Records have been broken with abandon during the 2012 London Olympics. Perhaps the biggest record that fell was in the category of the most medals ever won by a single Olympian. American swimmer Michael Phelps accrued an amazing 22 overall medals, 18 of them gold, over the past three Games.
Some critics claim his accomplishment is unbeatable, but I don’t agree. Three swimmers who competed in London have the potential dethrone Phelps by the end of their swimming careers.
American swimmer Missy Franklin
By qualifying for seven Olympic events at the London Games, Missy Franklin is already being called the next Michael Phelps. She has already surpassed Phelps’ accomplishments at his first Olympics.
The Sydney Games in 2000 hosted Phelps’ inaugural Olympic swims. He was only 15, two years younger than Franklin, but did not medal in those Games.
In her first Games Franklin has already garnered four medals, three of them gold. She also broke the world record in the 200 meter backstroke. With such a solid performance at such a young age, Franklin has shown she has the speed to beat Phelps’s records.
Franklin didn’t perform as well in her freestyle events, placing 4th and 5th respectively in the 200 meter and 100 meter finals. Though she didn’t medal, she was close and that says a lot about her future. As she matures in the pool she’ll build the diversity needed to conquer those events.
Because she is so young, Franklin has the ability to swim in at least three more Olympics after the London Games. If her winning steak continues, she has a very real chance to unseat Phelps as the most medaled Olympian.
China‘s Ye Shiwen
Another young swimmer who made her mark in London was 15-year-old Ye Shiwen. She shattered the world record in the 400 meter individual medley, overtaking Elizabeth Beisel in the last 50 meters. Shiwen is currently an IM specialist, but that could work in her favor in years to come.
Swimming the IM means that Shiwen has a solid foundation in all the competition strokes. Her freestyle is already phenomenal. If she spends the next few years speeding up her other stroke times, she could be just as well-rounded as Franklin.
Like Franklin, Shiwen has a long Olympic career ahead of her. With hard work and some stroke diversification she could come up on Phelps’ record by the time she retires.
Three-Time Olympian Ryan Lochte
Lochte is a long shot compared to Franklin and Shiwen, but he shouldn’t be counted out quite yet. The American has already won eleven medals spanning across three Olympics. Phelps and Lochte split gold medals in the men’s IM events in London, Lochte winning the 400 meter event while Phelps took the 200 meter win.
Lochte has the same stroke diversity as Phelps as well. He qualified for six events in London, just one less than Phelps. At 28 years old, Lochte still has at least one more Olympic showing in his future, maybe two. It is unlikely he can match Phelps medal for medal, but with time and training he just might get to 22.