Bold Predictions for 2016 Rio Olympics

Column by John Lohn

GILLETTE, New Jersey, August 20. WHO'S suffering from Olympic withdrawal? Don't worry, it's a normal sensation following each Olympiad and will subside sooner or later. But as temporary relief for the craving of elite action, which is what we saw conclude two weeks ago, let's look ahead to the possibilities for the 2016 Games in Rio de Janeiro.

While some offerings will be provided here, we're also anxious to see what our readership forecasts for the next Olympiad, and what developments are envisioned over the next 1,400-plus days. Oh, and feel free to be creative.

**Already the owner of five Olympic medals, including four of the gold variety, Missy Franklin is the star of the next Olympiad. She medals in all seven of her events, raising her career total to a record-equaling 12. Oh, and she's only 21 years old. While Franklin repeats in the 100 and 200 backstroke events, she also prevails in the 100 freestyle, her increased strength and power boosting her from a fifth-place effort in London.

**Affirming his status as the premier freestyler in the world, China's Sun Yang doesn't just repeat as Olympic champion in the 400 and 1500 freestyles. He also defeats the opposition in the 200 freestyle, improving on his shared silver medal from the London Games. Sun becomes the first individual to win all three events in an Olympiad.

**Michael Phelps is present in Rio de Janeiro, but he's not there for competitive purposes. While there is belief in many corners that Phelps will make a comeback in time for the next Olympiad, I don't see it happening. There is nothing left to prove, so Phelps' appearance in Brazil will be linked to corporate obligations and being an ambassador as the greatest Olympian in history.

**Teenage star Katie Ledecky, only 19, doesn't defend her gold medal in the 800 freestyle. However, it is by no fault of her own, as Ledecky doesn't get the chance. Instead, Ledecky wins the inaugural women's 1500 freestyle, which has replaced the 800 free on the schedule and brought the male and female programs into harmony.

**In a scenario reminiscent of Anthony Nesty winning the 100 butterfly for Suriname at the 1988 Games in Seoul, an athlete from a less-known nation — one which never earned swimming gold previously — captures a medal. Who will that be? Not sure. However, it was a pleasant surprise and positive for the sport to see Cuba, Jamaica and the Bahamas place athletes in championship finals in London. The next natural progression is a medal for one of those nations.

**For the sixth consecutive Olympiad, the gold medal in the men's 200 backstroke goes to an American. And for the sixth straight Games, it is a different member of Team USA. This time, the gold medal is draped around the neck of Ryan Murphy, the rising star from the Bolles School who had impressive showings at the 2012 U.S. Olympic Trials. Murphy seems poised to break onto the international scene in the near future, and will be a medal factor at the 2015 World Championships, setting the stage for his Olympic exploits a year later.

**The star of the Rio de Janeiro Games will be South African Chad Le Clos, the guy who upset Michael Phelps to win the 200 butterfly in London. Le Clos will only be 24 in 2016 and will factor into the medal equation in both butterfly events, along with the 200 individual medley and 400 individual medley. More, he is capable of making an impact in the 200 freestyle. If that sounds like a Phelpsian slate, that would be an accurate assessment. Yet, Le Clos has the talent to entertain such a program.

**All right, it's your turn. Let's hear some predictions for the next Olympiad. It will help us cope with the withdrawal.

Follow John Lohn on Twitter: @JohnLohn