OMAHA, Neb. (AP) — Michael Phelps wondered whether the younger generation of swimmers is ready to fill his very large shoes. The 18-time Olympic champion is finding out that, yes, the new kids are all right.
He’ll be seeing several fresh faces on the U.S. team at next month’s Rio Games. Phelps was just 15 when he made the first of his five Olympic teams in 2000. Now he’s 31 and getting ready to hang up his suit for good after Rio.
With the trials halfway through, here are some of the Olympic newcomers in the pool:
The 23-year-old Stanford graduate from Santa Rosa, California, made her first and last Olympic team. After the games, she plans on retiring from the sport and starting a business analyst’s job waiting for her in Atlanta. She will swim the 400-meter individual medley in Rio. “I bring just a sense of calm, and because this is my last one, I feel I’ll help people appreciate what they’re doing and the opportunity they’ll get to have.”
The 19-year-old from Evansville, Indiana, has been rising over the past year. She broke the American record in the 100- and 200-yard breaststrokes while winning a pair of NCAA titles at Indiana University in March.
The 21-year-old swimmer from Glenview, Illinois, won NCAA titles in the 50 and 100 freestyles for Georgia in March. At 6-foot-2, Smoliga is one of the taller athletes on the women’s team. Her biggest previous international competition was the 2015 Pan Am Games, where she won silver in the 100 back. She’ll swim that event in Rio.
The 21-year-old senior-to-be at Louisville owns two NCAA titles in the 100 butterfly. She won three medals at last year’s Pan Am Games. She is the oldest of six siblings, all of whom swim. The resident of Westampton, New Jersey, is deeply religious and says she hopes to share her faith with her Olympic teammates.
The 21-year-old from Rockville, Maryland, won three medals at last year’s World University Games. He made the Olympic team in the 800 freestyle relay. Conger attends Texas and is on the same Nation’s Capital club team as Katie Ledecky.
Four years ago, he finished third in the 100 breaststroke at trials, missing the Olympic team by 43-hundredths of a second. The 22-year-old from Naperville, Illinois, broke the American record and swam the world’s second-fastest time this year in winning the 100 breast at trials.
He will be making his international debut in Rio. Haas won NCAA titles in the 200 and 500 freestyles in March for Texas. The 19-year-old from Richmond, Virginia, qualified for Rio in the 200 free and 800 free relay in his first trials.
The 22-year-old from Bel Aire, Maryland, is a protege of Phelps and shares his coach Bob Bowman. Now 22, Kalisz (KAY-lish) idolized Phelps as a youngster and used to pester him for autographs that he traded to get T-shirts from other swim teams. He qualified for Rio in the 400 IM, an event Phelps dominated for years but has since dropped. Kalisz’s winning time at trials is second-fastest in the world this year. He has plenty of international experience at worlds and Pan Pacific championships, and has been closely tutored by Phelps at their training base in Arizona.
The 20-year-old from Jacksonville, Florida, will swim the 100 backstroke in Rio. He has a pair of bronze medals in the event from the Pan Pacific Championships and Pan Am Games.
He just missed making the Olympic team four years ago, finishing third in the 100 backstroke. The 30-year-old from Oklahoma City was second this time. Like Phelps, he is the father of a newly born son. He’s competed at three world championships and made his first Olympic team on his third try.