The indomitable Dara Torres, at 41, made headlines in 2008 for returning to prominence in an event that has always favored the young -- the 50-meter freestyle. Natalie Coughlin, the go-to girl in the backstroke made her way onto the list of household names, too. But looking forward to London, how many Olympic female swimming hopefuls can you name? Here are some names to know ...
Allison Schmitt, 20, Canton, Mich.
Schmitt earned a trip to Beijing in 2008 in the 200-meter freestyle and as a member of the 800-meter freestyle relay team, which earned a bronze medal. The 6-foot-1, five-time NCAA individual champion led the University of Georgia to a second-place finish at the 2011 NCAA championships in March. The star junior trains with Michael Phelps' coach, Bob Bowman, during the summer and Georgia's Jack Bauerle during the school year. "I've got some goals in mind. I'm training for trials and working hard to be in the best shape I can be," Schmitt said. "I've just got to put my faith in my coaches, and see where it takes me." Look for her to qualify for the games in the 200-meter and 400-meter freestyle events, as well as some relays.
Dana Vollmer, 23, Granbury, Texas
Vollmer already has a collection of medals from various international meets, including a gold in the 800-meter free relay in Athens in 2004, where she also placed sixth in the 200-meter free. She was the youngest swimmer at the Olympic Trials in 2000, but did not make the team then or in 2008. After missing the boat for Beijing, Vollmer took a break to physically and mentally reload. She came back to the pool stronger than ever in 2009, earning a string of titles, including NCAA swimmer of the year. Look for her in the 100-meter and 200-meter freestyle events and as a strong relay competitor.
Emily Brunemann, 24, Crescent Springs, Ky.
Opportunity recently knocked for Emily Brunemann. Last month, top-ranked U.S. open water swimmer Chloe Sutton, who finished 22nd in the debut of the women's 10k open-water swim in Beijing, announced she would leave open water to focus on pool events in 2012. Sutton's departure leaves a void that Brunemann is ready to fill. The 24-year-old University of Michigan distance free and IM swimmer took advantage of a redshirt year in 2009 to learn the ropes in the new Olympic sport. She was awarded USA Swimming's Open Water Swimmer of the Year award for her efforts. She won the 2008 NCAA title in the 1,650-yard freestyle and is a five-time NCAA All-American. This makes Brunemann a strong contender in the roller derby of swimming: the rough-and-tumble 10k open water swim. No lanes, just a mass of swimmers racing in a pack for two hours in a lake, sea or river.
Eva Fabian, 17, Keene, N.H.
Fabian was named the 2010 female open water swimmer of the year after an impressive 12 months on the international open water circuit. She's a strong contender for U.S. success in the 10k, and may beat out Brunemann for a spot in the women's open water event. At just 5-foot-3 and roughly 100 pounds soaking wet, she defies the physics of typical open water physiology. She is a tiny terror churning out a mind-boggling 95 strokes per minute.
Melissa "Missy" Franklin, 15, Centennial, Colo.
Franklin garnered international attention and a feature profile in The New York Times for earning the women's high-point award at 2010 nationals, where she posted top-10 finishes in all six individual events in which she swam. The 6-foot-1 high school sophomore has an amazing 6-foot-4 wingspan and is ranked in the world top 10 in seven events. Could this versatile swimmer, most noted for her sprint freestyle and backstroke events, become the women's equivalent of Phelps? Time will tell. She's only 15, so time is on her side.