From Michael Phelps' last race to Australia's charging comback as a swimming powerhouse to new countries aiming for the top of the medal table, here are the top five swimming stories to watch at the 2016 Rio Olympics.Michael Phelps’ last hurrah (again)Michael Phelps made it clear that the 2012 London Olympics would be his last – except they aren’t, and he’s back for Rio to add to his incredible record tally: 18 golds, two silvers and two bronzes. While he’s never publicly stated his goals, he has said it would be nice to get a best time (which would mean beating existing world records) before he retires for good. Also new for Phelps in Rio will be his fiancée Nicole Johnson joining him with their newborn son Boomer.
Katie Ledecky wants to dominate more than distance freestyleSince winning Olympic gold in the 800m freestyle as the youngest member of the entire U.S. delegation in London, Katie Ledecky has been undefeated in major competition. She even swept the 200m, 400m, 800m and 1500m (a non-Olympic event for women) at the 2015 World Championship. The feat was deemed the “Ledecky Slam” and she was named the Female Swimmer of the Meet. She’s entered in the 200m, 400m and 800m for Rio and is expected to swim on at least one relay, setting her up for a slew of gold medals in Rio.
Australia’s comebackAustralian swimmers collected only 10 medals in London, and none were individual golds. While no one on the team will publicly predict a total number of medals for Rio, look for the team to bounce back and be more aggressive than ever. Sprint star Cam McEvoy leads alongside sisters Cate and Bronte Campbell plus backstroke double world champions Mitch Larkin and Emily Seebohm, who both won the 100m and 200m backstrokes at the 2015 World Championships.
Hungary for moreHungary is an understated swimming powerhouse, headlined by Laszlo Cseh and Katinka Hosszu. Cseh owns five Olympic medals, none gold, all of which were won behind either Michael Phelps, Ryan Lochte and/ or other Americans. Rio will mark both Cseh’s and Hosszu’s fourth appearances at the Olympics. Hosszu owns zero Olympic medals, but comes into Rio a heavy favorite in several events, including both the individual medleys where she is the reigning world champion.
Japan shows off versatile talentKosuke Hagino missed the 2015 World Championships with a broken elbow due to a bicycling accident, but is entered in three individual events at the Rio Games: the 200m freestyle and both the 200m and 400m individual medleys. He earned a bronze in the 400m IM and was fifth in the shorter medley in London. Japan also boasts backstroke star Ryosuke Irie (silver in the 200m and bronze in the 100m in London) and on the women’s side, Natsumi Hoshi, the 2015 world champion in the 200m butterfly, and Kanako Watanabe, the 2015 world champion in the 200m breaststroke.