No sport combines intensity and grace like gymnastics.
That’s a large reason why it’s always one of the Olympics’ most popular competitions. In 2012, that won’t change with countless stars competing in the events.
Here are the top men’s and women’s artistic teams that will fight for all-around gold in London.
On their home turf, each Chinese team absolutely dominated the 2008 Summer Olympics. Don’t expect the women to own the competition like they did in Beijing, but they’ll be in the race for gold.
China won bronze in the 2011 World Championships. Yao Jinnan and Sui Lu were their best individual performers. Yao won bronze in the individual all-around and silver on the balance beam while Sui took gold on the balance beam and silver on the floor.
Russia is always a gymnastics powerhouse and this summer will be no different.
In Tokyo for last year’s World Championships, they took home the silver medal in the team all-around. Individually, Viktoria Komova carried them. She won silver in the all-around and gold on the uneven bars. Their only other participant to individually medal in the Games, Tatiana Nabieva, isn’t on the Olympic team.
Team USA is a heavy favorite going into the Olympics after winning gold at the 2011 Worlds.
Jordyn Wieber is the squad’s brightest star as she took home gold in the individual all-around as well as the balance beam. Other medalists include McKayla Maroney winning gold on vault and Alex Raisman bronze on the floor. Gabby Douglas is also a name to listen for after winning at the U.S. Trials.
On the men’s side, the U.S. likely won’t be as successful. While they won bronze in the 2011 World Championships, Danell Leyva is their only individual medalist.
Leyva could rack up the medals, though. He won gold on the parallel bars and would’ve made a run at gold on the horizontal bar if he didn’t hit his chin on it.
Japan boasts the reigning World Champion in Kōhei Uchimura. He helped lead the team to a silver medal in Tokyo last year. On top of his individual all-around gold, he won gold on the floor and bronze on the horizontal bar.
With Koji Yamamuro and Makoto Okiguchi not on the squad, though, Uchimura is the only returning medalist.
While China’s women won’t be as dominant as they were in 2008, their men should be. Not only did they win gold in the 2011 Worlds, but they controlled the medal count individually as well.
Chen Yibing won gold on the rings, Zou Kai won gold on the horizontal bar and silver on the floor and Zhang Chenglong won silver on the parallel bars and horizontal bar. If the Chinese men don’t win gold, it’d be just as, if not more shocking than if the U.S. women didn’t win it.
David Daniels is a featured columnist at Bleacher Report and a syndicated writer.