London 2012 Olympics: USA's 7 Best Hopes for Track and Field Gold
With the start of the 2012 London Olympics almost two weeks away now, it's time to start thinking gold.
The USA track and field team tasted gold six times four years ago in Beijing en route to a 23-medal performance. Now, with an even stronger squad, the team is looking for much more.
Ahead are seven of the USA's best chance for track and field gold in this year's Olympics.
Event: High jump
With three American gold medals and a dominant showing at last year's World's, Jesse Williams is primed to make the high jump USA's event again.
Indeed, Williams did have a rough go of things at the Olympic Trials. A rare miss before 7.5 feet paved the way for a fourth-place finish, but his otherwise dominant 2012 (which includes wins at the USA Indoor Championships in February and Adidas Grand Prix in June) overshadows the messy performance.
It's been a while since the Americans have been at the top of the jumping world—not a single male or female American medaled in the high jump, triple jump or long jump—but Williams seems ready to lead a comeback.
Event: 1,500 meters
No American woman has ever medaled in the 1,500 meters, but Morgan Uceny appears to be the USA's best chance to change that this year.
The 27-year-old Cornell grad could very well have been the reigning world champion at the time if she had not been tripped up by Kenyan Hellen Obiri at last year's World Championships inside the last 500 meters. But one year removed from her trip-induced 10th-place finish, Uceny is on top of the world.
She just missed breaking four minutes at the Brussels Diamond Legue Meet less than a year ago and is coming into the Olympics after a dominant performance at the trials.
Shannon Rowbury and Jenny Simpson were second and third at the trials, respectively, and should also put up a fight when they face the world's best.
Event: 400 meters
Merritt is one of the most decorated athletes on the entire USA track and field team, and London should be nothing more than a platform for more golds to hang around his neck.
Let's glance at the resume: three-time World Junior Championship gold medalist, four-time World Championship gold medalist (to go along with two silvers) and two-time Olympic gold medalist. And two of those medals came after Merritt's two-year ban from the sport.
Nonetheless, Merritt is the defending Olympic champion, the U.S. Olympic Trials Champion and the owner of the fastest time in the world this year. If anybody is a safe bet for gold in London, it's Merritt.
Did I say LaShawn Merritt was the best bet to win gold? I was probably getting ahead of myself.
Ashton Eaton is the best decathlete in the world right now, with a gold at this year's World Indoor Championships and a world record score of 9,039 at the Olympic Trials.
But the even cooler thing about the Oregon grad is that he is only 24 years old and believed to be nowhere near his peak yet.
If this prodigy-no-more can really keep improving, then the USA is going to be seeing a lot more decathlete gold for years to come.
Event: Long jump
If Jesse Williams is leading the men's jumping renaissance, then Brittney Reese has the female side covered.
Reese had the best qualifying jump four years ago in Beijing but ended up finishing a disappointing fifth. Four years later however, she has four world championships under her belt and is having an amazing 2012.
Even if she can't recreate her magical performance at the World Indoor Championships this past winter (at which she set a U.S. record), Reese should probably do a little better than fifth in London.
She will enter competition the favorite to win gold.
Event: Shot put
If there is any sign that the USA's 52-year-old medal drought in women's shot put is almost over, it is in Camarena-Williams.
After a 12th-place finish in Beijing, the Stanford grad has been steadily improving, culminating with a third-place finish at last year's World Championships.
Camarena-Williams spent a lot of time being the sport's "next big thing" with gold medals in the 1999 and 2001 Pan American Junior Championships. But now, she has proven that she belongs at the top with the shot put elite in prime position for a gold medal run.
Event: 5,000 meters, 10,000 meters
What better chance could the Americans have at breaking their distance meter medal drought than with the reincarnation of Steve Prefontaine?
Rupp, an Oregon native, is proving to be the best American distance runner across multiple disciplines and one of fastest in the world. After a 13th-place finish in the 10,000 four years ago, Rupp has become just the second non-African to run a sub-27 minute 10,000, and he is still improving.
Olympic Trials records in both the 5,000 and 10,000 prove just that.
There are other athletes ready to compete stronger of the big stage, but Rupp leads the pack.
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