When talking of the women's 200-meter backstroke at the 2012 Olympic Games, Missy Franklin, Belinda Hocking and Anastasia Zueva all jump to mind as potential medal winners. Will it be one of these women who goes home with gold, or will someone else take the top spot?
Franklin heads into the meet with the No. 1 time in the world of 2012, which she swam at the U.S. Swimming Olympic Team Trials in June. That time of 2:06.12 is more than a full second slower than the 2:05.10 that Franklin swam to win gold at the 2011 World Championship meet. Franklin will be the favorite heading into the event, but with 7 events, the 17-year-old has a full schedule, and the women's 200-meter backstroke final won't take place until Aug. 3.
Zueva will arrive in London with the second-fastest time of 2012 at 2:06.59. The 22-year-old swam for Russia at the 2008 Olympic Games, though she didn't medal there. Her performances improved in 2009, where she finished second at the World Championships in the event, swimming the second-fastest time in history at 2:04.94. The 2011 World Championships were a bit different for Zueva, though, who failed to qualify for the semifinal heat. Zueva has proven that she has the ability to swim among the fastest 200 backstrokers in the world, but she's yet to do it on a consistent basis. Will she be at her best in London?
At 2:06.68, Hocking heads into the 2012 Olympic Games with the third-fastest time of 2012. The 21-year-old Australian placed second at the 2011 World Championships and finished behind Franklin in a time of 2:06.06. Like Zueva, Hocking too has competed at an Olympic Games in the past -- in 2008, she finished eighth in the 200 backstroke.
Elizabeth Beisel could be a factor in the medal race, as well. The American will arrive in London with a time of 2:07.58, good for the No. 4-ranking of 2012. Beisel, 19, is a previous World Championship bronze-medal winner, though she finished fifth at the 2011 championships. At 15 years old, Beisel also finished fifth in the event at the 2008 Olympic Games.
Kirsty Coventry has long been a force in the women's 200 backstroke, but due to injuries the 28-year-old Zimbabwean isn't expected to be a real factor in London. Coventry is the two-time defending Olympic champion and the world-record holder in the women's 200 backstroke, but she will arrive in London with a 2012 time of 2:10.10 -- more than five seconds slower than her world record of 2:04.81. She's ranked 28th in the world.
Read more from this author: The Last Five Women to Win the 200-Meter Backstroke at the Olympic Games
Sandra Johnson was a competitive swimmer for more than 15 years before she began coaching. She is a longtime Olympic fan, and while working for the United States Olympic Committee in Colorado Springs, Colo., she had the opportunity to immerse herself in the Olympic Movement. Follow her on Twitter: @SandraJohnson46
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