USA Swimming director: 2012 team could be best

ERIC OLSON AP Sports Writer Published:

OMAHA, Neb. (AP) -- The national team director for USA Swimming thinks the Americans have enough experience and speed going into the London Olympics to eclipse the 31 medals won in Beijing four years ago.

"Everybody in the rest of the world is going to try to make that difficult," Frank Busch said Thursday. "From our perspective, we wouldn't be looking at this thing any differently than we want this to be the best Olympics ever. We have the potential to have the best Olympic team we've ever had."

Busch was in Omaha to promote ticket sales for the U.S. Olympic Trials, which will be held June 25 to July 2 at the CenturyLink Center. The trials probably will mark the last appearance for Michael Phelps, who has said he plans to retire after London.

Phelps, who won a record eight gold medals in Beijing and has a total of 16 medals, needs three more of any kind to become the most decorated Olympian in any sport.

Ryan Lochte, who is coming off two wins over Phelps at the World Championships and won five golds and one bronze at the meet, has the best chance of supplanting Phelps as the dominant U.S. male swimmer. He could try to one-up Phelps and go for nine golds in London, though Busch said he isn't sure if Lochte is capable of such a feat.

"I'm not sure if Ryan is quite that good in all the various events," Busch said. "I'd be the last person to stand in his way. He's very determined and has trained extremely well to prepare himself for this moment in time. There'll be great races with Michael. They don't get consumed with a rivalry. They're consumed with, 'How do I get to my very, very best?' and 'Whatever that gets me it gets me."

Phelps said he wasn't in his best shape when he won four golds and seven total medals at the World Championships last summer. Busch said Phelps is training well and seems to be enjoying the sport as much as ever.

Busch said Nathan Adrian, a 2008 double gold medalist in the 400-meter freestyle relay and 400 medley relay, will have a larger role in London. Other swimmers to watch are Matt Grevers, Brendan Hansen, Eric Shanteau and 18-year-old Kevin Cordes, who set an American record in the 100 breaststroke while competing for Arizona at the NCAA championships.

Missy Franklin, who turns 17 in May, will be in the spotlight on the women's side after winning five medals at the World Championships, including three golds.

Busch said he believes Franklin will have no problem performing under pressure at the Trials.

"She went to the World Championships, which is the second-biggest stage, and performed well there," he said. "You can see her enthusiasm and her true enjoyment of what she's doing."

For all Phelps has done for the swimming, Busch said, Franklin has the type of personality that could make her the new face of the sport.

"We've got new blood," Busch said. "The average age on our men's team is 23 and it's 22 for women. Where does a 16-year-old fit into that equation? Plus, her personality is accommodating and as bubbly and as positive and as infectious as we've ever had."

Busch said women to watch are Caitlin Leverenz, who won two individual titles and four overall for California at this month's NCAA championships; Allison Schmitt, who was on the 2008 Olympic team and has been training particularly well lately; and Megan Romano, who set a U.S. and NCAA record in the 200-yard freestyle at the NCAA meet.

Then there's Dara Torres, who turns 45 next month and is trying to become the first six-time Olympian. Her best chance to make the team is in the 50-meter freestyle.

"She may be the most competitive person out there," Busch said. "I would never say never to her."