Did you know? Team USA's Khatuna Lorig served as coach to Jennifer Lawrence for her starring role in The Hunger Games. (It's No. 31 on our list.)
April 18 marks the 100-day countdown to the start of a global athletic celebration when the Olympic Games, followed by the Paralympic Games, begin in London. The Opening Ceremony for the Olympic Games is July 27 and the world’s attention will be on the European city, which will host the Games for a third time. The Paralympic Games open Aug. 29.
Here are some things to watch for as we approach the 2012 Summer Games.
The official Olympic Countdown Clock, unveiled in March 2011 to mark the 500-day countdown to the Games, will strike 100 on April 18 in London's Trafalgar Square. The steel clock measures 6.5 meters high, 5 meters long and weighs around 4 tons. According to the London 2012 Organizing Committee website, its design “reflects the look of the Games, with beams inspired by London and its connection with the Prime Meridian in Greenwich, the home of time.”
An estimated 1 billion people around the world are expected to tune in to the Opening Ceremony on July 27. The highlights of the event, traditionally, are the parade of athletes and the lighting of the Olympic cauldron. Danny Boyle, the British filmmaker behind “Slumdog Millionaire,” will be the event’s artistic director.
Royalty will play a big role, as it always does, in London. Buckingham Palace said Queen Elizabeth II will open both the Olympic and Paralympic Games. The queen and her husband, Prince Philip, will perform the ceremonial role at the 80,000-seat Olympic Stadium when the Olympic Games begin on July 27, and for the Paralympic Games on Aug. 29.
Queen Elizabeth II will not be the first member of the British royal family to participate in Opening Ceremony celebrations for the Olympic Games. Her father, the late King George VI, opened the London 1948 Olympic Games, and her great grandfather, King Edward VII, opened the London 1908 Olympic Games. Elizabeth also opened the 1976 Games, which were held in Montreal, Canada, where she is the head of state, while her husband did so on her behalf at Melbourne, Australia, in 1956.
Will there be a Will and Kate sighting, too? Their royal wedding last summer proved to be a worldwide event of its own. Don’t be surprised if The Dutchess of Cambridge shows up at a field hockey game. Kate Middleton, an official Team Great Britain ambassador for the 2012 Games, played the sport as a schoolgirl.
Shaken or stirred? Daniel Craig, one of the James Bond actors, got a personal invite from Queen Elizabeth II to film some scenes inside Buckingham Palace for the Opening Ceremony. In addition to filming in the Queen’s private quarters, helicopter scenes were also shot for 007.
If you just can’t wait and have to be in Great Britain before the Games begin, you can check out the Torch Relay, which will travel for 70 days around the United Kingdom. The relay begins in Land’s End and will visit 1,018 communities throughout the United Kingdom and will also stop in Dublin, Ireland, before arriving in London. There will be a separate torch relay for the Paralympic Games Aug. 24-29.
Everyone always wants to know what the Olympic medals will look like. The ones that will be awarded to about 2,100 athletes in 302 medal ceremonies will feature the traditional image of the Greek Goddess of Victory (Nike) on the front and the back will have the London 2012 logo.
2012 marks the first time that the same essential logo will be used for both the Olympic and Paralympic Games.
Two things fans will see plenty of this summer are London’s mascots: Wenlock and Mendeville. The one-eyed characters were unveiled in 2010 and have their own Facebook pages and Twitter accounts. Wenlock is named after the Shropshire town of Much Wenlock, which played host to the Wenlock Games in the mid-19th century. Mendeville is named after Stoke Mandeville Hospital. A doctor there created the Stoke Mandeville Games as a way to inspire injured soldiers. Those Games are seen as a precursor to the modern Paralympic Games.
Double-decker buses. These red, two-storied buses are commonplace in London and even made an appearance during handover ceremony from Beijing to London during the Closing Ceremony of the 2008 Games. Already, the double-decker buses are featured on Olympic pins.
Wimbledon, Part II. Just a few weeks after Wimbledon plays host to its annual Grand Slam event, the All England Lawn Tennis Club will again be in the spotlight. Wimbledon will be the site for the Olympic tennis tournament. Strawberries and cream, anyone?
Soccer, which is the national sport in England (and known as football over there) will be played at various venues, but the gold-medal matches will be played in Wembley Stadium. The original Wembley was built in 1923 and torn down in 2003. The new Wembley, priced at £757 million, opened in 2007. It can seat about 90,000.
Bend it Like Beckham. David Beckham, one of the most well-known soccer players in the world, has stated publicly that not only would he like to play for England in the 2012 Games but he would like to be the team’s captain.
There will be about 10,500 athletes representing 205 National Olympic Committees in the Olympic Games -- and an estimated 4,200 athletes from 170 National Paralympic Committees for the Paralympic Games.
Many of the athletes will stay in the newly constructed apartments (2,818 were built) as part of the Olympic and Paralympic Village in Olympic Park. The village features 16,000 beds and 11,000 sofas. Taller athletes even will be able to extend their beds.
The Olympic Stadium. It took three years to construct this venue, which will be used for the Opening and Closing Ceremonies as well as track and field events in both the Olympic and Paralympic Games. It can seat about 80,000.
Want to see Michael Phelps? He’ll definitely be in the London Aquatics Centre, an indoor facility with two 50-meter swimming pools and a 25-meter diving pool. The facility will be used for swimming, diving and synchronized swimming. His longtime coach, Bob Bowman, isn’t revealing which events the 16-time Olympic medalist will enter, telling The (Baltimore) Sun recently, “He won't swim in an event in London that he won't have a chance to win.”
The Velodrome. This venue, located north of Olympic Park, will host track cycling in both the Olympic and Paralympic Games.
ExCeL. This is an existing venue and it will be used for a variety of events: boxing, fencing, judo, table tennis, taekwondo, weightlifting, wrestling, boccia, Paralympic Table Tennis, Paralympic Judo, Paralympic Powerlifting, Sitting Volleyball and Wheelchair Fencing.
Weymouth Bay and Portland Harbor will serve as the venue for the Olympic and Paralympic sailing events and was the first venue for the London 2012 Games to be completed. Located on the south coast of England, the site already has been used for elite international sailing events.
Lord Sebastian Coe, often called “Seb Coe,” is one of England’s most decorated Olympians having won four Olympic medals. He won the gold medal in the 1,500-meter track and field event in 1980 and 1984. Today, he is the head of the London Organizing Committee for the Olympic Games.
Movie clips from “Chariots of Fire”. The British film is based on the Olympic competition between Eric Liddell and Harold Abrahams, who were track competitors in the 1924 Games. The churning theme song from this 1981 film is quickly hummed almost as soon as the film’s title is mentioned. With the 2012 Games being held in London, it might be hard for broadcasters not to bring up this Oscar winner.
Speaking of music, it will be hard not to catch a glimpse of some of England’s biggest popular music stars: Paul McCartney and Elton John. McCartney, who along with Ringo Starr are the lone remaining living members of the Beatles, are bound to participate in the Games, as is Sir Elton John. McCartney told reporters in January that he has been in talks to perform during the Olympic Games. Other big music names from Great Britain: Adele, David Bowie and Phil Collins.
Another familiar face that will be seen on TV screens on this side of the Atlantic will be Ryan Seacrest, the “American Idol” and radio host who recently announced he will be part of NBC’s coverage of the Olympic Games.
NBC Universal broadcasted about 3,600 hours of programming for the Games in Beijing and chances are even more hours will be broadcast from London. In January, the network announced a partnership with Panasonic and Olympic Broadcasting Services to even broadcast in 3D. Earlier this month, NBC Universal announced it would air a record 67 1/2 hours of U.S. Olympic Trials programming, much of it coming on NBC Sports Network and much of it will appear live. In 2008, NBC aired 49 hours of Trials coverage and broadcast 40 ½ hours in 2004.
Some athletes already have their tickets booked for London, but many others have to wait until their Olympic or Paralympic Trials are over to see if they will be part of Team USA this summer. Among some of the Trials still to come: Wrestling (April 21-22 in Iowa City, Iowa), Diving (June 17-24, Federal Way, Wash.), Gymnastics (June 28-July 1, San Jose, Calif.), Swimming (June 25-July 2, Omaha, Neb.) and Track and Field (June 21-July 1, Eugene, Ore.), Paralympic Trials include Swimming (June 14-16, Bismarck, N.C., Para-Cycling Road Trials (June 22-24, Augusta, Ga.) and Track & Field (June 29-July 1, Indianapolis, Ind.).
One swimmer who can safely pack for London is Alex Meyer, an open water swimmer. He placed fourth at the 2011 10K Open Water World Championships in Shanghai to qualify for the 2012 Games.
The first U.S. athlete to earn a nomination to the 2012 Games, however, is Kim Rhode, who will be making her fifth Olympic appearance in shooting. The youngest member of the U.S. Olympic Team in Atlanta in 1996 (she turned 17 just days after the Opening Ceremony of those Games), she is now a four-time Olympic medalist and a veteran of Team USA.
Another youngster in Atlanta, Amanda Beard, is trying to make a comeback for the Games in London. As a 14-year-old at the 1996 Games, Beard captured three Olympic medals (a gold in the 4 x 100 relay, silver in the 100-meter and 200-meter breaststroke events). London would mark her fifth Games.
Dara Torres knows a thing or two about longevity in swimming. She competed in her first Olympic Games back in 1984 in Los Angeles. Now 45, Torres is showing once again that age is just a number. The 12-time Olympic medalist is hoping to earn her first gold medal in an individual swimming event in London.
Meanwhile, Janet Evans, another storied American swimming, retired following the Atlanta 1996 Olympic Games but at 40, she is making a comeback. The distance swimmer is now training for the 2012 Olympic Trials.
Torres and Evans are not the only members of the 40-and-over club trying to make it to Team USA in 2012. Rulon Gardner, the famed Greco-Roman wrestler who performed the “Miracle on the Mat” when he upset Aleksandr Karelin of Russia in 2000, is now 40. He will be competing in the upcoming wrestling Olympic Trials. Among other members of this club with Olympic hopes are: Richard “Butch” Johnson, 56 (archery), Eric Uptagrafft, 46 (shooting), Jun Gao, 43, (table tennis) and Karen O’Connor, 54 (equestrian).
But Torres and Evans are mere youngsters when it comes to age in the Olympics. Japanese dressage rider Hiroshi Hoketsu, will be the oldest participant in London at age 71. According to news reports, he plans to continue training after these Games for 2016.
At the other end of the age spectrum are swimmer Missy Franklin (who turns 16 in May) gymnast Jordyn Wieber (who turns 16 on July 12) and table tennis phenoms Ariel Hsing (16) and Lily Zhang (turns 16 in June).
Will Hugh McCutcheon guide another U.S. volleyball team to gold? McCutcheon led the U.S. men’s volleyball team to the Olympic gold medal in Beijing, a trying Games for the coach since his father-in-law was stabbed to death in China on the opening day of Olympic events in 2008. Four years later, McCutcheon will be the coach of the U.S. women’s team in London.
Will Oscar Pistorius become the first double amputee to compete in the Olympic Games? The South African sprinter has bettered the Olympic qualifying time in the 400-meter event once but needs to do it once more by the end of June to qualify for London.
Can an American beat Pistorius for Paralympic gold? If Jerome Singleton has anything to say about this, the answer is a resounding yes. Singleton beat Pistorius at the 2011 IPC Athletics World Championships to win the 100 title in the T44 class. Singleton also earned two silver medals, in the 200 and in the 4 x 100 relay. A silver medalist in the 100 in Beijing, Singleton hopes to reach the top of the medal podium in London.
Pistorius isn’t the only South African runner who will be generating headlines. Caster Semenya, the winner of the 800 at the 2009 world championships, is also trying to earn her second Olympic qualifying mark. Following her world title victory, an investigation was started to determine her gender. She has been cleared to compete against women.
American Paralympic judo star Myles Porter, whois legally blind, went undefeated in the 100kg class to win the 2011 Parapan American Games title, marking his first championship at a major international event. His U.S. teammates then bestowed another honor upon him: They voted for him to be the U.S. flag bearer in the Closing Ceremony. He hopes to go for gold this summer in the Paralympic Games.
Can Kayla Harrison become the first American woman to win a medal in Olympic judo? The 2010 world gold medalist at the 78kg class, she also earned a bronze medal at the world championships in 2011. In addition, she claimed the Pan American Games crown. She was the first American to win a world crown since 1999 when her coach, Jimmy Pedro, won a world title in England of all places.
Will Dwight Phillips find redemption in 2012? The 2004 Olympic champion in the long jump placed fourth in the 2008 U.S. Olympic Trials and could not defend his title in Beijing. But at the 2011 IAAF World Championships in Athletics in Daegu, South Korea, Phillips was on his “A” game with a leap of 8.45 meters (27 feet, 8 3/4 inches).
Jennifer Simpson won’t be such a surprise if she wins in London after she beat Hannah England and Natalia Rodriguez in a time of 4:05.40 in the 1,500 to win the world title in the 2011 IAAF World Championships in Athletics.
Will a husband-and-wife duo both win Olympic medals? Both Eric and Sandra Uptagrafft earned nominations to the 2012 U.S. Olympic Team in the sport of shooting. Eric, a sergeant first class and a 1996 Olympian, will compete in the men’s 50m rifle. Sandra, a member of the Navy Reserves who specializes in information technology, earned a nomination to the 2012 U.S. Olympic Team by virtue of her second-place finish in the 25m sport pistol event at the Pan American Games in Guadalajara, Mexico.
Rowing to gold again? The U.S. team women’s eight claimed its six consecutive gold medal at the 2011 World Rowing Championships in Bled, Slovenia. The crew of coxswain Mary Whipple, Eleanor Logan, Caroline Lind, Amanda Polk, Jamie Redman, Taylor Ritzel, Meghan Musnicki, Susan Francia and Esther Lofgren was in second place halfway through but rallied to keep its consecutive wins record intact. Now can Team USA capture gold in London?
Who are some of America’s top Paralympians to watch this summer? Swimmer Jessica Long will be entered in nine events, including two relays. Tatyana McFadden, will be one to watch in track and field having won five medals in all five events she entered at the 2011 IPC Athletics World Championships, including four golds in wheelchair racing: 200m, 400m, 800m and the 1500m (all T54 class). Alana Nichols, who also competes as a Paralympic alpine skier, helped lead Team USA to a gold medal in wheelchair basketball at the 2011 Parapan Games. Allison Jones is trying to compete in London in cycling. Should she make the team, it will mark her sixth Paralympic Games.
The U.S. men’s soccer team did not qualify for London but the women’s team hopes to give American soccer something to cheer about this summer. The U.S. women’s team will try to capture a fourth gold medal for Team USA in the Games.
Abby Wambach, one of America’s biggest stars on the women’s soccer team, is especially hungry for gold this summer. The forward was on the gold-medal winning team in Athens in 2004 and hoped to go to Beijing as well. But in the final tune-up game before the 2008 Games, she broke her left leg and could not compete in China. She has returned to the team and headed in some key goals during the 2011 FIFA Women’s World Cup in which the United States lost to Japan in the final.
How will Hope Solo fare in cleats? The U.S. soccer goalie sported dancing shoes on “Dancing With The Stars,” after the 2011 FIFA Women’s World Cup. Back in her comfort zone on the soccer field, Solo hopes to lead Team USA to gold.
Can an American woman win a gold medal in the women’s marathon? Not since Joan Benoit captured a gold medal in the inaugural Olympic women’s marathon event in Los Angeles in 1984 has an American woman reached the finish line first in this event. This year, however, there are a few women who might change history: Shalene Flanagan, Kara Goucher and Desiree Davila.
On the men’s side, Meb Keflezighi is proving he is getting better with age. Keflezighi will be 37 when he competes in his third Olympic marathon this summer. He will be joined by Ryan Hall, 29, and Abdi Abdirahman, 35.
The United States has medaled every year in women’s water polo since the sport made its Olympic debut in 2000 in Sydney, but it has yet to win the gold. Is 2012 the year?
Mariel Zagunis is hoping the third time is the charm for her in London. She captured Olympic gold medals in Athens and Beijing in sabre fencing.
Also hoping for a three-peat is the beach volleyball duo of Misty May-Treanor and Kerri Walsh. Since Beijing, however, May-Treanor injured her Achilles tendon (during her stint on “Dancing With The Stars”) and had to miss some competition. Walsh, meanwhile, has become the mother of two boys. May-Treanor and Walsh decided in 2011 to make a third attempt for Olympic gold in London.
Now that May-Treanor and Walsh are trying to regain their Olympic form, the next question for the dynamic duo is: What to wear? They plan on wearing bikinis, but the FIVB will allow women to wear “shorts of a maximum length of (1.18 inches) above the knee, and sleeved or sleeveless tops.”
Women’s dress code options are also available in women’s boxing, which is making its Olympic debut in London. The International Amateur Boxing Association (AIBA) ruled in March that female boxers will wear “either shorts or the option of a skirt.”
Which U.S. Olympic women’s gymnasts from Beijing will return to the mat in 2012? Plenty of Olympians are trying to make a return trip. Among them: Olympic all-around champion Nastia Liukin and gold medalist Shawn Johnson. Others who might also make comebacks? Chellsie Memmel (who underwent shoulder surgery last year), Alicia Sacramone (who tore her Achilles tendon in 2011) and Bridget Sloan (biceps). Rebecca Bross, the 2009 all-around world silver medalist, is recovering from a knee injury. Only five gymnasts will be named to the team.
One gymnast who seems to be on track for an Olympic spot is Jordyn Wieber, the reigning U.S. champion and world all-around winner. Should Wieber make the U.S. team and win the all-around gold medal in London, she would be the first American women’s gymnast to follow up a world title with an Olympic crown.
Who should we watch on the men’s gymnastics side? Danell Leyva won the all-around gold medal in the 2011 Visa Championships. The Cuban-American has gymnastics in his blood. His mother, Maria Gonzalez, was a member of Cuba’s gymnastics team. His stepfather (and coach), Yin Alvarez, was also a member of Cuba’s national team.
But don’t count out Jonathan Horton. The 2010 all-around world bronze medalist and 2008 Olympic silver medalist (high bar) helped lead Team USA to a team bronze medal in Beijing.
Another gymnast to watch will be Julie Zetlin, who will be the first American to compete in rhythmic gymnastics since 2004. Zetlin, the 2010 U.S. champion, got involved in the sport through her mother, Zsuzsi, a former Hungarian rhythmic gymnast.
The 2012 Games marks a big year for USA Gymnastics as it will be the first Olympic Games in which Team USA qualified in rhythmic gymnastics as well as men’s and women’s trampoline.
Can the U.S. women’s basketball team win a fifth consecutive Olympic gold medal? Team USA has won six of the last seven Olympic titles (The Americans placed third in the Barcelona 1992 Olympic Games) and has a strong lineup ready for London.
Will Brittney Griner get a chance to dunk in the Olympic Games? Eleven of the 12 players were announced during the NCAA Women's Final Four in Denver. Although Griner hasn’t been named to the team yet, it seems likely that she will. After all, the 6-foot-8 Baylor junior led her team to a 40-0 season and averaged 12.8 points and 7.0 rebounds in the tournament. She was also the second woman to dunk in the NCAA Women’s tournament.
Huskie watch: When the U.S. women’s basketball team takes the court in London they all will sport Team USA jerseys. But five members of the team played for the University of Connecticut Huskies: Sue Bird, Diana Taurasi, Swin Cash, Maya Moore and Tina Charles. The U.S. team will be coached by none other than UConn coach Geno Auriemma.
The U.S. men’s basketball team, under the guidance of coach Mike Krzyzewski, redeemed itself in Beijing by capturing the Olympic gold medal. Among finalists for the 2012 team are Kobe Bryant, LeBron James, Dwayne Wade and Kevin Durant. There will be no Linsanity, but this team is taking its multiple talents to London.
Basketball has had its share of gold medals in the Olympic Games. Badminton, however, is looking for its first. This year could be the best hope for Team USA with the doubles team of Howard Bach and Tony Gunawan. They won the 2005 world title and in 2011, they captured the Pan-American Games crown.
London's most famous address, 10 Downing Street, which is the Prime Minister's residence, will be a good place to catch some beach volleyball action this summer. A temporary venue will be set up at the Horse Guards Parade, which lies at the heart of Whitehall, the political center of the United Kingdom. It is close to Downing Street and across St James’s Park from Buckingham Palace.
How many Lopez siblings will medal in taekwondo? Diana, Steven and Mark Lopez all represented Team USA in Beijing and their coach was their brother, Jean. This time, Diana and Steven qualified. Steven won gold medals in Sydney and Athens and a bronze in Beijing. Diana earned a bronze medal in Beijing.
Can anyone shoot past Brady Ellison? The No. 1-ranked recurve archer in the world is going for gold in London. If you have trouble spotting him, he’s the guy using the pink bow. He uses it to help raise awareness for breast cancer.
Will Jennifer Lawrence come to London to cheer on her archery coach? If Khatuna Lorig makes the U.S. Olympic archery team this summer, she will have one famous fan pulling for her: Jennifer Lawrence, a.k.a. Katniss Everdeen in the blockbuster movie, “The Hunger Games,” took archery lessons from Lorig to prepare for her Hollywood role.
In interviews, Jennifer Lawrence called her training “physical” and “fun.” On “The Hunger Games” website, Lorig said, “I told her I would be very proud when I see her onscreen. I told her, I’ll see her on the screen and say, ‘That’s my student!’ And you know what she said? She said, ‘When I see you in the Olympics, I’ll say, ‘She’s my coach!’ ”
Let the (Hunger) Games begin.
David Boudia just could be the first American male to win an Olympic diving medal since Mark Lenzi achieved that feat in 1992. Boudia earned a silver medal in the 10-meter platform event at the 2011 World Championships in Shanghai. The last American to win a gold medal in the 10-meter event in the Olympic Games was Greg Louganis, who captured back-to-back gold medals in 1984 and 1988.
One of the top divers to watch will be Tom Daley, a British Olympian who won the 2009 world title in the 10-meter platform at just 15. He competed in Beijing at 14.
Will it be smooth sailing again for Anna Tunnicliffe? The American captured the Olympic gold medal in the Women’s Laser Radial class in sailing in Beijing and is trying to defend her title in 2012.
Chances are there will be plenty of Great Britain’s Olympic greats from the Summer Games who will be making appearances throughout 2012. Perhaps some of them will participate in the Opening Ceremony. Among the biggest names in British Olympic history are: Sebastian Coe (track and field gold medalist, 1,500 meters, 1980, 1984), Linford Christie, the Jamaican-born turned Brit who won the 100-meter dash in Barcelona in 1992, David Hemery, the 400-meter hurdles winner in 1968, Mary Rand, the first British female to win a gold medal when she won the long jump title in 1964, Daley Thomspon, the decathlon champion in 1980 and 1984, Kelly Holmes, a track and field star who claimed the gold medals in the 800 and 1500 in Athens, and swimmer Rebecca Adlington, who won the 400 and the 800 gold medals in Beijing. And Scottish cyclist Chris Hoy won three gold medals in Beijing (sprint, team sprint and Keirin) in addition to winning a gold medal in Sydney and a silver in Athens.
Steve Redgrave, however, tops the list of accomplished British Olympians. The rower won gold medals in five consecutive Olympic Games between 1984 and 2000.
There will be 26 sports (which break down into 39 disciplines) contested in these Olympic Games, ranging from archery to wrestling.
The newest addition to the Olympic program is women’s boxing, which will mean that the London 2012 Olympic Games will be the first to include every sport with male and female participants --- with one exception: only women compete in synchronized swimming.
Who will be the women to watch in boxing from Team USA? Marlen Esparza was the winner in the flyweight category at the U.S. Women’s Olympic Boxing Trials held in February. Queen Underwood was the lightweight winner and Claressa Shields, a 16-year-old from Flint, Mich., was the surprise middleweight champion.
On the men’s side of boxing, one of Team USA’s stars will be Rau’shee Warren, the first American boxer to compete in three Olympic Games. The Cincinnati native will compete in the 114-pound flyweight class.
A change to the Olympic program in London is that mixed doubles tennis will played in 2012. The last time mixed doubles was an Olympic event was in 1924. There had been some hope that Roger Federer and Martina Hingis would pair up for one dynamic Swiss duo, but recent reports have shot down those hopes.
Riders of the London Underground might do a double take when they find they are taking the train to the Michael Phelps stop instead of their usual destination in Stratford. That’s because a map has been created renaming the “Tube’s” 361 stations with names of Olympians.
There will be 20 Paralympic sports contested in London when the Paralympic Games begin Aug. 29. Paralympians will compete in everything from sailing to table tennis to wheelchair basketball.
The International Olympic Committee has been hopeful that female athlete representation will come from every competing nation in London. Qatar, Saudi Arabia and Brunei are the only countries that have never included women on the Olympic teams.
Although the last time London held the Olympic Games was in 1948, there are plenty of members from that U.S. Olympic Team that plan on returning to London this summer as spectators. Some of the American living legends are: Olympic track-and-field gold medalists Harrison Dillard, Alice Coachman and Mal Whitfield, Olympic champion diver Sammy Lee and Olympic basketball gold medalist Ray Lumpp. Several 1948 team members will attend the 100-day countdown in Times Square on April 18 and a 1948 team reunion will be held at the USA House during the 2012 Games.
Expect to hear a lot of history during these Games. London is the first city to host the Summer Games three times. It first hosted the Games in 1908 and played host again 40 years later.
Will Allyson Felix go for a double in London? She went for it at the 2011 IAAF Track and Field World Championships, finishing second in the 400 and third in the 200. Felix earned silver medals in the 200 in both Athens and Beijing.
Who will have the family bragging rights? Sanya Richards-Ross has an Olympic gold medal in the 4 x 400 track relay and a bronze in the 400-meter event but she has to contend with her husband, Aaron Ross, an NFL cornerback who is coming off a Super Bowl win with the New York Giants. She will try to go for gold in London. He will try to win a second ring this season, but this time he will have to do it with the Jacksonville Jaguars.
Natalie Coughlin became the first American female athlete in modern Olympic history to win six medals in one Olympic Games (2008 in Beijing) and the first woman to win the gold medal in the 100-meter backstroke in consecutive Olympic Games (2004, 2008). And she’s not finished. The 11-time Olympic medalist plans to compete this summer in her fourth Olympic Games.
Missy Franklin is expected to make a big splash in London. At the FINA World Championships in 2011 in Shanghai, she won five medals, three gold, one in the 200 backstroke. She is still a high school junior but she looms large. She stands at 6-foot-1, has a 6-3 wingspan and wears size 13 shoes.
The United States will field a field hockey team in London. The U.S. women’s team qualified for the 2012 Games by virtue of its Pan-American Games gold-medal win in Guadalajara, Mexico. The men’s team, however, will not join the women in London.
BMX is back. After making its Olympic debut in Beijing, the rugged cycling event is on the docket again in London. The BMX races at London 2012 will be held on a short outdoor track, with the riders starting on an 8m-high ramp. The course is built up with jumps, bumps and tightly banked corners. Following individual time trial seeding rounds, eight riders compete in heats, with each race lasting around 40 seconds.
Can Americans sweep the decathlon podium in London? There’s a good chance it could happen should Bryan Clay, the 2008 Olympic gold medalist, Trey Hardee, the men’s decathlon world champion in 2011 and Ashton Eaton make the U.S. Olympic team.
Will Henry Cejudo and his mother make it to London? Henry not only qualified to compete in Beijing in 2008, he came home with a gold medal in the 55kg freestyle wrestling class. His mother, Nelly Rico, however, could not make the trip because she was not a U.S. citizen. Now a naturalized American, Rico can go to London. All Cejudo has to do is qualify at the U.S. Olympic Trials later this month.
Both the U.S. men’s and women’s water polo teams struck gold in the Pan-American Games and punched their tickets to London. The USA Water Polo Men’s National Team won the gold medal and a berth to the 2012 Olympic Games with a 7-3 defeat of Canada. The women also beat Canada in an epic battle, 27-26. Maggie Steffens’ goal on the final penalty shot coupled with a Canada miss secured victory and brought an end to a shootout that saw each team have 20 attempts.
Taylor Phinney is switching gears. After finishing eighth in the individual pursuit in Beijing, the IOC decided to change things up in cycling for 2012 and Phinney’s event is no longer in the program. He will attempt to compete in a new Olympic event, the omnium, which is a multiple-race cycling event.
What is the omnium cycling event that is new in 2012? It is a combination of six events: a one-lap flying time trial, a points race, an elimination race, individual pursuit, scratch race and time trial. American Sarah Hammer is the 2011 world silver medalist in the event.
Four years ago, Michael Phelps was racing against Mark Spitz’s record of seven Olympic gold medals (in 1972). This time around, his biggest competition will come from another American swimmer --- Ryan Lochte. Lochte, 27, has six Olympic medals to his name (three gold). He and Phelps have become rivals in the pool, especially in the 200-meter individual medley. Lochte beat Phelps at the 2011 world championships in the 200 free as well, touching the wall in 1 minute, 44.44 seconds, with Phelps taking the silver in 1:44.79. Phelps got the best of Lochte in the 200 IM in March at the Indianapolis Grand Prix. Who will come up big in London?
Will anyone beat Jamaican sprinter Usain Bolt? No one could come close to doing so four years ago in Beijing. Bolt won the 100-meter and 200-meter events as well as the 4 x100 relay in record-setting fashion.
Perhaps the only person who can beat Bolt is Bolt. A false start disqualified the fastest man in the world in the 100 finals at the IAAF World Championships in Athletics in 2011 in Daegu, South Korea.
How many medals will Michael Phelps tally by the end of London? Entering the Games this summer, Phelps has won 16 medals --- 14 gold and two bronze. Four more gold medals and he will have 18, double the total of gold medals won by Mark Spitz. Eighteen is also a magic number because Larisa Latynina, a gymnast for the Soviet Union, holds the record for winning the most Olympic medals with 18 (9 gold, 5 silver, 4 bronze).
How many medals will Team USA win in the Olympic and Paralympic Games this summer? The United States hauled in 110 medals in Beijing, with 36 golds, 38 silvers and 36 bronzes, but China claimed the most gold medals with 51. Russia had the third-most medals in Beijing with 73, followed by Great Britain with 47 (19 gold, 13 silver, 15 bronze). China dominated the Paralympic Games with 211 medals. The United States was third, behind Great Britain, with 99.