PEEKING DOWN UNDER
Not only are their times good, but so is their timing.
While the rest of the world cowers at the thought of swimming against Australia's stars in their own pool, the U.S. men's team has little to be concerned about. Australia's best events happen to be America's weakest. So the United States basically will concede those races and kick fins elsewhere.
Lenny Krayzelburg will be a disappointment if he does not take gold in the 100-meter and 200-meter backstroke, events in which he holds the world records. Tom Dolan should be a repeat winner in the 400-meter individual medley and Tom Malchow is way ahead of the field in the 200-meter butterfly.
"I hope the Australians think they can beat us," Dolan said. "Because I can tell you that if it comes down to the last 10 meters from the wall and an American and an Australian are together, we won't get touched out. And that's the difference in being the best in the world."
NAMES TO REMEMBER
Ed Moses already has a memorable name and, just in case you forget, his mother, Sissy, will be around to remind you.
She will be the one in the stands waving a sign:
"Part the water Moses!"
Cheesy biblical references aside, Moses is one of the rising stars in the United States. The University of Virginia standout is a gold medal contender in the 100 breaststroke. He is .08 seconds off the world mark set by Russia's Roman Sloudnov.
The last time the United States won an Olympic medal at 1,500 meters was 1984. Erik Vendt was 3 years old at the time. Vendt is now America's best hope to end that drought. His 14:59.11 at the trials made him the first U.S. swimmer to go under 15:00 and established him as the No. 2 seed in the world.
Vendt will not catch Australia's Grant Hackett in the 1,500, but he could get silver and the 19-year-old from USC, via Boston, is also a medal contender in the 400 individual medley.
Josh Davis won three gold medals at the 1996 Olympics. That was the most golds won by any man in all of the Games. That's J-o-s-h D-a-v-i-s.
He may have the lowest profile of any star on the U.S. team. He also may have the kindest heart. And that probably is not a coincidence.
At 28, Davis is the oldest swimmer on the men's team. He is active in Christian groups and he and his wife, Shantel, have three children under the age of 3. He broke Matt Biondi's 12-year-old American record in the 200 free during the trials and could contend for a silver or bronze.
THE HEAT IS ON
Gary Hall finished second to Alexander Popov in the 50 free at the 1996 Olympics. He finished second to Popov in the 100 free in '96. He is seeded No. 2 in the world in the 50, behind Popov.
Anyone noticing a trend?
Hall has been one of the great comeback stories of the year, rising above a three-month suspension for a positive marijuana test in 1998, getting dropped by Speedo as a sponsor, and overcoming a recent diagnosis of diabetes.
Yet there is one more hurdle for Hall to clear. And that hurdle is a 6-foot-6 Russian who is the two-time defending Olympic champion in both the 50 and 100 free. Hall has qualified in both events, but his best chance to catch Popov is in the 50. Hall's best time this year is 21.76. Popov is at 21.64.
DID YOU KNOW?
The United States never has lost a 400 meter freestyle relay at the Olympics. The event was introduced in 1964 (it was not held in '76 and '80) and the Americans have won it seven straight times.
That streak could be in jeopardy this month.
Australia beat the United States in the event at the Pan Pacific Championships last year in Sydney's Olympic pool. Based on times turned in by sprinters this year, the United States is probably a slight favorite.
"There will be some pressure on us because we've never lost this relay and we don't want to be the first to lose it," said former Seminole High swimmer Scott Tucker, who has qualified for the relay team.
THE WORLD VIEW
Ian Thorpe is the most famous athlete in Australia and he could be one of the world's top attractions by the end of the Games.
When Australian coach Don Talbot said Thorpe could become the greatest swimmer the world has ever seen, no one put up much of a fuss.
Known as the Thorpedo, he burst on the scene as a 16-year-old at the 1999 Pan Pacific Championships, setting three world records in the first major swim held at the Olympic pool in Sydney. He came back months later at Australia's Olympic trials and set three more world records in the same pool.
Thorpe also has won notoriety for making major financial contributions to children's cancer research facilities in honor of a childhood friend who survived a battle with cancer.
Thorpe is a huge favorite in the 200 and 400 free, although he will not be Australia's only star. Grant Hackett is favored in the 1,500 free and Michael Klim and Geoff Huegill could finish 1-2 in the 100 fly.
Alexander Popov of Russia will attempt to become the first man in history to win three straight Olympic golds in the 100 free. He also is going for three straight in the 50 free.
Russia had two swimmers combine for more golds in individual events than the entire U.S. team. And still the U.S. was the dominant team.
While there were no individual stars to match the work of Russia's Alexander Popov, America's depth eventually made the difference.
The United States had a pair of 1-2 finishes with Tom Dolan and Eric Namesnik in the 400 individual medley and Brad Bridgewater and Tripp Schwenk in the 200 backstroke. But the biggest splash was made in relays.
The United States won all three relays, including a world record in the 400 medley relay, which was the last swimming event of the Games.
After the gold medals were handed out to the relay team, the four members unfurled a banner that brought the crowd to its feet:
"Thanks America for a dream come true"
_ Compiled by John Romano.