Olympic Swimmers to Watch
Michael Phelps (U.S.)
In 2004, then 19-year-old Michael Phelps had a chance to beat Mark Spitz's record of seven gold medals in a single Olympics. Though he didn't quite make Spitz's mark, Phelps did accrue eight medals overall -- six gold -- in Athens to tie the record for most at a single Olympics. This year, Phelps tries again to pass Spitz by competing in eight events in Beijing.
Dara Torres (U.S.)
By now, most seem to know who Torres is. At 41, she will be the first U.S. swimmer to compete in five Olympics (1984, 1988, 1992, 2000, 2008) when she strives for gold in the 50-meter freestyle, 4x100 medley relay and 4x100 freestyle relay. Already the owner of nine Olympic medals, Torres turned heads at the Olympic Trials when she twice broke her own American record in the 50-meter freestyle -- a record she first set at age 15.
Grant Hackett (Australia)
In short, Hackett owns the 1,500-meter freestyle. The two-time defending Olympic champion is the only swimmer to win an event four times at the world championships.
Libby Trickett (Australia)
Trickett owns five world records, two of which are in the long course. But, the more impressive number is her career medal tally from the Olympics and world championships: 26.
Ryan Lochte (U.S.)
Though teammates, Lochte and Phelps are keen rivals. In Athens, Lochte finished second to "you know who" in the 200-meter IM. At the U.S. Olympic Trials, Lochte broke the world record in the event ... but Phelps won, thereby setting the official mark. In Beijing, though, Lochte could easily be the difference-maker in Phelps quest for eight golds. Competing against his teammate in the 200- and 400-meter IMs, Lochte has the ability to derail Phelps' gold run.
Natalie Coughlin (U.S.)
The world record-holder in the 100-meter backstroke, which she set at the Olympic trials, Coughlin is the only woman to finish the event in less than 59 seconds. At the 2004 Games, Coughlin won five medals, with golds coming in, of course, the 100-meter backstroke, as well as the 4x200-meter freestyle relay.
Eamon Sullivan (Australia)
Just four days after Alain Bernard set the world mark in the 50-meter freestyle, Sullivan lowered it with a time of 21.28 seconds. But, this was the second time Sullivan set the record. In March 2008, he broke Alexander Popov's record, which was set in 2000.
Katie Hoff (U.S.)
At just 19 years old, Hoff owns six world championship gold medals and is the current world-record holder in the women's 400-meter individual medley after breaking Australian swimmer Stephanie Rice's previous mark at the U.S. Olympic Trials this year.
Aaron Peirsol (U.S.)
Like Hackett dominates the 1,500, Peirsol owns the backstroke events. At the 2004 Olympics, he won both the 100- and 200-meters for the U.S. At the 2007 world championships, he set the 100-meter backstroke record with a time of 52.98, making him the first man to complete the event in less than 53 seconds.
Stephanie Rice (Australia)
Rice, 20, set the 200 and 400 IM world records in March and is seeking gold in both events in Beijing. Alongside ex-boyfriend and fellow Australian team member Eamon Sullivan -- who broke the 50-free world mark in March -- the two comprise the fastest couple at the Olympics.
Alain Bernard (France)
Known as the "Horse" because of his weightlifter's physique, Bernard has yet to win an Olympic medal. He will take his shot in the 50- and 100-meter freestyles. He owns the world record in the 100, with a time of 47.50.
Leisel Jones (Australia)
At just 15, Jones competed in her first Olympics in Sydney, capturing two silver medals (100-meter breaststroke and 4x100-meter relay). At the Athens Games, she won bronze in the 100, silver in the 200-meter breaststroke and gold in the 4x100. Now in her third go-round, Jones is determined to win her first gold in the 100-meter breaststroke.
Kosuke Kitajima (Japan)
The defending Olympic gold medalist in the 100- and 200-meter breaststroke, Kitajima also holds the world record in the 200 with a time of 2:07.51. Known for his enthusiasm and Japanese one-liner, which, translated, means "I feel mega good," Kitajima is sure to let out his signature scream if he wins in Beijing.
Jessica Schipper (Australia)
The world record-holder in the 200-meter butterfly, Schipper is also a recipient of the Order of Australia Medal, which she won in 2005. With an additional 12 world championship medals, including eight gold, Schipper enters Beijing as the favorite in the 100- and 200-meter butterfly.
Park Tae Hwan (South Korea)
Park has already beaten Australian rival Grant Hackett. In 2006, the South Korean was named the 2006 Pacific Rim Male Swimmer of the Year by World Swimming Magazine, edging out the '05 honoree Hackett. Park's seven medals at the Asian Games that year may have had something to do with it.
Kirsty Coventry (Zimbabwe)
At the 2004 Olympics, Coventry won three medals: bronze in the 200-meter individual medley, silver in the 100-meter backstroke and gold in the 200-meter backstroke. She is fittingly called "a golden girl" in Zimbabwe, as she owns all of the country's individual medals.