Skip to content

Five swimmers at nationals who could be next Olympic stars

Jun 26, 2013, 5:28 PM EDT

Santa Clara International Grand Prix - Day Four Getty Images

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.

Latest Posts
  1. Usain Bolt arrives in Glasgow, says he’s injury free

    Jul 26, 2014, 10:17 AM EDT

    Usain Bolt Reuters

    Bolt will make a rare appearance in the heats of a 4x100m relay at Commonwealth Games.

  2. Henry Cejudo, Olympic champion wrestler, signs with UFC

    Jul 26, 2014, 9:02 AM EDT

    Henry Cejudo Reuters

    Beijing gold medalist slated for first bout in August.

  3. Runner with age discrepancy withdrawn from World Junior Championships

    Jul 25, 2014, 3:47 PM EDT

    IAAF World Junior Championships Getty Images

    Bahrain runner listed with 1996 birthday may have been born in 1990.

  4. Skateboarding to be showcased aside Youth Olympics

    Jul 25, 2014, 2:24 PM EDT

    Skateboarding Getty Images

    A step forward as skateboarding seeks Olympic inclusion.

  5. Bradley Wiggins probably done with Tour de France

    Jul 25, 2014, 11:36 AM EDT

    Bradley Wiggins Getty Images

    Brit can make Olympic history on the track in 2016.

  6. Mary Cain wins World Junior Championships 3000m (video)

    Jul 25, 2014, 10:07 AM EDT

    Mary Cain Getty Images

    Cain emerged from being boxed in to beat Kenyans.

  7. Australian women break 4x100m free relay world record

    Jul 24, 2014, 4:57 PM EDT

    Cate Campbell Getty Images

    How it impacts the U.S. and potential Olympic history for Missy Franklin.

  8. Kerri Walsh Jennings, April Ross clicking ahead of World Series of Beach Volleyball

    Jul 24, 2014, 2:22 PM EDT

    Kerri Walsh Getty Images

    U.S. pair is top seed at biggest tournament in the U.S. this year.

  9. Mo Farah withdraws from Commonwealth Games

    Jul 24, 2014, 11:25 AM EDT

    Mo Farah AP

    Lingering illness keeps Olympic, World champion from competing.

  10. Queen photobombs Commonwealth Games athlete selfie

    Jul 24, 2014, 10:35 AM EDT

    Jayde Taylor

    Australian field hockey player’s photo goes viral.

  11. Japan’s prime minister wants to hold Robot Olympics in 2020

    Jul 23, 2014, 4:12 PM EDT

    Mideast Iran RoboCup AP

    Hopes to create a “robotic revolution.”

  12. Brazil eyes 27 to 30 medals at Rio Olympics

    Jul 23, 2014, 1:47 PM EDT

    2012 Olympic Games - Opening Ceremony Getty Images

    Brazil has never won more than 17 medals at an Olympics.

  13. USOC to meet with leaders from 2024 Olympic bid candidate cities

    Jul 23, 2014, 12:25 PM EDT

    USOC logo Getty Images

    Boston, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Washington D.C. in the running.

  14. London Olympic cauldron plagiarism dispute settled

    Jul 23, 2014, 12:02 PM EDT

    London Olympic Cauldron Getty Images

    LOCOG acknowledges U.S. firm submitted designs that ended up being part of the cauldron.

  15. Stella McCartney to design Rio 2016 uniforms for Great Britain

    Jul 23, 2014, 9:46 AM EDT

    Stella McCartney Getty Images

    Fashion star also created Team GB kits for London 2012.

  16. Vin Baker’s gold medal from 2000 Olympics set for auction

    Jul 23, 2014, 9:10 AM EDT

    Vin Baker Getty Images

    Opening bid much higher than final price for another Olympic basketball medal.

  17. Usain Bolt not happy with Tyson Gay’s reduced ban

    Jul 22, 2014, 5:21 PM EDT

    Olympics Day 15 - Athletics Getty Images

    “It is sending a bad message,” Bolt said.