FINA World Championships, Swimming: Let the Hype Begin for London

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Column by John Lohn, Swimming World senior writer

SHANGHAI, China, July 31. THE eight-day show that has played at the Oriental Sports Center's Indoor Stadium will wrap tonight and attention will shift to a year down the road. Much of the talk surrounding the sport will focus on the 2012 Olympic Games in London and the storylines that will unfold in front of the world.

Is anyone more excited than the head honchos at NBC Sports? I can't imagine. The powers at the Peacock network, which always does a sensational job broadcasting the Olympic Games, are probably already thinking up promotional pieces to hype the impending duel between Michael Phelps and Ryan Lochte. Unquestionably, that matchup will be the story of the London Games, regardless of Usain Bolt.

Meanwhile, NBC must also love the emergence of Missy Franklin as a superstar. The rise of the 16-year-old will give producers the chance to hype another American on the female side, much as has been done with Natalie Coughlin in the past. Franklin has the potential to medal in seven events in London, which might sound like we're getting ahead of ourselves. However, she'll be a key cog on all three American relays and could qualify in the 100 and 200 freestyles, along with the 100 and 200 backstroke events.

Internationally, the London Olympics should prove to be the coming-out-party for Australian James Magnussen in terms of everyday sports fans. With his leadoff leg on the triumphant 400 freestyle relay and victory in the 100 freestyle, Magnussen is now viewed by fans in his sport as the next big thing in the freestyle. There's talk of Magnussen adding the 200 free to his schedule, which would only enhance his status.

As always, Olympic years bring an extra level of excitement to the sport. First, there are the various trials from around the world. Then, there's the spectacle itself. So, sit back and enjoy the year ahead. It's going to be a blast.

**So much for France in the 400 medley relay. A 54.02 butterfly leg by Florent Manaudou crushed the Frenchmen and left them in ninth place in the preliminaries, one slot out of the championship final. This is an example of playing with fire in the morning session and getting burned.

**The women's 400 IM looks to be wide open, although American Elizabeth Beisel led qualifying with a time of 4:34.95. The swimmer to keep an eye on is China's Ye Shiwen, the gold medalist in the 200 IM earlier in the meet. Ye grabbed the last qualifying berth for the championship final, but will be a factor for the title.

**At the 2008 Olympics, he won three silver medals behind Michael Phelps. He's also been a fixture on the podium in the individual medley events through the years. Laszlo Cseh, though, turned in a poor showing in Shanghai. Although he earned the bronze medal in the 200 individual medley, he failed to advance to the final of the 200 butterfly or the 400 IM, where he was 22nd.

Cseh looked tremendous during the summer tuneup meets, especially during the Mare Nostrum Series. Clearly, he peaked too early. It will be interesting to see how Cseh responds and whether he can get himself back into the condition we're used to seeing for London.

**Question of the Morning: What would you do with the backstroke leg on the United States' men's 400 medley relay? Thoman, Plummer or give Lochte a shot?

**The last night of championship finals will feature seven events, including several over the 50-meter distance. The United States will be trying for a gold-silver finish in the 50 breaststroke from the tandem of Rebecca Soni and Jessica Hardy. Meanwhile, the pure-speed Hardy has her sights on a medal in the 50 freestyle as well.

**The organizing committee of these 14th FINA World Championships did a splendid job with the event and the facilities have been nothing short of top flight. Each morning and evening, the crowd has voiced its excitement in a big way. There's no reason why FINA shouldn't come back to Shanghai at some point down the road.

Follow John Lohn on Twitter: @JohnLohn