Brendan Hansen, Peter Vanderkaay, Rebecca Soni, Jason Lezak and Natalie Coughlin have been selected as the five Team USA co-captains headed into the London Olympics. The decision was announced on Wednesday night in Knoxville, Tennessee where the Olympic team is gathered for their pre-European training camp.
Hansen, Vanderkaay, and Coughlin are all headed for their third Olympic appearances, and Soni, one of the United States’ strongest picks for gold, is going into her 2nd.
Even squads like the Olympic Team, together for just a few weeks these captains play vital roles. Each member of the team is coming from a situation where they are a top-dog, and somehow in just a month they must gel together into a cohesive unit. With all of the pre-Olympic tension, captains are often responsible for keeping the team relaxed and quelling any fires that might smolder between athletes who must simultaneously support each other and compete against each other if they hope to bring home the ultimate Olympic glory.
This Olympic captains lineup is demonstration that more goes into being a captain than simply winning the most medals or being entered in the most events. Coughlin and Lezak, for example, will swim only a single race each (the 400 free relay), but are two of the most respected in the sport today. Vanderkaay similarly has only one entry for the Olympics, for now, but is one of the true gentlemen in the sport of swimming. He’ll swim the 400 free, unless the U.S. coaches choose to put him on the 4×200 free relay – though he didn’t even final in the event at Trials.
Hansen will be swimming the 100 breaststroke and the 400 medley relay as his entries, leaving Soni as the only of the five captains headed into the meet as a favorite to win a gold medal – she could win 3, in the 100 breast, the 200 breast, and 400 medley relay.
But these five swimmers have near-unanimous respect in the team. They represent every region of the country, and almost all of the top American programs. They’ve been on a number of teams, have had unprecedented success and even the glorious ceremony of the Olympics is old-hat to them by now.
All-in-all, it’s hard to argue with any of these choices. Onward to London.