2012 Olympics: 30 Most Memorable Stars from the 30th Olympiad
The 2012 Olympics in London were a resounding success. Similar to previous Olympics, this worldwide event was filled with tons of great stories and magnificent performances. Every day seemed to be filled with exciting action and pride-inducing heroics. It is arguable that no Olympics have been filled with more unprecedented performances and legends than the 2012 Olympics.
That is what the Olympics are all about. Diehard sports enthusiasts and very casual leap year fans are equally attracted to the Olympics when it comes on every four years and the world comes to a brief standstill (in peace) prior to the election of the free world leader.
Across the board in several sports, there were so many stars that had performances that will be remembered from years to come. The United States led the way with 104 medals including 46 golds, so the choices for who were the most memorable American performers of this year’s Olympics are plentiful.
The Headliners of the Olympics coming in were Usain Bolt, Michael Phelps, USA men’s basketball team and Misty May-Treanor and Kerri Walsh Jennings. Who else were the key players in this year’s Olympics?
Here are the 30:
30. Leo Manzano, USA Distance Runner
If you watched the 1500 final or any of its heats, you could not miss this guy. Each race he seemed to be a boy amongst grown men, in the back behind all of the Africans seeming to labor just to keep up. In each race, even the qualifying races, he always showed tremendous grit to fight his way into a qualifying position to advance after looking doomed early.
In the final, he was able to put on quite a surge at the finish to sneak into 2nd place behind the winner with an American Olympic record time of 3:34.79. He was the first American to medal in the metric mile since Jim Ryun in 1968. That is definitely an accomplishment!
He may or may not be remembered based on news coverage in comparison to many of these on the list, but if you saw his races, you definitely understand why he is on this list.
29. Emanuel Ginobili, Argentina Basketball
Manu Ginobili is an all-star and highly respected player in the NBA for the San Antonio Spurs. He has won three NBA championships and played a big part in all of those series. However, Manu is probably most known for his stardom as the best player on the Argentine national team.
After bursting onto the scene in 2002 leading Argentina to an upset victory over USA and then a 2004 gold medal in Athens, Ginobili has year in, year out been the catalyst for Argentina’s basketball relevance ever since.
In this Olympics Ginobili averaged 19.4 points per game, shot 53.3% from the field, 44.2% from 3 and did not miss a free throw the entire tournament. Who knows how much longer Ginobili will play for Argentina, but this year was certainly another successful year representing his country.
28. Ryan Lochte, USA Swimming
Ryan Lochte at this point in his career may be better known for his exploits out of the pool.
Going into this year’s Olympics there was a lot of hype surrounding his claims that he could dethrone the king (Michael Phelps) in the 400 Individual Medley and maybe other events as well. He had good reason. He is no slacker in the pool and in their first head to head matchup, Ryan Lochte came up victorious winning the gold in the 400IM while Phelps finished a disappointing 4th.
Following that victory he did not do Phelps-type damage after that point including a loss to Phelps in the 200IM, but he did end up with a final medal count of two golds, two silvers and a bronze. Not bad by any account.
After it was all said and done, Lochte will probably be more known for his partying habits and female followings than the pretty solid performance he posted in London. Either way, he will be remembered.
27. Sally Pearson, Australian Hurdler
Amidst all the talk and controversy surrounding Lolo Jones, Sally Pearson, the 2011 World Champion, emerged as the winner in a very competitive 100-meter hurdles field this Olympics.
USA had a very strong contingent and looked poised to dominate the medal stand, which they did, but Pearson in a very close race that could only be decided by a tape finish came out the victor.
Her 12.35 time was good for an Olympic record and inspired by witnessing country hero Cathy Freeman in the 2000 Olympics in Sydney.
26. Lolo Jones, USA hurdler
It seems odd that an individual that was left off of the medal stand two times in a row would make this list, but who else was talked about more than Lola Jones without the performance to show for it.
Going into the Olympics, much was made about Lolo’s celibacy and her “exotic” beautiful looks, but by time her event was said and done, she made headlines for breaking down on The Today Show due to the backlash of her “favor” from the media. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=14rcXfpjN-w
Make no mistake about it; Lolo Jones is no Tim Tebow-like manufactured story. She literally was within a hurdle of winning gold in Beijing easily. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=M0JybqmsF9w&feature=related and the indoor American record holder in the 60m hurdles.
However, this time around, she was simply not good enough to win in what was an incredible 100 meter hurdle race.
25. Ashton Eaton, USA Decathlete
Ashton Eaton flew under the radar a little bit but in the end, he established himself as the “World’s Greatest Athlete” winning the decathlon defeating fellow American Trey Hardee. This was the first time Americans went 1-2 since 1956.
He came within earshot of breaking his own world record, but he seemed pretty content winning the gold and scoring the 5th highest total in Olympic decathlon history.
Eaton is just 24, so look for him to be a factor again in Rio.
24. Pau Gasol, Spain Basketball
Spain got off to a slow start and looked like they would not be up for the challenge against the mighty United States, but the LA Laker veteran definitely did his part in this tournament.
As the flag bearer for his country and the face of Spain’s excellent run in basketball, Pau Gasol stepped to the play and led Spain to a silver medal. They posed a legitimate challenge to US supremacy in the gold medal game that was close throughout. He led the way with 24 points, 8 rebounds and 7 assists. He was fourth in the tournament in scoring with 19.1 points per game.
He has had a reputation in the NBA to sometimes shrink in the moment, due to his lack of toughness, but this was not the case in the 2012 Olympics. He gave the Americans all they could handle.
23. Carmelita Jeter, USA Sprinter
Amidst controversy surrounding her Herculean physique and late assent in her career, Jeter showed up in her first Olympics and took care of business. She managed to medal in all three of her events. After winning silver in her best event (100), she snuck in with a bronze in the 200 and anchored a World record smashing 4x100 relay team to a gold.
That 4x100 win was probably the most significance because the USA women have been simply awful with baton exchanges at the last several big meets and their world record time smashed a record that had stood since 1985 by .55 seconds. That is simply remarkable.
Some speculate because of the history of her track coach and his resume of having 8 runners get busted for performance enhancing drugs, but since nothing can be proved on that, her hard work paid off and she left an imprint on this Olympics.
22. Hope Solo, USA Women’s Soccer
You either love Hope or you hate her, but one thing you cannot doubt is her talent and ability to step up on the big stage. She is the best goalie in the world and she made several outstanding saves throughout the Olympic tournament including close wins over Canada and Japan.
As good as USA women are, there is no way they would be as successful as they are, and more importantly Olympic champions, if not for Solo.
Solo is well known for her arrogant personality, “real talk” quotes, and her looks to go along with her incredible talent. Her performance will not be forgotten.
21. Oscar Pistorius, South Africa Sprinter
It is arguable that Oscar could go much further up on this list given the uniqueness of his story. He is a double amputee and had the courage, resolve and talent to compete against “able body” world-class athletes and make the semifinals of the 400 meters.
Much was made over the years about advantages he would have if he were to run in able bodied races after his dominance of Para Olympics, but after that ignorance subsided, Oscar captivated his country and the world by running times that 99% of the world cannot run with both limbs active.
He was an inspiration to all with his performance in London.
20. Yohan Blake, Jamaican sprinter
Yohan Blake came into this Olympics as a new kid on the block and the greatest threat to Usain Bolt’s claims as the “greatest sprinter of all time”.
In June, Blake, Bolt’s training partner, defeated Bolt in both the 100 and 200 Jamaica trials and looked poised to possibly establish a name for himself on the world stage.
Despite being unable to hold Bolt down and seemingly having to wait his turn, he has nothing to be ashamed about. In three races, he grabbed silver in the 100 and 200 right behind Bolt, and handed off to Bolt on the world record-breaking 4x100 team for Jamaica.
As Bolt slowly exits stage right after solidifying himself as the “greatest ever”, Rio de Janeiro may be the site of Blake’s coming out party and establishment of a very impressive legacy. Time will tell, but if there is anyone that can meet or come close to Bolt’s legend, it is his protégé Yohan “the Beast” Blake.
19. Aly Raisman, USA Gymnastics
While the pre-Olympic hype belonged to Jordyn Wieber, and Gabby Douglas won the hearts of fans all over the country with her captivating performance in the All-Around, Aly Raisman quietly put together the most decorated performance of all American gymnasts.
Despite a disappointing finish in the all-around competition finishing 4th, she was able to grab American gold in the floor exercise for the first time in Olympic history! Along with adding team gold, the USA captain also snuck onto the podium with a bronze in the balance beam after requesting a re-score to account for an unaccounted for maneuver.
Who could forget how “intense” her parents were during her routines? Aly had a great Olympic run and will be remembered with Gabby Douglas as the stars of arguably the most popular Olympic sport
Tie-17. Alex Morgan and Carli Lloyd USA Women’s Soccer
There would be no gold medal for the United States in soccer, if it had not been for Alex Morgan’s heroic performance against Canada in the semifinal round. This was a game that Canada should have won, but Morgan in a game that captivated the nation vs. our friendly neighbors to the north, came up with a game-winning header in extra time. This goal alone is enough to place her on this list.
Right next to her in importance is Carli Lloyd. It is hard to ignore the young lady who scored both of the goals in the final to give the United States a gold medal. She scored four goals in the tournament and was a force throughout.
16. Carmelo Anthony, USA Basketball
Carmelo Anthony, in some ways the face of USA basketball the last eight years, showed up on a mission in this year’s Olympics. Asked to take on a new role of coming off of the bench, and coming off of a tough professional season, Anthony stepped up to be one of the tournament’s leading scorers in less than 20 minutes of playing time per game.
In fact, he averaged 16.3 points per game in less than 18 minutes a game. This means he averaged less than half of a game of playing time, and played on a team studded with stars and still managed to be 7th in the tournament in scoring. He also shot 58% doing most of his work from the perimeter. This was an unbelievable display by the three-time Olympian!
He made his mark however, when he set the American single game scoring record with 37 points in just 14 minutes of play against Nigeria. There have been few offensive performances on the international level comparable to this one in which he hit 10/12 three-point shots and could not miss if he tried.
He also added healthy scoring binges against Argentina in the semifinals and was key in several other spots throughout the tournament providing big shots and tough rebounds.
Melo was not the star of this 2012 USA basketball team, but he played a HUGE part in their success grabbing gold for the 2nd time in a row and 5th since NBA pros were permitted to play in 1992.
15. Candace Parker, USA Women’s Basketball
The USA Women’s basketball team was as dominant as any other team was in the entire Olympics. Some could argue they blew through the field more impressively than the men did. A big reason for that success was Candace Parker.
She seemed to be glue gal for this team doing a little bit of everything, but her impact was huge and often set the tone for the team’s success. Her 21 points and 11 rebounds in the gold medal game were key as she set into motion a series of key runs for the United States in route to victory.
The former Tennessee All-American and current mom averaged just 10.5 points per game (tied for 3rd on the team), but her versatility and all around play was often a catalyst for Team USA’s success.
14. Abby Wambach, USA Women’s Soccer
Abby Wambach, the face of USA women’s soccer along with Hope Solo, showed up once again for the Yankees leading them to a gold medal win over Japan. The win avenged their heartbreaking loss to the Japanese in the World Cup last year.
Scoring a team high five goals, trailing only Japan’s Homare Sawa, Abby led the USA’s offensive assault and as usual could be counted on for her trademark headers and magnificent goal scoring ability.
13. Serena Williams, USA Tennis
Serena Williams is playing legendary tennis right now. It is quite possible that no woman has ever played at this level in the history of the sport. She has been racking up unreal ace totals, overwhelming very talented and accomplished opponents like Maria Sharapova of Russia over the course of that last few months.
Her tremendous momentum from Wimbledon continued when she blew through the competition not losing a set in Olympic tournament play. She ended up swarming Sharapova again in the finals 6-0, 6-1. As bad as the score looks, it might have been worse. She dominated the former #1 player in the world and made her look like she did not belong on the same court as her. This performance was on the heels of her equally impressing win over the #1 player in the tournament Victoria Azarenka 6-1, 6-2.
As if that was not enough, Serena punctuated her singles championship by doing the “crip walk” http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Tqxo05tMVP4 at the All-England Club in the Olympics! Now that’s gangsta!
Nevertheless, as controversial as that move was, it was a symbol of her status in tennis right now. She can do whatever she wants. whenever she wants. She extended this status when she teamed up with her sister Venus to win doubles gold sweeping the women’s tennis events without losing a set in either competition.
She lost 17 games over 6 matches and is only the second tennis player in history to complete the Golden Slam (Grand Slam sweep and Olympic Gold Medal)
Serena is in single season Grand Slam mode right now, its too bad she caught fire midyear.
12. Andy Murray, Great Britain Tennis
There is no questioning Andy Murray’s talent and his status as an elite tennis player. The problem is that he has no grand slam victories to show for it. Time after time, as recently as this year at Wimbledon, he has been close to winning a major tournament only to fall short.
The pressure was on for him to represent his country as the fan favorite and overcome the same foes he has contended with and fallen short. Much to everyone’s surprise #4 ranked Murray was finally able to come through and defeated arguably the best tennis player of all time in Roger Federer from Switzerland in straight sets to win gold in front of his home crowd.
There could be no sweeter redemption for the embattled player who has had a reputation for falling short on the big stage. This moment will be remembered forever and this accomplishment will likely rank near the top of list when it’s all said and done regardless of how his career ends up.
He added a silver in mixed doubles in the process as well to close out a very productive Olympic performance.
Tie-11. Misty May-Treanor and Kerri Walsh Jennings, US Women’s Beach Volleyball
There has never been and will likely never be a more dominant pair of beach volleyball players than Misty May-Treanor and Kerri Walsh Jennings.
In three Olympics appearances, the pair has failed to drop a match and walked away with three gold medals. This one was especially sweet because since Beijing, both have decided to have children and fought injury and had debates on whether or not they would continue on as a team.
Priorities had started to change and the full commitment had not been there for this dynamic duo since 2008, but May-Treanor and Walsh Jennings put it together one last time overcoming a series of close matches ending with a valiant gold medal match victory over fellow Americans Jennifer Kessy and April Ross.
This is likely it for the pair, but there is no questioning their status as all-time Olympic greats and featured stars of the XXX Olympiad.
10. Sanya Richards-Ross, USA Sprinter
After so many disappointing finishes in her main event the 400, including a depressing collapse down the home stretch in Beijing that cost her gold, Richards-Ross finally was able to strike gold in the 400.
She was calm, focused, and trusted her race strategy leading to a very strong finish that was the complete opposite of her performance in Beijing. She did not run a very fast time, but gold was sweet after all of those disappointments in Beijing, and various large stage events.
Despite the fact that she did not place high in the 200, an event she does not normally do, she later came back to anchor a 4x400 team to gold that came close to setting a world record.
Given the torment of having to endure the nightmare of Beijing, feeling the pressure of having to perform to expectation, she finally was able to bounce back and walk away from London with double gold. Her relief and elation was a nice reflection of her hard work and struggle. It was nice to see a good person and hard worker rebound to achieve her goals.
9. Diana Taurasi, USA Women’s Basketball
Diana Taurasi is a joy to watch. She is so talented as a basketball player and so youthful in her exuberance and performance. Yet, she is so serious about winning. She won at a high level at the University of Connecticut in college (three straight championships), has won two championships in the WNBA, and now she has claimed three gold medals in basketball.
As mentioned earlier, this USA women’s basketball team was formidable in every way imaginable. While Parker was the “glue girl”, Taurasi was the headliner both with her high octane scoring and skilled play, and her playful but often truthful interviews. At a minimum her interviews were humorous.
If USA was indeed the most dominant team in the Olympics, Taurasi was the face of this dominance. USA was balanced in scoring but she led the way with 12.4 points per game.
8. Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce, Jamaican Sprinter
The always smiling and bubbly Jamaican phenom sprinter had an impressive showing in this year’s Olympics. After bursting onto the scene grabbing gold in the 100 in Beijing then repeating in 2009 as world champion in the same event. She followed that performance up with gold in an extremely competitive 100-meter race and came close in the 200 finals settling on silver.
Shelly-Ann is an impressively intense and powerful runner that is a tough out anytime she is on the track. She is not quite Usain Bolt, but she may be the face of the Jamaican women sprint team. Although, her Jamaican 4x100 meter team finished a distant second behind the world record smashing American relay team, it was her leg that gave the Jamaicans their only lead of the race. Fraser-Pryce will go down as a big part of the amazing Track and Field story that unfolded in London.
7. Kevin Durant, USA Basketball
Kevin Durant put on quite a display in his first Olympic appearance. On a team full of future Hall-of-Famers and the current faces of the NBA game today, Durant often stood out with his patented scoring binges and sharp shooting.
Durant on several occasions during the tournament went on sprees of as many as five threes in a row that put away opponents that had hopes of taking out the latest version of the USA men’s basketball team.
He led the team in scoring with 19.5 points per game, which was second only to Patty Mills who had the eternal green light for Australia. His 156 points over the course of the tournament was an American Olympic record. He also averaged an impressive 4 threes a game, shooting 52% from three in the process.
To do this on a team with bona fide scorers such as Kobe Bryant, LeBron James and Carmelo Anthony is quite impressive.
The scary thing is, Durant is only 23 and will be back for at least one more Olympic run, likely 2. This was an impressive debut.
6. Allyson Felix, USA Sprinter
Allyson Felix left her mark on the London Olympics. After disappointing finishes short of her goals in Beijing and various other close calls in world championship events, Allyson came to London on a mission claim gold in her best event the 200 and hold her own in the other events as well.
She is not a natural 100 runner, but in a tremendous race featuring some of the most accomplished and faster female sprinters of all time, she was able to make the final and finish in 5th place.
This was just the appetizer. In the 200 meters, which was another tremendously competitive race featuring some of the best sprinters that specialize at the 100, 200 and 400; she emerged victorious with a strong push at the end to overcome 100 gold medallist Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce.
This win was sweet redemption for her after falling short in the past two Olympics grabbing silver. It was time for her to claim gold in the event that she has dominated for much of the past decade, and she did just that. Additionally, she ran on both the world record 4x100 and 4x400 relay teams and ran magnificent legs in both events leading to American gold. Alyson is such a humble and focused person, and her performance will go down as one of the most impressive by an American woman in some time. She grabbed three gold medals in four events
5. LeBron James, USA Basketball
Hate him or love him, LeBron James is on top of the basketball world right now. All of the talk of him not being clutch or being a flawed superstar is sounding more and more irrelevant and jaded at this point.
In one year, LeBron James won his first NBA championship; grabbed his first NBA Finals MVP; was named league MVP for the 3rd time in the NBA; and now he adds his 2nd gold medal after being a young member of the least successful American team in recent memory that went to Athens.
James did not put a lot of emphasis on scoring in this tournament because quite frankly, that was the least of Team USA’s problems, but what he did do is provide a remarkable amount of versatility leading the team in assists with over 5 a game and fighting other team’s bigs for rebounds. When needed, he stepped up and made big shots that put the Americans over the hump in a few games.
In the Gold Medal game, which was their most difficult of all against rival Spain, while Kevin Durant helped himself to 30 points, LeBron pitched in with 19 points and several big plays that helped the United States lock down gold. He had violent dunks and timely jump shots that on cue quieted any rumors of him not stepping up on the big stage in the clutch.
For good measure, he registered the first American triple double in Olympic history against Australia. LeBron James concluded an unbelievable year, and established himself as a leader of this recent version of the USA men’s basketball team. He is one of the faces of the 2012 Olympics.
4. Missy Franklin, USA Women’s Swimming
Missy Franklin will be remembered for her quiet dominance in this Olympics and her endearing smile. No matter how people tried to pump her head up feeding her with evidence of her greatness, she always responded with a youthful and genuine perky attitude that just seemed to reveal that she still could not believe what was happening around her.
She just was so humble and thankful for all that had happened, but in the process, she took no prisoners in the pool. In her first Olympics at the age of 17, she qualified for seven events and walked away with four gold medals and a bronze. She set the world record in the 200 backstroke and was part of the world record 4x100 medley relay. She also managed to set an American record in the 100 backstroke and was part of two American record relays.
Without putting a lot of pressure on her, she seems to be on a Michael Phelps-like pace. Even Michael Phelps was not this dominant so young. Any way you look at it, Missy Franklin will go down as one of the dominant athletes of this Olympics and a name and smile to be remembered for years to come.
3. Gabby Douglas, USA Gymnastics
Going into the Olympics, Gabby Douglas was known for her incredible ability and potential, but few expected what transpired in London.
In a matter of days, Gabby Douglas went from a member of the USA gymnastics team, to the next lovable hero to take the stage in gymnastics following the likes of Shawn Johnson, Nadia Comaneci, and other memorable gymnasts to take captivate the world.
The frivolous talk of Gabby’s hair turned into talk of an accomplished gymnast that overcame failure, being homesick and wanting to quit the sport long before this moment.
Gabby captivated audiences with her tremendous athletic ability, grace and an effervescent smile. Before it was all said and done, Gabby found herself draped by two gold medals (included the coveted all-around gold) and several magazines and cereal boxes to look at with her face staring back at her.
Although Gabby did not perform well in the individual events, she will always be remembered as one of the darling stories of this Olympics. She became the first African-American gymnast to win gold, and the first gymnast ever to win gold in both the All-Around and team events. What a marvelous performance by young Gabby Douglas.
2. Michael Phelps, USA Swimming
Somehow, someway, Phelps has found his way back to the top of this list again. Strangely enough, based on his behavior and slight rebellions over the course of the last four years since he made history in China, and his pretty apathetic interviews leading up to and during the Olympics, it seemed as if there was no way that Phelps could make it back to the headlines this time around.
Already blessed to be the hold the honor of the world’s most decorated swimmer after the Beijing Olympics, where he dominated like no other Olympian has ever dominated, he quietly and almost begrudgingly entered London with seven events and a chance to correct the record books in permanent fashion.
His racing got off to a slow start, as he placed 4th in the 400IM losing to his rival and friend Ryan Lochte. Lochte had predicted confidently he would beat Phelps in the event (among others) and it seemed that maybe the intimidation factor that he always had on his side had vanished.
Instead, after a very close and disappointing second place finish in the 200 Butterfly, Phelps took off going on a run of four straight golds, running his incomprehensible all time total to 18 (twice the amount of the next closest Olympian) and then finished the Olympics with a silver in the 4x100 freestyle relay.
This Olympic performance was not as machine like as his legendary Beijing 8 for 8 gold performance, but Phelps put appropriate punctuation on what looks to be an unmatchable career. This Olympics was about setting himself apart from the pack forever. He finished with 22 medals, which of course distinguishes him as the most decorated Olympian of all time.
1. Usain Bolt, Jamaican Sprinter
While Michael Phelps may be the most decorated and overall dominant swimmer of all time, Usain Bolt may be the most electrifying and breath taking performer ever to participate in the Olympic games.
Coming into the games with much doubt about his training and commitment, Bolt despite being the World Record holder in all of his main events, came in as an interesting underdog.
Few may recall now, but many thought that Bolt’s training partner Yohan Blake, the hottest runner in the world would dethrone him on the Olympic stage. Others thought surging American Justin Gatlin or American record holder Tyson Gay had a shot, but in the end, when it was all said and done, Usain Bolt established his legacy once and for all as the greatest sprinter ever.
He did not set any world records in the individual events, but he did lower his own Olympic record in the 100 en route to an impressive victory in the fastest 100 meter field ever, and then edged out teammate Blake in the 200 to lock down a 100-200 double in consecutive Olympics for the first time ever.
He added icing on the cake by running an incredible anchor leg propelling the Jamaicans to yet another world record in the 4x100 this time becoming the first team to get under 37 seconds in the most exciting race of all.
Usain Bolt is a crowd pleaser and he took it upon himself to thrill the crowd with both his flare and performance. There will likely never be another one like him, and this is why he is the most memorable star of the XXX Olympics.
Honorable Mention: Neymar
Neymar, Brazil Soccer
While Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo are clearly the premier futbol players of this generation, it is possible but Neymar may be the “next” one.
The incredibly talented and nimble Neymar was the star of Brazil’s underachieving silver medal team. Despite the disappointment in the gold medal game vs. Mexico, he still performed well. He was tied for 6th in scoring with 3 goals, and provided many other magnificent plays as well.
He will be remembered because by time the next Olympics come along in his homeland of Brazil, he will be a feature for the country and likely will have landed a huge transfer fee to a top ranked futbol club in Europe. Keep an eye out.