In what might be the most star-studded swim meet in Arizona history, multi-gold-medalists Ryan Lochte, Missy Franklin, Natalie Coughlin and Matt Grevers headline the lineup of competitors for the Arena Grand Prix meet to be held Thursday through Saturday at Skyline Aquatic Center in Mesa.
The meet, which offers $25,000 in prize money, features 19 U.S. Olympians and is the fourth of six meets in the Arena Grand Prix series.
Among the Olympians expected to swim in the meet are gold medalists Dana Vollmer and Nathan Adrian, Katie Ledecky, Anthony Ervin, Elizabeth Beisel, Jessica Hardy, Tyler Clary, Kate Ziegler and Conor Dwyer, plus Arizona Olympians Clark Burckle, Caitlin Leverenz, Christine Magnuson and Breeja Larson.
Franklin, who won four gold medals and one bronze at the London Olympics, is entered in seven events: 50, 100 and 200 freestyle; 100 and 200 backstroke; 100 butterfly and 200 individual medley. Lochte, who had 11 Olympic medals, including five golds, is entered in six: 100 and 200 freestyle; 100 and 200 backstroke; 100 butterfly and 200 IM.
Franklin can expect a strong challenge NCAA champion Elizabeth Pelton in multiple events, but especially the 200 backstroke. Pelton obliterated the NCAA field in an American record time for the 200-yard distance. The two are future teammates at the University of California.
This meet also marks the return of Coughlin, a legendary and wildly popular former Cal swimmer, who is hoping to show she can skill compete with the kids at age 30.
Meanwhile, a couple of Arizona swimmers will try to steal the spotlight in the breaststroke. NCAA champion Larson of Texas A&M will be competing in front of the local audience — she graduated from Mountain View High School in Mesa — and can expect a sprint showdown against Hardy. In the men’s competition, Tucson-based Burckle will be out to prove he can compete against the record-setting times put up by training mate Kevin Cordes in last month’s NCAA Championships.
Olympic backstroke champion Grevers is another Tucson-based swimmer who bears watching — for an unusual reason. He and longtime girlfriend and teammate Annie Chandler were married last week in Texas. Grevers, who proposed to Chandler at a Grand Prix meet last year, allegedly is scheduled to compete in a swim cap with the words “Just Married.”
Preliminary heats will begin at 9 a.m. each of the three days, with finals starting at 5 p.m. Admission is $10 for the finals, $5 for prelimas and free for ages 8 and younger.
Prior to Saturday night’s final, Olympic gold medalists Aaron Peirsol and Janet Evans will compete in a relay even with 23 local swimmers ages 8 to 12 who earned the right to compete based on their commitment to attending practice with their local swim clubs.
The meet will also feature an “Autograph Arena” that is open to the public after Friday night’s finals and after both the prelims and finals sessions on Saturday.