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2011 FINA World Championships: The Hype for London Begins

2011 FINA World Championships: The Hype for London Begins

Only two world records were broken — both by men — but the most memorable takeaway from the 2011 FINA World Championships was the depth of talent on the U.S. women’s team.

The meet’s breakout star, 16-year-old Missy Franklin from Aurora, Co., won the 200m backstroke and anchored the 400m medley relay team's victory. She also won gold with the 800m freestyle relay squad, silver in the 400m freestyle relay and bronze in the 50m backstroke.

Elizabeth Beisel from the University of Florida captured her first individual world title in the 400 IM after she clocked in at 4:31.78. Rebecca Soni, the 2008 Olympic gold medalist in the 200m breaststroke, doubled her individual golds from three years ago, winning the 100m and 200m breaststroke.

The United States put a serious run together in the women's 400m medley relay, but came up just short of the world record. Natalie Coughlin, Soni, Dana Vollmer and Franklin moved the U.S. into second all-time with a 3:52.36. Only China has been faster with a world record of 3:52.19 from when China won the event at the 2009 World Championships.

Of special note, 2010 Travel & Training recipient Dagny Knutson was a member of the gold-medal-winning 800m freestyle relay. She joined teammates Franklin, Katie Hoff and Allison Schmitt as they cruised to a victory over silver medalists Australia.

What this Means for London
It’s certain the hype around the sport of swimming will begin to build as we move closer every day to the London Games. The enormous draw of Michael Phelps keeps the world’s eyes focused on the sport, but performances by the women could amount to be the most compelling stories. Look for big-time performances in London from veterans Coughlin and Soni, as well as from Katie Hoff. It will be interesting to watch Franklin, should she continue to perform as expected and make her first Olympic team. Will she falter under the glaring heat of Olympic lights? Or will she rise to the occasion as she did this past week?

The good news: One thing is abundantly clear after watching the Worlds for eight days: The U.S. is still the swimming superpower. American swimmers, men and women combined, won 29 medals in the pool, more than twice what China (14) and Australia (13) gathered. The 16 gold medals the U.S. won was more than three times China's total of five. So yes, American swimming is the best in the world right now.