Wednesday marks 100 days until the London Olympics, making it a
good time to look at some of the athletes who will be thrilling
sports fans on the biggest of stages this summer.
As London organizers put the finishing touches on the venues,
and city officials prepare for an invasion of visitors from around
the world, competitors are training for the big moment.
From the track to the pool to the hardwood, what follows is a
list of athletes to watch (mindful that some still need to
qualify). There are 11 names in all, going for 10 golds:
– USAIN BOLT: Surprise, surprise. Any talk of the Olympics has
to start with the flashy Jamaican sprinter. His performance in
Beijing four years ago was magical – gold medals and world records
in the 100 meters, 200 meters and sprint relay. Sure, Bolt hasn’t
been as supernatural the past couple of years, but expect him to
peak just in time for the big show in London. There’s no reason he
can’t win another three golds, though world records may be too much
to ask. His toughest competition in the 100 and 200 is likely to
come from countryman Yohan Blake.
– MICHAEL PHELPS: Another no-brainer. After winning a record
eight gold medals in Beijing, the 26-year-old American is back for
his final big splash before retirement. With a career total of 16
medals, Phelps needs just three more of any color to become the
most decorated Olympian in any sport. He called his results over
the past three years ”horrendous,” but he was back in top form at
last month’s Indianapolis meet. U.S. teammate Ryan Lochte, who won
five golds at the 2011 worlds, is Phelps’ top rival.
– OSCAR PISTORIUS: The South African double-amputee athlete, who
runs on carbon-fiber blades, is looking to make history by becoming
the first amputee runner to compete in an Olympics. The ”Blade
Runner” has already gone under the 400-meter Olympic qualifying
time of 45.30 seconds and needs to do it once more at an
international meet to be eligible for Olympic selection. Pistorius
also plans to run in able-bodied IAAF events in Europe and the U.S.
ahead of the Olympics. He’ll compete in the Paralympics, too.
– HIROSHI HOKETSU: At the age of 71, the Japanese equestrian
will be the oldest competitor in London. Hoketsu has qualified for
the individual dressage competition, riding a 15-year-old mare
called Whisper. He competed in his first Olympics in 1964 when he
was 23. Hoketsu was 67 when he competed in Beijing, finishing ninth
in the team event and 35th in the individual competition. He still
won’t break the record as the oldest Olympian ever. That
distinction belongs to Swedish shooter Oscar Swahn, who was 72 when
he won a silver medal at the 1920 Antwerp Games.
– KERRI WALSH/MISTY MAY-TREANOR: Beach volleyball will be one of
the main attractions in London, with the competition taking place
at a temporary venue in Horse Guards Parade, a stone’s throw from
Downing Street and Buckingham Palace. No one will get more time in
the spotlight than Walsh and May-Treanor, who won gold medals in
Athens and Beijing and are favorites for a third title in London.
And, yes, the Americans will still be wearing the standard bikini
uniforms – not the more modest attire approved recently by the
international volleyball federation.
– CHRIS HOY: Winner of three gold medals in Beijing, the British
track cyclist is one of the host nation’s top hopes for glory on
home turf in the spectacular new velodrome. The Scot was knighted
”Sir Chris” by Queen Elizabeth II in 2009 and could become
Britain’s most decorated Olympian. The ”Real McHoy” is expected
to compete in the keirin and the team sprint events, and possibly
the individual sprint. With a career total of four gold medals and
a silver, Hoy could eclipse rowing great Steve Redgrave’s British
record of five golds and a bronze.
– NEYMAR: Argentina failed to qualify for the Olympic soccer
competition, meaning Lionel Messi won’t be coming. But Brazil did
qualify and Neymar is the player to watch. ”The Prince” is a
prolific goal-scoring striker for Santos, the Brazilian club that
Pele, ”The King,” made famous in the 1960s. The 20-year-old
Neymar has already scored nearly 100 goals for Santos in less than
three seasons. Pele recently called Neymar the best player in the
world – better than three-time FIFA player of the year Messi. The
Olympic title is the only significant soccer competition Brazil has
yet to win.
– KEVIN DURANT: It’s hard to single out any single player from
the star-studded U.S. basketball team. Kobe, LeBron and D-Wade are
back from the group that won the 2008 gold medal. So this will be
the chance for Oklahoma City Thunder forward Durant to show his
Olympic credentials. KD led the U.S. to gold at the 2010 world
championships, but the Olympic title is what really matters.
Durant, a two-time NBA scoring leader, is averaging nearly 28
points per game this season and should be a key in coach Mike
Krzyzewski’s lineup for London.
– LIN DAN: Widely considered the greatest badminton player of
all time, China’s ”Super Dan” is a four-time world champion,
five-time All England winner and the reigning Olympic gold
medalist. Standing in the way of 29-year-old Lin’s quest for a
second Olympic title will be his main rival, Lee Chong Wei of
Malaysia. The competition will be held at the Wembley Arena. Get
ready for a dose of, you guessed it, ”Lin-Danity.”
– STEVEN LOPEZ: With five world championships, two Olympic gold
medals and a bronze to his name, Lopez is the face of taekwondo in
the U.S. He’s back for his fourth Olympics and a chance to medal at
a fourth games. His sister, Diana, qualified for her second
Olympics but brother Mark missed out this time. In Beijing, the
Lopez siblings became the first trio from the same family to
represent the U.S. at the Olympics since 1904 – and all won medals.
Steven Lopez, 33, will be motivated to win gold again this time
after settling for bronze in China.
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