20 Hot Athletes You'll Know After the Olympics
The Summer Olympics are finally upon us! If it seems like the build up to the 2012 games in London has been going for years, that's because it has. But thankfully the long wait is over and now it's just time to sit back and see how it all goes.
At every Olympics there are a few athletes who become household names. Some make a name for themselves by winning gold, or losing spectacularly. While others garner world-wide attention for their stunning good looks.
No disrespect to the lovely Leryn Franco, but I prefer athletes who have beauty and a legitimate shot at gold. So I've put together a list of 20 beautiful athletes who have a chance to contend in their event and whose names you just might know after the Olympics.
20. Kelci Bryant, U.S. Diving
American diver Kelci Bryant competed at the 2008 Olympics in Beijing and just barely missed out on a medal—she placed a close fourth in the 3m synchronized springboard event. Bryant won silver in her event at the 2012 FINA Diving World Series in Beijing and is one of the top contenders for London.
19. Homare Sawa, Japan Soccer
The U.S. women's national soccer team was expected to dominate at the 2011 FIFA Women's World Cup, and, for the most part, they did. But they were ultimately derailed by the Japan in the finals, thanks in part to Homare Sawa, one of the team's stars. If Japan manages to upend the U.S. women again in London, expect to hear more about Sawa.
18. Elizabeth Beisel, U.S. Swimming
American swimming greats like Dara Torres and Amanda Beard have put their Olympic days behind them for good, and Natalie Coughlin barely squeaked by in 2012. Which means there is a whole new crop of swimmers ready to break out in London, one of whom is University of Florida swimmer Elizabeth Beisel. Look for Beisel to challenge Australian stunner Stephanie Rice, the reigning Olympic champion, in the 400m individual medley.
17. Marta Vieira Da Silva, Brazil Soccer
Marta Vieira Da Silva, known as just "Marta" in Brazil, plays forward for Brazil's national women's soccer team. Marta was a member of the team that won silver at both the 2004 Olympics in Athens and the 2008 Olympics in Beijing. The American and Japanese teams may be the favorites in London after their performances at the 2011 FIFA Women's World Cup, but expect Brazil to be in the mix and maybe even pull off an upset.
16. Jessica Ennis, Great Britain Track and Field
Great Britain is obviously the host of these Olympic games, so it's no surprise that they've got an abundance of talented athletes who are expected to contend for a medal in London. Track and field athlete Jessica Ennis is expected to contend not just for a medal in the pentathlon, her specialty, but also the 100m hurdles—against American hopeful Lolo Jones.
15. Aliya Mustafina, Russia Gymnastics
The Russian team is almost always in the mix for the women's gymnastics medals, and London 2012 is no different. They have a number of promising young gymnasts, but Aliya Mustafina is certainly a dark-horse contender for a medal on any event—or even the all around individual gold. Mustafina is just a few weeks shy of her 18th birthday and Olympic gold would be the best present ever.
14. Meaghan Benfeito and Roseline Filion, Canada Diving
Canada is usually favored to win a lot more medals in the winter Olympics, but that doesn't mean they don't have a couple of hopefuls for London 2012. Divers Meaghan Benfeito and Roseline Filion aren't expected to medal in individual diving but in the 10m synchronized diving event, they could make a surprise appearance on the podium.
13. Naomi Flood, Australia Kayaking
Australian kayaker Naomi Flood will be competing in the K-2 500m event at the 2012 Olympics in London. Flood is a world class athlete and will be one of Australia's stars at the games—she finished first overall in the Ironwoman Series in 2009.
12. Sandra Izbasa, Romania Gymnastics
Women's gymnastics is always one of the most popular events in the summer Olympics, which means 22-year-old Romanian gymnast Sandra Izbasa could be one of the standout stars. Izbasa won team gold and individual gold on the vault at the 2012 European Championships in Brussells, duplicating her success in Berlin a year earlier.
11. Laure Manaudou, France Swimming
French swimmer Laure Manadou has been one of the most successful female swimmers in the world since 2004. Manadou medaled in three events at the 2004 Olympics in Athens, but failed to capture a medal at the 2008 Olympics in Beijing and briefly retired in the years after. She has medaled over 30 times in international competition and, having put her past troubles behind her, Manadou is expected to contend at the London games.
10. Lizzie Armistead, Great Britain Cycling
Cyclist Lizzie Armistead is one of Great Britain's greatest Olympic hopefuls and, at age 22, is one of the country's rising stars in the cycling world. Armistead took gold at the 2009 Track World Cup as part of a team in what was just her second appearance in a senior world event. She's expected to contend for a medal in London.
9. Hanna Maria Seppala, Finland Swimming
Hanna Maria Seppala has competed, but failed to medal, for Finland in the last two Olympics. Even if she fails to medal in London, the beautiful nordic blonde is likely to attract some attention. Seppala will be competing in the women's 50m freestyle, women's 100m freestyle and women's 200m freestyle—so she'll have a few opportunities to get to the podium.
8. Aly Raisman, U.S. Gymnastics
After their impressive performance at the 2008 Olympics in Beijing, Shawn Johnson, Nastia Liukin and Alicia Sacramone all became household names. Well, none of them were able to make a comeback for the 2012 Olympics in London, so we'll be looking for new household names. This team is one of the youngest teams in years and Ms. Aly Raisman is the only member old enough to vote!
7. Marta Menegatti and Greta Cicolari, Italy Beach Volleyball
Beach volleyball is always a fan favorite at the summer Olympics. Sure it probably has something to do with the barely there bikinis, but there's no questioning the athletic prowess of these ladies. Italians Marta Menegatti and Greta Cicolari aren't expected to contend for gold in London, but these hopefuls might just pull off an upset.
6. Amy Rodriguez, U.S. Women's Soccer
Amy Rodriguez is one of the youngest members of the U.S. women's national soccer team that is favored to win gold at the London Olympics. These games will likely be the last for long-time favorites like Heather Mitts, and Amy Rodriguez joins fan favorite Alex Morgan as one of the team's young guns who will be around for quite some time.
5. Victoria Pendleton, Great Britain Cycling
British beauty Victoria Pendleton is a track cyclist and the reigning Olympic and World sprint champion—she's racked up over a dozen gold medals in international competition and over 20 medals overall. Pendleton is hoping to bounce back from a disappointing third place finish in the individual sprint at the World Track Championships in 2011.
4. Britta Steffen, Germany Swimming
The beautiful Britta Steffen of Germany will be competing in four events in London: women's 50m freestyle, women's 100m freestyle, women's 4x100m freestyle relay and the women's 4x100m medley relay. Steffen is favored to medal in at least two events and is currently the world record holder in her individual specialties.
3. Elisa Di Francisca, Italy Fencing
Elisa Di Francisca is a foil fencer who will be competing for Italy at the Olympics in London. Di Francisca has taken golden in Team Foil at each of the last four European Fencing Championships. Unsurprisingly, she gets plenty of modeling opportunities as well—if she wins gold in London, expect those to increase exponentially.
2. Hannah England, Great Britain Track and Field
Patriotically named Hannah England is one of the host country's best hopes at the London Olympics. England is a runner whose specialties are middle-distance events like the 800m, 1500m and mile run. She took silver in the 155m at the World Championships in 2011 and is expected to contend for a medal at these games.
1. Jennifer Kessy and April Ross, U.S. Beach Volleyball
The beach volleyball team of Jennifer Kessy and April Ross are expected to contend with the two-time Olympic gold medalist team of Misty May-Treanor and Kerri Walsh. This is expected to be May-Treanor and Walsh's last Olympics and their American opposition could play spoiler on their three-peat.