Weightlifter Holley Mangold for the gold.
The Olympics features some obscure sporting events; the London Games are no exception. There are five such events in which the U.S. can bring home gold in 2012 and, as the athletes gear up for the fastest three weeks of our year, we will analyze why they can bring home that precious hardware.
Events like Fencing, Sailing and Weightlifting are not part of our everyday obsession with sports in America, but every four years these—and other—sports become all that matters as we watch our fellow countrymen and women compete against the best from around the world.
Follow along as we take a tour of London in search of five little-known Olympic events where the U.S. can win gold.
Brady Ellison is the heavy favorite to bring home the gold medal.
The US of A was recently declared as the best nation in archery.
Khatuna Lorig (fifth-place finish) and Jennifer Nichols (26th-place finish) remain from the Beijing team.
On the men’s side, the only remaining competitor from Beijing 2008 is Ellison, who placed 27th out of the 64 individual competitors.
Ellison is now the top-ranked archer in the world, and he wants to be the best archer the world has ever seen, as told to Jim Caple of ESPN.com. He moved to the U.S. Olympic training center in Chula Vista, California when he was just 16-years-old, foregoing his final two years of high school to become the best.
“I came here because I wanted to be the best in the world,” he said. “I wanted to be known as the best archer who ever lived. …I feel like a bow fits me. I honestly feel God put me on this earth to shoot a bow.”
Ellison, now 23, is the favorite in London to bring home the gold.
World Champions Anna Tunnicliffe, Molly Vandemoer and Debbie Capozzi.
Debbie Capozzi, Elliott 6m
Amanda Clark, Women’s two-person dinghy
Farrah Hall, Women’s Windsurf
Sarah Lihan, Women’s two-person dinghy
Paige Railey, Laser Radial
Anna Tunnicliffe, Elliott 6m
Molly Vandemoer, Elliott 6m
Graham Biehl, Men’s 470
Robert Crane, Laser
Brian Fatih, Men’s Keelboat
Stuart McNay, Men’s 470
Mark Mendelblatt, Men’s Keelboat
Trevor Moore, 49er
Zach Railey, Finn
Erik Storck, 49er
Bob Willis, Men’s Windsurf
Our three best chances at gold will be from the team of Deborah Capozzi, Anna Tunnicliffe and Molly Vandemoer (Elliott 6m), Zach Railey (Finn) and the team of Graham Biehl and Stuart McNay (Men’s 470).
Railey won the silver medal in the Finn class at Beijing, while Tunnicliffe won the gold, but in the Laser Radial class. Biehl and McNay have been working for nearly a decade to be the best, and they now have a chance to be that.
Tunnicliffe has twice been named the ISAF Rolex World Sailor of the Year, in 2009 and most recently in 2011. Since her gold-medal performance at the Beijing Games she and her Elliott team have won nine events in preparation for London, and they are the favorites, bringing with them the world No. 1 ranking.
Mariel Zagunis is the two-time defending Olympic gold medalist in the Sabre group.
Courtney Hurley, Epee
Lee Kiefer, Foil
Maya Lawrence, Epee
Nzingha Prescod, Foil
Nicole Ross, Foil
Susie Scanlan, Epee
Dagmara Wozniak, Sabre
Mariel Zagunis, Sabre
Miles Chamley-Watson, Foil
Daryl Homer, Sabre
Race Imboden, Foil
Seth Kelsey, Epee
Alexander Massialas, Foil
Timothy Morehouse, Sabre
Soren Thompson, Epee
James Williams, Sabre
The best chance at gold will come from Mariel Zagunis in the Women’s Sabre group.
She is the two-time defending gold medalist in the event and won the 2009 and ’10 World Championship. She has won at every level and says that just because there is nothing else to achieve, that doesn’t mean she’s lost her passion.
From an interview with Bonnie D. Ford of ESPN.com:
It’s not really about how many times you’ve won something. It’s just about my love for the sport, that’s why I keep going. […] There’s no reason for me to stop—I mean, I love it, I’m doing well, and yeah, I’ve won everything at least once, so why not win it two, three, four, five times?
Channeling her inner LeBron James, I see.
Nothing less than gold will suffice as she takes her talents to London this summer.
Holley Mangold at the US Olympic Trials in March.
Holley Mangold, 75kg
Sarah Robles, 75kg
Kendrick Farris, 85kg
Holley Mangold is the sister of New York Jets center Nick Mangold. She began weightlifting in high school while playing football and she said her former coach is the one who first got her thinking about doing it for sport.
From a pre-Olympic interview with NBC Olympics:
I was lifting for football and my coach said that I was pretty strong for a female and I took that and ran with it. I did power lifting for a little while and then I switched over to Olympic weightlifting so I could try to go to the Olympics.
Mangold will compete in the women’s super-heavyweight division at the London Games, and just being there is a surprise to many. She was projected to be ready for world competition by the 2016 games and proving her critics wrong has been a joy for her.
It feels kind of crazy to say that out loud, that I’m going to the Olympics to compete for weightlifting, because just a year and a half ago, people said I was 2016, not 2012. […] It was awesome having a year and a half to just prove everybody wrong and come out and now, actually going to the Olympics, I don’t think it’s hit me.
At the U.S. Olympic Trials in March, Mangold performed a 319-pound clean-and-jerk, winning the event. She finished second in the two-hand snatch with a 242-pound lift, and she had officially qualified for London.
Ariel Hsing, Singles, Team
Erica Wu, Singles, Team
Lily Zhang, Team
Timothy Wang, Singles
In my massive upset of the London Games, 16-year-old Ariel Hsing will become the first American to win a table tennis medal at the Olympics. She’s been playing since age seven.
Her mentality going into the Games is that she’s a severe underdog and has a very little chance at winning. If she falls short of gold, the youngest U.S. Champion in history (won at age 15) still has a great shot to help put table tennis on the map in the United States.
She actually has a teammate younger than she is, Lily Zhang.
Hsing and Zhang faced off for the Women’s 2011 US National Table Tennis Championship, which as previously stated was won by Hsing. These two could both end up as world champions during their careers, and it’s an exciting time to be an American fan of the sport, as they can single-handedly bring the U.S. out of the basement of the table tennis world.