Olympics swimming: Five story lines

  • Updated: July 22, 2012 - 9:46 PM

Michael Phelps and Ryan Lochte put on a show with head-to-head races at the U.S. Olympic trials. Of course, that was merely a tantalizing warmup for the swimming events that really matter in Britain.

Swimmers Michael Phelps (left) and Ryan Lochte will continue their rivalry in London.

Photo: Nati Narnik, Associated Press

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1 Phelps vs. Lochte

Michael Phelps and Ryan Lochte put on a show with head-to-head races at the U.S. Olympic trials. Of course, that was merely a tantalizing warmup for the events that really matter in Britain. "I always love competition," Phelps said. "You can probably count on there being some other close races in the next couple of weeks." Phelps already has an Olympic-record 14 gold medals and will swim seven more events in London in what he insists will be his final meet as a competitive swimmer. The 27-year-old has long stated his plans to retire as soon as his hands hit the wall for the final time at these Games. "It's hard to say who is the best swimmer," said Lochte, who beat Phelps twice at the 2011 world championships but lost to him three out of four times at the U.S. trials. "We're both great racers, and we have been going back and forth for so long."

2 BOOTSMA FEVER

Eden Prairie's own Rachel Bootsma finished second in the 100-meter backstroke at the U.S. Olympic trials to secure her berth in the London Games. She will be in a talented field that includes good friend Missy Franklin, who finished first at the trials. Then again, she has already made it this far. "It still isn't real to me," she said minutes after qualifying for London. "I am so beyond happy right now."

3 SHOW-STEALER

Bootsma's U.S. rival in the 100 backstroke, Franklin, could steal some of the spotlight from Phelps and Lochte. Franklin, 17, won five medals at last year's worlds and is scheduled to swim seven events at the Olympics. She's 6-1 with size-13 feet. Beyond that, she has the enthusiasm that could make her a huge star in London. "I'm thrilled to see what's going to happen this summer," she said.

4 THREE-PEATS?

No male swimmer has ever won the same event at three consecutive Olympics, but it's likely to happen -- several times -- in London. Phelps has a chance to three-peat in all four of his individual events, while Kosuke Kitajima is looking to duplicate his breaststroke sweeps from 2004 and '08.

5 EVERYBODY SLOW DOWN

Speedo unveiled its groundbreaking LZR Racer, developed with help from NASA, shortly before the Beijing Olympics, setting off a virtual arms race to come up with the fastest suit. The situation got downright silly by the 2009 worlds in Rome. After 43 world records were set in Italy, governing body FINA finally said enough is enough. New rules were adopted that restricted suits to textile materials and limited the amount of body coverage. Since then, only two world records have been eclipsed. There likely will be more in London, but not many.

ASSOCIATED PRESS

KEY DATES

• Swimming starts Saturday, with most events finished by Aug. 4.

• Phelps and Lochte figure to finish 1-2 in the 400 IM (finals on Saturday) and 200 IM (finals on Aug. 2).

• Bootsma competes in the 100m backstroke (prelims and semifinals) on Sunday, with the finals the following day.

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