USA Olympic Swimming Preview

After enjoying such success in Sydney , expectations will be high for the swimming team chosen to represent the United States in Athens this summer. USA Swimming will be selecting its team July 7-14 in Long Beach , Calif.

Some key names from the 2000 team have since retired, but several returning Olympic champions are still in the mix. Gone are Tom Dolan, Dara Torres and Amy Van Dyken, but 2000 individual gold medalists Lenny Krayzelburg, Gary Hall Jr., Misty Hyman, Brooke Bennett and Tom Malchow are all hoping to have the opportunity to defend their titles in Athens.

Some of their toughest competition will be from their own USA teammates. Michael Phelps and Natalie Coughlin are gold medal threats across several events, and are also expected to contribute heavily to the relays. Aaron Peirsol , who won silver behind Krayzelburg in the 200m back in Sydney , has taken over as the favorite in both backstrokes.

Team captains Jenny Thompson and Lindsay Benko are hoping to make their fourth and second Olympic teams, respectively. Not only will they be key relay swimmers, but both are expected to represent the team and vie for medals in individual events as well. Krayzelburg, Bennett and Hyman have all struggled with shoulder problems since Sydney, but with just a few months to go, times in training are keeping these three confident that they can make the Olympic team once again. It would be the third trip for Bennett who has won the last two Olympic titles in the 800m free, as well as taking the 400m free in Sydney .

One of the biggest threats to Phelps' quest for seven gold medals comes from U.S. teammate Ian Crocker, who upset Phelps to win the 100m fly World title last summer in world record time. After a very successful NCAA Championship meet this year, Crocker will be riding a wave of confidence going into this summer. Phelps thrives on competition though, so expect both swimmers' levels to be raised even higher by this friendly rivalry.

Thompson is poised to add to her already impressive cache of Olympic medals this summer. The three-time Olympian and 10-time medalist took a significant amount of time off after Sydney . She started medical school at Columbia University , but missed swimming and started dabbling in it again just for fun.

Her "dabbling" soon had her back at top form as she not only made the 2002 Pan Pacific team but won gold in the 50m free. Amanda Beard made her first Olympic appearance as the 14-year-old darling of the 1996 Olympic Games. Eight years later she has grown into an accomplished young woman competing at the top of her field. Beard broke the 200m breast world record to win gold last summer at the World Championships, establishing herself as the favorite this summer in Athens .

All in all, the U.S. team is poised to send a very strong team to Athens this summer. As in 2000, the American athletes will face a heavy challenge from the Australian team as well as some great individual talent coming from countries such as Japan , Germany , Italy and more. To match their performance in Sydney , the U.S. team members will once again need to rise to the challenge, having the best swims of their career in the spotlight of the Olympic Games.

Information provided by USOC Press Box