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Countdown to London: Three Days to Go

By Amy Rosewater | July 24, 2012, 11:30 a.m. (ET)

London CountdownWith three days remaining until the cauldron is lit for the official start of the London 2012 Olympic Games, TeamUSA.org came up with its own list of threes. 

Three Olympic Terms To Learn 

Every Olympic Games, sports that do not garner the spotlight as much as the traditional stick and ball sports get big-time treatment in primetime. But what should the American public look for? Here are three moves to follow.

1.) The Amanar: In gymnastics, it is an honor to create a move on an apparatus and have it named after you. Simona Amanar, a seven-time Olympic medalist from Romania, is the one who created this difficult signature move on the vault. A gymnast will start with a round-off onto the board, do a backhand and then flip off the vault with a 2 ½ twisting layout. The gymnasts who can do it (and four of the five American women are in that elite group) can earn high scores (6.5 difficulty).  McKayla Maroney, the reigning world vault champion, is so good at this, many believe she could win the gold in the vault. Watch for Jordyn Wieber, Gabby Douglas and Aly Raisman to attempt the Amanar as well. 

2.) Saber: American Mariel Zagunis is one of the best athletes in the world in this discipline of fencing and could win her third consecutive Olympic gold medal in London. But what exactly is saber (also spelled sabre)? The saber is one of three weapons used in the sport. (The other two are foil and epée.) One of the big differences is that in saber fencing, athletes can score points by using the edge of their blade, as opposed to the point, which is used in foil and epée. 

3.) Ouchi gari: When 2010 world judo champion Kayla Harrison performs this move, one of her favorites, it often ends up with a victory. Harrison uses a fast-motion to grip her opponent and also places her leg between those of her opponent to force the opponent backward. Harrison, who competes in the 78kg class, was the first American to win a world judo title since 1999 when her coach, Jimmy Pedro, achieved that feat.


Three Swimmers Not Named Michael Phelps You Should Know

Yes, we all know Michael Phelps will attract the most attention in the pool in London, just as he did four years ago when he captured eight gold medals in Beijing. But there are some other U.S. swimmers who are ready to make a splash in London, too. 

1.) Ryan Lochte: A six-time Olympic medalist originally from Canandaigua, N.Y., Lochte should not need much of an introduction to Olympic swimming fans. However, when you compete against one of the all-time greats (Phelps), even six-time medalists can be overshadowed. Lochte is set to challenge Phelps in London. Lochte beat Phelps twice at the 2011 world championships but lost to him three out of four times at the U.S. Olympic Trials. Their big races are going to be the 200 and 400 individual medley events. 

2.) Missy Franklin: A 17-year-old high school student, Franklin surely will have a lot to comment on when she attends her high school reunions. She qualified to compete in four individual events and three relays. No American woman has ever competed in seven swimming events in one Olympic Games. 

3.) Katie Ledecky: At 15, she not only is Team USA’s youngest competitor on the entire 2012 Olympic Team, but also she makes Missy Franklin look old by comparison. Ledecky, of Bethesda, Md., qualified to compete in the 800-meter free. 


Three Sports Team USA Has Yet To Earn An Olympic Medal

1.) Badminton: History could change for Team USA in London, especially in men’s doubles as Howard Bach and Tony Gunawan make a medal run. Bach and Gunawan won the 2005 IBF World Championships, and Gunawan won a men’s doubles Olympic gold medal for his native Indonesia. He was sworn in as a U.S. citizen in September, making him eligible to compete for Team USA in London. 

2.) Table Tennis: This sport was introduced to the Olympic Games in Seoul in 1988, and a team event was introduced in Beijing in 2008. China has dominated the Olympic medal podium, but the United States has made inroads and has a lineup of talented youngsters heading to London. Ariel Hsing is 16, Lily Zhang and Erica Wu are 15 and the lone U.S. men’s table tennis entry in London, Tim Wang, is 20. Hsing will face tough competition in London, but she’s already faced the likes of Warren Buffett and Bill Gates in pre-Olympic tune-ups, making her ready for the Olympic challenge. 

3.) Handball: Unfortunately for Team USA, this is one sport the United States did not qualify in, both for the men’s and women’s events. The last time the United States qualified for the Olympic Games in this sport, a kind of cross between basketball and soccer, was at the Atlanta 1996 Olympic Games. The good news for Team USA was that both its men’s and women’s teams qualified for the 2011 Pan American Games, held in Guadalajara, Mexico. Now efforts are being made to grow the sport so by 2016, Team USA might be represented at the Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro. 

Related Athletes

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Missy Franklin

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Ryan Lochte

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Katie Ledecky

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Kayla Harrison

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Mariel Zagunis

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Howard Bach

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Tony Gunawan

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Gabrielle Douglas

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McKayla Maroney

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Jordyn Wieber

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Aly Raisman