Aug. 04, 2008, 6:30 a.m. (ET)

Want to know who is looking for a grand slam in women's softball or who is wanting a better color scheme after winning five swimming medals in Athens?

The 2008 United States Olympic team is filled with athletes who have interesting stories and circumstances. Here are eight members of the women's team who could be the athletes to watch.

Outfielder Laura Berg (Santa Fe Springs, Calif.), the United State's women's softball team's most decorated member would like nothing better than to win a fourth gold medal in Beijing. It not only would mean a grand slam of gold medals for her in softball's Olympic competition (1996-2008), but also be a symbolic vote of confidence for the sport's survival on the Olympic schedule. Softball currently isn't part of the Olympic schedule for the 2012 Olympic Games in London.

Diving's Laura Wilkinson (Spring, Tex.), the gold medalist in platform at the 2000 Games in Sydney, could be full of surprises in her final Olympic competition. She announced last week that she is ending her 13-year career after competing in Beijing, but she's contemplating making her finale memorable. She just might do a dive rated at 3.8 in difficulty, consisting of a 2 ½ somersault and a 2 ½ twist from a pike position.

Going on 17 isn't an intimidating age for gymnast Shawn Johnson (West Des Moines, Iowa). Last year at 15, Johnson won the all around gold medal in the World Championships.  She became only the fourth woman from the United States to win the all around at Worlds.  So at 16, competing in the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games is just another day at work.

Charlotte Craig (Murrieta, Calif.), doesn't fit the norm on the United States taekwondo team.  She's the only member of the team with a different last name than Lopez. She joins Diana Lopez (Sugar Land, Tex.), Mark Lopez (Sugar Land Tex.) and Steven Lopez (Sugar Land, Tex.) as the team members. Craig also is the youngest taekwondo team member at 17.

If Ronda Rousey (Santa Monica, Calif.), becomes the first U. S. woman to win a medal in judo, she might claim that her cat was an omen. Before the 2004 Olympic Games in Athens, Rousey named a new cat Beijing in anticipation of competing in her first Games in China.  But Beijing was premature because Rousey made the Olympic team in 2004 and finished ninth in Athens.

Now, swimmer Natalie Coughlin (Lafayette, Calif.) wants to be seen as the golden girl. After becoming the third U. S. woman to win five medals in an Olympic Games in 2004 in Athens, Coughlin is looking for a different color combination in Beijing. Her take in Athens consisted of two gold medals, two silver medals and a bronze medal.  Her goal is to improve the color of all the medals in Beijing.

Marcie Van Dusen (Lake Arrowhead, Calif.) comes into the Olympic wrestling competition in the role of the spoiler. She's entering her first Olympic Games in Beijing, but she already has a place on the world scene in wrestling. She handed a first loss to the career of Japan's Saori Yoshida in the World Cup matches, ending Yoshida's hopes of retiring undefeated. Van Dusen wrestles at 55 kg for the United States Women's Team.

A change of mind has brought Sarah Hammer (Temecula, Calif.) back to the sport of cycling and into the 2008 Olympic Games in Beijing. After the 2002 season, Hammer, a junior cyclist at the time, left the sport and sold her equipment.  However, while watching the 2004 Olympic Games in Athens, her interest rekindled and she started back from scratch. It meant new equipment, a new coach, Andy Sparks, and a new direction.

 

Irv Moss is a freelance contributor for the USOC. This story was not subject to the approval of the United States Olympic Committee or any National Governing Body.

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