Commentary By Pamela Roberts
Only a few days ago, I asked the question “Is there really an After Phelps” in a commentary. The comments I received on that got me thinking, especially one question in particular.
Who, if not Phelps, can get the headlines? If Phelps is not there to create the buzz who will?
It’s a thought that kept sticking with me so I came up with a Top Ten list of American and international swimmers whose talents could and should keep people talking.
10. Tom Luchsinger, USA
Seemingly coming out of nowhere, Tom Luchsinger qualified for the 200m butterfly for the 2013 World Championships, a race he finished 5th in Barcelona. He since joined the post-graduate programme of North Baltimore Aquatic Club (NBAC) under Coach Bowman who, as Phelps’ former coach, is without a doubt one of the best coaches in the country. During the Arena Grand Prix this weekend Luchsinger had also participated in other events, such as the 200y freestyle which he finished 18th. But his strengths undoubtedly lie in the butterfly, so he is definitely worth looking out for.
9. Anthony Ervin, USA
Anthony Ervin doesn’t seem to get older, but he most certainly gets better. He is looking back at a career that dates back to the year 2000 where he won gold at the 50m freestyle at the Sydney Olympics and silver as part of the 4x100m freestyle relay at the age of 19. He retired from the sport in 2003 and then disappeared from the scene until 2012, where he qualified for the London Olympics. Since then, the only way for Ervin is forward. At the world championships 2013 in Barcelona he posted a 21.42 in the semi-final of the 50m freestyle, a time that not only would have placed him second in the final (where he finished 5th), but was also a second faster than the time he swam in the same event at the World Championships in 2003, ten years earlier. Ervin’s story is inspiring and I’m sure he will only add to it in the years to come.
8. Katie Ledecky, USA
At the age of only 16 years, Katie Ledecky can already call one Olympic and three World Championship medals her own, all of which are gold. At the 2013 World Championships in Barcelona, she also not only cracked the world record in the 1500m freestyle, she pretty much obliterated the time set by Kate Ziegler in 2007 (15:42.54) by being six seconds faster and posting a time of 15:36.53. Keep in mind, she isn’t even out of High School yet. So I would imagine she will add her name to the list of world record holders a few more times in the coming years.
7. Natalie Coughlin, USA
Only one swimmer has more Olympic medals than Natalie Coughlin — Michael Phelps. That makes her the most decorated Olympic swimmer who is currently active, which alone should get her into the headlines of the sport. She was captain of Team USA at the World Championships in 2013 and won gold as part of the extraordinary women’s 4×100 freestyle relay. She can call a total of 49 international medals (Olympic, World Championships and Pan Pacific Championships) and she doesn’t seem to be done just yet.
6. Missy Franklin, USA
There is nothing I can say about Missy Franklin that hasn’t been said yet. Always smiling and happy and full of positive attitude she cruises from one win to the other. She has won a total of 16 medals at Olympic Games and World Championships and holds both short and long course world records in the 200m backstroke and the American records in the long course 100m and 200m backstroke. Having started her collegiate career at the University of California this year, I think it’s almost certain that she will add several NCAA titles to her resume and also continue to add to her international medals.
5. Yannick Agnel, France
We all saw multiple times what Yannick Agnel is capable of once he gets going. He was the anchor of the French 4x100m freestyle relay that snatched the gold medal away from the American team at the 2012 London Olympics. The way accelerates towards the end of a swim has landed him on the top spot of the podium of international events (Olympic, World and European Championships) 16 times. In 2013 he joined North Baltimore Aquatics to train under Bob Bowman, Michael Phelps’ former coach and during the past weekend, he competed at the Grand Prix in Minneapolis in freestyle and butterfly events. He won the 200y freestyle in a time of 1:31.90 which was his first win in a yard-pool in his first Grand Prix race. And as long as he continues to train under Bowman, he is probably only going to get better.
4. Katinka Hosszu, Hungary
If there is one surprise about the Hungarian Iron Lady, it is probably that she is yet without an Olympic medal. However, she can call 25 medals from World and European Championships her own and during the 2013 World Cup, she managed to score a jaw dropping 55 medals. It was safe to say that when she got on the blocks, she ended up on the podium. On top of that, she also set several new world records. At the World Cup stop in Eindhoven, Netherlands she set the world records in the 100m and 200m IM during prelims, only to break them again in finals and just a few days later, she again beat the 100m IM world record and set a new one in the 400m IM. So over all, no one should write her off in the future as she is most likely only going to get faster.
3. Chad Le Clos, South Africa
Le Clos already proved that he can match up to Phelps when he beat him at the 200m butterfly at the London Olympics and it seems that after Phelps retirement, he is going to be the butterfly swimmer to beat. He won the double consisting of 100m and 200m butterfly and then went on to become the male winner of the World Cup tour with a total of 35 medals, 24 of which gold. He also set a world record in the 200m butterfly at the World Cup stop in Eindhoven, Netherlands only to beat his own time later on in Singapore, being the first man to remain under 1:49 by posting a time of 1:48.56. During the World Cup, he also swam both the 200m IM and 400m IM, two events we have also seen Phelps swim, so I would imagine Chad Le Clos will be hard to ignore in the future.
2. Ryan Lochte, USA
It would be foolish to not add Ryan Lochte to this list. He was Phelps’ main competitor over the past years and he is arguably the best overall swimmer in the world. He currently has won a total of 74 (yes, SEVENTY-FOUR) medals at Olympic Games, World Championships, Pan American Games and Pan Pacific Championships and holds the world records in the 100m IM (short course), 200m IM (long course) and 400m IM (short course). Right now, he is forced to sit back due to an injury, but this would not be the first time, Lochte comes out of a break stronger than expected. He is unpredictable and that is probably his biggest strength and the one thing that sets him apart from many others. No one knows what he is going to do. After filming his reality show for a big chunk of early 2013, he missed a lot of training and many doubted that he was going to be successful at the World Championships last summer. Lochte then ended winning a total of four medals, three of which gold, that made him one of the most successful male swimmers of the tournament. So even though no one really knows what Ryan Lochte will be capable of after his injury, writing him off would be a big mistake.
1. Conor Dwyer, USA
I think if there is one name that should remain on everyone’s radar, it is Conor Dwyer. After winning his first Olympic gold 2012 as part of the 4x200m free relay, it seems that the only way for Dwyer is up. Same as Luchsinger and Agnel, Conor Dwyer also made the move to Baltimore to train under Bob Bowman at North Baltimore. And while he was good before, Dwyer is really good now. He lives with Phelps and trains with Agnel with a coach like Bob Bowman and it appears that this might be a winning combination. Dwyer and Agnel already battled each other during the World Championships 2013, both in the first leg of the 4x200m free relay and in the 200m freestyle and their times have always been within a second of each other, with Agnel having the upper hand. Same also happened at the Grand Prix in Minneapolis, until they both went into the water for the 500y freestyle and Dwyer beat Agnel in a neck-to-neck race, posting a time of 4:10.60, the ninth fastest time in history. Dwyer also ventured out into the breaststroke and the IM so all signs are leading towards him not only becoming one of the best, but also one of the most versatile swimmers in the country.
And these are only the Top 10. As I was gathering names for this list, it was even longer. Of course we cannot forget Tom Shields and Eugene Godsoe, two very good butterfly swimmers. Then there are Jimmy Feigen and Nathan Adrian, who will surely have one or the other close race against each other on the 100m freestyle. And, on international level there is breaststroke teen sensation Ruta Meilutyte and new world record holder Yulia Efimova. The Sizzling Siberian Vlad Morozov can never be written off, same as Australia’s James Magnussen. And of course there is also Chinese superswimmer Sun Yang and the Hungarian Laszlo Czeh who often came short to Michael Phelps and Ryan Lochte.
So the way I see it, the swimming community really has nothing to worry about. Should Michael Phelps not return, there are plenty of others who are deserving and capable to carry on. And should Phelps really do a comeback, there sure will be a lot of exciting races to look forward to.