Kevin Cordes, Lilly King and Townley Haas are among the rising stars in U.S. swimming
A new crop of great American swimmers shined at the U.S. Olympic trials in Omaha, Nebraska, this week. Veterans like Ryan Lochte, Michael Phelps and Missy Franklin were surprised by a series of fresh faces who gave the London Olympics stars a run (swim?) for their money.
Among them is 19-year-old Lilly King, who won the 100-meter breaststroke – besting 2012 Olympian Breeja Larson and Jessica Hardy (who holds the American record in this race).
“It’s scary for us veterans, but it’s really wonderful to see,” said Hardy, who placed sixth, per the Associated Press.
King, a swimmer for Indiana University, said afterwards at a press conference that it’s “nice to have new faces represent USA Swimming.”
“It’s super exciting, kind of a changing of the guard this time around!” she added.
As the U.S. trials continue through Sunday, here are a few of the Team USA newcomers making waves as the Rio Games approach.
The 19-year-old Richmond, Virginia, native won the men’s 200-meter freestyle by .01 seconds, securing a spot on the 2016 Olympic team. “I’m still a little in shock,” the athlete, who swims for the University of Texas, told reporters after the race. This is the teenager’s first Olympic trials, although he won NCAA titles in the 200 freestyle and 500 freestyle.
Cordes, 22, didn’t make the Olympic team in 2012 – by 43-hundedths of a second. Last year he moved to Singapore to train with Sergio Lopez, the head coach of Singapore Swimming. His astounding performance at the Olympic trials – he came seriously close to beating the 200 breaststroke world record – has officials pegging him as the one to watch at the Rio Games.
King broke the U.S. record for the 100 breaststroke and 200 breaststroke in March. On Tuesday, she won the women’s 100 breaststroke race with a noteworthy time of 1:05.20. “It’s sad to see those faces go in so many events, but it’s also nice to see the newcomers come up,” King said of the new swimmers making headlines at the Olympic trials.
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The former Indiana University swimmer, 24, was diagnosed with a condition called Pectus Excavatum (known as sunk-in chest) at an early age, and started swimming to help monitor his heart and breathing and to develop his rib cage. He’s loved being in the water ever since. On Monday night he finished second in the men’s 100 breaststroke behind Kevin Cordes. “I got the job done, got on the team and just trying to soak it in right now. It’s very surreal,” he said after the race.
Smoliga ousted Olympic veterans Missy Franklin and Natalie Coughlin in the 100 backstroke on Tuesday night at the trials with a time of 59.02. Franklin clocked in at 1:00.24, taking seventh place, and Coughlin’s time of 1:00:48 put her in eighth. “It’s like this new wave of people that are coming in!” Smoliga said.
To learn more about all Olympic hopefuls, visit teamusa.org. The Rio Olympics begin Aug. 5.