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Charlotte Grand Prix: 6 swimmers to watch (besides Michael Phelps, Ryan Lochte)

Olympian Cullen Jones warms up prior to his race, Thursday, April 16, 2015, at the Arena Pro Swim Series in Mesa, Ariz.
Olympian Cullen Jones warms up prior to his race, Thursday, April 16, 2015, at the Arena Pro Swim Series in Mesa, Ariz. AP

Olympic swimming giant Michael Phelps will command the spotlight at this week’s Charlotte Grand Prix, along with longtime rival Ryan Lochte.

Here are some other swimmers to watch. They all live in Charlotte and train with Lochte and SwimMAC’s Team Elite:

Kathleen Baker: Top recruit

Baker, 18, is the youngest Team Elite member. She committed last fall to the University of California as one of the nation’s top prep recruits. There, she’ll follow another top backstroker – Olympian Missy Franklin, 19, who finished her Golden Bear career this year when she turned pro.

Kirsty Coventry: Not a comeback

Hobbled by injury and sickness at the 2012 Olympics, Coventry left disappointed and without a medal. That was unusual for the Zimbabwe star. She has won eight individual medals since her 2000 debut. Some have called her push for Rio a comeback, but the 31-year-oldsays she never left.

Madison Kennedy: On the cusp

At 27, Kennedy has long proved herself as a top freestyle sprinter, but she’s still seeking her first Olympic berth. In the Charlotte Grand Prix, she’s the top-seeded American in the 50-meter freestyle. Last year, she swam her best time ever in the race, her specialty.

Tyler Clary: Determined to defend

Clary caused a stir in 2012 when he challenged Phelps’ work ethic, saying he trained harder than Phelps. In London, Clary won gold in the 200 backstroke, his biggest win ever. (Phelps’ haul: four gold, two silver.) Always outspoken, Clary, 26, is determined to win again in Brazil.

Cullen Jones: Bright lights

Like other veterans, Jones, 31, views the Charlotte meet as a small stepping stone in a long Olympic training cycle. But the sprinter also has a habit of performing his best on the big stage. And before a hometown crowd, with mom in the stands, Jones knows he’ll be in the spotlight.

Matt Josa: Challenging road

Josa, 20, a Queens sophomore, led the university’s men’s team to its first NCAA national Division II championship in March. Now the Charlotte native is trying for his first Olympic team. But to get there in the 100-meter butterfly, he must go through Lochte and Phelps, who also excel in that event.

GRAND PRIX TICKETS

SwimMAC’s Arena Pro Series at Charlotte will be Thursday-Sunday at the Mecklenburg County Aquatic Center. General admission tickets are available for all sessions. Go to arenaproswimcharlotte.com for more information or to buy tickets. Updates also on Twitter (@ArenaProChar) and on the Arena Pro Swim Series at Charlotte Facebook page.

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