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London 2012 Olympics: Team USA Underdogs Who Will Become Superstars

John AltamuraContributor IIJuly 27, 2012

London 2012 Olympics: Team USA Underdogs Who Will Become Superstars

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    After months of buildup and anticipation, the 2012 London Olympic Games are upon us. Athletes from all four corners of the globe are ready to vie for the top spots in their selected sports.

    Of course, there will be plenty of favorites who will take home gold for their respective countries. However, there will be athletes who are deemed underdogs that will rise to the occasion and shock the world.

    Here are eight American athletes who are poised to do just that and in the process become superstars in their respective sports.

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Brady Ellison, Archery

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    Brady Ellison is hoping to bring home a gold medal in the sport of archery.

    The 23-year-old archer made his first Olympic appearance in Beijing, where he lost in the second round of the final competition bracket to Canadian Jay Lyon. He also competed in the team archery competition with Butch Johnson and Vic Wunderle, losing in the first round to Chinese Taipei, 222-218.

    His main competition will be the second-ranked player in the world, Im Dong-Hyun of South Korea. Im participated in both the 2004 Athens and 2008 Beijing Olympics, taking home golds in the team competition. He has yet to win an individual gold, as he was eliminated in Beijing in the final competition round by Wunderle.

    Ellison will also face stiff competition from Dmytro Hrachov of the Ukraine and Khairul Anuar Mohamad of Malaysia. The U.S. hasn't won a gold medal in the sport of archery in either singles or team competition since 1996. Even with the No. 1-ranked player in the world in Ellison, the Americans will have a lot of history to overcome if they are going to hit the mark.

John Orozco, Men's Gymnastics (All-Around)

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    The road from the South Bronx to London was a long and arduous one for gymnastics medal contender John Orozco.

    The 2012 U.S. National champion will play the role of underdog as he matches up against the world's elite in the all-around gymnastic competition.

    Orozco will face fierce competition from Kohei Uchimura of Japan, who took home silver in the all-around and team competition at the 2008 Beijing Games. Uchimura has won three straight (2009-11) all-around gymnastics world championships and is expected to to finish near the top in London.

    Orozco will also have to deal with hometown favorite Daniel Purvis of Great Britain. Other potential foes in the all-around include Philipp Boy of Germany and Koji Yamamuro of Japan.

    There is no doubt Orozco has the fighting spirit and talent to capture Olympic gold. The real question is can he do it? We'll find out soon enough.

Gabby Douglas, Women's Gymnastics (All-Around)

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    In most Olympic years, Gabby Douglas would be one of the strong favorites to take home gold in the all-around competition. This year, however, Douglas will be tasked with having to usurp fellow U.S. gymnastics team member Jordyn Wieber from the top spot.

    Wieber is favored to win gold in the all-around and is the defending world champion. Still, Douglas brings an impressive resume to the games, with a gold medal on the uneven bars at the national and Pacific Rim championships in 2012. She also earned a team gold medal at the 2011 World Championships in Tokyo.

    Wieber will not be the only foe for Douglas to worry about in the all-around competition. It is expected that she will face some competition from Russia’s Viktoria Komova and China's Yao Jinnan, the bronze medalist from the 2011 world championships.

Kayla Harrison, Women’s Judo (-78 kg/172 lbs)

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    Kayla Harrison is looking to become the United States' first women’s judo gold-medal winner.

    The 22-year-old Middletown, Ohio, native arrives in London with several notable accomplishments under her belt. In 2010, Harrison became the first American woman in 26 years to secure a world judo championship.

    She also became the third American to capture a junior judo world championship at the 2008 judo junior world championships in Bangkok, Thailand.

    Even with all these accomplishments, Harrison will still play the underdog role to judokas such as Akari Ogata of Japan and current European champion Audrey Tcheumeo of France.

Tyler Clary, Swimming (200-Meter Backstroke)

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    The duel between U.S. swimmers Ryan Lochte and Michael Phelps has garnished a ton of media attention before the start of the Olympics. One underdog who will be looking to steal the spotlight in the 200-meter backstroke will be fellow American Tyler Clary.

    Clary has been dueling both Phelps and Lochte all year, as he had notable battles at the 2012 U.S. Olympic Trials. He finished second behind Lochte (200-meter backstroke) and Phelps (200-meter butterfly) and barely missed making the cut for the 400-meter individual medley by finishing third to the aforementioned American swimmers.

    He will also face fierce competition in the pool from Ryosuke Irie of Japan and Arkady Vyatchanin of Russia, the bronze medalist from the 2008 Beijing Games.

Katie Ledecky, Swimming (800-Meter Freestyle)

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    Katie Ledecky, 15, comes to London as the youngest member of the U.S. Olympic Team. The Maryland native made the team by finishing first in the 800-meter freestyle event at the 2012 U.S. Olympic Trials in Omaha, Neb.

    Odds are against Ledecky to capture the gold, as she will be pitted against much more seasoned and experienced swimmers. Her toughest challenger will be 2008 Beijing Games gold-medal winner and hometown favorite Rebecca Adlington of Great Britain.

    Ledecky will also face stiff competition from Lotte Friis of Denmark, who took home bronze in Beijing.

Steven Lopez, Men’s Taekwondo (-80 kg/176 lbs)

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    Not often can you call a two-time Olympic gold medalist an underdog, but that is exactly what Steven Lopez could be considered at this year's Games. The 33-year-old fourth dan in taekwondo will face stiff competition from several international competitors, including Iranian Yousef Karami.

    Karami won the gold at the 2004 Athens Games and is the reigning world champion in the -80kg weight class.

    Lopez will also have to deal with Italian Mauro Sarmiento, who upset him at the 2008 Beijing Games en route to the silver medal.

Justin Gatlin, Men's Track and Field (100-Meter Dash)

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    Justin Gatlin will have to overcome two talented Jamaicans if he going to bring home a gold medal in the 100-meter dash.

    The 2004 Athens gold-medal winner will face stiff competition from the Jamaican duo of Usain Bolt and Yohan Blake.

    Bolt, 25, is undeniably the most recognizable name in the world of track and field today and captured three gold medals (100-meter, 200-meter, 4x100-meter relay) at the Beijing Games. His fellow countryman Blake took home gold in the 100-meter dash at the 2011 World Championships in Daegu, South Korea.

    Gatlin faces a formidable challenge from both Jamaicans and could possibly face some competition from 2011 World Championships 100-meter bronze medalist Kim Collins of Saint Kitts and Nevis.

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