Michael Phelps Set to Swim for More Gold at London Games
A day before the swimming events commence at the Aquatics Centre, there is just one talking point --- whether the United States' most decorated Olympic athlete, Michael Phelps, will be able to recreate the aura of the Beijing Games, where he won an unprecedented eight gold, erasing the record of seven gold by Mark Spitz set in the 1972 Munich Games..
At 27, when most people start shaping their careers, Phelps is well and truly set to ring the curtains on a glittering career, spanning four Olympic Games. And, he would like to bow out with his head held high.
Though Phelps won't be able to do a Beijing encore, as he has been entered in four individual events --- the 200m and 400m individual medley and the 100m and 200m butterfly --- he can still set the pool on fire. Besides, he can also compete in three relay events too.
A haul of seven gold medals would give the United States' medals tally a healthy look again and help it regain its top position on the medals table, after China emerged the highest medal grosser in Beijing.
It was Phelps's eight gold at Beijing that helped the US rake in 31 medals from the pool, including 12 gold, nine silver and 10 bronze from the 32 events.. For challenge, Phelps doesn't have to look any farther than team-mate and biggest rival Ryan Lochte, who will be gunning for the top position in both the individual medleys --- 200m and 400m.
But on the eve of the opening ceremony, Phelps played down the rivalry saying that, he and Lochte were not just competing among themselves but with a motley of swimmers from around the world. Ian Thorpe may be history but Australia can never be taken for granted, especially when they have someone like the sinewy James Magnussen and James Roberts in their contingent.
Magnussen, the 100m freestyle world champ and the fastest man in the pool, is raring to have a go in the sport's 'a la carte' event and also lead his team in the 4x100m freestyle relay.
At 17 years, Missy Franklin wouldn't qualify for a driving license but the American teenager has her sights set on seven events in London. Though she has, time and again, downplayed comparisons with Phelps, people in swimming circles feel the youngster has the charisma to take the London Olympics by surprise.
It's not just Australia, who would be threatening the US in the pool. China showed it four years back at Beijing and their army of swimmers would be in London to challenge the best, though it is unlikely they would be able to repeat their performance.
At the 2011 World Championships in Shanghai, Sun Yang, the 197cm giant, smashed Grant Hackett's long-standing 1500m freestyle world record, while Ye Shiwen won the women's 200m medley title.
All these and many more like South Korea's Park Tae-Hwan, Britain's Rebecca Adlington end and the Netherland's Ranomi Kromowidjojo will be hoping to make a splash in the pool at the Americans expense.
London Olympics Swimming Day 1 Preview
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