With the retirement of Michael Phelps all but assured, and fellow American Ryan Lochte nearing age 30, the men's swimming competition at the 2016 Summer Olympics could feature fewer individual golds for the U.S., as other countries continue to produce more talented swimmers.
The U.S. won 31 swimming medals at the London Games-with the men taking 13 of them in individual events. For the U.S. to maintain its perch atop the gold medal and individual medal standings achieved in 2012, it will be essential to keep its overwhelming dominance of the swimming pool intact in 2016.
With the exception of freestyle sprint star Nathan Adrian, all other American men who medaled in swimming will be over the age of 30 by the start of the Rio Games. Of course the U.S. has always had some new standouts to replace those that retire after each Olympics. But many other countries-realizing the abundant medals available in the sport-are working tirelessly to improve their swimming programs to take podium finishes away from the U.S.
The following list includes the five men that I think are most likely to repeat their individual swimming golds in Rio, as well as some of their probable rivals over the next four years:
Florent Manaudou: The 21-year-old Frenchman blazed to gold in the 50-meter freestyle in London. Look for him to be in the mix for golds in both freestyle and butterfly events at major international meets through the 2016 Olympics.
Sun Yang: Sun became a national hero back home in China after capturing the 400 and 1500-meter freestyle golds in London. Another great in men's swimming at age 20, Sun should continue to star in these events through at least the 2016 Olympics, while continuing his rivalry with South Korea's Park Tae-hwan.
Daniel Gyurta: Hungary's great breaststroke swimmer dominated the field in the 200 meters to take his first Olympic gold last month. Gyruta will have plenty of competition over the next few years, though, like rising Japanese stars Ryo Tateishi and teenage sensation Akihiro Yamaguchi-the new world record holder in the event-as well as South Africa's Cameron van der Burgh.
Chad le Clos: Another South African standout in the pool, le Clos earned the 100-meter butterfly silver and then improved upon that finish with gold in the 200-meter fly. Look for le Clos and young Serbian Velimir Stjepanovic to have quite a rivalry in the years to come.
Related content: Summer Olympics News: Japan's Best Swimmers Look Ahead to 2016
Patrick Hattman covered the London Games for the Yahoo! Contributor Network. He is already looking forward to the 2014 Winter Games in Sochi, Russia.