The 2012 London Olympic Games may be coming to a close, but there is still no shortage of high-intensity, excitement-filled events left to be decided. The team competitions are just getting into their quarterfinal and semifinal stages, and track and field still has medals to hand out. Needless to say, there are still reasons to watch the Games.
Thursday, Day 12 of competition, could actually be one of the most thrilling yet.
Usain Bolt will once again be in action as he looks to become the first ever to win the 200-meter dash twice. Japan's female soccer team will also look to establish a first—the first team to win the World Cup and Olympic gold in consecutive years. Standing in their way is the U.S., who have never won less than a silver in Olympic play. They will be looking to get redemption for the loss to Japan in that very same World Cup.
Also on the day, the world's most decorated and one of the best beach volleyball players of all time will be looking to add to his and his country's hardware. With a medal of any color, which the Brazilian team is assured, they will become the most winning country in beach volleyball history. Standing in their way is a German pair that looks to make history of their own. Just by virtue of making the finals, they have already assured the best finish for a German team ever in beach volleyball at the Olympic Games.
The world's dominant diving power in China looks to come back from the shock of the London Games when they failed to win gold in the men's 3-meter springboard, and two of the world's best women's basketball teams go at it for a spot in the gold medal match.
Like I said, Day 12 really is can't miss.
Australia and the U.S. from the gold medal game in Beijing 2008.
When the Olympic Games began, the common assumption was that it would once again be the U.S. and Australia in the gold-medal match. As dominant as the squad has been, including a current 37-game Olympic winning streak, it was once again expected that the U.S. would gold and Australia would win silver.
As many had expected, for the fourth Olympic Games in a row, Australia and the United States will meet up in women's basketball to determine who gets a shot at the gold medal. This time however, it won't be in the finals but rather the semis, where instead of receiving a silver medal, the loser will have a chance to win the bronze.
The United States have left no reason to believe that they won't win their unprecedented fourth straight gold medal. They have been dominant throughout the entire stretch of the Games, recording big wins and getting contributions from all of the players.
It is not that Australia has been bad either. The only reason why they find themselves facing off against the U.S. so soon is because of their one loss in London, coming in a thrilling game against France. For Australia, a team with its own share of Olympic successes, this was their first loss to a team other than the U.S. since 1996.
So in a round earlier than many have expected, Australia could look to pull off a shocking upset. Led by Lauren Jackson, who just became the women's all-time scoring leader in the Olympic Games, they certainly have the talent to stay with the U.S.
America, though, cannot be counted out. Led by the leadership of Candace Parker and the absolute talent of Maya Moore and Lindsay Whalen just to name a few, the U.S. continues to show that sometimes talent outweighs chemistry.
After all, unlike the Australians and most other teams in these Games, the U.S. players have only been together for about two weeks. Watching them play, it certainly doesn't seem like that though.
Once again Emanuel Rego will be vying for yet another medal as he and partner Alison Cerutti face off against the up-and-coming duo of Julius Brink and Jonas Reckermann of Germany.
Rego will go down as one of the most decorated beach volleyball players of all time. In London, this will be his fifth consecutive appearance for Brazil at the Olympics, and assured at least a silver, this will be his third straight trip to the Games in which he received a medal (gold in 2004, bronze in 2008).
Most of Rego's victories and medals come with longtime partner Ricardo Santos. Emanuel and Ricardo won the bronze in Beijing and then went on to play the season in 2009 before they put an end to their partnership. In 2010, Alison and Emanuel began a partnership.
Although it was a bit rocky at first, the partnership between the two has been one of the most lucrative on the beach volleyball tour. In addition to reviving the 39-year-old Emanuel's career, it also helped to jumpstart the 26-year-old Alison's career. They have won countless tournaments together, but they will be looking for their first gold medal as a pair in Alison's Olympic debut.
Julius Brink and Jonas Reckermann are both in the Olympic Games for the second time, but for the first time as a duo. Their partnership, just like Alison and Emanuel's began shortly after the 2008 Beijing Games. For Germany and for the rest of Europe, it proved to be a great success as in 2009 they became the first European team to win a FIVB World Championship.
In London, they will also become the first German team to win better than a bronze medal. The color of the medal, however, is still to be determined.
Coming in as the top-ranked team on tour, the Brazilian duo, who with a medal will make Emanuel the winningest male Olympian ever, have absolutely lived up to the billing. They have not dropped a set, nor have they looked like they were going to.
It will be a tough task for the Germans, but they too have played well. They could be in position to pull off the upset.
As two Chinese divers finished on the podium, it was Ilya Zakharov that won the ultimate prize- a gold medal.
For most countries, winning two a silver and a bronze in an event is a great accomplishment. For Chinese divers, however, not finishing atop the podium, something they have done with so much consistency since Beijing, it is downright shocking and downright disappointing.
Before the 3-meter final on Wednesday, there was no reason to believe that China would not accomplish what it set out to do before the Olympics began—sweep the gold medals in the eight diving events.
Coming into the event, they had two divers, Qin Kai, the gold medalist from the men's synchro event, and He Chong, the two-time world champion and defending gold medalist, who were expected to contend for gold.
Chong was not at his best and was only able to manage bronze. Kai, on the other hand, performed great dives, but they just weren't enough to overcome the 3.8 and 3.9 level of difficulty dives Zakharov started with and executed. Coming into the final dive, Zakharov was slightly behind Kai. When he performed his dive however, earning him 9's and 9.5's for a total score over 104, he knew, and so did the cheering crowd, that China would not be getting a gold in this event.
Despite falling short of the sweep, China is still favored to take the remaining two gold medals left. Diving prodigy Qui Bo has near robot-like precision, according to his biggest opponent, Britain's Tom Daley. At just 19, he is the overwhelming favorite to win gold in the men's 10-meter platform event.
Before that, however, is tomorrow's final of the women's 10-meter platform. Chen Ruolin, already an Olympic veteran at just 19 years old, is favored to defend her title. She will enter the semifinal as the top diver having won the preliminary round.
Both the semifinal, in the morning, and final, in the evening, will take place Thursday.
Redemption for the U.S.? History for Japan?
These are certainly two storylines that will make the gold-medal final absolutely enthralling to watch.
In 2011, the United States women's soccer team was absolutely dejected. In the World Cup, the most prestigious event for international soccer, the U.S. team watched a 1-0 lead slip away with nine minutes left in regulation, a 2-1 lead vanish with just three minutes left in overtime and ultimately the win slip away, as they lost in the final to Japan 3-1 on penalty kicks.
For the U.S., a team that has long been one of the premier women's soccer powers, the loss was shocking. It marked the first time that Japan ever beat them, but more importantly, it saw a near-sure World Cup victory, what would have been the first since 1999, slip through their fingers, or rather slip through goalie Hope Solo's fingers.
In London at the women's Olympic final, they will get a rematch as once again it is the U.S. against Japan for the gold, something both teams alike have relished the chance at.
Thinking they were the team of destiny in 2011, the U.S. might want to revisit that concept as these Olympic Games have seemed to show exactly that.
Starting with a thrilling victory against France, Solo and the rest of the U.S. team breezed through to the semifinals, not allowing a single goal since the 14th minute of the first game.
They faced Canada in a thrilling semifinal game that quite literally came down to the wire. Canada scored the first, third and fifth goals of the game, seemingly taking away momentum from the U.S. every time they got some. The U.S. netted the second, fourth, sixth and most importantly seventh goals of the game. A penalty kick by Abby Wambach in the closing minutes and a header by Alex Morgan in the waning minutes of overtime sealed the victory for the U.S.
Japan has also looked good in the Olympic Games knowing what is on the line if they win the gold. They are just as prepared for the rematch as the Americans, and no matter what the result, it is sure to be a thrilling game to watch.
The Olympic Stadium, the site that nearly two weeks ago held the opening ceremonies and the site that in just a few days will hold the closing of the London Games, also served as the site where Usain Bolt quieted all of his doubters by not only winning the 100-meter dash, but setting a new Olympic record in the process.
Entering these Games, Bolt seemed to be overshadowed. Everyone seemed to forget that he was the defending gold medalist and fastest man in the world. Maybe it was with good reason, though, as Bolt had not been in top form since setting the world records in both the 100 and 200. There were questions regarding his commitment and his health, not to mention the emergence of Yohan Blake.
Blake ended up winning both events at the Jamaican National Championships, but in London, Bolt got the best of his younger countryman, running to a blistering time of 9.63 seconds, the second fastest time in the history of the event.
With the win, Blake supporters immediately jumped back into Bolt's camp. The rest of the world watched and took note as the fastest man in the world was in fact still the best, still the one to beat.
Coming into the 200, he has gotten due respect. The question however is can he defend yet another title? If he does, he makes history as no man, not even Carl Lewis, has won the 200 twice.
Hard enough to believe, the 200 is actually Bolt's better event. He has dominated it on the world circuit and holds most of the top times in the world. He is the clear favorite to win but, more than that, could set a brand new world record.
It is the most exciting 20 seconds in sports, and with Bolt leading the charge, this race will once again be thrilling to watch. Blink and you'll miss it because if Bolt runs as he is capable, he could become the first person to run the race in under 19 seconds.