend, witness said.
Mar 5, 2014, 4:33 PM EST
Canadian women’s goalie practiced with the Oilers on Wednesday.
- President Obama yet to deliver after losing Olympic beer bet 0
- Shannon Szabados joins men’s pro hockey team 0
- Oscar Pistorius said ‘everything is fine’ to security calling about gunshot reports (video) 0
- Ukraine may leave Sochi Paralympics if situation escalates 0
- Five Paralympic storylines to watch in Sochi 2
- Mikaela Shiffrin takes 15th in first post-Olympic race 1
- Oscar Pistorius tried to revive girlfriend after shooting, witness recounts (video) 2