ATHENS, Georgia, July 3. THOUGH Michael Phelps and Ryan Lochte took the early headlines for next week’s Athens Bulldog Grand Slam, the Olympic stars won’t be the only major names lining up in what is likely to be a preview of next month’s national championships.
Phelps has so many notable teammates at North Baltimore that listing just a few here would do a disservice to the ones left out. But they are all going to Athens for the opportunity to get in more racing before heading to southern California for nationals. This will be another opportunity for Phelps to determine what he’ll swim at nationals as he returns to the sport saying the 200 fly and 400 IM are definitely out of his program. He’s entered in the 100 fly, 100 back and 100 free. The 100 back is new not just for his comeback program but for his career program. Outside of a world record chase at the 2007 nationals, Phelps has largely stayed away from the 100 back.
This meet will be Lochte’s first since withdrawing early from the Mesa stop of the Arena Grand Prix in April and withdrawing altogether from the Charlotte meet. In typical Lochte fashion, he’s entered in seven events: 100 free, 200 free, 400 free, 100 fly, 100 back, 200 back, 200 IM. The 200 IM will be Lochte’s biggest test as he continues to recover from the knee injury he sustained last November and aggravated in early May.
Another member of the SwimMAC Carolina elite squad to watch next week will be Nick Thoman. The Olympic silver medalist in the 100 back has not raced since dislocating his shoulder in February. Thoman took a break from the sport in 2013, thereby missing last year’s world championships, but should be a factor in August if shoulder recovery has gone well.
Club Wolverine is also making the trip south for the meet. The postgrad distance freestyle squad, led by world champs bronze medalist Connor Jaeger, will be in force. Also watch for a few rising teenage stars, including junior world champions Caeleb Dressel and Gunnar Bentz.