London 2012 Olympic Predictions: 10 Athletes Who Will End USA Medal Droughts

Avi Wolfman-ArentCorrespondent IIJuly 5, 2012

London 2012 Olympic Predictions: 10 Athletes Who Will End USA Medal Droughts

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    Let's face it, the good ol' US of A isn't always No. 1.

    Sometimes we're second or third or, in the case of certain Olympic disciplines, somewhere closer to 32nd.

    But history shall not bind the following 10 athletes, all of whom enter the 2012 London Olympics prepared to break long-standing medal droughts in their respective events.

    Meet them now. Thank them later.

Morgan Uceny

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    Discipline: Track and field

    Event: Women's 1,500 meters

    Drought: Never medaled

    After 30 years spent wanting, Team USA has two runners capable of winning its first-ever medal in the women's 1,500.

    Colorado alum Jenny Simpson is the event's reigning world champion after an upset win at last year's IAAF event in Daegu, South Korea. The woman she upset was Morgan Uceny, a Cornell grad who looked primed to win gold before tripping in the final.

    Based on this year's prognostics, I like Uceny to bust the slump. Uceny beat Simpson in the event finals at the 2012 U.S. Olympic Track and Field Trials and is the only American to run under 4:05 this year.

    Better yet, she's done it twice.

Danell Leyva

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    Discipline: Men's gymnastics

    Events: All individual apparatus events

    Drought: No gold medals since 1992

    U.S. men's gymnastics hasn't produced an individual apparatus gold-medal winner since Trent Dimas' stunning upset on high bar in Barcelona.

    That's 24 events and 24 failures.

    Danell Leyva, who, at 20 years old, is already one of America's top-two all-arounders, will have a chance to break that streak either in parallel bars or high bar. Maybe both.

    Leyva is the defending world champ in the former and features a stunningly difficult routine in the latter that has earned him international acclaim.

    Known for his daredevil ways and boisterous personality, Leyva won't let the bright lights of London deter him. In fact, they just might make him better.

David Boudia

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    Discipline: Diving

    Event: All men's events

    Drought: No medals since 1996

    China has dominated the Olympic diving well since the mid-1990s, leaving America's men without a medal in this millennium.

    David Boudia is America's best hope to break that streak in London. At the 2011 FINA World Championships, he won a silver medal on the 10-meter platform, finishing ahead of British darling and defending world champ Tom Daley.

    Even with the London crowd set against him, expect Boudia to challenge Daley and defending world champ Qiu Bo for a spot on the podium.

Jillian Camarena-Williams

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    Discipline: Track and field

    Event: Women's shot put

    Drought: No medals since 1960

    After wallowing in the sport's second tier for five years, Stanford grad Jillian Camarena-Williams has emerged as an elite shot-putter over the past two seasons.

    In 2011, she became the first American woman to win a shot-put medal at the World Championships by finishing third. Earlier this year, she took fourth at the World Indoor Championships in Istanbul.

    She had little trouble with the field at the U.S. trials and looks primed for a podium appearance in London.

Jesse Williams

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    Discipline: Track and field

    Event: High jump

    Drought: No gold medals since 1996

    America's high-jump drought might not look like much compared to some of the others on this list, but first, consider that the United States won each of the first eight Olympic titles in this event and 11 of the first 13.

    Now, consider that Jesse Williams' gold medal at last year's World Championships was Team USA's first men's high-jump medal of any color at the bi-annual competition since 1991.

    Even if that isn't an Olympic drought in name, it shows you just how far the U.S. has fallen in one of its premier field disciplines.

    Williams should reestablish American dominance in 2012. He has the world's second-best jump this season, and although he struggled at the U.S. trials, he was able to battle through the same cold, drizzly conditions he's likely to face in London.

Sarah Hammer

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    Discipline: Cycling

    Event: Women's track cycling (all events)

    Drought: No medals since 1992

    Since women's track cycling entered the Olympic program in 1988, America has won just two medals, and both were bronze.

    Sarah Hammer stands ready to change all that.

    Last year, she became the first American woman to win three medals at the Track cycling World Championships. And while her best event, the individual pursuit, was removed from the Olympic program this past quadrennium, she's a strong medal contender in the omnium, one of track cycling's newest Olympic additions.

Alysia Montano

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    Discipline: Track and field

    Event: Women's 800 meters

    Drought: No medals since 1988

    Alysia Montano brings rare credentials to a race that hasn't seen much U.S. success in the past two decades.

    She earned an 800-meter bronze medal at the 2010 World Indoor Championships and followed that up with a fourth-place finish at 2011 Worlds. At the Prefontaine Classic in early June, she ran the world's second-best time this season and looks to be peaking as London approaches.

    Even better, she runs with a fabric flower in her hair. Distribute added cool points as you see fit.

Kayla Harrison

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    Discipline: Judo

    Event: All weight classes (men and women)

    Drought: Never won a gold medal

    Yep, you're reading that right.

    In the 48 years since judo became an Olympic event, America has never earned a gold medal.

    Not that Kayla Harrison will let a bit of trivia get in her way.

    Under the tutelage of former Olympic bronze medalist Jimmy Pedro, Harrison won a gold medal at the 2010 World Championships after moving up to the 78-kilogram weight class and added a Pan-American title one year later.

    She's already among the most talented judokas America has ever produced, and she's out to distinguish herself even further in London.

Women's Indoor Volleyball Team

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    Discipline: Indoor volleyball

    Drought: Never won a gold medal

    Despite sustained success dating back to the 1980s, America's women's indoor volleyball team still has yet to win an Olympic gold medal.

    It's among the more confounding streaks in international volleyball, and it will end in London.

    With a roster balanced between old hands like Logan Tom and rising stars like Destinee Hooker, the top-ranked Americans, led by former men's head coach Hugh McCutcheon, should avenge their 2008 gold-medal-game loss to Brazil and secure a long-awaited prize.

Galen Rupp

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    Discipline: Track and field

    Event: 10,000 meters

    Drought: No medals since 1964

    Since Billy Mills' shocking triumph at the 1964 Tokyo Games, no American has medaled in the men's 10,000-meter race.

    Heck, only one American man has even finished better than 10th.

    Galen Rupp is part of that ignominious run thanks to his 13th-place finish in Beijing, but the Oregon-born running prodigy has been charging hard ever since. In 2011, he set a new American record at the distance and became just the second non-African to break the 27-minute barrier.

    And if the 10,000 doesn't work out, he's also America's best at 5,000 meters—another event the U.S. hasn't medaled in since '64.