London 2012: 10 Olympic Athletes Ready to Thrill the World This Summer
I am a big Olympics buff and live for every shot, twirl and point. This installment in London looks to be another instant classic with many athletes ready to thrill the world.
The Olympics are a series of world events that brings out the unknown—the “I remember him from four years ago” and the everyday superstar to one stage.
Everyone is given an equal chance to bring home a medal, but only the best can rise to the occasion of ultimate competition.
This year it is London that plays host to the ancient show of skill. Almost 18,000 athletes from 207 countries will flock to England to show the world if they have what it takes to stand on the podium and earn the right to be called great.
This isn’t a definitive list, and there are many other athletes that will shock the world, but here are 10 you should watch out for.
Michael Phelps, Swimming
This one is a no-brainer. The living legend absolutely shocked the world at Beijing and aims to repeat his success in London.
Phelps is arguably the greatest Olympian ever. His record haul of gold medals four years ago in Beijing was nothing short of brilliant.
While the sequel might not be as good as the original, it will still be one to watch. Phelps is swimming out of his prime, but he should never be written off.
The competition will be stiff. American teammate Ryan Lochte is going to try to step out of Phelps' shadow at these games, and there will be a good pool (no pun intended) of talent ready to take the Baltimore Bullet down.
But if history is any indication, the world should watch out for Michael Phelps.
Salah Mejri, Basketball
Salah Mejri is a monster of a man standing at 7'1".
It’s the first time that Tunisia has ever seen a seven-footer on their roster. Mejri isn’t the most skilled player, but he is working to improve on his problems. What Mejri brings to the court is a real center.
Tunisia now has a solid big man to go up against the premier centers of the world. The team is putting pressure on No. 15 to perform because of his giant frame. This means increasing his rebounds and blocks totals.
But it also means staying out of foul trouble. Like most big men, Mejri has found himself getting in the inviting waters of fouling because of his size. This is a great problem, but the seven-footer has been improving at a substantial rate and should be ready to perform well in London.
His nine rebounds per game in the 2011 FIBA Africa Championship is a testament to what Mejri can do and should be able to do in 2012.
Tunisia is an underdog to watch in basketball, and Mejri will be at the forefront of a potential shocker.
Jordan Burroughs, Freestyle Wrestling
Imagine a golfer winning every event ever for three years and counting. He would be considered some sort of demigod. Perhaps, some would call him the greatest.
Now switch the sport from golf to freestyle wrestling and the athlete from an unnamed golfer to Jordan Burroughs.
Burroughs, in a word, is dominant. He has won every tournament he entered since the beginning of the 2009 season.
He is an up-and-coming superstar who hopes to make his name known in London. It won’t be hard for the New Jersey native, as he won gold in the 2011 World Championships in Istanbul, Turkey. He also nabbed first place in the 2011 Pan American Games.
That same year he won the NCAA championship for the Nebraska Cornhuskers, becoming the fourth wrestler ever to win a NCAA championship and World Championship in the same year.
Burroughs aims to be extremely exciting in 2012 in the 163-pound weight class, and the world will be watching.
Emanuel Rego and Alison Cerutti, Beach Volleyball
This Brazilian duo is the team to beat on the sand. They won the 2011 World Championships in June, and the world is waiting for them to excite in London.
Rego already has two Olympic medals to his name, as he won gold in Athens 2004 and picked up a bronze in Beijing 2008. He also has won gold in four World Championships and in the 2007 Pan American Games.
Rego has countless other awards to his name including the Men's FIVB World Tour "Most Outstanding” award that he won in 2006 and 2011.
Since pairing with Cerutti, the duo has thrilled the world en route to winning the Men's FIVB World Tour Team of the Year in 2011.
The budding rivalry between the Brazilians and the Americans Phil Dalhausser and Todd Rogers will be an interesting one to watch.
Maya Moore, Women's Basketball
This pick is a little out of the ordinary. For starters, it is a female in a male-dominated article and, more importantly, Maya Moore competes in a nontraditional Olympic sport. But she is a young athlete that is ready to make her mark on the world stage.
She dazzled America in her tenure with UConn. The Huskies won Women’s March Madness not once but twice. A big part of that success was Moore. She is a gifted champion and proven winner.
In 2011, her first year in the WNBA, she won Rookie of the Year en route to leading her Minnesota Lynx to the WNBA championship.
She joins a U.S. team that has dominated its competition in previous Olympics and will settle for nothing less than gold in London.
Chris Hoy, Cycling
Sir Chris Hoy is the most successful British Olympian in a century. He is also the most successful Olympic male cyclist of all time.
The Scotsman nabbed three gold medals in Beijing for the sprint, team sprint and keirin, adding to his gold from Athens and his silver from Sydney.
The cyclist has won countless number of medals at multiple world championships, and while he may be 36 going into London and may not get the chance to emulate his historic hat trick from four years ago, expect the home crowd to cheer on their countryman as he finishes with at least one gold medal.
Steven Lopez, Taekwondo
You may never have heard of him, but Steven Lopez is the face of Taekwondo in America. He won gold in 2000 at Sydney and nabbed another gold at Athens in 2004. He has won gold in every World Championship since 2001, in Jeju, Garmisch, Madrid, Beijing and Copenhagen.
And just for kicks, he also appeared in People magazine's 50 Most Beautiful People.
But last Olympics in Beijing, Lopez failed to win a gold. Or a silver for that matter. He went back home with a bronze medal.
For an athlete that is so used to winning, that must have hurt. Lopez will be incredibly hungry in the London Games, and watching a man looking for revenge and go for gold will be a treat.
Alex Morgan, Soccer
Without a doubt, Alex Morgan is America's sweetheart.
She burst onto the scene last year in the 2011 FIFA Women's World Cup and hasn’t left our minds since. After the World Cup, she had many talk show appearances and even nabbed a place in the Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Edition.
But the girl can play as well.
On July 13, 2011, she scored her first World Cup goal in the 82nd minute of the semifinal matchup against France, giving the U.S. the victory.
She scored the first goal in the World Cup final against Japan after coming on as a substitute at the half, as well as assisting on the Abby Wambach header in overtime.
At the Algarve Cup in Portugal on March 7, Morgan scored her first career hat trick by tallying twice in the first half, and once in the second, in the third-place game, a 4-0 U.S. victory over Sweden.
The U.S. women's team looks to be talented, and Morgan will be a big part of a championship run.
Ryan Lochte, Swimming
Perhaps the biggest competition for stud Michael Phelps will be one of his teammates.
Ryan Lochte helped Phelps win his gold medals in 2008 by participating on the USA men's relay squad, but now he is ready to step out of Phelps’ giant shadow.
At the 2011 World Aquatics Championships, Lochte won five gold medals and added a bronze to his growing collection.
He beat his fellow countryman head to head in the 200-meter freestyle and the 200-meter individual medley.
In addition to that outstanding performance, Lochte was named the 2011 World Swimmer of the Year and 2011 American Swimmer of the Year by Swimming World Magazine. He was also named the best male swimmer for 2011 by FINA Aquatics World Magazine.
Lochte has the ability and talent to beat a Michael Phelps that is ready to retire.
The 27-year-old New York native will splash onto the world stage this summer.
Usain Bolt, Track and Field
If Usain Bolt hasn’t already thrilled you, then he will this summer in London.
I could write for hours about what the Lightning Bolt has done, but words can’t describe how fast he is.
Do yourself a favor and watch this video of the Jamaican smashing his own world record in the 100 meters.
Which athlete will you be watching for this summer in London? Comment below!