The Changing of the Guard

Photo Courtesy: Peter H. Bick

By Sarah Lloyd, Swimming World College Intern

As I watched the Olympic Trials on live broadcast last week, I couldn’t help but feel a strange sense that everything was about to change. And after watching Missy Franklin and Natalie Coughlin finish at the back of the pack in the final of the 100 backstroke, that weird sense that I had was confirmed–the guard of United States Olympic Swimming was changing.

A Select Few


Photo Courtesy: Peter H. Bick

When the Olympic Team roster was announced on Sunday night after the completion of the men’s 1500 freestyle, just 47 swimmers remained after all was said and done. 22 women and 25 men stood to be recognized as the United States Olympic Swim Team that was heading to Rio. Of those 45 members, only 14 were returning Olympians–eight women and six men.

With the overwhelming majority of the team being first-time Olympians, the Games are going to look very different from four years ago in terms of experience. In 2012, 11 men on the 24-man roster were returning Olympians, while nine women on the 25-woman roster were returners. And while the numbers for 2016 don’t seem like a significant drop, consider that the returning swimmers in 2012 had an average of over two previous Games under their belts. The Rio average is just over one Games. That’s a lot of young swimmers.

Young Stars


Photo Courtesy: Peter H. Bick

Among the newcomers named to the Olympic Team, very few surprised the swimming world. Collegiate standouts like Townley HaasSimone Manuel, Kelsi Worrell, and Caeleb Dressel all rocketed their way to spots of the team after dazzling everyone with their star-studded accomplishments in the short course pool. Others, like Maya DiRado and Gunnar Bentz had already been on the U.S. National Team for 2016.

All of the newbies on the team deservingly earned their spots– most of them swimming lifetime bests to get onto the team. And while no one shot out of the unknown like Katie Ledecky did in 2012, these Olympic berths were just as exciting to watch.

Gracefully Bowing Out


Photo Courtesy: Peter H. Bick

While watching the excitement and utter disbelief on the faces of those who had just qualified for their first Olympic team, I couldn’t help by shift my glance to those veterans who had just missed out. While clearly disappointed, they handled the defeat with enviable grace and resilience that can only come with years.

Some, like Natalie Coughlin, Matt Grevers and Cullen Jones, gracefully accepted that they would not be returning to the Olympics, but did not make any announcement that suggested that they were done with swimming as a whole. Others, more poignantly, announced complete retirement after falling short of the top-two.

Tyler Clary and Jessica Hardy‘s touching retirements from the sport hammered home the emotional rollercoaster that veterans felt as they watched the new generation of swimmers rightfully take their places on the Olympic roster. They emphasized the importance of family and the fact that life goes on after swimming ends– something that we can all take care to remember.

A Different Team


Photo Courtesy: Peter H. Bick

While the team may look very different than it has the past two Olympic cycles, there is no shortage of talent going into Rio. Both teams show incredible depth with a healthy mix of experience and fresh eyes that will prove to be a dynamic storm that the rest of the world can only attempt to quell. What we, as spectators and fans, can take away from this new team is a fresh look on the sport we love so much and a graceful acceptance that the guard of United States Swimming has changed– and that’s not a bad thing.

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7 years ago

Ummmm someone forget Abbey as a newcomer star? She only won 2 events!!

7 years ago

Agree with Gil. I see this article is written by an “intern” but that is no excuse for publishing an article that blatantly overlooks the fastest female American swimmer, Abbey Weitzeil who will swim 4 events in Rio. She’s even in the picture at the top of the article, but you failed to mention her at all. While mentioning accomplishments of others in short course, you forgot to report that Abbey holds the American record in the 50 yard freestyle, making her faster than any collegiate swimmer in history.

With the Olympics just a few weeks away, you’re going to need to be better than this Swimming World.

7 years ago
Reply to  Rico

I think you are being a bit too aggressive on the “intern.” I am happy that Swimming World has provided swimmers with the opportunity to develop as writers and researchers. For the most part, the articles written by all of the interns have been well-received and compelling; plus, they have focused on elements of the sport that may have been overlooked otherwise (I appreciated the article on diving).

Sure, she forgot to include Abbey Weitzeil; however, she did write an article that covered many different components of the changing nature of our sport. Perhaps she chose to omit Weitzeil since she had already medaled in an international long course competition (though I guess that would also exclude many others on her list). Or maybe she just didn’t want to create a long list of names and instead wanted to focus on the themes she noticed.

Great job, Sarah. Keep up the good work.

7 years ago

I’m glad that some of the younger swimmers broke through to make the Olympic Team.

They had to swim really well to topple the veterans, who already had many Olympic and World Championships medals.

It’s good when the medals get spread around and not always won by the same people.

7 years ago

Love the comments at the end by Gil and Rico, my thoughts exactly!!!


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