Power Ranking the Top 100 US Olympians in London

Avi Wolfman-ArentCorrespondent IIJuly 27, 2012

Power Ranking the Top 100 US Olympians in London

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    Athletic toil is never easy, but the grind weighs even heavier on those consigned to do it in anonymity.

    For the 529 U.S. Olympians in London, that has largely been their fate: hours upon hours of unseen sacrifice for a two-week shot at the big time and a chance to rep Old Glory.

    The least you could do in return is get to know them a little bit.

    To help you in that patriotic pursuit, we’ve ranked the top 100 American Olympians worth watching this summer.

    Enjoy, and happy flag-waving.

100. Amanda Furrer

1 of 94

    Sport: Shooting

    Event(s) or position: 50-meter rifle three position

    Age: 21

    Olympic experience: None

    The hype: As her twitter account will attest, Amanda Furrer lives life by the three G's:  "God, guns and glitter!" The self-described "girly girl" headlines a new wave of young, female American shooters, each with the talent, looks and social media savvy to coax their sport out of the Olympic shadows.

99. Rafalca

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    Sport: Equestrian

    Event(s) or position: Dressage

    Age: 15

    Olympic experience: None

    The hype: Co-owned by Ann Romney, the wife of Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney, Rafalca is an Oldenburg Mare making her Olympic debut in London—and kicking up all sorts of small-scale partisan firestorms along the way. If you'd rather keep clear of the political fray and stick to following two-legged American equestrians, Philip Dutton, Boyd Martin and teenage-upstart Reed Kessler all have golden potential.

98. Margaux Isaksen

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    Sport: Modern Pentathlon

    Event(s) or position: N/A

    Age: 20

    Olympic experience: 2008

    The hype: A precocious talent in one of Team USA's weakest disciplines, Margaux Isaksen was all but certain to improve upon her 21st-place finish in Beijing before a recent case of mononucleosis hamstrung her training. It remains to be seen whether Isaken, who is dating U.S. speed-skating medalist Joey Cheek, will be at full strength for London.

97. Desi Davila

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    Sport: Track and Field

    Event(s) or position: Marathon

    Age: 29

    Olympic experience: None

    The hype: The pint-sized Davila had a relatively undistinguished track career at Arizona State, only realizing her innate talent for the marathon after a post-grad move to the faraway distance-running outpost of Rochester Hills, Michigan. Six years later, in 2011, Davila ran the fastest time ever by an American woman at the Boston Marathon and now looks like a surprise medal contender.

96. Nick Symmonds

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    Sport: Track and Field

    Event(s) or position: 800 meters

    Age: 28

    Olympic experience: 2008

    The hype: Nick Symmonds, America's best 800-meter runner, generates as much attention for his good looks as he does his track exploits—and that might not be such a bad thing. Symmonds recently landed a date with tabloid-temptress Paris Hilton, an auspicious start to the summer for this dark-horse medal hopeful.

95. Merrill Moses

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    Sport: Water Polo

    Event(s) or position: Goalkeeper

    Age: 34

    Olympic experience: 2008 (silver medal)

    The hype: Moses' gritty play in goal keyed Team USA to surprise silver medal in Beijing. Four years later, the vocal veteran continues to play a central role in America's water polo renaissance.

93-94. Grant and Ross James

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    Sport: Rowing

    Event(s) or position: Men's eight

    Age: 24 (both)

    Olympic Experience: None

    The hype: Identical twins Grant and Ross James discovered rowing as freshmen at Wisconsin and quickly rose to the sport's elite. Team USA hopes this unlikely crew duo—think Winklevoss twins without the blue-blood entitlement—can lift its men's eight to medal glory after an uneven qualification season.

92. Troy Dumais

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    Sport: Diving

    Event(s) or position: Three-meter springboard and synchronized three-meter springboard

    Age: 32

    Olympic experience: 2000, 2004, 2008

    The hype: Earlier this year, Troy Dumais joined Greg Louganis as one of just two men to qualify for four U.S. Olympic diving teams. Now the veteran is after his first career medal, and should be a strong challenger in the synchronized three-meter springboard event alongside partner Kristian Ipsen.

91. Brenda Villa

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    Sport: Water Polo

    Event(s) or position: Attack

    Age: 32

    Olympic experience: 2000, 2004, 2008 (two silver, one bronze)

    The hype:  Though the U.S. women have medaled at each of the three women's Olympic water polo tournaments, Brenda Villa and her teammates have never won gold. So you can imagine the sense of urgency tailing this former FINA Female Water Polo Player of the Decade as she preps for her final Olympic tour. It's now or never for the legend.*

     

    *Much of the same applies to fellow attacker Heather Petri, who will also will be making her fourth Olympic appearance.

90. Lauren Cheney

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    Sport: Soccer

    Event(s) or position: Midfield

    Age: 24

    Olympic experience: 2008 (gold medal)

    The hype: Cheney broke out at the 2011 Women's World Cup, scoring two goals, assisting on three others and earning a spot on the tournament All-Star team. Although lesser known than some of her celebrity teammates, Cheney has quickly become one of Coach Pia Sundhage's most skilled and versatile offensive weapons.

89. Eric Shanteau

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    Sport: Swimming

    Event(s) or position: 100-meter breaststroke

    Age: 28

    Olympic experience: 2008

    The hype: Shanteau postponed cancer treatment to compete in the 2008 Beijing Games, where he just missed qualifying for the event final. His disease now in remission, Shanteau has returned to the Olympic spotlight for one more improbable medal push.

87-88. Jake Gibb and Sean Rosenthal

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    Sport: Beach Volleyball

    Event(s) or position: N/A

    Age: 36 (Gibb) and 32 (Rosenthal)

    Olympic experience: 2008

    The hype: So often cast in the shadow of fellow Americans and 2008 Olympic champions Todd Rogers and Phil Dalhausser, Jake Gibb and Sean Rosenthal have finally come into their own as gold-medal contenders. The duo has been scorching hot as of late, including multiple victories over Brazilian top dogs Alison Cerutti and Emanuel Rego, as well as a surprisingly easy win over Rogers and Dalhausser in early July.

86. Jesse Williams

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    Sport: Track and Field

    Event(s) or position: High jump

    Age: 28

    Olympic experience: 2008

    The hype: Last year, Jesse Williams became the first male American high jumper to medal at a world championship since 1991. Better yet, he took gold, marking him as one of the men to beat in London.

85. Matt Anderson

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    Sport: Volleyball

    Event(s) or position: Outside Hitter

    Age: 25

    Olympic experience: None

    The hype: On a U.S. men's volleyball team saturated with veterans, the springy, 6'8" Anderson is your resident rising star. Team USA hopes his athleticism can drive the team's attack and take some pressure off its cagey-but-aging defense.

84. Nathan Adrian

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    Sport: Swimming

    Event(s) or position: 100-meter freestyle and 4x100 freestyle relay

    Age: 23

    Olympic experience: 2008 (one gold medal)

    The hype: America's best freestyle sprinter was a surprise non-qualifier in the 50-meter free, but Nathan Adrian still holds good medal odds in the 100-meter free and will be a key cog for Team USA in its much-anticipated, 4x100 freestyle relay showdown against Australia and France.

83. Tyson Chandler

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    Sport: Basketball

    Event(s) or position: Center

    Age: 29

    Olympic experience: None

    The hype: He isn't an international megastar or even a perennial All-Star, but Tyson Chandler has the one thing U.S. basketball lacks at the moment: size. As the only true center left on Team USA's roster, Chandler will face big-time pressure against the hearty front lines presented by Spain and Brazil.

82. Danielle Scott-Aruda

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    Sport: Volleyball

    Event(s) or position: Middle Blocker

    Age: 39

    Olympic experience: 1996, 2000, 2004, 2008 (one silver medal)

    The hype: Danielle Scott-Aruda is the first American volleyball player of either gender to make five Olympic teams. Those seeking a historical barometer for her longevity will note that Scott-Aruda was named National Collegiate Player of the Year in 1993, the same year Florida State's Charlie Ward won his Heisman Trophy.

81. McKayla Maroney

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    Sport: Gymnastics

    Event(s) or position: Vault, Floor Exercise

    Age: 16

    Olympic experience: None

    The hype: Widely regarded as the world's best vaulter, McKayla Maroney should put up a monster score for the U.S. in the team competition and challenge for an individual apparatus gold. A stoic and proven performer, Maroney overcame a late injury to cement her spot on Team USA.

80. Joseph Diaz, Jr.

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    Sport: Boxing

    Event(s) or position: Bantamweight

    Age: 19

    Olympic experience: None

    The hype: Joseph Diaz, Jr., the youngest member of America's 2012 men's boxing team, wanted to turn pro at 17 in order to help his family out of poverty. His dad, Joseph, Sr., convinced him otherwise, and the decision looks like genius in hindsight. Jo-Jo (as the younger Diaz is known) enters London as one of the boxing world's most intriguing talents.

79. Amy Acuff

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    Sport: Track and Field

    Event(s) or position: High Jump

    Age: 37

    Olympic experience: 1996, 2000, 2004, 2008

    The hype: In making her fifth Olympic team, high jumper Amy Acuff joins a select group of U.S. track and field standouts that includes Carl Lewis, Gail Devers and Willye White. Unlike those three, however, Acuff doesn't have a medal to show for her longevity. While that's unlikely to change in London, Acuff has defied enough expectations in her career to entertain hope.

78. Christian Taylor

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    Sport: Track and Field

    Event(s) or position: Triple Jump

    Age: 22

    Olympic experience: None

    The hype: Christian Taylor's gold medal at the 2011 World Championships marked his arrival, while a follow-up silver at the 2012 World Indoor Championships proved his staying power. Taylor's emergence, along with that of his former college teammate, Will Claye, suggests that the future of American jumping is in good hands.

77. Sue Bird

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    Sport: Basketball

    Event(s) or position: Point Guard

    Age: 31

    Olympic experience: 2004, 2008 (two gold medals)

    The hype: A point guard blessed with scoring aplomb, Sue Bird has been a familiar face around U.S. basketball since Athens. She's the steady presence behind Team USA's ferocious attack, and should feel right at home operating under her former college coach, Connecticut head man Geno Auriemma.

76. Rau'Shee Warren

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    Sport: Boxing

    Event(s) or position: Flyweight (52 kg)

    Age: 25

    Olympic experience: 2004, 2008

    The hype: Rau'Shee Warren has already made history by becoming the first U.S. boxer ever to make three Olympic teams. The only thing missing is a medal, or for that matter an Olympic win. Warren should at least check the latter item off of his list in London, and has the talent to challenge for a podium place.

75. Brendan Hansen

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    Sport: Swimming

    Event(s) or position: 100-meter breaststroke, 4x100 medley relay

    Age: 30

    Olympic experience: 2004, 2008 (two gold, one silver, one bronze)

    The hype: Fueled by the bad taste of a poor Beijing showing, 30-year-old Brendan Hansen came out of retirement last year to pursue a more palatable farewell. He's unlikely to win a first career individual gold medal in London, but he'll be an important asset in the medley relay and maybe, just maybe, has enough veteran guile to pull out a medal in the 100-meter breast.

74. Matt Centrowitz, Jr.

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    Sport: Track and Field

    Event(s) or position: 1,500 meters

    Age: 22

    Olympic experience: None

    The hype: The metric mile, one of track's most prestigious events, hasn't seen an American medalist of either gender since Jim Ryun in 1968. Into that void steps Matt Centrowitz, Jr., the 2011 Worlds' bronze medalist and the latest bit of tangible proof that Team USA is rising from its decades-long distance slumber.

73. Jenn Suhr

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    Sport: Track and Field

    Event(s) or position: Pole Vault

    Age: 30

    Olympic experience: 2008 (silver medal)

    The hype: Few track events in London will have a higher profile than women's pole vault. The marquee players are retiring Russian legend Yelena Isinbayeva (after her third consecutive gold medal) and British newcomer Holly Bleasdale, but American Jenn Suhr has had the look of a spoiler ever since posting the season's top mark in early July.

72. Claressa Shields

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    Sport: Boxing

    Event(s) or position: Middleweight (75 kg)

    Age: 17

    Olympic experience: None

    The hype: No American boxer has greater raw talent than Claressa Shields, the brash teenager from Flint, Mich., who sees Olympic gold as mile marker one on her road to multi-million-dollar purses and Pay-Per-View specials.

    Ambitious? Sure. But Shields has already beaten former world champ Mary Spencer and has the kind of charismatic confidence one rarely finds in fighters her age.

71. Christina Loukas

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    Sport: Diving

    Event(s) or position: Three-meter springboard

    Age: 26

    Olympic experience: 2008

    The hype: USA Diving's brightest medal hope on the women's side, Christina Loukas, took fourth at the 2011 World Championships on the three-meter springboard. Though the top two spots will almost certainly go to China, there's room to finagle a bronze if Loukas is going good. A medallion of any color would be the first for American diving since 2000.

    (If the Loukas name sounds familiar to Chicago Cubs die-hards, it's probably because Christina's family owns a popular bar across the street from Wrigley Field.)

70. Wallace Spearmon, Jr.

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    Sport: Track and Field

    Event(s) or position: 200 meters

    Age: 27

    Olympic experience: 2008

    The hype: Wallace Spearmon, Jr. would have taken bronze in Beijing if not for an almost imperceptible lane violation. Back for redemption four years later, Spearmon, Jr. is likely the only American 200-meter runner with enough speed to break up the vaunted Jamaican duo of Usain Bolt and Yohan Blake.

69. Clarissa Chun

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    Sport: Freestyle Wrestling

    Event(s) or position: Flyweight (48 kg)

    Age: 30

    Olympic experience: 2008

    The hype: Hawaii native Clarissa Chun is the first American female freestyle wrestler to compete in two Olympic Games and, at 4'11", she is the shortest member of Team USA. Beyond the fun facts, Chun is also one of Uncle Sam's few medal hopefuls on the women's side.

67-68. Bob and Mike Bryan

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    Sport: Tennis

    Event(s) or position: Doubles

    Age: 34 (both)

    Olympic experience: 2004 and 2008 (one bronze medal)

    The hype: The Bryan brothers—identical twins from Southern California—have been a dominant force on the men's doubles scene since 2003, winning 11 Grand Slam titles and spending 297 weeks at No. 1. Though their Olympic results have been comparatively lackluster, the pair remains a formidable threat to take gold during what should be the twilight of their careers.

66. Meb Keflezighi

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    Sport: Track and Field

    Event(s) or position: Marathon

    Age: 37

    Olympic experience: 2000, 2004 (one silver medal)

    The hype: Eight years after his last Olympic appearance, 2004 silver medalist Meb Keflezighi looks like a runner reborn. The Skechers spokesman set a new personal best at the U.S. Trials and became the oldest man ever to win the event.

65. Brady Ellison

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    Sport: Archery

    Event(s) or position: N/A

    Age: 23

    Olympic experience: 2008

    The hype: Though he's just 23, Brady Ellison has already being hailed by some archery insiders as one of the all-time great American bowmen. If he can nab a team and individual medal in London, he'd be well on his way to validating those claims.

64. Chris Paul

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    Sport: Basketball

    Event(s) or position: Point Guard

    Age: 27

    Olympic experience: 2008 (gold medal)

    The hype: Chris Paul, basketball's best pure floor general, holds the reins to what should be a formidable Team USA attack. Though his athleticism and on-ball defense doesn't match Russell Westbrook or even Deron Williams, no one in the world is better at elevating his supporting cast.

63. Jessica Hardy

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    Sport: Swimming

    Event(s) or position: 50-meter freestyle, 100 free, 4x100 freestyle relay, 4x100 medley relay

    Age: 25

    Olympic experience: None

    The hype: Forced to withdraw from the Beijing team after a positive drug test that was later attributed to tainted supplements, Jessica Hardy served a reduced suspension and has made an impressive return to top form. Though she didn't qualify for London in the 100-meter breast—an event where she holds the world record—Hardy dominated both sprint freestyle distances at the U.S. Trials and seems destined to make her long-awaited Olympic debut a successful one.

62. Queen Underwood

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    Sport: Boxing

    Event(s) or position: Lightweight (60 kg)

    Age: 28

    Olympic experience: None

    The hype: Perseverance will be a common trope at the first-ever women's Olympic boxing tournament, but few tales of triumph resonate more than Queen Underwood's. The lightweight medal contender was sexually abused by her father as a child—the fallout from which nearly consumed her. She discovered boxing at age 19, and now, after almost a decade spent toiling in the sport's amateur ranks, will get her much-deserved shot at Olympic glory.

61. Katie O’Donnell

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    Sport: Field Hockey

    Event(s) or position: Forward

    Age: 23

    Olympic experience: None

    The hype: After upsetting world No. 1 Argentina last year, Team USA has become a trendy dark-horse medal pick in women's field hockey. Leading the hype parade is young attacker Katie O'Donnell, a brilliant stick handler and dynamic playmaker equipped with the kind of powerful shot that belies her flea-sized proportions.

60. Matt Grevers

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    Sport: Swimming

    Event(s) or position: 100-meter backstroke, 4x100 medley relay

    Age: 27

    Olympic experience: 2008 (two gold, one silver)

    The hype: The 6'8" Grevers surged into gold-medal contention in the 100-meter back with a blistering 52.08 at the U.S. Trials. Overshadowed four years ago by legendary backstroker Aaron Peirsol, Grevers gets his chance to shine alone in London.

59. Clayton Stanley

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    Sport: Volleyball

    Event(s) or position: Opposite

    Age: 34

    Olympic experience: 2004, 2008 (one gold medal)

    The hype: Clay Stanley dazzled in Beijing, leading Team USA to a surprise gold medal and earning tournament MVP honors. The Americans will lean on their veteran core to pull off another spate of Olympic upsets, and Stanley is the man they'll turn to first.

58. Bernard Lagat

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    Sport: Track and Field

    Event(s) or position: 5,000 meters

    Age: 37

    Olympic experience: 2000, 2004, 2008 (one silver, one bronze)

    The hype: Over the last four Olympic cycles, Kenyan expat Bernard Lagat has become one of the most prolific distance runners in track and field history. London is likely his last chance to varnish that resume, and the former 1,500 specialist has enough speed to pull off an upset in the 5,000 if he can keep pace early.

57. Logan Tom

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    Sport: Volleyball

    Event(s) or position: Outside Hitter

    Age: 31

    Olympic experience: 2000, 2004, 2008 (one silver medal)

    The hype:  More than a decade into her distinguished career, Logan Tom remains an elite scorer and key cog in Team USA's push for its first-ever women's volleyball gold medal. Though past attempts have ended in frustration, the Stanford product has never had more talent around her.

56. Andy Roddick

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    Sport: Tennis

    Event(s) or position: Singles

    Age: 29

    Olympic experience: 2004

    The hype: With serve-and-volley ace John Isner running cold at the moment, old hand Andy Roddick suddenly looks like America's best chance for a medal in men's singles. Roddick isn't nearly the athlete that almost upset Roger Federer at Wimbledon in '09, but he's still a good grass court player and has enough juice on his serve to surprise opponents in a three-set format.

55. Reese Hoffa

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    Sport: Track and Field

    Event(s) or position: Shot Put

    Age: 34

    Olympic experience: 2004, 2008

    The hype: The gregarious, turkey-leg snacking, rubik's-cube solving Hoffa is a mercurial talent, a trait that hasn't served him well at past Olympiads. But there is hope that the former world champ may finally be peaking at the right time. Hoffa has three of the world's top four marks this year, and took first place over a strong field at the U.S. Trials.

54. Caryn Davies

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    Sport: Rowing

    Event(s) or position: Women's Eight

    Age: 30

    Olympic experience: 2004, 2008 (one gold, one silver)

    The hype: An on-again-off-again member of the U.S. women's coxed eight boat that has won six consecutive world championships, Caryn Davies postponed a year of law school at Columbia to row in her third Olympic Games. This one ought to carry extra significance for Davies, whose father was born in England.

53. Jonathan Horton

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    Sport: Gymnastics

    Event(s) or position: All-around, rings, high bar, parallel bars

    Age: 26

    Olympic experience: 2008 (one silver medal, one bronze medal)

    The hype:  Jonathan Horton is the only returning American gymnast from 2008, man or woman, and should be the undisputed veteran leader of a team buzzing with young talent. Horton, in turn, will look to bolster what is already one of the best resumes in men's American gymnastics history.

52. Maggie Steffens

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    Sport: Water Polo

    Event(s) or position: Defense

    Age: 19

    Olympic experience: None

    The hype: To conquer a wide-open field and win its first-ever women's water polo gold medal, Team USA plans to rely on its stout defense, which in turn means they will rely on the team's youngest member, Maggie Steffens. Playing alongside sister Jessica, the talented two-way defender could make a powerful first impression in London and should be a face of American water polo for years to come.

51. Katie Ledecky

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    Sport: Swimming

    Event(s) or position: 800-meter freestyle

    Age: 15

    Olympic experience: None

    The hype: At 15, Maryland native Katie Ledecky will be the youngest member of Team USA's swimming contingent. And although she's unlikely to medal in London, viewers would be wise to remember the name.

50. Maya Moore

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    Sport: Basketball

    Event(s) or position: Forward

    Age: 23

    Olympic experience: None

    The hype: Maya Moore knows winning. The versatile forward captured three state championships in high school, two national championships in college and a WNBA title in her first professional season. If past is prologue, a gold medal isn't far off.

49. Marlen Esparza

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    Sport: Boxing

    Event(s) or position: Flyweight (51 kg)

    Age: 22

    Olympic experience: None.

    The hype: "Cover Girl" Marlen Esparza is a marketer's dream: smart, attractive, gritty, glamorous and, above all, talented. The slick-punching, six-time national champion is a bonafide medal contender in the women's flyweight division and a self-aspiring Latina role model that envisions an impact well beyond the ring.

48. Rebecca Soni

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    Sport: Swimming

    Event(s) or position: 100-meter butterfly, 200 butterfly, 4x100 medley relay

    Age: 25

    Olympic experience: 2008 (one gold, two silver)

    The hype: Soni, the world's undisputed breaststroke queen, finished a surprising second to virtual unknown Breeja Larson in the 100-meter breast at the U.S. Trials. Renowned swim coach Dave Marsh says the loss will serve as wake-up call for Soni, which would indeed be bad news for the rest of the field in London.

47. Kristin Armstrong

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    Sport: Cycling

    Event(s) or position: Time Trial, Road Race

    Age: 38

    Olympic experience: 2004, 2008 (one gold medal)

    The hype: Kristin Armstrong retired following her 2008 Olympic triumph in the individual time trial, started a family and even began operating her own racing team. But the allure of competition grew too strong, and Armstrong fought through rust and injury to qualify for her third Olympic team.

45-46. April Ross and Jen Kessy

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    Sport: Beach Volleyball

    Event(s) or position: N/A

    Age: 30 (Ross) and 34 (Kessy)

    Olympic experience: None

    The hype: Stepping into the void left by Misty May-Treanor and Kerri Walsh after their post-Beijing breakup, Jen Kessy (nee Boss) and April Ross won the 2009 World Championships over Brazilian duo Larissa and Juliana.

    Though they haven't sustained that success, the SoCal tandem remains a viable medal threat and should have high visibility in London thanks to Kessy's status as an Olympic Cover Girl.

44. Anna Tunnicliffe

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    Sport: Sailing

    Event(s) or position: Elliot 6m

    Age: 29

    Olympic experience: 2008 (gold medal)

    The hype: Born in England but raised from adolescence on in Northwest Ohio, Anna Tunnicliffe returns to her homeland this summer in pursuit of a second Olympic gold.

43. Aly Raisman

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    Sport: Gymnastics

    Event(s) or position: All-around, floor exercise, balance beam

    Age: 18

    Olympic experience: None

    The hype: Even without any prior Olympic experience, Aly Raisman comes to London as the U.S. women's gymnastics team's veteran leader. Though that's in part an indicator of Team USA's youth, the 18 year old does have the steady all-around skills and international experience to merit a leadership role.

42. Morgan Uceny

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    Sport: Track and Field

    Event(s) or position: 1,500 meters

    Age: 27

    Olympic experience: None

    The hype: Though it has never even medaled in the event, America has what should be its strongest team ever in the women's 1,500. Leading the way is Cornell grad Morgan Uceny, a pre-race favorite at the 2011 World Championships (before tripping in the final) and the fastest American so far this year.

41. David Boudia

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    Sport: Diving

    Event(s) or position: 10-meter platform, Synchronized 10-meter platform

    Age: 23

    Olympic experience: 2008

    The hype: The men's 10-meter platform competition should be one of London's premier events, with most home partisans tuning in to see if British hero Tom Daley can take down Chinese favorite Qiu Bo. Hovering just a tad below the fold is American David Boudia, the event's runner-up at 2011 Worlds and a viable threat to become America's first male medalist on platform since 1992.

40. Holley Mangold

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    Sport: Weightlifting

    Event(s) or position: Super-heavyweight (75 kg+)

    Age: 22

    Olympic experience: None

    The hype: An American weightlifter who's appeared on MTV's True Life and HBO's Real Sports? Sounds too good to be real/true, but, then again, the sport has never seen an athlete quite like Holley Mangold.

    And while some of the fascination surrounding Mangold traces back to her famous brother, Jets' All-Pro center Nick Mangold, the super-heavyweight lifter also has folks buzzing about her rapid improvement in a sport she didn't take up full-time until 2010.

39. Anthony Ervin

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    Sport: Swimming

    Event(s) or position: 50-meter freestyle

    Age: 31

    Olympic experience: 2000 (one gold, one silver)

    The hype: Anhony Ervin left swimming in 2003, right before what should have his been his prime, and embarked on an eight-year personal odyssey that carried him well adrift of the public eye. Although he remains mum on the details of that journey, Ervin is back in the limelight after qualifying for the same event he won in Sydney 12 years ago. Even more remarkable, his times mark him as a medal contender.

37-38. Phil Dalhausser and Todd Rogers

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    Sport: Beach Volleyball

    Event(s) or position: N/A

    Age: 32 (Dalhausser) and 38 (Rogers)

    Olympic experience: 2008 (gold medal)

    The hype: The beach's top team in Beijing remains a gold-medal threat, but the men's field is deeper than ever. Brazil's Alison Cerutti and Emanuel Rego come to London as the favorites, and fellow Americans Jake Gibb and Sean Rosenthal aren't far behind.

36. Taylor Phinney

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    Sport: Cycling

    Event(s) or position: Road Race, Time Trial

    Age: 22

    Olympic experience: 2008

    The hype: The "prodigy" label has hovered over Taylor Phinney for years now, owing both to his early successes as a track cyclist and the genetics passed down to him by his medal-winning parents. Phinney has since taken his talents to road racing, and should get his first real shot at an Olympic medal in London.

    If that doesn't work out, perhaps he can fall back on his "small budding romance" with former champion gymnast Shawn Johnson or solicit advice from his 60,000-avatar army of Twitter followers.

35. Tony Azevedo

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    Sport: Water Polo

    Event(s) or Position: Attack

    Age: 30

    Olympic experience: 2000, 2004, 2008 (one silver medal)

    The hype: Recognized as one of the world's best players, Tony Azevedo has been a mainstay for U.S. Water Polo since adolescence. He was the team's leading scorer during its surprise silver-medal run in Beijing, and should again be at the heart of the action come August.

34. Kobe Bryant

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    Sport: Basketball

    Event(s) or position: Shooting Guard

    Age: 33

    Olympic experience: 2008 (gold medal)

    The hype: Though he's no longer Team USA's top talent, Kobe Bryant has taken well to his new role as veteran hype man and media liaison. And if Coach Mike Krzyzewski needs a last-second go-to, you can bet the unshakable Bryant is still on his short list. 

33. Natalie Coughlin

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    Sport: Swimming

    Event(s) or position: 4x100-meter freestyle relay

    Age: 29

    Olympic experience: 2004, 2008 (three gold, four silver, four bronze)

    The hype: After a disappointing meet at U.S. Trials, swimming legend Natalie Coughlin won't represent Team USA as an individual and is unlikely to swim an event final. Still, the former Cal Bear can add one more medal in London, which would tie her with fellow swimmers Dara Torres and Jenny Thompson as the most decorated American female Olympians of all time.

32. Tyson Gay

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    Sport: Track and Field

    Event(s) or position: 100-meter dash, 4x100 relay

    Age: 29

    Olympic experience: 2008

    The hype: After a longer-than-expected recovery from hip surgery, veteran sprinter Tyson Gay surged back into the medal picture with a solid performance at the U.S. Trials. And while that's quite an accomplishment considering his persistent injury woes, Gay has yet to flash the form that once made him Usain Bolt's most dangerous rival.

31. John Orozco

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    Sport: Gymnastics

    Event(s) or position: All-around, rings, high bar

    Age: 19

    Olympic experience: None

    The hype: Raised in the Bronx by parents who often struggled to make ends meet, John Orozco's unlikely gymnastics success story began when his father picked up a flyer for a free tryout. Just over a decade later, Orozco is one of America's most talented all-arounders and a symbol of his sport's changing demographics.

30. Kayla Harrison

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    Sport: Judo

    Event(s) or position: 78 kg

    Age: 22

    Olympic experience: None

    The hype: Kayla Harrison almost quit judo after her first coach sexually abused her. It wasn't until her mother sent her to live with former Olympic medalist Jimmy Pedro and his wife in Boston that Harrison rediscovered her love for the sport, eventually becoming a world champion in her weight class. In London, she hopes to become the first American ever to win an Olympic judo title.

29. Brittney Reese

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    Sport: Track and Field

    Event(s) or position: Long Jump

    Age: 25

    Olympic experience: 2008

    The hype: Mississippi native Brittney Reese has dominated the women's long jump since 2008, winning each of the last two indoor and outdoor World Championships. The task now is clear: Avenge an underwhelming fifth-place in Beijing and take home gold.

28. LaShawn Merritt

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    Sport: Track and Field

    Event(s) or position: 400-meter sprint, 4x400 relay

    Age: 26

    Olympic experience: 2008 (two gold medals)

    The hype: In 2010, LaShawn Merritt tested positive for a banned substance that he says was contained in an over-the-counter penis enlargement drug. Since returning last year, Merritt has reasserted his place among the event's elite and looks like a strong contender to repeat as the 400-meter Olympic champion.

27. Carmelita Jeter

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    Sport: Track and Field

    Event(s) or position: 100-meter sprint, 200-meter sprint, 4x100 relay

    Age: 32

    Olympic experience: None

    The hype: Which Carmelita Jeter will show up in August: The one that cruised to a series of easy victories at 2012 Trials or the one that posted a series of sluggish times in the months prior? The defending 100-meter world champion has oodles of breakout potential, but her inconsistency is a major red flag.

26. Allison Schmitt

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    Sport: Swimming

    Event(s) or position: 200-meter freestyle, 400 free, 4x100 freestyle relay, 4x200 freestyle relay

    Age: 22

    Olympic experience: 2008 (one bronze medal)

    The hype: No U.S. swimmer has been hotter over the past few months than Allison Schmitt, the freestyle maestro who won both the 200-meter and 400-meter free at the U.S. Trials. Though both events feature deep international fields, Schmitt's rapid improvement over the past year should have the favorites swimming scared.

25. Destinee Hooker

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    Sport: Volleyball

    Event(s) or position: Opposite

    Age: 24

    Olympic experience: None

    The hype: An Olympic-caliber high jumper who opted for volleyball, Destinee Hooker is the best young talent on a women's team that should contend for its first-ever gold medal. Even if indoor volleyball isn't your bag, the novelty of Hooker's freakish athleticism is well worth your precious Olympic viewing time.

24. Mariel Zagunis

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    Sport: Fencing

    Event(s) or position: Sabre

    Age: 27

    Olympic experience: 2004, 2008 (two gold, one bronze)

    The hype: Eight years ago, Mariel Zagunis became the first U.S. fencer in a century to win Olympic gold. She repeated the feat in Beijing, and is on the verge of adding a three-peat to her long list of professional achievements. For her groundbreaking accomplishments, Zaguins was honored as Team USA's flag bearer for the opening ceremony.

23. Justin Gatlin

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    Sport: Track and Field

    Event(s) or position: 100-meter sprint, 4x100 relay

    Age: 30

    Olympic experience: 2004 (one gold, one silver, one bronze)

    The hype: Most observers—including Usain Bolt—thought Justin Gatlin's days as an elite sprinter were over after he served a four-year doping ban (2006-10). Think again. Gatlin won the U.S. Trials in the 100-meter sprint, is the world's third-fastest athlete this year and looks like Team USA's best threat to upset Bolt and co-favorite Yohan Blake in London.

22. Galen Rupp

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    Sport: Track and Field

    Event(s) or position: 5,000 meters, 10,000 meters

    Age: 26

    Olympic experience: 2008

    The hype: Not since LBJ ran the White House and Jim Ryun ruled the track has their been an American-born distance runner of Galen Rupp's caliber. The Oregon native enters London as a podium contender in the men's 5,000-meter and 10,000-meter races, two events America hasn't medaled in since 1964.

21. Alex Morgan

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    Sport: Soccer

    Position: Forward

    Age: 23

    Olympic experience: None

    The hype: As the youngest member of the 2011 U.S. women's World Cup team, Alex Morgan wasted little time making her mark. The striker's arresting good looks and blistering pace made her an overnight star. She heads to London with all arrows pointing up.

20. Kevin Durant

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    Sport: Basketball

    Event(s) or position: Forward

    Age: 23

    Olympic experience: None

    The hype: Kevin Durant could be the world's most difficult one-on-one cover—in any sport. And with the shorter international three-point line as his aid, this rangy offensive savant is in line for a monster tournament.

19. Candace Parker

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    Sport: Basketball

    Event(s) or position: Forward

    Age: 26

    Olympic experience: 2008 (gold medal)

    The hype: When healthy, Candace Parker is still the odds-maker's choice for best female basketball player on the planet. Her superior athleticism on the interior and adept finishing touch typify so much of what separates Team USA from the rest of the international field.

18. Sanya Richards-Ross

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    Sport: Track and Field

    Event(s) or position: 200-meter sprint, 400-meter sprint, 4x400 relay

    Age: 27

    Olympic experience: 2004, 2008 (two gold, one bronze)

    The hype: Already a leading gold-medal contender at 400 meters, Sanya Richards-Ross turned heads when she announced her intention to double in the 200-meter sprint. She twisted even more noggins by posting the world's second-fastest time at the shorter distance, putting herself in position for a monster medal haul.

17. Abby Wambach

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    Sport: Soccer

    Position: Attack

    Age: 32

    Olympic experience: 2004 (gold medal)

    The hype: A fearless attacker with peerless aerial skills, Wambach is widely considered as one of the world's best players. After missing Beijing with injury, the Gatorade spokeswoman will be an offensive focal point in Team USA's quest for an Olympic three-peat.

16. Kim Rhode

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    Sport: Shooting

    Event(s) or position: Skeet

    Age: 33

    Olympic experience: 1996, 2000, 2004, 2008 (two gold, one silver, one bronze)

    The hype: If this seems like a lofty ranking for a shooter, you haven't met Kim Rhode. With a medal in London, the shotgun queen can become the first American ever to medal in five consecutive Olympiads.

15. Jordan Burroughs

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    Sport: Freestyle Wrestling

    Event(s) or position: 74 kg

    Age: 24

    Olympic experience: None

    The hype: Freestyle wrestling wunderkind and social media devotee Jordan Burroughs tweets from the handle @alliseeisgold, which should you give you a pretty good sense of his ambition. An instinctive self-promoter with the talent and confidence to match, Burroughs has the look of an Olympic champion and the feel of a burgeoning MMA superstar.

14. Danell Leyva

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    Sport: Gymnastics

    Event(s) or position: All-around, high bar, parallel bars

    Age: 20

    Olympic experience: None

    The hype: Cuban-born high-flyer Danell Leyva headlines perhaps the most exciting crop of young talent in U.S. men's gymnastics history. An audacious athlete given to dramatic highs and lows, Leyva's competitive zeal makes him a threat to medal in both high bar and parallel bars.

13. Hope Solo

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    Sport: Soccer

    Event(s) or position: Goalkeeper

    Age: 30

    Olympic experience: 2008 (gold medal)

    The hype: Whether she's dancing with stars or divulging secrets to the press, Hope Solo has quickly become the highest-profile figure on a star-studded U.S. women's soccer team. On the pitch, she's the sport's best netminder. Off of it, her swaggering sex appeal has helped drive one of America's most recognizable Olympic teams to even gaudier levels of popularity.

12. Serena Williams

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    Sport: Tennis

    Event(s) or position: Singles, Doubles

    Age: 30

    Olympic experience: 2000, 2008 (two gold medals)

    The hype: When she's healthy, motivated and serving well, there isn't a better player in women's tennis than Serena Williams. After a dominant Wimbledon and a follow-up win at the Bank of the West Classic, Williams told the media, "I've never felt this fit, this determined and this happy to play...I'm so excited about getting back to London for the Olympics." Not what her opponents wanted to hear.

11. Ashton Eaton

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    Sport: Track and Field

    Event(s) or position: Decathlon

    Age: 24

    Olympic experience: None

    The hype: Upon breaking the decathlon's 11-year-old world record at the U.S. Trials, Ashton Eaton graduated from fast-emerging medal prospect to prohibitive gold-medal favorite. And considering Eaton's prodigious skill, relative youth and undeniable good looks, there's added hope that he may become the crossover media star decathlon has sorely lacked since the days of Dan and Dave.

10. Lolo Jones

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    Sport: Track and Field

    Event(s) or position: 100-meter hurdles

    Age: 29

    Olympic experience: 2008

    The hype: Jones' medal prospects are slim, but that hasn't stopped the hottest thing on two legs from soaking up the media attention. The virginal hurdling sensation has already made waves in London thanks to her first-rate Twitter account and should continue to be a force off the track regardless of her results.

9. Gabby Douglas

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    Sport: Gymnastics

    Event(s) or position: All-Around, Uneven Bars, Vault

    Age: 16

    Olympic experience: None

    The hype: Gabby Douglas surged into the spotlight with a strong performance at the Visa Nationals followed by an upset victory over teammate and defending world champ Jordyn Wieber in the individual all-around at the U.S. Trials. Combine that with her infectiously bubbly personality, and Douglas' star potential seems almost limitless.

8. Allyson Felix

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    Sport: Track and Field

    Event(s) or position: 100-meter sprint, 200-meter sprint, 4x100 relay

    Age: 26

    Olympic experience: 2004, 2008 (one gold, two silver)

    The hype: Allyson Felix is already one of the most accomplished and versatile sprinters in American history, but the absence of an individual Olympic gold on her competitive resume seems to have both haunted her personally and capped her marketing potential.

    She's well positioned to win the 200-meter sprint, her signature event, but the same was said four years ago when she ended up settling for her second consecutive silver medal.

6-7. Misty May-Treanor and Kerri Walsh

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    Sport: Beach Volleyball

    Event(s) or position: N/A

    Age: 34 (May) and 33 (Walsh)

    Olympic experience: 2004, 2008 (two gold medals)*

    The hype: Don't expect Misty May-Treanor and Kerri Walsh to dominate the Olympic beach volleyball tournament the way they did in Athens and Beijing. Age, injury and a prolonged post-2008 hiatus have undoubtedly punctured their aura of invincibility. That said, the duo is still among the world's top three teams, and with some veteran moxie could secure an unprecedented three-peat.

    *Both participated in the 2000 Olympics, but not in tandem. May partnered with Holly McPeak on the beach while Walsh played indoor with the U.S. women's national team.

5. LeBron James

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    Sport: Basketball

    Event(s) or position: Forward

    Age: 27

    Olympic experience: 2004, 2008 (one gold, one bronze)

    The hype: Simply put, LeBron James is the world's best basketball player. This summer, he'll play alongside what most consider the world's best basketball team. Even with an NBA championship to fall back on, America's leading man is under more pressure to win gold than almost any athlete in London. And if he does, the regular season and Final MVP will have capped off one of the greatest calendar years in basketball history.

4. Ryan Lochte

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    Sport: Swimming

    Event(s) or position: 200-meter backstroke, 200 free, 200 IM, 400 IM, 4x100 freestyle relay, 4x200 freestyle relay

    Age: 27

    Olympic experience: 2004, 2008 (three gold, one silver, two bronze)

    The hype: Ryan Lochte has been the best all-around swimmer of the last quadrennium, but fans still want to know if he can beat a fully motivated, fully conditioned Michael Phelps. He'll get two cracks at it, in the 200-meter IM and 400-meter IM, before Phelps swims off into retirement.

3. Jordyn Wieber

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    Sport: Gymnastics

    Event(s) or position: All-around, vault

    Age: 17

    Olympic experience: None

    The hype: Jordyn Wieber, the reigning world all-around champ, is a paragon of consistency amid the often turbulent waters of female gymnastics. An exceedingly well-rounded performer, the Michigan native is positioned to become the first American ever with both an individual all-around Olympic title and team gold.

2. Missy Franklin

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    Sport: Swimming

    Event(s) or position: 100-meter backstroke, 200 back, 100 free, 200 free, 4x100 freestyle relay, 4x200 freestyle relay, 4x100 medley relay

    Age: 17

    Olympic experience: None

    The hype: If she medals in each of her Olympic events—an attainable goal considering recent form—teenager Missy Franklin would become the first American woman to win seven medals at one Olympiad. Now read that back, with emphasis on the word teenager. Gives you an idea of just how good Franklin is, and why there will be a scrum of media following her Summer Games debut.

1. Michael Phelps

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    Sport: Swimming

    Event(s) or position: 100-meter butterfly, 200 fly, 200 IM, 400 IM, 4x100 freestyle relay, 4x200 freestyle relay, 4x100 medley relay

    Age: 27

    Olympic experience: 2000, 2004, 2008 (14 gold, two bronze)

    The hype: It's all but certain that Michael Phelps will get the three medals he needs to become the most decorated Olympian of all time. Perhaps the bigger question is whether or not he can out-duel rival Ryan Lochte and end his distinguished career with a fittingly Phelpsian flourish.