Pool master at the past four Olympics, Michael Phelps has been an iconic figure who has made it impossible for others to get his well-deserved recognition.
Phelps has retreated, leaving a huge void.
do not worry.
Even without Phelps, there’s a long list of bigwigs getting ready to dive into the $515 million Tokyo Aquatic Center.
Caleb Dressel, Katie Ledecky, Adam Petty, Ariarn Titmus, Katinka Hoszu and local idol Daya Seto stand out among the group of swimmers capable of taking center stage in the post-Phelps era.
“Of course losing Michael is a huge thing for this team, but we’ve been without him since 2016,” said American swimming star Lily King. “The results have always been good, so I don’t understand the fear that we won’t do well just because Michael is gone.”
King has taken it upon himself to heat up the bitter rivalry with Australia by launching a bold speculation for the American woman.
“I think women, if we reach our potential, we can take all the individual gold medals,” she said. “That would be amazing. No?”
Such bragging did not appeal to Australians, eager for revenge after the absence of individual gold medals at the 2016 Rio Olympics.
They gave notice with notable performances in the qualifying tournament, such as Kaylee McKeown’s world record set at 100 backstrokes.
But who shouldn’t lose track is Titmus, the 20-year-old with the nickname “Terminator”. She has asserted without apology that she is ready to challenge Ledecky’s imperial dominance in the freestyle races after notching her second best ever in the 200 and 400 freestyle races.
“You’re not going to take it all,” said Titus. “I can’t control it. If I do my best and put my stamp on gold, the race will be tough.”
Ledecky qualified to compete in four individual freestyle events – from 200 to 1500 metres – but his times in the US qualifying were not impressive.
“I’ve set huge goals for myself, and those are the important goals,” said Ledecky, who has won four gold and one silver at the previous Olympics.
The 24-year-old American proved to be the best male swimmer after Phelps retired.
Dressel has already advanced at the 2017 World Cup in Budapest, winning seven gold medals. He went on with six gold and two silver medals at the 2019 World Cup in South Korea, imitating Phelps the only swimmer to win eight medals in a high-profile international competition.
Dressel has qualified in three singles events, 50 and 100 free, as well as 100 Butterflies, and can be taken into account for four competitions. If he succeeds in all of them, he will fail to match Phelps’ famous record of eight gold medals at the 2008 Beijing Olympics.
Nothing is certain about the Olympics, but the truth is that it seems very difficult for someone to beat the British Betty.
He is the world record holder for the 100 breaststroke since 2015, and is the first swimmer to fall by 58 and 57 seconds. He is a three-time world champion and is defending his gold from the Rio Games.
Betty insists he has room to swim faster.
“I have a lot to learn, to know how to manage the rhythm,” he said in South Korea. “My motto has always been, do it once, do it twice, and do it better.”
The big question is not whether Petty will be able to take the individual gold, but whether he will be able to lead Britain to anger the American men in the 4×100 medley relay race.
The United States has never lost a Test since its debut on the Olympic program in 1960, but the Beatty-led quartet defeated the Americans at the last World Cup.
The Japanese team has many candidates for the podium.
Seto is the brave character after sweeping the men’s combined events in the past World Cup.
He also has what he proves after he was suspended for an extramarital affair, which led to his resignation as the captain of the national team and the termination of the contract with one of the sponsors.
The already massive Olympic program will be expanded with three new events in Tokyo.
Ledecky is pleased that the women will finally compete in the 1500 freestyle, a consistent test in the men’s program since 1908.
“We’re going to make history,” said Ledecky, the favorite for gold in the 30-lap race.
For their part, the men will compete in the 800 freestyle for the first time since 1904.
But the funniest test will be the 4×100 mixed relay. Each team will be able to hire two men and two women, with no restrictions on who gets the style. This makes it a chaotic race with a lot of strategy, and the only race where men and women face each other.
For the first time, a swimming event will bring together the last three Olympic champions.
The 200 winners will receive a Ledecky (2016 Champion); fellow countryman Alison Schmidt (London gold 2012); and Italy’s Federica Pellegrini (Queen of 2008), who still holds the world record for the era of the “rubber” suit.
Although there are many stars, Titmus is the favorite for her performance in the Australian Qualifiers.
Pellegrini, 32, will compete in his fifth and final Olympics. It’s the case of Schmidt, the eight-medal winner, who overcame depression issues to qualify for his fourth Olympic event at the age of 31.