Who can rival Michael Phelps?
Michael Phelps, the most decorated Olympian of all time with 22 gold medals spanning his four prior Olympic appearances, will swim three individual events at the 2016 Rio Games. Though unrivaled on the medal table, swimmers around the world have been closing the gap on his dominance of the 100m and 200m butterfly, plus the 200m individual medley.
He has the potential of adding up to three relays at the coaches’ discretion. Historically, Phelps has participated in all of the relays: the 4x100m medley, 4x100m freestyle and the 4x200m freestyle relays.
Let’s examine where Phelps stands in each individual event as he looks to ascend the podium at his last Olympics.
Phelps’ Olympic history in the event: Phelps won gold medals in 2004 and 2008, but was beat out by South Africa’s Chad le Clos by 0.05 seconds at the 2012 Games. Takeshi Matsuda earned a bronze.
2015 World Championships: Hungary’s Laszlo Cseh and le Clos won gold and silver, respectively, in a Phelps-less field. Phelps was serving the remainder of his USA Swimming-mandated DUI suspension and competed instead at Nationals, posting the fastest times in the world for 2015 in the event. The U.S.’ Tom Shields, who will also swim the event in Rio, was eighth.
World record: Phelps, 1:51.51, set at the 2009 World Championships
2016 top times: Cseh owns the world’s fastest time so far this year: He posted one minute, 52.91 seconds at the European Championships. Japan’s Daiya Seto (1:54.14) and Masato Sakai (1:54.21) sit in second and third, respectively, with le Clos (1:54.42) in fourth. Tamas Kenderesi of Hungary is No. 5 in the rankings with 1:54.79. Phelps’ 1:54.84, posted at the U.S. Olympic Trials, is good enough for sixth.
200m individual medley
Phelps’ Olympic history in the event: Michael Phelps owns three consecutive gold medals in the event (2004, 2008 and 2012) and could become the first-ever swimmer to four-peat in an event. Ryan Lochte has consistently finished on the podium with him and owns the previous four World titles and the world record. Cseh and Brazil’s Thiago Pereira have also been in the mix on the Olympic stage.
2015 World Championships: Lochte won his fourth consecutive World title at the 2015 edition of the event. Pereira claimed the silver, followed by China’s Wang Shun for bronze.
World record: Lochte, 1:54.00, set at the 2011 World Championships
2016 top times: Japan’s Kosuke Hagino, who missed Worlds in 2015 with a broken elbow, posted the top time in the world for 2016 at a competition in Japan in April: 1:55.07. Phelps and Lochte are second and third, respectively, with both of their times from Trials. Pereira is currently ranked No. 5 and Cseh is No. 11.
Phelps’ Olympic history in the event: Phelps owns three consecutive Olympic golds in the event (2004, 2008 and 2012) and could become the first-ever swimmer to four-peat in an event. He’s won gold in the event three times by a combined margin of 0.28 seconds. Phelps got revenge on le Clos at the 2012 Olympics, topping le Clos for gold after the 200m butterfly podium shakeup.
World record: Phelps, 49.82, set at the 2009 World Championships
2015 World Championships: Cseh and le Clos took gold and silver, respectively, ahead of Poland’s Jan Switkowski. Shields, who will also swim the event in Rio, was fourth. Phelps raced at Nationals instead of Worlds, and posted the fastest time on the planet for 2015.
2016 top times: Cseh owns the top time in the world entering Rio, 50.86 seconds, followed by Phelps’ 51.00 posted at Trials. Shields sits in third with his Trials time of 51.20. Three other U.S. men are also inside the top 10 – Seth Stubblefield, Jack Conger and Tim Phillips – but only the top two advance from Trials to the Olympics.
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