Olympics

N.C. swimmers in the Rio Olympics: A primer

Meet the six Olympic swimmers on the road to Rio from Charlotte

What does it feel like to make the Olympic team and represent America in Rio? Cammile Adams, Kathleen Baker, Anthony Ervin, Jimmy Feigen, Ryan Lochte and Katie Meili share their thoughts about traveling to Rio to compete for Team USA. All six trai
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What does it feel like to make the Olympic team and represent America in Rio? Cammile Adams, Kathleen Baker, Anthony Ervin, Jimmy Feigen, Ryan Lochte and Katie Meili share their thoughts about traveling to Rio to compete for Team USA. All six trai

The largest contingent of U.S. Olympians from the Carolinas? It’s swimming by a mile, with seven swimmers on the 47-person Team USA swimming team boasting strong ties to North Carolina.

Six of those seven train at Charlotte-based SwimMAC Carolina, which at its highest level has a program called “Team Elite.” That program attracts top swimmers from all over the country to practice alongside one another. David Marsh, who is the club’s CEO and Team Elite’s head coach, will also do double duty in these Olympics. Marsh will be the head coach of the U.S. women’s swim team in Rio (he gets to select who participates in the women’s relays in that role).

Here’s a chart showing when each of the seven competes and their chances for a medal when they do. There are two types of events in the swimming competition: individual and relays. A swimmer may compete in both.

INDIVIDUAL: In general, a swimmer in an individual event has to perform well three times to get a medal. First comes an early afternoon preliminary to make it to the final 16. About 6-8 hours after that comes a semifinal race where the 16 are winnowed to eight. Then, the next night comes the final, where the medals are earned.

It is rare that an American swimmer doesn’t “get out” of the preliminaries and make it to the Sweet 16. But from then on it’s no cakewalk. There are five swimmers on the N.C. list who qualified for an individual event, and Sports Illustrated predicts that only two to win individual medal (Katie Meili and Ryan Lochte, who were each picked to win a bronze by the magazine).

RELAY: Relay events are contested twice – a preliminary in the morning and a final at night. There is no semifinal, so the entire event usually takes place on the same day.

Some spots on relay teams aren’t decided until the night before the race, but everyone who qualified for the event does get to swim at least once.

For instance, N.C. State star Ryan Held – the lone swimmer in the group who doesn’t compete for SwimMAC – will swim in at least the preliminaries of the 4x100 men’s freestyle relay Sunday afternoon.

However, whether Held makes it to the final the same night has a lot to do with how he performs in the first round. Held likely would need to be faster than at least two of the other U.S. swimmers in the preliminary heat to get to perform under the final’s bright lights. And it’s possible that even if he was that the U.S. coaches would, at the last minute, sub in a star like Michael Phelps into the finals relay to replace Held.

Whether you swim in the preliminary or the final, however, you receive the same medal as long as you competed at least once.

Cammile Adams

Event: 200 butterfly.

When: Tuesday-Wednesday.

Medal chances: 50-50

Comment: 2-time Olympian Adams won a silver in 200 fly in 2015 worlds, but the field is strong.

Kathleen Baker

Event: 100 backstroke.

When: Sunday-Monday.

Medal chances: 50-50

Comment: Baker would need a huge performance for an individual medal; relay medal is more possible.

Anthony Ervin

Event: 50 free; 4x100 relay.

When: Sunday, Thursday, Friday.

Medal chances: Likely

Comment: Ervin, 35, has a decent shot in 50 free and a great shot at earning some medal in the relay.

Jimmy Feigen

Event: 4x100 relay.

When: Sunday.

Medal chances: Likely

Comment: Feigen wants a gold medal to go with the silver he won in same event in 2012 Olympics.

Ryan Held

Event: 4x100 relay.

When: Sunday.

Medal chances: Likely

Comment: The U.S. has won some sort of medal in this event every time it has been contested.

Ryan Lochte

Event: 200 IM; 4x200 relay.

Medal chances: Wednesday-Thursday-Friday

Medal chances: Very likely

Comment: Relay medal near-certainty; individual medal also quite possible.

Katie Meili

Event: 100 breaststroke.

When: Sunday-Monday.

Medal chances: 50-50.

Comment: Fast-rising Meili has a chance but U.S. teammate Lilly King is tough.

Scott Fowler: sfowler@charlotteobserver.com; @scott_fowler

The six Olympics swimmers from Charlotte's SwimMAC Carolina swim program decided to make a human pyramid during an exclusive photo shoot with the Charlotte Observer. Watch Cammile Adams, Kathleen Baker, Anthony Ervin, Jimmy Feigen, Ryan Lochte and

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