A sneak peek at London 2012
The Olympics begin this Friday, with the smell of the torches' smoke in the air. It's been four years since Beijing, and with a lot of newcomers and a lot of returners back with a vengeance, it's time to take a look at what's in store this year at the 2012 London games. London is the only city ever to hold the games three times after hosting in both 1908 and 1948 and this year will be symbolized by the contrast of the old traditions and the new rules, regulations and events. Here goes the beginning of our Olympic coverage, starting with previews for each sport followed by our predictions of the games until the closing ceremony.
Last time: The U.S. was nowhere to be seen, not placing in the top three of any of the archery events, regardless of gender. The South Koreans received gold in both the male and female team competitions, totaling five medals in the sport.
Athletes to watch: Teenage sensation, 18-year-old Deepika Kumari is the number one female archer in the world and is likely to bring home a gold individually for India. South Korea's Im Dong-Hyun is legally blind but despite this is one of the top seeded archers in this years competition.
Our predictions: The men's competition seems to be almost a definite for South Korea, with incredibly accurate individuals in both the team and individual competition. The women's side is up for grabs, with almost equally strong Indian, French and Chinese teams.
Athletes to watch: Oscar Pistorious, a double-amputee from South Africa, will be the first Paralympic athlete to compete in the able-bodied competition in both the 400 meter race and the 4 x 400 meter dash. On the American side a trio of sprinters seek redemption after a series of pitfalls in their respective careers; Justin Gatlin, Wallace Spearmon and Tyson Gay are medal hopefuls once again.
Our predictions: More likely than not, the short sprinting races will come down to a battle of the Jamaicans, superstar Bolt versus his younger teammate Yohan Blake. Every event will be up for grabs however, and the final decision be it in shot put or the decathlon is hard to predict. We'll have to wait and see.
Last time: Badminton will be celebrating it's twentieth anniversary of becoming an official Olympic sport this year. In Beijing, East Asians won all the badminton events with ease. China was particularly resilient receiving 8 medals, and winning gold in both women's singles and doubles.
Athletes to watch: The U.S. team has sent three badminton athletes to compete in London, two for men's doubles and Rena Wang competing for the women's singles. Still, the Chinese, Indonesian and Malaysian doubles teams will be the most agile masters of this fast-paced game.
Our predictions: The U.S. doesn't stand a chance of medaling for badminton. The skill level of the East Asian teams far surpass the athletic prowess of any of the three members that will be playing for U.S. in London.
Athletes to watch: The Oklahoma City Thunder trio of Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook and James Harden work together with the efficiency of a well oiled machine. And with Blake Griffin out with an injured knee, we'll get to see Anthony Davis at work before he even makes his NBA debut. Along with LeBron, Kobe and Melo, the Americans bring a strong blend of veterans and young stars. Though one of the most talked about female basketball players Baylor's Brittney Griner will not play after breaking her ankle, the team is jam packed with veterans and the WNBA's top notch players.
Our predictions: Both American squads will pull away with easy wins, almost guaranteed. However there are several teams that will put up a fight. The Spur's Tony Parker and Boris Diaw could make something happen for France while the Gasol brothers form a powerful front court for Spain. Meanwhile on the women's side Czech Republic is a force to be reckoned with after finishing second at the FIBA World Championships in 2010.
Last time: In 2008 the U.S. came out on top of both the women's and men's tournaments. On the women's side silver and bronze went to teams from China, while on the men's side they both went to teams from Brazil.
Athletes to watch: Alison Cerutti and Emanuel Rago form a powerful team for the Brazilians but they will be challenged fiercely by the defending champions, Americans Todd Rogers and Phil Dalhausser. In the women's competition Misty May Treanor and Kerri Walsh will be returning for the U.S. while Larissa Franca and Juliana Felisberta take center stage for Brazil.
Our predictions: Gold and silver for both the men and women will land in either American or Brazilian hands. The edge goes to the two Brazilian teams, but the Americans do have a chance at repeating.
Athletes to watch: Though the U.S. has not won a gold medal in boxing since the games were held at home in 1996, there might be hope for redemption this time around. Relatively unknown 18-year-old leftie Joseph Diaz is someone to keep an eye on in the Bantamweight category. 2008 Pan American games gold medalist flyweight Marlen Esparza was the first American woman to qualify and has potential to make a long run this Olympics.
Our predictions: It's nearly impossible to guess correctly on each one of these boxing matchups when one mental lapse can easily lead to a knockout. Our best guess is that the Americans will get at least one gold, and we're hoping three or more trips to the podium.
Last time: The Germans and Slovaks were powerhouses in 2008, each receiving three gold medals. Alexander Grimm took home gold in a narrow men's slalom competition, edging Frenchmen Fabien Lefevre by just a few seconds.
Athletes to watch: Not only will English canoe sprinter Rachel Cawthorn have the home "water” advantage, she also is a world record holder and placed first in the European Champion competition two years ago. American Tim Hornsby will be making his Olympic debut in an event that is also appearing for the first time in London, the 200 meter sprint.
Our predictions: Despite a fairly typical showing four years ago, the English canoers have a good feel for the water and thus have a good shot at placing this time around.
Last time: Cycling is split into four sub-categories: road, track, mountain and BMX. Great Britain dominated cycling in Beijing, receiving 14 medals. Kristin Armstrong was the only American to take home gold in cycling, placing first in the Women's time trial. Though the U.S. received three medals in total for men and women's BMX, Latvia and France came out on top for the event respectively.
Athletes to watch: After narrowly getting beaten out for a spot in the Olympics four years ago,
Arielle Martin is ready to take the BMX course with a vengeance. On the men's side, look out
for Team England. Bradley Wiggins, who already won the Tour de France looks like a shoo-in for first in the time trials.
Our predictions: England, as in 2008 will likely reign supreme in cycling for both the men and
women's sides. Despite this, we think the U.S. has a good shot at gold for both genders in the
Athletes to watch: American David Boudia won the silver in the 10 meter platform at worlds last year, becoming the first American to medal in the event since 1986. Paola Espinosa of Mexico will look to medal in the 10 meter platform after she was Mexico's flag bearer in the 2008 games.
Our predictions: The Chinese are simply too good and they sweep the event, winning every gold medal and a couple silver and bronzes.
Last time: The German equestrians came out on top in Beijing, placing first in team dressage, team eventing and individual eventing. The U.S. received one medal for first, second and third place in varying equestrian events.
Athletes to watch: Steffen Peters is a veteran equestrian who has received top honors for his prior competitions in dressage, while Rich Fellers was the first American in a quarter of a century to place first in the World Equestrian games. Karen O'Connor has had plenty of experience with five Olympics already under her belt, and is expected to make a good showing for the U.S. in competition.
Our predictions: The U.S. has a solid foundation for what could potentially be a gold medaling team, though Germany and Canada also have very skillful equestrians on their sides.
Last time: On the men's side the French won gold in both team events while the Americans pulled out a silver in team sabre. For the women the Americans won gold, silver and bronze in the individual sabre while the Russians took gold in the team foil event.
Athletes to watch: Italian woman Valentine Vezzali is attempting to become the fourth athlete ever to win the same individual event at four straight games. Eighteen year old Lee Keifer who won bronze at worlds last year attempts to make it back on to the podium in individual foil.
Our predictions: The Italian men, holders of the top three spots in the world rankings, take the event by storm while Vezzali makes history in the individual foil competition.
Last time: Unlike in the U.S. where Field Hockey is almost exclusively female, the rest of the world has participants of both genders. The women's winner was the Netherlands while Germany came away victorious for the men.
Athletes to watch: Midfielders Katie and Julia Reinprecht took dedication to the extreme, taking one year off at Stanford to prep for the Olympics. Once the world's number one ranked team, the Pakistani men are looking to rise again to the challenge of international competition.
Our predictions: With a really sound foundation, it seems that 2012 may finally be a year that the U.S. women bring home a gold in field hockey. The men's final has the potential to come down to any of a number of countries including Germany, Australia and Spain.
Athletes to watch: With soccer underway even before the opening ceremony, the U.S. women
already have one win under their belt with Wednesday's triumph over France 4-2. Star goalie Hope Solo and scoring machine Alex Morgan will be essential if the U.S. wants a repeat of 2008. On the men's side keep an eye on Brazil's Neymar, the 20 year old superstar whose been compared to the likes of Pele and Messi. The 2012 Olympics will be his first true test of international competition, and will set the stage for the World Cup in 2014.
Our predictions: Once again the U.S. women's fiercest competition will be Brazil, equally as
talented and seeking a win after losing to the U.S. in penalty kicks at the 2011 Women's World
Cup semi-finals. On the men's side it will be interesting to see whether Spain can get past the many star-studded rosters and be the first team to win the World Cup, Euro Cup and Olympics in a row.
Last time: China dominated men's gymnastics as they won the team competition as well as medals in floor, pommel horse, rings, parallel bars and horizontal bars. For the women's side Americans Nastia Liukin and Shawn Johnson medaled in a majority of the events but the Chinese team pulled out the win in the team competition.
Athletes to watch: Jordyn Wieber and Gabby Douglas headline possibly the best U.S. team ever. Kohei Uchimura from Japan is the best male gymnast of his time.
Our predictions: The American women have no trouble winning the team competition while the Romanians and Russians put a few athletes on the podium in the individual competitions. Uchimura wins the all around title just ahead of American John Orozco.
Last time: Synchronized swimming and rhythmic gymnastics are the only two olympic events limited exclusively to females. In Beijing, Russia's Evygeniya Kanaeva completely smashed competition for rhythmic gymnastics, scoring almost a full four points higher than the second place medalist from Belarus.
Athletes to watch: Julie Zetlin is the only American competing in the rhythmic segment of the gymnastics competition. Not only is Zetlin the daughter of a Hungarian former gymnastics champ, she is Maryland native who grew up in Bethesda.
Our predictions: Russia seems to have a few firm competitors again for rhythmic gymnastics, a sport where elasticity is a must (the body contortion of the sport requires these athletes to be in flexible in ways inconceivable to an average person.) Zetlin, however, has the tools to give the Russians a run for their money, having placed first in the Pan American games.
Last time: Played extensively everywhere else in the world it seems besides the United States, 2008 handball rivalries were cutthroat. The French men and Norwegian women were the champions, with close final games between Iceland and Russia respectively.
Athletes to watch: Anita Gorbicz, a veteran Croatian playmaker is one of the best of the women's competition. On the men's side, Luc Abalo is ready to bring back the glory for the French team.
Our predictions: Based on rosters with a lot of returning players, it looks as though the French and Norwegians are likely to win again, both teams with deep, strong benches.
Last time: The men's medalists in Beijing hailed from a total of 19 different countries as judo remained a sport uncontrolled by any one nation. However on the women's side five medals went to Japanese athletes while another four went to the Chinese.
Athletes to watch: Wang Ki-Chun of South Korea is sure to be on the podium when the games end while American female athlete Kayla Harrison faces a less certain path in her attempt to become the first American to win an Olympic gold.
Our predictions: An array of different countries see their athletes on the podium once again as judo remains a sport that transcends continental borders.
Athletes to watch: Andrei Moiseev is back for another attempt for Russia but his toughest competition may be fellow Russian Aleksander Lesun. Female athlete Mhairi Spence of Great Britain is the current world champion.
Our predictions: Whether it is Moiseev or Lesun a Russian will win gold for the men while Lithuanian Laura Asadauskaite is a favorite for the women.
Last time: The British reigned supreme at the event on both the men's and women's sides while the Canadian and Australian men each medaled in four events.
Athletes to watch: New Zealander Mahe Drysdale has won five world titles and Kim Crow of Australia will row both single and double sculls.
Our predictions: The Americans medal in several of the team events while New Zealand's team comes out on top.
Last time: Great Britain won two golds and a silver in the men's events while their women won a gold and a bronze. This year match racing will be introduced to the games as a new event.
Athletes to watch: Australian Tom Slingsby returns after a disappointing finish in Beijing, three time medalist Ben Ainslie of Great Britain will be a favorite in the Finn event and star Israeli athlete Lee Korzits returns after her three world titles.
Our predictions: Great Britain, New Zealand and Australia battle for dominance while the Americans look for gold in the Elliott 6m match race.
Last time: Americans Glenn Eller and Vincent Hancock set olympic records in their individual events while Oleksandr Petriv of Ukraine set an olympic record in the 25 meter rapid fire pistol event. Italian Chiara Cainero and Chinese athlete Du Li each set an olympic record in their respective event.
Athletes to watch: Two time olympic champion Du Li returns looking for gold while Michael McPhail and Eric Uptagrafft are the best hopes for a medal for the U.S.
Our predictions: Niccolo Campriani wins multiple golds as Italy takes the charge in men's shooting while the Chinese dominate the women's events.
Athletes to watch: Unlike in Beijing, this year Phelps will not be a clear favorite in all of his events. American Ryan Lochte, Phelps' training partner and biggest rival, is possibly the best swimmer in the world right now. Missy Franklin will be one of the top Americans, competing in seven events, the 17-year-old will bring energy to the American team. Sarah Sjostrom of Sweden, Satomi Suzuki of Japan and Leiston Pickett of Australia are all medal hopefuls as well.
Our predictions: The Americans take center stage in both men's and women's swimming as Phelps and Lochte go one and two in all of their events and Franklin, Rebecca Soni and Allison Schmitt lead the field of women.
Last time: This entirely female sport is a mixture of gymnastics and dancing, all performed in the water. In 2008, Russia placed first in both duet and team competition, with the two Anastasia's, Ermakova and Davydova, leading them to victory.
Athletes to watch: The U.S. will not be sending a team to compete after failing to qualify. Americans Mary Killman and Maria Koroleva will however be representing the country in the duets segment of competition.
Our predictions: There are no synchronized swimmers quite like the Russians who seem to have brought the definition of the word to a whole new level. A repeat of 2008 is more than likely for the Russian squad.
Athletes to watch: Jike Zhang, Long Ma and Xin Xu are ranked one, two and three in the world right now and they all hail from China. On the women's side the top four players in the world are Chinese: Ning Ding, Shiwen Lu, Xiaoxia Li and Yan Guo.
Our predictions: Unfortunately the ping pong table is no place for the Americans as once again the Chinese will dominate all the events. Since the sport's introduction to the Olympics, the Chinese have won 20 of 24 gold medals.
Last time: Weight classes set aside, South Korea topped the medal listings with 4 gold medals.
The U.S. received 3 medals, two bronze and the other silver. Medaling for the most part, was
spread out amongst the countries with 22 distinct nations placing either first, second or third.
Athletes to watch: 2008 Bronze medalist Diana Lopez brought home a bronze for the U.S. four
years ago, and with increased wisdom and added training seems like a viable option to medal
again. Steven Lopez, another American participant has already won gold twice and has the
potential to repeat.
Our predictions: It's hard to put our finger on who exactly will be successful in each evnt given
the versatility of the athletes and the various categories they are separated into, but we'll go
out on a limb and put our bets on the U.S. bringing home two more medals than in 2008, with
at least five received in Taekwondo.
Athletes to watch: Nadal will be sitting out with a knee injury so he will not get the chance to defend his title, but world number one Roger Federer looks to win the Olympic singles for the first time in his career while Andy Murray attempts to win gold on his home turf. Serena Williams attempts to win her first singles gold for the women.
Our prediction: Federer finally gets his gold medal in singles while Williams and Maria Sharapova get gold and silver for the women. The U.S. will likely not have the same doubles luck as 2008 when they won bronze for men and gold for women, though with mixed doubles competition we can't be so sure.
Last time: China and Canada took home three and two of the six available medals for trampoline. Lu Chunlong and He Wenna were both clear victors for China.
Athletes to watch: Jason Burnett, Karen Cockburn and Rosie MacLennan, the "Canadian Trio” as they have taken to being called, have a good chance of winning big for the U.S.'s northern neighbor.
Our predictions: China and Canada will duel it out for first and second place on the men and womens' sides. Trampoline athletes from other nation's will have a difficult time medaling over the performances of those two countries.
Athletes to watch: American triathlete Hunter Kemper almost missed out on London this year after shattering his elbow in 2011 in a triathlon he was running. Having already placed first in the World Championship series, British Helen Jenkins has a good chance of finishing on top of the women's side.
Our predictions: The Americans probably won't receive top honors though its hard not to root for someone like Kemper who triumphed against the odds. Depending on the tide of the water and the weather, these races could be up for grabs by nearly any team.
Last time: Volleyball presents us with yet another rivalry between the U.S. and Brazil. Last time,
the U.S. placed first in men's indoor volleyball, with Brazil coming in second. On the women's side the roles were reversed, as Brazil pulled away with the gold, and the U.S. with silver.
Athletes to watch: With many returners, the U.S. has a solid foundation for another repeat
performance of excellence. Veteran Lindsey Berg will provide both leadership and skill as a
setter in indoors. After taking a few years back from touring playing volleyball, captain Reid
Priddy's advanced knowledge and tactics will give the U.S. a chance at gold.
Our Predictions: Our patriotism and sports knowledge are both advising us that the U.S. will
be successful, perhaps winning its first women's indoor gold medal ever. Volleyball is, to many
viewer's surprises, one of the sport's the U.S. will likely do best in.
Last time: The U.S. men and women were both runner ups in water polo, losing to Hungary and the Netherlands respectively but proving that the nation is a force to be reckoned with.
Athletes to watch: Tumua Anae is one of the U.S.'s greatest assets, a forocious goalkeeper not willing to let anything in to the net. "The Savior,” attacker Tony Azevedo will be expected to prove he deserves the title of one of the best water polo athletes of his generation.
Our predictions: Though the official USA National Water Polo Association recognizes both the men and women as being ranked sixth in water polo among all countries, we're going to go out on a whim and predict a win from one of the two sides.
Athletes to watch: All eyes will be on Holley Mangold sister of one of the best centers in the
National Football League (NFL), Nick Mangold. At 5'8 and 375 pounds herself, Mangold will finally get the opportunity to come out from behind the equally large shadow of her brother. Kendrick Farris is the man to watch for the U.S. Having gone to the Olympics in 2008 and placed eighth, this 180 pounder is pure muscle and ready to succeed in London.
Our predictions: The Chinese athletes are incomparable to almost any of the other
weightlifters, lifting incredible amounts for their statures and weight classes. It seems more
than likely that the nation will be as successful as last year, capturing as many if not more gold
Last time: Henry Cejudo brought home a gold for the U.S. while the majority of the medals went to athletes from Eastern Europe and the Middle East.
Athletes to watch: American Ellis Coleman is already YouTube famous for his "flying squirrel” takedown in which he flips over his opponent and brings him to the floor. Meanwhile Americans Clarissa Chun and Jordan Burroughs are both medal favorites.
Our predictions: The Americans see more success than they've had in past year racking up several medals but the top of the competition continues to come from the Middle East and Eastern Europe as Russia, Iran, Turkey and Azerbaijan receive a large collection of medals.
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