London 2012: The Top 10 Medal Hopefuls on the US Women's Track and Field Team

Dan Hope@Dan_HopeContributor IIIJune 11, 2012

London 2012: The Top 10 Medal Hopefuls on the US Women's Track and Field Team

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    From June 21 to July 1, the nation’s top track and field athletes will compete in the 2012 United States Olympic Trials, with the goal of finishing in the top three places in their event to qualify for their nation.

    The ultimate goal for every Olympic hopeful, however, is not only to qualify through the trials, but to finish in the top three places at the 2012 Games and earn a medal.

    The U.S. Women’s Track and Field team won nine total medals at the 2008 Games in Beijing, and will certainly be trying to better that this summer by earning a number of medals in double digits. The following 10 women are the most likely to bring hardware back to the United States from London.

10. Shalane Flanagan, Distance Runner

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    Flanagan won the bronze medal in the 10,000-meter run at the 2008 Olympics. She has not competed in the event yet in 2012, but she won the event at the 2011 U.S. Outdoor Championships, and will be a favorite to finish first at the trials and win another medal in London.

    Flanagan has also expanded her horizons for the 2012 Games, where she will also be running in the marathon. She was victorious at the trials in only her second career marathon, and although medaling in the marathon may be somewhat of a long shot for her, she is a talented and experienced runner with the potential to be a surprise medalist in the event.

9. Jenny Simpson, Distance Runner

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    The last time that the world’s best track and field athletes came together in an outdoor championship, Simpson was a gold medalist. She finished first in the 1,500-meter run at the 2011 World Championships in Daegu, South Korea, and will be looking to retain her title as the world’s best in that event at the Olympics.

    Simpson also won the 1,500 at the 2012 USA Indoor Championships, but chose not to travel to Istanbul, Turkey to compete at worlds. Nonetheless, her recent track record speaks for itself, as she has achieved major victories in her best event in recent years.

    Simpson is expected to be a major contender to stand on the podium in London following the 1,500.

8. Lashinda Demus, Hurdler

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    Demus won the 2011 World Championship in the 400-meter hurdles with a time of 52.47 seconds. That time broke the U.S. record in the event, and is 1.4 seconds faster than any time yet run in 2012.

    Demus’ best time in 2012 thus far is only 54.80 seconds, but if she is on top of her game at the trials and in London, she will be the woman to beat.

7. Jenn Suhr, Pole-Vaulter

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    Suhr won silver in pole vault at the 2008 Olympics, clearing a height of 15 feet, 9 inches. She has since continued to rank among the best pole-vaulters in the world. She finished fourth at the 2011 World Championships and is currently tied for the fourth-best mark among pole-vaulters in 2012, with a height of 15 feet, 3 inches.

    Suhr holds the U.S. indoor and outdoor pole-vault records, and she has been a consistent performer among the world’s best pole-vaulters since 2006. She will enter the 2012 Games as a definite favorite to earn a medal.

6. Stephanie Brown Trafton, Discus

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    Brown Trafton won gold at the 2008 Olympics in discus with a winning throw of 212 feet, 5 inches. Her throws have continued to improve. She broke the U.S. record earlier this year, with a throw of 222 feet, 3 inches at the Altius TC Throwdown in Wailuku, Hawaii.

    If Brown Trafton can match or improve upon her record-setting throw in London, she should earn a place on the podium.

5. Allyson Felix, Sprinter

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    Felix will face tough competition from her fellow Americans in both the 200-meter dash and 100-meter dash at the trials, but if she can make it out of the trials and through to the Olympics, she should be in a good position to earn a medal at the 2012 Games.

    Felix is no stranger to Olympic success. She is a two-time silver medalist in the 200, having finished second in both the 2004 and 2008 Games. She was also a member of the gold-medal-winning 4x400-meter relay in 2008. However, she decided against competing in the longer race as an individual for these trials.

    Felix won two medals at the 2011 World Championships, earning silver in the 400 and bronze in the 200. She continues to rank among the best sprinters in the world, currently ranking third worldwide in both the 100, with a time of 10.92 seconds, and in the 200 with a time of 22.23.

    Felix has the potential to medal in the 100 or 200, depending on what events she focuses on at the trials. Chances are good that she will earn a medal in her third consecutive Olympics.

4. Chaunte Lowe, High-Jumper

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    After missing the 2011 season following childbirth, Lowe has come back in a tremendous way in 2012.

    Lowe set the U.S. indoor high jump record at the 2012 U.S. Indoor Championships by clearing a height of 6 feet, 7 ½ inches. She went on to win gold at the 2012 Indoor World Championships, and has carried her momentum into the outdoor season. Lowe, who set a career-best of 6’8 ¾’’ in 2010, has a season-best of 6’6 ¾’’ and four of the top eight marks worldwide for the 2012 outdoor season.

    Lowe currently ranks second worldwide for the 2012 season, but she is jumping at a very consistent level, and should be the favorite to win gold going into London if she jumps well at the trials.

3. Carmelita Jeter, Sprinter

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    Jeter earned the title of “World’s Fastest Woman” at the 2011 Outdoor Championships, winning gold in the 100-meter dash in a time of 10.90 seconds. She has run even faster this year, with a time of 10.81 that ranks as the best in the world.

    Jeter currently stands as the favorite to win gold in the 100 in London, and she could also be a contender in the 200. She finished second in the 200 at last year’s Outdoor Championships, and currently ranks fourth worldwide in the event for the 2012 outdoor season.

    However, the top five 200-meter runners worldwide are all U.S. runners, meaning Jeter will have to escape tough competition in the trials to compete in the 200 at the Olympics.

2. Sanya Richards-Ross, Sprinter

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    With the trials coming later this month, Richards-Ross is hitting her stride at the right time. On June 2 at the Prefontaine Classic, she ran a world-best time of 49.39 seconds in the 400-meter dash. She followed that up with another world-best of 22.09 in the 200-meter at the Adidas Grand Prix on June 9.

    Richards-Ross was a bronze medalist in the 400 at the 2008 Olympics, and won gold in the 400 at the 2012 Indoor World Championships and the 2009 World Championships.

    Richards-Ross was a member of the gold-medal-winning 4x400-meter relay at the 2008 Games. If she can carry her current quality of running into the 2012 Games, she has a tremendous opportunity to win her first individual Olympic gold in either the 400 or the 200.

1. Brittney Reese, Long-Jumper

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    Reese has clearly established herself as the world’s best long-jumper. She is a two-time defending outdoor world champion in the event, and also won gold at the 2012 Indoor World Championships.

    She also holds the two best marks of the 2012 outdoor season, highlighted by her season-best jump of 23 feet, 4 ½ inches at the Mt. SAC Relays in Walnut, Calif.

    If Reese performs up to her ability in London, she should win a gold medal.

    Thanks for reading!

    For more analysis during the U.S. Olympic Trials and London Olympics, follow me on Twitter @Dan_Hope.