With the London Olympics only 32 days away, the best swimmers in America will fight it out amongst themselves this week to see which of them will cross the pond for the Summer Games. The U.S. Olympic trials feature returning idols (Natalie Coughlin), young stars (Missy Franklin), some retired favorites on the comeback trail (Janet Evans, Brendan Hansen) and a much-discussed rivalry that promises to linger into London (Michael Phelps vs. Ryan Lochte). How will it turn out? You can see it all unfold, as all eight days of finals will be broadcast in prime time on NBC.
When: Monday-July 2 • Where: CenturyLink Center, Omaha
TV: NBC (Ch. 11) will broadcast live coverage of the finals each night beginning at 7 p.m.
What's at stake: A maximum of 26 men and 26 women will qualify for the team. The winner of each event, along with the top four in the 100- and 200-meter freestyles, earn roster spots; second-place finishers also make the team until the 26 slots per gender are filled. More than 1,800 swimmers will participate.
Schedule, results and more: usaswimming.org
The story lines: The Phelps-Lochte showdown is generating the most chatter, delighting a U.S. swimming community savoring the publicity the two titans have brought. Phelps, who won a record eight gold medals at the 2008 Olympics, is revving up for what he says will be his final Summer Games. Lochte says his time has arrived, and his recent victories over Phelps, along with his five golds in last summer's world championships, back up those words. The two will face each other in as many as six events. The sport also is welcoming back a handful of retired Olympians hoping to grab the rings again. Evans, 40, came out of a 15-year layoff to try and add to the five Olympic medals she earned in distance freestyle events. Hansen (30), Ed Moses (32) and Anthony Ervin (31) also have returned, and Dara Torres (45) -- who never left -- is gunning for her sixth Olympics. On the other end of the spectrum is Franklin, 17, who won five medals at the 2011 world championships and is expected to shine brightly in London.
Rachel Bootsma watch: Bootsma, of Eden Prairie, is seeded third in the women's 100 backstroke behind two-time Olympic gold medalist Coughlin and 2011 national champ Franklin. The preliminaries of the 100 back will be held Tuesday morning, with semifinals Tuesday night and finals Wednesday night. Bootsma begins competition Monday with the 100 butterfly and also plans to swim the 50 and 100 freestyles, the 200 butterfly and the 200 individual medley.
Plummer's back: Former Gopher David Plummer, who trains with the Minnetonka Swim Club, is among the favorites in the men's 100 backstroke. Plummer, 26, was the 2010 national champion in the event and placed fifth in both the 50 back and the 100 back at the 2011 worlds. He is seeded second in the event behind Nick Thoman, who finished just ahead of him at the worlds. The preliminaries are Tuesday morning, with semifinals Tuesday night and finals Wednesday night.
Other locals: The Gophers will be represented by 29 current members of the swim teams, including national team members Ashley Steenvoorden (200, 400 and 800 freestyle) and Haley Spencer (100 and 200 breaststroke, 200 IM). Swimmers from other local clubs also will compete, including the Aquajets and Foxjets of Eden Prairie, the Mantas of Mankato, the Edina Swim Club, the Minnetonka Swim Club, the Twin Cities Swim Team, the St. Croix Swim Club and the Atlantis Swimming Federation of southern Minnesota.