In Part 1 of my survey of America's best gold medal hopes, I examined the sprints—traditionally strong events for the U.S., which is facing a tremendous challenge from a once-in-a-lifetime crop of Caribbean sprinters.
Now for Part 2; the American sprinters' teammates face a completely different, but no less daunting, task. That is, taking on the best that talent-rich Kenya, and nearly every other spot on the map, has to offer.
Part of the beauty of the Olympics is the countries and competitors it can bring together in a fair and unpredictable competition. Middle distance events are some of the most diverse events out there.
In one event (1500m), the defending champion and favorite is a rail-thin, well over six-foot Kenyan named Asbel Kiprop, who has been known to run a 48-second 400 on a dirt track on a lark.
The runner-up in 2008, of course, was a Kiwi, Nick Willis, who went to the University of Michigan. Third place? A French runner of Algerian descent, Mehdi Baala.
This sort of geographical range only makes it that much harder for an American native to emerge as the best in the world in middle distance (and it really is of the world).
After a somewhat hopeless lull in the mid 1990s to early 2000s, U.S. middle distance running has improved steadily, with greater grassroots support in high school, better coaching and more determination than ever to catch up with world.
With that in mind, here are the U.S.'s best hopes in the 800m, 1500m and 3000m steeplechase (make that pipe dream).