London 2012: 5 Top Stars the World Will Be Watching

Kristen Rodgers@@KRodg_SaysCorrespondent IIJune 26, 2012

London 2012: 5 Top Stars the World Will Be Watching

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    The Olympic countdown has reached one month (31 days) and with the Olympic trials starting to wind down, countries are finalizing their teams. The cream of the crop are starting to rise to the top—especially right here in the U.S.  

    Although there are some young breakout stars making headlines, the seasoned veterans are still the athletes to beat. They’ve set incredibly high standards in previous Olympics, and they look to be the front-runners for the London 2012 Olympics.

    Let’s take a look at the top American veteran Olympians to watch in some of the Games’ most popular sports. 

Swimming: Michael Phelps

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    You can’t have a list of Olympians and not include Michael Phelps. One of the most successful Olympians in history, Phelps took home six gold medals and two bronze medals in Athens in 2004, and eight gold medals in 2008 in Beijing, breaking the record for most Olympic gold medals ever.

    Phelps has said that the 2012 summer games in London might be his last Olympics, giving his performance in 2012 a little more weight.

    Phelps said he will drop the 400m individual medley from his long list of events in London, but the rest are still up in the air.

    With his legacy on the line, Phelps will definitely be one of the biggest stars to watch this summer.

Artistic Gymnastics: Nastia Liukin

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    In the 2008 Olympics in Beijing, Nastia Liukin had some trouble getting through airport security with all of her medals.

    The 22-year-old superstar took home gold for her individual all-around performance, two silvers on the balance beam and uneven bars and bronze on floor.

    Liukin is also a CoverGirl spokesmodel, but she hasn’t let her media appearances affect her gymnastics. Although she had to petition to compete in the Olympic Trials, Liukin has been working harder than ever—conditioning, training and revamping her routines—to make it to London.

    With her past experiences and hard work ethic, you can expect to see her signature pink leotard in London, most likely on the podium adding another medal to her collection.

Beach Volleyball: Misty May-Treanor and Kerri Walsh

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    Misty May-Treanor and Kerri Walsh are undoubtedly the most well-known beach volleyball players in the U.S., and possibly the world, and for good reason.

    The dynamic duo won back-to-back gold medals in 2004 in Athens and 2008 in Beijing for women’s beach volleyball, and it looks like their streak will continue in London 2012.

    The pair has faced a few obstacles since the Beijing games, but the chemistry between the two of them is only found in storybooks, and after some incredible performances recently—including a silver-medal finish in Moscow—it looks like May-Treanor and Walsh will get their happily ever after. 

Track: Justin Gatlin

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    Track superstar Justin Gatlin is making the comeback of a lifetime.

    The 100 meters gold medalist made a name for himself in the 2004 Summer Olympics in Athens, but he fell out of the sport’s good graces just as soon as he arrived.

    In 2006, Gatlin was given a four-year ban for using performance-enhancing drugs. Although Gatlin played around with the idea of going into the NFL and playing for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Tennessee Titans, he ultimately spent his time away from the track, waiting.

    On August 3, 2010, Gatlin made his return and won the first race he ran in.

    Gatlin has been winning competitions left and right, and his 9.85-second time for the 100 meters event in the 2004 Olympics is still the third-fastest time in Olympic history.

    Keep your eye out for Gatlin as he looks to solidify his comeback with a gold medal in London. 

Soccer: Hope Solo

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    Although some know her from “Dancing with the Stars,” most know Hope Solo for what she really is: an amazing soccer player.

    The Seattle Sounders’ goalkeeper won her first gold medal in the 2008 Beijing Olympics when the U.S women’s soccer team defeated Brazil 1-0 in extra time, thanks to an amazing late-in-the-game save by Solo.

    Solo continued to win the hearts of American soccer fans in the 2011 FIFA Women’s World Cup, as her team went on an incredible run, losing to Japan 3-1 in the finals during a penalty shoot-out.

    Solo was not only featured on the tournament’s All-Star team, but she also won the Golden Glove award for best goalkeeper.

    After their World Cup streak, it looks like the U.S. women’s soccer team will definitely be a force to reckon with in London, and with Solo in the net, they should be unstoppable.