OS ANGELES (AFP) – Missy Franklin has her sights set on eight events at swimming’s world championships in Barcelona as she heads a youthful U.S. team aiming to maintain American dominance despite Michael Phelps’s departure.
The Americans’ youth movement was already in evidence at the 2012 London Olympics, where Franklin’s five medals included four golds and then 15-year-old Katie Ledecky denied home hope Rebecca Adlington to win the 800m freestyle.
Franklin, now 18, set herself up for another strong international showing with world-leading times in the 100m and 200m backstrokes at the U.S. trials in June, where she also put herself among the world leaders in winning the 100m and 200m freestyles.
Franklin is also slated to swim the 50m backstroke and three relays, and left Indianapolis focused on getting even faster by the time she arrives in Barcelona.
Ledecky, now 16, won the 400m, 800m and 1500m freestyles at the U.S. trials and finished second to Franklin in the 200m free.
However, she opted out of the 200m to focus on the longer races in Barcelona.
Kevin Cordes, 19, is another youngster aiming to make a splash after winning both the 100m and 200m breaststroke at trials.
Cordes booked his ticket to his first major international long course meet, and US men’s coach Bob Bowman — who shepherded Phelps through his remarkable career — said he was “very excited” by Cordes’ potential.
“He’s really amazing,” Bowman said. “I can’t wait to see what he does.”
Bowman noted that Australian and French swimmers have posted impressive times already in this world championship season, but he said the USA remains “probably the team to beat”.
Bowman seemed confident that young talent will fill the void left by Phelps.
“They’re not Michael, but they’re still great,” he said.
National team director Frank Busch was also bullish, predicting that even without Phelps, the United states is “going to be very competitive in Barcelona”.
“I can’t predict how many medals we’re going to win, or how many races we’re going to win, lose, or be close on … every time you get some new people in you spread experience around that much more. For those athletes where this is their first go-around with it, it’s going to be awesome,” Busch said.
The newcomers will have plenty of proven champions to look to, including Olympic champions Ryan Lochte, Matt Grevers, Nathan Adrian, Tyler Clary and Natalie Coughlin.
Coughlin, a 12-time Olympic medallist, qualified for her sixth world championships with a victory in the 50m freestyle at the US trials.
“The year after the Olympics is definitely a transitional year for people,” Coughlin said. “I’m looking forward to meeting some of these new faces.”
Lochte won the 200m free, 200m back and 200m medley at the US trials and was second in the 100m butterfly.
He’ll swim the 100m fly for the first time in a major international meet, an experiment in a year in which he has admittedly slacked off on his famously fierce training schedule.
Lochte, who has enjoyed his post-Olympic celebrity with such amusements as a reality TV show about himself, says these worlds are a stepping stone to the 2016 Rio de Janeiro Olympics.
“The lack of training, it shows,” he said. “I’m not coming back as hard as I usually do, and I’m going to change that. The next three years, I’m going to go back to work. I need to. I’ll promise you this: I’ll be more committed in the next three years.”