Olympics 2012 Results: 10 Biggest Disappointments from London
There's a reason we say "dare to dream."
Daring to dream means taking a risk. You can toil away in anonymity for years, hoping for that one moment in which it all pays off.
And then it might never come. You might not get your dream job, land that record deal or make the Olympic team.
For Olympic athletes, daring to pursue their dreams usually means putting their lives on hold. And they run to risk of coming ever so close to fulfilling their dreams, only to see them disappear in a fleeting instant.
And then we have a handful of people who manage to grab the spotlight and make us wish they'd just go away.
This list of disappointments will include more of the dreamers than the spotlight hogs. May their disappointment be fleeting. And may we all remember they've accomplished far more than most of us simply by daring to pursue their dreams to the very highest levels.
Australian Flop Sends Shock Waves
Remember the strutting, air guitar-strumming swimmers?
This year, Australian swimmers finished with only 10 medals, half of their tally from Beijing, and one lone gold.
Before anyone could even get home from London, Swimming Australia announced an independent review to figure out what's going wrong.
The swimmers' doldrums extended to the rest of Australia's Olympians, and they were in a deep hole on the medal table until Anna Meares (track cycling) and Sally Pearson (100-meter hurdles) grabbed gold within a few hours of each other.
Australian sailors also boosted the medal count, but the country will struggle to get close to the 46 medals (14 gold) it won in 2008, much less the 58 it won on home soil in 2000.
The "Two Athletes" Rule Keeps out Jordyn Wieber
World all-around champion Jordyn Wieber and rising star Gabby Douglas were all the rage coming into the Olympics.
And in qualifying, they showed why. Douglas was third overall, Wieber fourth.
Just one problem. Each country gets a maximum of two athletes in the all-around final. And Aly Raisman placed second.
In retrospect, U.S. fans should've been prepared for the possibility. Raisman was fourth in the World Championships last year, and she went on to be controversially left off the podium in London.
But Wieber certainly expected to be in the final. And it's to her credit that she shrugged off her disappointment to come up with big vault and floor performances as the U.S. women took team gold.
US Men Show, Then Lose, Gymnastics Greatness
They looked so good in qualification. So many 15-point performances, even a 16-pointer. The U.S. men had the best point total by far, nearly three points ahead of Russia. Danell Leyva qualified first; John Orozco fourth.
Somewhere between July 28 and July 30, the young team lost its mojo. They finished fifth in the team event, never getting close to the top spots. Orozco had a rotten start in the individual all-around and had to rally to finish eighth.
Leyva managed to climb up the ladder for bronze in the all-around. But that would be the last highlight. No American finished higher than fifth in the apparatus finals.
US Men's Boxers Shut out of Medals
Let's start by saying this -- amateur boxing might be the most erratically judged sport in the Olympics. Results were protested, sometimes successfully, and poor Teddy Atlas was asking for a bucket in case his stomach couldn't take the insanity he was watching.
The USA still had a few reasons to be hopeful. No country qualified more boxers for the London Games, so clearly a few boxers had picked up the subtleties and quirks of international judges. The history is immense, from the future Muhammad Ali up through George Foreman, Sugar Ray Leonard and Andre Ward.
Maybe some of these boxers will follow the footsteps of Roy Jones Jr. and Evander Holyfield, boxers who were robbed at the Olympics but went on to fruitful pro careers.
But missing out on the medals entirely -- in men's boxing, anyway -- is a likely sign that the U.S. boxing community has some problems. And indeed, it does.
Paula Radcliffe Joins Track and Field's High-Profile Injured List
Paula Radcliffe is one of the best distance runners in history and one of the most tragic. She came so close to medals in 1992, 1996 and 2000.
She came into the marathon in Athens as the relatively new world record-holder. She ran much of the way with the lead group, then abruptly stopped. She tried a few more steps, then withdrew in one of the saddest moments of the 2004 Games.
Beijing was no kinder -- she was injured and simply not in condition to contend. So she picked herself up for a run at the Olympics in her home country, and once again, her body simply would not cooperate.
Once the competition started on the track, a few other favorites bowed out.
- China's Liu Xiang, who was a late scratch in the 110-meter hurdles in Beijing, fell in the heats.
- The USA's LaShawn Merritt, the defending 400-meter champion, couldn't finish his heat.
- And U.S. shot putter Jill Camarena-Williams had a back injury and said she couldn't even feel her feet after she tried to compete but couldn't make the final.
US Men Fail to Reach 400-Meter Dash Final, Lose Relay
The USA has dominated the men's 400-meter dash the way China dominates table tennis. Seven straight gold medals. Two straight sweeps. In the 4x400 relay, they won every Olympic final from 1952 to 2008.
This year's team wasn't likely to pull off another sweep in the individual race. But defending champion LaShawn Merritt had the second-fastest time of the year, and young colleagues Tony McQuay and Bryshon Nellum weren't far behind him.
We mentioned Merritt in the last slide -- a hamstring injury derailed his defense. McQuay was fourth in his semifinal, nearly a second slower than his fastest time of the year. And Nellum, who has an inspiring comeback story after being shot in the legs, finished third in his semi and missed out on a spot in the final by 0.03 seconds.
So after the 400-meter dash went off without an American in the blocks, it was left to the 4x400 team to restore some pride, but after McQuay handed him a slight lead, anchor Angelo Taylor could not hold it, letting the Bahamas get by in the final 50 meters.
That gave the Bahamas its first medal of the Olympics and fourth gold medal ever in any event. And it left the U.S. relay with a disappointing silver for the first time since 1952.
US Sailing Goes Adrift
The USA returned a couple of sailing medalists from Beijing -- silver medalist Zach Railey was back in the Finn and was expected to challenge British favorite Ben Ainslie, and gold medalist Anna Tunnicliffe had moved from the laser radial to collect a crew for the new match racing event.
Tunnicliffe's move left open a spot in laser radial for Paige Railey, the one-time World Sailor of the Year.
But the Raileys never really got going in their regattas. Zack finished 12th; Paige eighth. And Tunnicliffe's crew went 8-3 in the round-robin before falling in the quarterfinals to Finland.
The sailors weren't alone among U.S. athletes with expensive rides -- the equestrian team had its worst showing in decades.
Hungary Hands over Water Polo Crown
Gold in 2000. Gold in 2004. Gold in 2008.
This time around, Hungary looked vulnerable in the water polo group stage. Then Italy sent them home without a medal.
If the U.S. men felt any disappointment about being beaten in the quarterfinals, at least they could say they were in distinguished company.
US Men Flop in Volleyball, on Court and Beach
Phil Dalhausser and Todd Rogers were not some fluke winner in Beijing. They've dominated men's beach volleyball for several years. Both players have some injury problems, but a round-of-16 exit was not what anyone expected.
Jake Gibb and Sean Rosenthal were hoping to build on their quarterfinal appearance in 2008. They didn't.
Indoors, the U.S. men were on a roll. The defending gold medalists were a strong second in the World League. They finished first in a tough group in London.
But Italy, after an underwhelming group stage, wiped out the U.S. men in straight sets in the quarterfinals.
On the beach and on the court, no U.S. men reached the medal rounds.
Brazil: 2016 Hosts Not Giving Many Reasons to Cheer
All eyes turn now to Rio, where the expectations for the host country of the 2016 Games must be ... a little lower now.
Most countries rev up for their hosting duties with a good run in the previous Olympics. Australia got a big bounce in 1996 and extended it even farther at home in 2000. China bumped up slightly in 2004 and exploded to win the gold medal count in 2008.
Even smallish Greece improved a good bit from 1996 to 2000, then won a bit more at home in 2004.
Brazil? In 2008, the traditional power in soccer, volleyball and judo had 15 medals and three gold. They might match that total in London.
One all-too-typical example from the 2016 hosts: The women's soccer team has the world's best player in Marta and a ton of overall talent. But federation support just isn't there, and that team underachieved yet again in Britain.
Can they do better in four years? The clock is ticking.