Since qualifying for Olympic Trials as a 12-year-old, Dana Vollmer has undergone open heart surgery, won an Olympic gold, injured various body parts and choked, repeatedly, with chances to advance to the Beijing Olympics on the line. This year the 24-year-old is back on the sport’s biggest stage, with two chances to earn her way back to the podium.
— Chris Yoder
Petri, the oldest and most decorated member of USA women’s water polo, has already won three Olympic medals. Born in Oakland, Calif., Petri’s Olympic career began in 2000 in Sydney, forcing her to take a hiatus from Cal water polo. While at Cal she was a three-time All-American and scored a total of 147 goals, including a 51 goal season in 2005. The attacker has won two silver medals and a bronze, but has never captured that elusive gold medal. Will this be the year?
— Austin Crochetiere
Just 20 years of age, Aleksa Saponjic is the youngest member of the Serbian national team. Good thing he’s used to making a splash right out of the gate. The Belgrade native dominated in his first year at Cal, racking up the third-most goals on the team (30), and he looks poised to take over as the team’s de facto standout since the departure of Ivan Rackov. But that will have to come after he competes for Team Serbia, the most elite squad in the world.
— Annie Gerlach
In March, Tarczynski broke through on the national stage, winning the NCAA title in the 200 IM and shattering the school record in the process. At 21 years old, Tarczynski is a long shot to make it to the podium this year, but the Polish record holder in the 100 back has yet to reach his potential, and he could be a mainstay in the Olympics for years to come.
— Chris Yoder
Denmark’s Mathias Gydesen had to wait a little longer to book his flight to London. Gydesen posted the best prelim time in the 100-meter backstroke, but was one-hundredth of a second shy of the FINA qualifying time. Three months later, Gydesen received an invitation to the Olympics, where he will compete in the 100 back.
— Christina Jones