With the 2012 London Games just around the corner, everyone's attention is focusing on what Americans will make an impact in the pool, which Americans will join LeBron James and others on the basketball court and whether Tyson Gay can overtake Usain Bolt.
However, there is much more to the Summer Olympics than just swimming, basketball and track and field. What are some lesser known sports that should grab your attention once the torch is lit?
Water polo certainly isn't sexy, but it's a very fun sport to watch.
It's a little bit like lacrosse, if lacrosse was played in water. These players are tremendous athletes, having to tread water for the entire game, as well as swim back and forth. It's fast moving and high scoring. The US men's team just beat Hungary 12-9, in a game that featured six goals by star player Tony Azevedo.
The Americans won silver at the 2008 Beijing Games, losing to Hungary in the gold medal game. Sunday's game should give the Americans hope for the London games, and they are a top contender for the gold medal.
There's also women's water polo, and the Americans won silver in 2008, losing to the Netherlands in the gold medal game.
The 2012 team was announced on May 17th. The women have a good shot at gold; they have won six of the last seven international tournaments, and the defending gold medalists, the Netherlands, did not qualify for the London games.
Water polo hasn't taken off in the United States, but with two top teams with legitimate chances for gold, it just might this summer.
While women's beach volleyball gets all the attention, it's the women's indoor volleyball team that should be getting noticed.
They won the 2008 silver medal in Beijing, losing to Brazil. This time, however, they are the favorites, as they are ranked number one in the world. According to David Wharton of the Sacramento Bee, the women are confident:
"We've earned the right to be confident," middle blocker Danielle Scott-Arruda said. "But we can't rest here. It just makes us want to keep fighting."
The head coach is Hugh McCutcheon, who was the head coach of the 2008 men’s team, which won the gold in Beijing. According to Wharton, McCutcheon is quick to praise the team:
"Our ability to read the game, to see the game, to link good play after good play is so much better than it used to be," McCutcheon says. "We can do a lot of different things."
The women's team has never won a gold medal, but that could change in 2012. They might also bring some of the attention indoors, instead of on the beach.
If there's a sport that gets less attention than archery, it would be hard to name. However, this year, the US features an archer that could win gold. Brady Ellison, 23, is the number one ranked archer in the world. He did not medal in the 2008 games, but is one of the favorites for gold.
The US men's team has not won a medal since winning silver at the 2000 Sydney games and last won gold in the 1996 Atlanta games.
Ellison gives them a chance to recapture their archery glory. From 1972-1988 (excluding the 1980 Moscow games, where the United States did not participate), the US men's archery team won gold every time. Ellison won the 2010 and 2011 Archery World Cup, and is the heavy favorite to win the 2012 Archery World Cup.
He won the bronze medal at the 2011 World Championships.
Ellison will participate in the individual and team events for the US team. To determine which archer wins, archers have to hit targets 70 meters away. The highest score wins. For the team events, each country picks three archers. Once again, the highest score wins, with the three archers scores combined.
Ellison finished 27th at the Beijing games, but he has put that in the rear view mirror and is ready to bring back the gold for the Americans.
The Olympics are usually focused on the big sports, like swimming, track and field, basketball and gymnastics. But there are 26 sports at the 2012 games, and the Americans are contenders in many of them.
Whether it's water polo, where both the men's and women's team could take gold, indoor volleyball, where the women are the favorites, or archery, where Brady Ellison is the number one archer in the world, there are some lesser known sports that should have your attention when the London Games get started.
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