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Top swimmers to watch in Rio

Ryan Lochte, Kosuke Hagino and Missy Franklin
USA Today Sports/ NBC Olympics

Top swimmers to watch in Rio

From Michael Phelps' last race to Katie Ledecky's pending freestyle dominance, here are the top five swimming athletes to watch in Rio.

Michael Phelps makes his fifth Olympic appearance in Rio, a record for U.S. male swimmers. Teammate Katie Ledecky looks to collect as many as three individual Olympic gold medals, plus relays. Here are the top five swimming athletes to watch at the 2016 Rio Olympics.

Michael Phelps

Michael Phelps assured the world that, after the 2012 London Olympics, he was done competing. Except now, he’s back for a record fifth Olympic Games in 2016 looking to add to his legacy: 18 Olympic golds, plus two silvers and two bronzes. Fiancée Nicole Johnson and the couple’s newborn son Boomer will be in Rio to cheer Phelps on.

2016 might be the best year of Michael Phelps’ life

Michael Phelps has an important year ahead: the birth of his first child, his marriage to fiancee Nicole Johnson and the 2016 Rio Olympics.

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Katie Ledecky

Katie Ledecky competed at the 2012 London Olympics as the youngest athlete in the entire U.S. delegation and came away with a gold medal in the 800m freestyle. Between London and Rio, Ledecky has been undefeated in major competition, including sweeping the 200m, 400m, 800m and 1500m freestyles at the 2015 World Championships. Now 19, she’s still the youngest swimmer on the team.

Who is... Katie Ledecky

Katie Ledecky, already a 2012 Olympic gold medalist, captured a combined nine gold medals at the 2013 and 2015 World Championships.

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Ryan Lochte

Ryan Lochte left his longtime training base in Gainesville, Florida in favor of Charlotte, North Carolina. And while he didn’t qualify to defend his 2012 Olympic gold in the 400m individual medley, Lochte’s program in Rio will mirror his program at his 2004 Olympic debut in Athens: the 200m individual medley (where he owns three Olympic medals, four consecutive World titles and the world record) and the 4x200m freestyle relay.

Battle breakdown: Michael Phelps vs. Ryan Lochte in the 200m individual medley

Reviewing Michael Phelps' and Ryan Lochte's times in the 200m individual medley at the Olympics, U.S. Olympic Trials and world championships...

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Missy Franklin

Missy Franklin returned Stateside after London with five Olympic medals and went back to her senior year of high school. She swam for two years at the University of California, Berkeley before becoming a professional swimmer and returning home to her childhood coach. While she didn’t have the 2016 U.S. Olympic Trials she wanted, she’ll have the chance to defend her 200m backstroke gold medal from the 2012 Games in addition to racing the 200m freestyle.  

Missy Franklin and Ryan Lochte facing more down time at the 2016 Rio Olympics

Four years ago, Missy Franklin swam two individual events and three relays, while Ryan Lochte had three individual events, plus two relays.

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Kosuke Hagino

Japan’s Kosuke Hagino is ranked No. 1 in the world this year in both the 200m and 400m individual medleys plus No. 5 in the 200m freestyle heading into the 2016 Rio Olympics. He missed the 2015 World Championships with a broken elbow due to a bicycling accident, but seems to be in top form this year. Look for him to anchor Japan’s team and improve on his bronze medal in the 400m IM from the London Games.

What you've missed since London: Swimming

Find out which Olympic swimmers return for the 2016 Games and which have retired.

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