Olympics Betting: Men's Swimming overview
Phelps beat Lochte three times in four races at those trials, but Lochte won both of their showdowns at last year's World Championships
Kevin Hatchard previews the Men's Swimming at the 2012 Olympics and is excited as anyone about the thrilling showdowns ahead between Michael Phelps and Ryan Lochte.
There will be 14 individual gold medals up for grabs at London 2012, and there are also three relay events to look forward to. The individual events comprise freestyle races (effectively the front crawl) over 50 metres, 100 metres, 200 metres, 400 metres and 1500 metres. There are two events each in backstroke, breaststroke and butterfly (100m and 200m). The individual medley events see swimmers use four different strokes - butterfly, backstroke, breaststroke and finally freestyle. The medley takes place over 200 metres and 400 metres, and the key to success is a smooth turning technique in transition from one stroke to another.
The three relays are the 4x100m freestyle relay, the 4x200m freestyle relay and the 4x100m medley. The medley relay sees each of the four team members adopt a different swimming stroke.
The endurance event is the 10k marathon, which will take place in the Serpentine at Hyde Park on August 10, and will feature 25 swimmers. The other 16 events take place between July 28 and August 4.
The ones to watch
At the Beijing Olympics, American Michael Phelps secured his place in the pantheon of Olympic greats as he won a record eight golds (five individual, three relay). This eclipsed the haul of seven golds managed by moustachioed swimming great Mark Spitz in Munich in 1972. Phelps had already won eight medals (six gold, two bronze) in Athens in 2004, and his overall total of 14 golds is an all-time record.
This year the 'Baltimore Bullet' will compete in just seven events (how lazy!), after dropping the 200m freestyle. He's the overwhelming favourite to win gold in both the 100m and 200m butterfly, but in other events he may not have everything his own way. Just as sprint king Usain Bolt is facing a major challenge from compatriot Yohan Blake on the track, in the pool Phelps will have to overcome his fellow American Ryan Lochte. Phelps and Lochte will do battle in the 200m and 400m medleys, and Lochte is determined to prove he's now the world's best swimmer.
In the 400m the positions are reversed, with Lochte the Betfair favourite @(1.75) and Phelps@(2.42). I like the look of any market that prices Phelps above 2.0, so 2.42 looks attractive, especially considering Phelps was less than a second behind Lochte at the US trials. Phelps beat Lochte three times in four races at those trials, but Lochte won both of their showdowns at last year's World Championships. The gap between the two is fascinatingly miniscule, and their rivalry will surely provide one of the highlights of the entire games.
The king of the breaststroke is Japan's Kosuke Kitajima, and he's looking to win both the 100m and 200m for the third Olympics running, although Hungarian Daniel Gyurta is expected to sorely test him in the longer event (they are joint-favourites at (2.4)). Elsewhere, China's Sun Yang heads the betting in both the 400m and 1500m freestyle.
Brazilian Cesar Cielo Filho is (1.51) Betfair favourite to defend his 50m freestyle crown, while Aussie James "The Missile" Magnussen @ Betfair odds of (1.37) is expected to breeze the 100m freestyle after last year's world championship gold.
Magnussen is one of the reasons that Australia are (1.46) Betfair favourites to win the 4x100m freestyle relay, although if selected Phelps and Lochte may be able to haul the USA (trading at (4.5)) into contention. USA will be favourites to win the other two relays.
It's not a gargantuan price, but if you're looking for value, Cesar Cielo Filho may be worth a look in the 100m freestyle @(14.5). James Magnussen's expected to take gold, but Cielo Filho's the world record holder, and his pedigree in the 50m free proves he has the speed to build up a lead in the first half of the race. If Cielo Filho can hold off a charge from his less experienced opponent, a shock could be on the cards, and I think (14.5) is just too big a price.
Recommended Bet @ Betfair
Back Michael Phelps to win gold in the 400m Individual Medley @(2.42)