Column by John Lohn, Swimming World senor writer
WASHINGTON, D.C., November 7. THE USA Swimming Grand Prix circuit gets under way in a few days with action kicking off in Minnesota. During a time when short-course action has been occupying most of the headlines, it will be satisfying to see some long-course competition in effect. Making the meet all the more entertaining is the fact that the psych sheets are loaded with premier talent, including an expected visit by several elite performers from France.
Coming off an appearance in World Cup competition, Michael Phelps headed to the United States Olympic Training Center for a few weeks of high-altitude training. Considering the way Phelps has historically performed following training in Colorado Springs, we can expect to see some strong efforts from the greatest swimmer in history. As Phelps prepares for his final Olympics, it will be interesting to see where he stands with 2012 just around the corner.
Phelps is scheduled to duel with Ryan Lochte in a handful of events, though nothing major is on the line. If history is any indication, we shouldn't expect a great deal from Lochte, whose heavy training load has often left him in less-than-stellar form at past Grand Prix events. Some other noteworthy things to follow:
**Having won a pair of national titles at the end of the summer, the comeback of Brendan Hansen will continue. The United States should be feeling good about the progress made by Hansen since he returned to action, for it strengthens the American arsenal in an event that has been weak.
**With her first world record secured in World Cup competition, Missy Franklin is embracing a full schedule in Minnesota. The new darling of American swimming, Franklin finished atop the Grand Prix standings a year ago and will be watched closely as London beckons. Look for Franklin to sizzle as always and highlight women's action.
**The woman who has defied age, Dara Torres is scheduled to race the 50 freestyle. Pushing for her sixth Olympic berth, Torres will provide a clue concerning her fitness and ability to repel the youngsters on her tail. Having undergone several surgeries since the Beijing Olympics, Torres hasn't been expected to wow. But with 2012 approaching, the time is getting closer for seeing what Torres has to offer.
**Wanted to get some discussion going on all-time finals, so during the next several months, we'll ask readers to put together historical eight-person championship finals in specific events. Fill out the field based on the greatest swimmers in history and post it in the comments section.
This Week: Men's and Women's 200 Freestyle.
The Lohn Lineup (Alphabetical order): Bruce Furniss; Michael Gross; Michael Phelps; Don Schollander; Mark Spitz; Ian Thorpe; Pieter van den Hoogenband; Johnny Weissmuller.
Not that any of these all-time lists are easy to compile, but this event is stacked in terms of talent. One tough part of the selection process is the fact that the 200 freestyle wasn't an Olympic event from 1904-64, leaving those competing in that timeframe without the opportunity of capturing a gold medal.
The Lohn Lineup (Alphabetical order): Shirley Babashoff; Dawn Fraser; Shane Gould; Ragnhild Hveger; Debbie Meyer; Federica Pellegrini; Franziska van Almsick; Cynthia Woodhead.
On the women's side, the 200 freestyle didn't become an Olympic event until 1968, leaving those such as Dawn Fraser out of contention for a gold medal in the event. Ragnhild Hveger's inclusion stems from her 18-year hold on the world record.
**Next week's high school state championship competition in Florida could produce some major fireworks in the form of Ryan Murphy and Lauren Driscoll, among others. Murphy is expected to be the top recruit in the Class of 2013, while Driscoll is bound for California. Look for the Bolles School boys to produce some impressive relays.
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