For many of the nation's best swimmers, the road to the 2016 Summer Olympics begins in a pool in Minneapolis.
Olympic champions Michael Phelps, Katie Ledecky, Missy Franklin and Ryan Lochte are among the elite swimmers who will compete in the Arena Pro Swim Series meet at the University of Minnesota's Jean K. Freeman Aquatic Center Thursday through Saturday.
It's the first of seven stops in the 2015-16 Arena Pro Swim Series, which serve as the tuneups for the athletes who hope to qualify for the Rio Olympics in August of next year.
Phelps, who is making a return to competitive swimming after retiring in 2012, sounds excited and confident about being back in the pool and trying for another Olympics, according to the Associated Press.
Phelps, you might recall, was arrested for drunk driving in September 2014 – his second in 10 years – and said in a recent interview with Sports Illustrated that he was "in a dark place" during that time, "not wanting to be alive anymore."
After pleading guilty to the charge and going through rehabilitation for his alcohol issues, Phelps – who turned 30 in June – has returned to the pool seeming more relaxed and in great shape.
Katie Ledecky is another Olympian to watch for. She won a gold medal at the 2012 London Games, and is considered the world's best distance swimmer at the age of 19. Michael Phelps calls *her* a stud.
A premier swimmer with local ties is David Plummer, who is 30, just like Phelps. But he has not yet made it to the Olympics. Plummer, a native of Oklahoma, trains in the Twin Cities and swam collegiately for the U of M.
More than 600 swimmers will participate in the meet, including nearly 50 members of the USA Swimming National Team and nearly 40 Minnesota Gopher swimmers, the Star Tribune notes.
The competition begins at 9 a.m. Thursday and continues through Saturday. You can find a schedule of each day's events here.
Tickets can be purchased at the door. A three-day pass is $65, and single-session tickets are $15. Here's a map to the Aquatic Center.
The U.S. Olympic swimming trials will be held June 26-July 6 in Omaha. The 2016 Summer Olympic Games are in Rio de Janeiro August 5-15.