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Olympic Swimming: What And When To Watch

All eyes in London will be on Michael Phelps and Ryan Lochte, but there are plenty of other interesting storylines from the pool as the Olympics begin.

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There are a total of 18 different medal events for swimming in the London Olympics. The US, as usual, is expected to make a strong showing. From one wannabe's perspective, here are the five must-see races (and they don't all involve Michael Phelps):

1) Men's 400 Individual Medley (Saturday, July 28): The 400 IM is the decathlon of swimming, and it's the headline event of the Lochte-Phelps rivalry. In the Omaha Trials, Lochte went 1-3 against Phelps. His only win? The 400 IM by .01 of a second.

2) Men's and Women's 200 Free (Men: Sunday, July 29, Women: Tuesday, July 31): The 200 Free is considered the "crown jewel" of swimming by Cooper Fitness Center Swim Coach Dirk Ebel since it is neither a sprint nor a long distance swim. It is one of those nearly impossible-to-pace yourself events which makes it an elusive and very difficult competition (for most mortals). Everything points to Ryan Lochte and Missy Franklin showcasing their phenomenal strength and power here.

3) Men's 50 Free (Friday, August 3): The 50 is the all-out sprint of swimming. This is all about lung power and raw strength which makes 31-year old Anthony Ervin's run all the more impressive. He won gold for this event at age 19 in Sydney before making an unlikely return in the Omaha Trials over a decade later. The other US competitor is Cullen Jones whose speed and athleticism also make him a strong contender.

4) Men And Women's 100 Breast (Men: Sunday, July 29; Women: Monday, July 30): The breaststroke is the slower than the free, butterfly and back, and it is distinctive for the frog kick which allows the swimmer to glide through the water. This is Branden Hansen's chance to redeem the gold promise he could not keep in Beijing. For the women, all eyes are on Breeja Larsen. Former Olympians like Emily Silver of UC California find Breeja amazing, since the Mesa, Arizona resident started swimming competitively just three years ago.

5) 100-Free, 200-Free, 400-Free and 100-Medley Relays (July 28-29, 31, Aug.1, Aug 4): Some of the most dramatic moments from Beijing came in the swimming relays, and they should be just as exciting in London. The Australian squad is favored for the 400 Free and the French team is also very strong. It will be all-adrenaline on deck!

Photographs by jamesbrandon, jdtornow, phlezk, flygraphix, mcdlttx, tomasland, and literalbarrage used in background montage under Creative Commons. Thank you.