2012 Summer Olympics: 10 Most Anticipated Days on the London Games Schedule

Avi Wolfman-ArentCorrespondent IIJuly 9, 2012

2012 Summer Olympics: 10 Most Anticipated Days on the London Games Schedule

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    The 2012 London Olympics will span 19 days, 36 athletic disciplines and 302 events.

    How you handle that deluge of sport is a matter of personal preference. But unless you plan to forgo sleep for the better part of a month, we suggest you pace yourself.

    To help you do just that, we've ranked the top 10 days of Olympic competition based on scheduled events and anticipated showdowns.

    Happy watching!

     

    Note: Unless otherwise stated, all "highlight" events are event finals.

Honorable Mention: Friday, Aug. 3

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    Event Finals: 22

    Highlights:

    Swimming: Women's 200-meter Backstroke

    This race should be American teen sensation Missy Franklin's best chance at an individual gold medal.

    — Swimming: Men's 100-meter Butterfly

    Michael Phelps has won two consecutive Olympic titles in this event by a combined 0.06 seconds. Expect another classic duel with Serbian-American fly specialist Milorad Cavic.

    — Swimming: Men's 50-meter Freestyle

    The most exciting 20 seconds in swimming tends to wreak havoc on the pecking order. Keep an eye out for American Anthony Ervin, who returned to the sport in 2011 after an eight-year hiatus.

    — Cycling: Men's Team Pursuit (12:55 p.m.)

    The velodrome will be rocking as Team GB looks to defend its Olympic title against rival Australia.

    — Track and Field: Men's Shot Put (3:30 p.m.)

    Reese Hoffa leads a strong American contingent against defending Olympic champ Tomasz Majewski, Canadian titan Dylan Armstrong and German contender David Storl.

    — Archery: Men's Individual Competition (10:37 a.m.)

    Brady Ellison is America's best hope for gold in over a decade.

10. Saturday, Aug. 11

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    Event Finals: 32

    Highlights:

    — Men's Soccer: Gold-Medal Match

    If newly minted Team GB can make it through to the final at Wembley Stadium, expect a raucous atmosphere.

    — Track and Field: Men's 4x100-meter Relay

    As usual, it should be Jamaica vs. USA in a fight for sprinting supremacy. The Jamaicans come in as heavy favorites, but relays can be a prognosticator's poison.

    — Diving: Men's 10-meter Platform

    The home country will have its eyes on teen sensation Tom Daley, while China's Qiu Bo and America's David Boudia look to play spoiler.

    — Basketball: Women's Gold-Medal Match

    Team USA hasn't lost this event since 1992 and doesn't expect to lose it here. The group assembled by head coach Geno Auriemma could be one of the best in women's basketball history.

9. Saturday, July 28

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    Event Finals: 12

    Highlights:

    — Swimming: Men's 400-meter Individual Medley

    On the first full day of competition, Michael Phelps and Ryan Lochte square off in their first of two head-to-head battles. Lochte beat Phelps at U.S. Trials in the 400 IM, but Phelps still holds the world record.

    — Swimming: Women's 4x100-meter Freestyle Relay

    Budding American star Missy Franklin makes her Olympic debut in a race where Team USA has settled for consecutive silver medals.

8. Tuesday, Aug. 7

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    Event Finals: 21

    Highlights:

    — Track and Field: Women's 100-meter Hurdles

    If media darling Lolo Jones survives to the event final, expect this race to draw big headlines.

    — Track and Field: Men's High Jump

    Reigning world champ Jesse Williams could become the first American Olympic high-jump champion since Charles Austin in 1996.

    — Gymnastics: Men's High Bars and Parallel Bars

    America's Danell Leyva could win individual gold in either apparatus final. His high-bar routine is renowned for its daring acrobatics and has become must-see TV in the gymnastics world.

    — Track and Field: Men's 1,500 meters

    The metric mile is one of track's most prestigious races, particularly in Great Britain, where sports fans fondly remember London Olympic Organizing Committee chairman Sebastian Coe winning consecutive gold medals in the event.

    For those watching on this side of the pond, Matthew Centrowitz could help America crack the top three for the first time since 1968.

7. Wednesday, Aug. 8

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    Event Finals: 22

    Highlights: 

    — Beach Volleyball: Women's Gold-Medal Match

    Star American duo Kerri Walsh and Misty May-Treanor don't enter the tournament as favorites, but the two-time defending Olympic champs have a knack for playing their best in big moments.

    — Track and Field: Men's 110-meter Hurdles

    Chinese track hero Liu Xiang and Cuba's Dayron Robles both have a chance to win this event for the second time, while Americans Aries Merritt and Jason Richardson promise to apply plenty of pressure.

    — Track and Field: Women's 200-meter Sprint

    Team USA is loaded at this distance and will be led by the uber-talented Allyson Felix. She took silver at 200 meters in each of the last two Games and covets a gold in this event above all else.

    — Track and Field: Women's Long Jump

    American Brittney Reese is the event favorite and looks to avenge her fifth-place finish from Beijing.

6. Tuesday, July 31

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    Event Finals: 15

    Highlights:

    Gymnastics: Women's Team Final (11:30 a.m.)

    After coming up short at the last three Olympics, America looks to capture its second-ever women's team gold medal. Team USA comes in as the favorite, but there's little room for error in this tense four-rotation competition.

    — Swimming: Men's 4x200-meter Freestyle Relay (3:47 p.m.)

    Michael Phelps and Ryan Lochte team up in their second relay and should lead the Americans to gold.

    — Swimming: Women's 200-meter Freestyle (2:39 p.m.)

    American headliners Missy Franklin and Allison Schmitt take on a loaded international field that includes Italian sensation Federica Pellegrini and France's Camille Muffat.

    — Swimming: Men's 200-meter Butterfly (2:47 p.m.)

    Michael Phelps has dominated this event for almost a decade and looks primed to win a record-setting third straight Olympic gold.

5. Sunday, Aug. 12

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    Event Finals: 15

    — Basketball: Men's Gold-Medal Match

    This could be the last time we see a full complement of NBA players participating in the Olympics. With that as preface: Can an injury-depleted U.S. squad win its second consecutive gold medal?

    — Volleyball: Men's Gold-Medal Match

    The U.S. team won a surprise gold medal in Beijing, but repeating will be a tall task. Brazil, Russia and Poland all bring elite talent to London.

    — Boxing: Five Men's Division Finals

    Boxing buffs get a full slate of gold-medal finals, starting with flyweights and ending with the super-heavyweights.

    — Closing Ceremony

    London waves goodbye to the world and Rio jumps up on the clock.

4. Thursday, Aug. 2

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    Event Finals: 18

    Highlights:

    Gymnastics: Women's Individual All-Around (11:30 a.m.)

    Americans have won the past two Olympic titles, and both Jordyn Wieber and Gabby Douglas have designs on making it three in a row. Russian duo Aliya Mustafina and Viktoria Komova, meanwhile, are equally capable of playing spoiler.

    — Judo: Women's 78 kg (4:30-11:00 a.m.)

    Kayla Harrison, a survivor of sexual abuse, looks to capture America's first-ever judo gold medal.

    — Swimming: Men's 200-meter Individual Medley (3:16 p.m.)

    The second and final showdown between Michael Phelps and Ryan Lochte. Lochte is scheduled to swim the 200-meter backstroke final 30 minutes beforehand.

3. Sunday, Aug. 5

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    Event Finals: 24

    Highlights:

    — Track and Field: Men's 100-meter Dash

    Track's big-ticket race has more subplots than a Russian novel: Usain Bolt looks to cement his legend; fellow Jamaican and training partner Yohan Blake looks to usurp him; American comeback kids Tyson Gay and Justin Gatlin look to topple the Jamaican sprinting dynasty; all while a buffet of other elite talents like France's Christophe Lemaitre, Jamaica's Asafa Powell and St. Kitts and Nevis' Kim Collins wait in the wings.

    — Tennis: Men's Singles Gold-Medal Match

    Rafa Nadal, Roger Federer, Novak Djokovic and native son Andy Murray are the most likely medal combatants, but this tournament has never been kind to favorites.

    — Track and Field: Women's 400-meter Sprint

    Sanya Richards-Ross hopes to lock up the gold medal that eluded her in Beijing.

    — Gymnastics: Women's Vault Competition

    Reigning world champ American McKayla Maroney is a strong contender for the gold medal.

2. Thursday, Aug. 9

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    Event Finals: 22

    Highlights:

    — Track and Field: Men's 200-meter Sprint

    Training partners and fellow Jamaicans Usain Bolt and Yohan Blake are the clear favorites in what should be both a fantastic race and the final installment of this summer's best track rivalry.

    — Soccer: Women's Gold-Medal Match

    Team USA has played scores of fantastic matches in this competition, and usually comes out on top. An American squad led by Hope Solo, Abby Wambach and Alex Morgan will have extra motivation to keep it that way after its devastating World Cup loss to Japan in 2011.

    — Track and Field: Men's 800 meters

    Kenyan David Rudisha has ruled this distance over the past three seasons and could break his own world record in London. Few have dominated any discipline quite like Rudisha, and we could see an all-time great reach his athletic peak during an Olympic Games. Special stuff.

    — Track and Field: Conclusion of Men's Decathlon

    Rising star Ashton Eaton set a new world record at U.S. Trials and looks to hold off countryman Trey Hardee for a spot atop the podium.

    — Boxing: Women's Flyweight and Lightweight Finals

    In the flyweight division, American Marlen Esparza has a great chance to win Team USA's first gold medal at the inaugural women's Olympic boxing tournament.

    Her teammate, Queen Underwood, should make noise in the lightweight division, but will have to deal with legendary Irish fighter and women's boxing pioneer Katie Taylor.

    — Beach Volleyball: Men's Gold-Medal Match

    American tandem Sean Rosenthal and Jake Gibb have been red-hot of late, and could challenge the top Brazilian duo for Olympic gold.

1. Saturday, Aug. 4

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    Event Finals: 24

    Highlights:

    — Swimming: Men's 4x100-meter Medley Relay

    If Michael Phelps is true to his word and retires after the London Olympics, this will be his final race as a competitive swimmer. It also has the potential to be his seventh medal of the 2012 Games and the 23rd in his illustrious career.

    — Track and Field: Women's 100-meter Dash

    With the U.S. Trials controversy behind them, American trio Carmelita Jeter, Tianna Madison and Allyson Felix look to topple the Jamaicans in one of track's marquee events.

    —Track and Field: Conclusion of Women's Heptathlon

    Home-country celebrant Jessica Ennis should be in the thick of the gold-medal hunt.

    — Tennis: Women's Singles Gold-Medal Match

    Wimbledon champ Serena Williams looks to win her first individual Olympic gold medal.