Coming into the Olympics, we knew Michael Phelps and Ryan Lochte were stars. We knew all about Misty May-Treanor and Kerri Walsh-Jennings. The basketball teams were expected to win gold, and we figured the women's soccer team might, too.
But who were the stars in London that surprised us? Who were the top performers who we may have heard of, but totally exceeded our expectations? Who were the newest stars of Team USA?
Let's take a look back at some of the athletes that made themselves household names in London.
Missy Franklin, Swimming
Hardcore swimming fans or those well-versed in Team USA before these Olympics already knew about Missy Franklin. But after winning five medals (four gold), setting two world records and doing it all as a bubbly 17-year-old, Franklin became a household name and one of the stars of these Games.
No, you probably won't see her on any commercials any time soon—Franklin appears to be leaning toward keeping her amateur status and going to college, likely costing her millions of dollars—but she'll be one of the most scrutinized American athletes when the 2016 Rio Games roll around.
The female Michael Phelps? Perhaps, though 22 medals, 18 of those gold, is a ridiculous haul unlikely to be matched anytime soon. Still, if there is a swimmer capable of reaching great heights and winning the hearts of America in the process with her personality, it is Franklin.
Destinee Hooker, Volleyball
Hooker was left off the women's volleyball team in 2008 at Beijing. After 2012, I doubt that will happen again for many, many years.
The opposite attacker was spectacular for the women's volleyball team that took silver in London, finishing as the second-highest scorer in the tournament with 161 points (136 spikes, 21 blocks, four aces).
Unseating the consecutive gold medalists from Brazil will be a tall task for the United States in Rio. But if anyone is capable of leading the team to gold, it's Hooker.
David Boudia, Diving
He wasn't supposed to win gold in the 10-meter platform diving competition. Hell, he probably wasn't even supposed to medal with heavyweights like Britain's Tom Daley, China's Qiu Bo and Lin Yue and defending gold medalist Matthew Mitcham of Australia all in the original field.
But Mitcham failed to make the final, Lin wasn't sharp down the stretch and Boudia was absolutely brilliant in the final, out-staging fine efforts by Daley and Qiu.
I'm not a huge fan of diving, but the men's final in the 10-meter platform was as spectacular, tense and competitive a battle as the Olympics offered. In the end, dark horse Boudia stole the gold for the United States.
Maggie Steffens, Water Polo
Water polo may not exactly move the needle in the United States, but one of the top performers in these Olympics came from the women's water polo team.
Maggie Steffens was spectacular, leading the United States women to the first gold medal in water polo and leading all players in the tournament with 21 goals on 27 shots, a remarkable 77.8 percent efficiency.
Just 19-years-old, Steffens seems primed to lead this U.S. side for several Olympics to come.
Gabby Douglas, Gymnastics
Who was the biggest breakout star for the United States?
Yes, she won the U.S. Trials heading into these games, barely edging out Jordyn Wieber (who was widely considered at the time a favorite for Olympic gold). And yes, anyone who saw her compete knew the potential was there.
But becoming the all-around gold medalist? I'm not sure if anyone expected that from Douglas just a year ago. Now, she's forever an American legend.
Add on to that the fact that she was a principal member of the U.S. team that also won gold in the team competition, and you have—alongside Franklin—the biggest female star of these Olympics.
Welcome to superstardom, Ms. Douglas.
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