The Olympic Games provide an opportunity for thousands of athletes from all over the world to demonstrate their talent in front of a global audience. While some of them are already household names, most are getting their first shot at international recognition. That holds true for most of the 530 athletes representing the United States in London.
They’ve already gotten enough exposure to last them a lifetime, but here are 10 underdogs from the United States who have a chance to earn their own moments in the spotlight if they can exceed expectations and pull off some upsets over the next two weeks.
Misty May-Treanor and Kerri Walsh dominated the women’s beach volleyball circuit for years, winning 112 consecutive matches through 2008, including Olympic gold in Beijing. The dynamic duo is looking to win its third consecutive gold medal in the event, but will face long odds in doing so.
In addition to facing tough competition from the Brazilian and Chinese teams, both May-Treanor (ruptured Achilles) and Walsh (two children in less than one year) have had to overcome physical challenges since the last time they dominated the Olympic sands.
Does the famous team have one more rally left?
Brady Ellison has been the world’s No. 1-ranked archer in men’s recurve since 2010. But he failed to even medal at the Beijing Games.
The 23-year-old Arizona native will be out to win his first Olympic gold and second Olympic medal overall after winning the silver in yesterday’s team archery event.
The United States bested the favored South Korean team, which stunningly ended up with the bronze.
Ellison will need to have a similar effort to defeat two-time defending gold medalist Im Dong-Hyun of South Korea to solidify his standing as the world’s best.
Carmelita Jeter is the current world champion at 100-meters, but her surprising rise to the top of the sprinting world has some still a little skeptical about her ability to repeat the feat in London.
At 32, Jeter is considered a late bloomer. But her age is less of a concern than the strong competition she’ll face from Jamaicans Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce—the gold medal favorite—and Veronica Campbell-Brown.
After failing to qualify for the Beijing Games, look for Jeter to give it her all in what is sure to be her first and last shot at individual Olympic glory.
Alex Meyer will be seeking his first Olympic medal in London.
The 24-year-old Harvard grad has had greater success at the 25K distance, winning the world championship at that event in 2010. He’ll need to overcome physical limitations—he stands only 5'10" and 155 pounds—to top Thomas Lurz of Germany and pull off a stunning gold-medal performance.
Lashinda Demus may have missed out on her best shot at Olympic gold when she missed the 2008 Games while giving birth to twin boys. Four years later, the 29-year-old world champion is back to prove she’s still got a winning performance left in her.
She’ll face tough competition from the Russian duo of Irina Davydova and Natalya Antyukh, but like her U.S. teammate Carmelita Jeter, Demus will be motivated to shine in what could be her last Olympic appearance.
Rau’shee Warren is the first U.S. boxer to make three Olympic appearances. But the 26-year-old flyweight walked away from both Athens and Beijing without the coveted gold medal.
After failing to win a medal in Beijing—due in part to a controversial decision in his first-round match—Warren is hoping to go out on top in the 114-pound (52 kg) weight class in what will certainly be his last appearance in the Games.
Expect the highly motivated Warren to pull off the upset and bring the gold back to the U.S.
Women’s boxing is making its Olympic debut after 10 years as an amateur sport. While there are only three weight classes featured in London, American Claressa Shields has a chance to bring home gold in the 165-pound (75 kg) middleweight division.
Savannah Marshal of Great Britain is the favorite to win in front of her home crowd. But the 17-year-old Shields could pull an upset in what should be the first of many Olympic appearances in her young career.
Steven Lopez will almost certainly leave London as the first four-time medalist in Taekwondo’s Olympic history. He’ll have stiff competition for the gold from Iran’s Yousef Karami, but the top spot on the podium would be a great way for Lopez to set the career medals record.
After a disappointing seventh-place finish at the Beijing Games, American sweetheart Lolo Jones is out for redemption at the London Games. She seemed destined for gold four years ago, but she was knocked off of her stride after nudging the ninth hurdle and was unable to recover.
Jones' celebrity has the court of public opinion strongly in her favor as she looks to capture the Olympic glory that was meant to be hers.
Justin Gatlin may be the most polarizing figure in the track and field events in London. The 2004 gold medal winner in Athens is making his first Olympic appearance since serving a four-year doping ban.
Gatlin won the 100-meters at the U.S. Olympic trials in 9.80 seconds, a personal best for him. That was a sign that he still has plenty left in the tank at 30 years old.
While overcoming a four-year ban would be tough for anyone, Gatlin's biggest test will come from the Jamaican duo of Usain Bolt—the current world record holder in the event—and Yohan Blake, who is the current world champion in the event.
Bolt and Blake will be as motivated as Gatlin to win gold in London. Bolt is out to reclaim his title as the world’s fastest man while Blake wants to prove that his victory at the 2011 World Championships was no fluke.
If Gatlin can beat either Jamaican out for a silver medal that would be considered a monumental upset. But it would also be a crowning achievement considering the long road he’s traveled to get back to the Olympic stage.
A gold medal is simply unfathomable.