Missy Franklin, Ye Shiwen, Sun Yang and Yannick Agnel were part of a youth movement in the 2012 Olympic pool that signalled swimming has plenty to look forward to after Michael Phelps.
Phelps put the finishing touches on an epic Olympic career in London as exciting young swimmers from around the world promised to carry the sport through Rio 2016.
Franklin, just 17 at her first Olympics, left London with four gold medals and two world records.
She helped propel the United States to its familiar spot atop the Olympic swimming medals table with 16 gold, 8 silver and 6 bronze for a total of 30.
World record-breaking performances by teenager Ye and Sun saw China confirm their arrival as an Olympic swimming power with five gold medals and 10 overall.
Right behind China, France claimed a four golds, with Agnel delivering a scintillating 4x100m free relay gold ahead of the United States before a dominant victory in the 200m freestyle that left American Ryan Lochte trailing in his wake.
France’s four golds were one more than it had claimed in all prior Games, and Agnel said he had no intention of letting up before Rio.
Traditional power Australia, meanwhile, floundered in London after big guns James Magnussen and James Roberts failed to fire in the freestyle sprints.
Australia’s tally of one gold, six silver and three bronze in London was its lowest since 1992, and it was without an individual gold medallist for the first time since 1976.
The flop prompted Swimming Australia to back an independent probe into the debacle, with federation chief executive Kevin Neil stepping down in November.
That’s the same month that mining billionaire Gina Rinehart promised Aus$10 million ($10.4 million) to support the country’s leading swimmers.
That was good news for talented swimmers such as Magnussen, who at 21 still has time to regroup and head to Rio.
The cocky young Aussie came away from his first Olympics even more impressed with what Phelps had accomplished in four Olympic campaigns that yielded a record 22 medals —18 of them gold.
“I have a lot more respect for guys like Michael Phelps who can come to the Olympics and back it up under that pressure,” Magnussen said. — AFP