Usain Bolt hopes to repeat his gold-medal performance from 2008
The 2008 Beijing Olympics featured some of the greatest gold medal winners in history. Between Michael Phelps' eight gold medals and the spectacle of the Chinese gymnasts' performances, the event featured an extremely strong field of competitors across the board.
With that in mind, some of those gold medalists are returning for an encore at the 2012 London Games. The following slides will give an inside look at the five best athletes looking to repeat and stand atop the podium once again.
Three of the four gold medalists return for the 2012 Olympics.
One of Great Britain's most successful groups in Beijing was the rowing team of Andrew Triggs Hodge, Pete Reed, Tom James and Steve Williams. They stunned the favored Australian team by making a memorable late push at the finish line for first place.
Three of the four members are returning to defend their title, with Williams being the lone holdout. The others did not originally intend to return for the next go around, but now they have a chance to win gold at home.
The newcomer is Alex Gregory, who helped lead Great Britain to two gold medals in the 2009 and 2011 World Rowing Championships. They defeated archrival Australia each time in the event, even though the Aussies were the favored team each time out.
All in all, the men's coxless four should turn out to be an exciting event these Summer Games.
The men's diving competition is always one of the fiercest events, with victory being decided by tenths of a point among the world's best. This trend looks to continue in London.
Matt Mitcham took first in Beijing by scoring a 112.10—an Olympic record for a single dive. After a short flirtation and stint with retirement, he has since returned to lead the Aussies on the boards.
Mitcham has risen to the top of the sport and has a great rivalry with British diver Tom Daley. These two men should battle it out for the gold along with the usual challenge from the Chinese.
Badminton has been a long-standing sport in the Summer Olympics, but it is not a particularly popular sport in the States. It is extremely popular in Asia, however, who are set to completely dominate the competition in London.
The preeminent superstar in the sport is men's singles champion Lin Dan, who is looking to repeat his 2008 gold-medal winning performance.
Dan ran away with the title at the 2011 BWF World Championships, so he is clearly on a hot streak. It will be interesting to see if his immense popularity effectively spikes interest in the sport in the coming days and weeks.
Regardless, be sure to catch a match for this entertaining but little-appreciated sport.
Usain Bolt lived up to his surname in the 2008 Games and literally ran away with the gold in the men's 100 meters, 200 meters and 4x100-meter relay. In fact, he is the world record holder in each of the single events and is ready to cement his legacy as an all-time Olympic great.
He has lost footing to fellow Jamaican teammate Yohan Blake, including a recent loss in the 100 final at the Olympic trials in June (on the heels of last year's controversial 100-meter final disqualification at the World Championships in Korea). However, Bolt appears to be ready to go and will attempt to become the first runner since Carl Lewis to repeat as the champion in the men's 100 meters, as well as the first ever repeat champion in the men's 200 meters.
If Bolt becomes a five-time Olympic champ, he will forever be remembered as an all-time great. He just has to get by his fellow countryman first.
Michael Phelps is obviously the top returning American star in the 2012 Summer Olympics. He cemented his legacy as perhaps the greatest Olympian in history by winning a record eight gold medals in Beijing, narrowly breaking Mark Spitz's record of seven.
Phelps is going to the London Olympics with less hype this time around, but is still participating in seven events. Having already won 14 golds between the '04 and '08 games, he appears ready to call it a career after one last hurrah in London.
If he can somehow pull off all seven Herculean feats, he would retire with 21 Olympic golds, further strengthening his case as the single greatest Olympian in history. He already might be, so any wins in these games will just add on top of his stellar swimming career.
Like Usain Bolt however, Phelps faces a monumental challenge in teammate Ryan Lochte.