London 2012: Michael Phelps and 10 U.S. Stars Who Will Dominate Summer Olympics
The United States leads the all-time Summer Olympic medal counts in all three categories, with 929 gold, 729 silver, 638 bronze and 2,296 total medals.
Only Russia/the Soviet Union has over 1,000 total medals besides the U.S.
The melting-pot population and excellent facilities in the country have made this kind of dominance possible. It has also produced a number of dominant athletes in almost every sport.
Here are 10 of those athletes who will likely be at the London Games this summer.
One last hurrah. One last go. Call it "Phelps' Last Stand."
The most dominant figure in swimming is on his way out of the sport, as he will be retiring after the London Games.
After somewhat of a "lackadaisical attitude" about his sport for a while, Phelps now feels back to his old self. It must be difficult to stay focused all the time when you have 16 Olympic medals to your name.
He even lost one of them (from NBC, link above):
Phelps has 16 Olympic medals—14 gold, two bronze—but only has 15 of them in his possession, as one of the gold medals he won at the 2004 Athens Games is missing. He has a few ideas where it could be, and started to tell a story about someone holding it while they were traveling before he trailed off and changed the subject.
In any case, Phelps is primed for one last big showing at the Olympics before his so-called retirement at age 26 (he will be 27 at the end of the Olympics).
Streeter Lecka/Getty Images
Since Beijing 2008, the only swimmer in the same conversation as Michael Phelps has been Ryan Lochte. Head-to-head, Lochte has been better.
Most recently, at the 2011 FINA World Championships, Lochte out-touched Phelps to win the 200-meter freestyle, and he broke the 200-meter individual medley world record to leave Phelps in second place again.
The U.S. Olympic Trials are at the end of June, which is the next time the two will face one another in races.
Some have compared the 2012 U.S. basketball team to the 1992 Dream Team. After winning gold in 2008 and the World Championship in 2010, this whole team is primed for dominance in London.
Leading the way will be Miami Heat forward and center Chris Bosh.
Bosh averaged 18 points per game and shot .487 from the field this season. Despite only playing 57 games, he scored over 1,000 points in Miami's charge to the playoffs.
Bosh has played in two World Championships along with Beijing 2008. His experience, along with his ability to lead by example, should ensure his success in London—as long as he can stay healthy.
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In just 38 games for the national team, Alex Morgan has scored 22 goals. This is despite being considered a bench player for much of the beginning part of her U.S. career.
At the 2011 Women's World Cup, she scored the first U.S. goal in the final after coming on as a substitute at halftime. She also scored the only goal in a 1-0 victory over Italy to qualify the Americans for that World Cup.
Morgan seems to be heating up at the right moment, too.
In four of the last five games in which she's scored, Morgan put more than one ball in the back of the net.
All of that spells trouble for opposing defenses in the Olympics.
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Being a professional cyclist hasn't come without its costs for Tyler Farrar.
He lost his friend and teammate Wouter Weylandt in the Tour de France after Weylandt crashed on a descent. Farrar's father was paralyzed from the waist down after being hit on his bike, riding to work.
But still, Farrar pedals on.
From the Bend Bulletin:
It was a rough time. That kind of thing doesn’t go away. I don’t think it ever completely goes away. But cycling is my life, my job, and even though it happened, I still love the sport. I still love racing my bike.
Through three stages of the Giro d'Italia, Farrar is in 30th place after finishing third in Stage 3.
Farrar is known as one of the world's fastest sprinters, and his speed will be on display this summer against the world's other top sprinter: (via Briton Mark Cavendish).
Jordyn Wieber won the all-around competition at the 2011 World Championships.
She's drawn comparisons to Shawn Johnson, who won the balance beam at Beijing 2008. After her debut performance at the Worlds, it's not hard to see why.
As the top gymnast in the world heading into the Olympics, her decision to go pro means Wieber won't be performing in college.
However, it does mean she will be able to try her luck on the Olympic stage. Winning gold there too would cement her spot at the top of the sport.
Nastia Liukin is the teammate Jordyn Wieber would have to displace if she is to be the top gymnast in London. Liukin won the gold medal in the all-around at Beijing (routines in the video).
She ended the 2008 Olympics with five medals total: all-around gold, silver in the team competition, uneven bars and balance beam, and bronze in the floor exercise.
Her parents were products of the Soviet Union's gymnastics machine, which churned out gold medalist after gold medalist in the 1980s. Liukin moved to the U.S. from her birthplace of Moscow.
2012 will be her last shot at the Olympics, and she will be poised to defend her all-around title.
After winning the Hodge Trophy—wrestling's Heisman—for an outstanding senior year at University of Nebraska, Jordan Burroughs won the 2011 World Championships. Along the way, he defeated Denis Tsargush, the two-time defending champion in the 74-kilogram class (see video).
Buvaisa Saitiyev, the gold medalist from 1996, 2004 and 2008 in that class, retired from the sport, leaving the door open for Burroughs to win gold.
Burroughs won two NCAA championships in his college days, and with a World Championship under his belt, he should have the confidence to turn that into Olympic gold.
All sprinters are measured on a scale from 1 to Usain Bolt. American Tyson Gay went above that scale in 2010, beating Bolt to the DN Galan Meeting gold (see video).
After a few injury-prone years, Gay is still Bolt's biggest competitor in London.
That's the key to a good performance from Gay—staying healthy. He's on the road to recovery once again, his most recent injury being a labral tear and hip impingement, and he should be ready for the Olympics.
In the race to be the world's fastest man, as long as Gay gets to the starting line, he will be somewhere near the top of the list.
Carmelita Jeter didn't qualify for the Olympic team in 2008, but her improvement over the last three years has her set to challenge for the 100-meter and 200-meter gold medals.
She won the 100-meter race at the 2011 World Championships (see video) in 10.9 seconds.
Jeter produced a world-leading 10.81-second run at the Jamaica Invitational May 5. Since failing to qualify for Beijing 2008, Jeter's times have seen steadily improvement.
If she continues the upward trend, Jeter should have an Olympic gold medal or two for her collection in August.