Michael Phelps will put the final gloss on a glittering Olympic career at the London Games, but he's not the only star set to shine when competition begins Saturday at the Aquatics Centre.
Phelps's unprecedented eight gold medals at the Beijing Games led the United States to a 31-medal haul in 2008, including 12 golds from the 32 events, nine silver and 10 bronze.
Phelps won't try to match that feat, but his seven-event programme gives him plenty of room to make more Games history and anchor a US team out to continue its dominance against traditional rival Australia and rising powers such as China.
Phelps is the two-time defending champion in all four of his individual events — the 100m and 200m butterfly and 200m and 400m individual medley.
No male swimmer has won the same Olympic event at three successive Games.
Japan's Kosuke Kitajima is also eyeing a golden treble after winning back-to-back 100-200m breaststroke doubles in the 2004 and 2008.
One of Phelps's biggest challengers figures to be team-mate Ryan Lochte, who has emerged as a serious threat in both medleys. But Phelps says they can't afford to overlook anyone. “Ryan and I aren't here just racing each other,” he said. “We're racing the whole world.”
Adds US men's head coach Gregg Troy: “It's a pretty big world. There's a lot of good swimmers out there. I think if we take anything lightly we're making mistakes.”
Australia is bringing in the big artillery with James “The Missile” Magnussen and James “The Rocket” Roberts, in the prestigious 100m freestyle.