2012 Olympics: 6 Track and Field Athletes Who Could Surprise Us This Summer
Usain Bolt is the world's fastest man and will undoubtedly be one of the main attractions in London for the 2012 Summer Olympic Games.
But, it was the United States that claimed the highest medal total in the athletics competition in 2008.
In just a few days, the US Olympic Team Trials for track and field will begin in Eugene, Ore., one of the running capitals of the world.
After the trials, we'll know exactly who will be representing the red, white and blue in London.
Those who follow track or the Olympics are aware of the well-known Americans like Tyson Gay, David Oliver, Allyson Felix, Carmelita Jeter and the other track stars who have already claimed world championships, broken national records and brought home Olympic medals.
So, let's forget about them for a minute and have a look at some of the other Olympic hopefuls who will be shocking us with their speed this summer.
As a Des Moines, Iowa native, I just had to talk about everyone's favorite hurdler, Lolo Jones, who also hails from Iowa's capital city.
Jones has an excellent chance of taking home a medal in London, and you can bet she's hungry for some hardware after a disappointing finish in the 2008 Olympic Games.
Four years ago, Lolo was the US Olympic Trials champion in the 100-meter hurdles and is the current American record holder for the 60-meter hurdles.
She also finished with the fastest time in her semifinal heat in Beijing and was in the lead in the final run, but clipped the ninth hurdle (out of 10) and finished seventh.
She was one of the favorites then, and she is one of the favorites yet again this year.
Jones underwent spinal surgery a year ago, but is now ready to bounce back and bring home a medal.
Will she have what it takes to avoid mistakes and take the gold?
Jamaican training partners Yohan Blake and Usain Bolt may be the two most formidable sprinters in the world.
But Team USA has a superstar sprinting duo of its own in Tyson Gay and Walter Dix.
Gay is the second fastest man in history with a 100-meter time of 9.69 seconds, but it was Dix who earned the bronze medal at the 2008 games.
With the emergence of Blake (the reigning 100-meter world champion), the 100-meter men's podium in London could be quite crowded.
It wouldn't be a surprise if Gay challenged the Jamaicans to earn a silver medal (or gold if Bolt has an off-day), but it would be more of a surprise if Dix trumped his teammate to earn a spot back on the podium.
Gay, the former Arkansas Razorback fell short of qualifying for the 100-meter finals in 2008, so you have to figure that he will be one of the hungriest sprinters in London
Dix, the former Florida State Seminole, has shown he has the speed to earn a medal, but I would be surprised if he makes it to the podium again.
At the 2008 Olympics, Jenny Simpson represented Team USA in the 3,000-meter steeplechase, finishing ninth.
Back then she was still a student at the University of Colorado at Boulder and she was still named Jennifer Barringer.
A lot has happened in her life since then, including graduation, marriage and earning a gold medal in the 1,500-meter competition at the 2011 world championships.
She is still the American record holder in the steeplechase, but as the 1,500-meter world champion, she may just compete in the 1,500-meter discipline in London.
No matter which discipline she chooses, Simpson should be able to add to the Team USA medal total.
The story of Lopez Lomong is truly incredible.
The American distance runner was forced to flee his home in Sudan at the age of six. He ran for three straight days to avoid being murdered by a Sudanese militia group called the "Janjaweed."
He was separated from his family and lived in a refugee camp for 10 years. There, he wrote an essay detailing his life's ambitions if he made it to America.
It was enough to convince American officials to include him as one of the "Lost Boys of Sudan," a group of some 3,800 Sudanese refugees relocated to America.
At the 2008 Games, he was one of the US flag bearers, but he only advanced to the semifinals of the 1,500-meter discipline.
Now Lomong is expected to make his return to the Olympic stage to write the next chapter in his amazing story.
Don't be surprised if this chapter contains an Olympic medal.
Is it ironic that Chaunte Lowe happens to be one of the best high jumpers in the world?
Alright, so that was a bad joke, but one thing that is no joke is Lowe's jumping ability.
She was sixth in the 2008 Olympics in the high jump but set the American outdoor high jump record at 2.05-meters in 2010.
In 2011, she missed time due to childbirth, but came back just as strong, setting the indoor American record at 2.02-meters in 2012.
Also in 2012, she earned first place at the Drake Relays and the indoor world championships, solidifying herself as one of the world's best high jumpers.
If she continues her hot streak and jumps well at the trials, look for her to challenge for medals in London.
Men's high jumper Jesse Williams will be yet another American athlete looking to improve on a disappointing finish at the 2008 Olympics.
He finished sixth in Beijing with a jump of 1.99-meters but has only improved since.
2011 was a huge year for Williams as he became the world high jump champion, clearing the 2.35-meter mark.
Also, that year he set his personal best with a jump of 2.37-meters—which would have been enough to take home the gold in Beijing.
In this video by Chris Peitsch of The Register-Guard of a dunk contest he participated in during halftime of an Oregon Ducks basketball game, Williams proclaims that he is trying to make a name for himself.
At the end of the video after a couple of high-flying displays, he was on a faux podium being adorned with a medal by his competitor.
If Williams jumps to his potential, he'll be on the real podium in London and he'll certainly have made a name for himself.