London 2012 Olympics: Examining the Biggest Story Lines from London

Stephen Sheehan@@StephenPSheehanCorrespondent IJuly 26, 2012

London 2012 Olympics: Examining the Biggest Story Lines from London

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    The 2008 Olympics saw the summer of Michael Phelps, and if Team USA's most recognizable Olympic star has anything to say about it, he'll continue to be the hot storyline in London.  

    The 16-time medal winner thoroughly dominated the 2008 Olympic games, but this time around, he has a worthy challenger in teammate Ryan Lochte. 

    Besides the Phelps/Lochte battle, London will be the place of several key story lines, including whether Team USA can overcome a size deficiency to repeat as gold medalists in basketball. 

    With the games right around the corner, let's take a look at the five biggest story lines from London. 

Michael Phelps vs. Ryan Lochte

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    While Michael Phelps became an American hero for his historic 2008 Olympic performance, Ryan Lochte quietly put together a solid run of his own. 

    Four years later, the former University of Florida star may in fact take over the reign from his more heralded teammate. 

    The 27-year-old New York native swam alongside Phelps in Beijing, but ultimately finished behind the freak athlete. 

    Instead of settling for bronze, Lochte did away with greasy foods, increased his workout routines and dedicated himself to stepping out of Phelps' giant shadow (via Karen Crouse of The New York Times)

    Since 2008, Lochte has actually beaten Phelps in several events—including the 200-meter freestyle—and no longer appears to be an underdog. 

    Whoever emerges victorious between the two will certainly earn it, and it will be a huge victory for Team USA. 

USA Men's Basketball's Quest for a Repeat

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    If LeBron James plans on winning his second championship of 2012, he's going to have to put an entire nation on his back. 

    The 2012 NBA MVP led the Miami Heat to a championship just a few months ago with a much less talented squad than he'll be playing with in London. 

    However, with Tyson Chandler as the only viable center, James is going to have to play even bigger than his 6'9" frame indicates. 

    Team USA features a dreamy handful of scorers in James, Kobe Bryant, Carmelo Anthony, and Kevin Durant, but it sorely lacks power down low. 

    The 2008 Olympic squad—which won a gold medal—benefited from the strong interior play of Dwight Howard and Chris Bosh. 

    This time around, James might have to play all five positions in order for Team USA to retain its spot atop the basketball world. 

    After a stellar postseason run, James proved he could win the big one. 

    Can he do it again? 

Men's 100-Meter Battle

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    In the same way that Michael Phelps dominated swimming in 2008, Usain Bolt breezed by his competition during the last Olympic games. 

    The Fastest Man in the World winner put on a shockingly impressive display in Beijing, winning three gold medals in his insane performance. 

    However, the 6'5" genetic phenomenon has appeared human earlier this summer. 

    During the Jamaican Olympic trials, Bolt finished in an unfamiliar position—second place—behind a man they call "The Beast"—Johan Blake (via Associated Press on ESPN). 

    Bolt's teammate sprinted the 100-meter in just 9.75 seconds, .11 seconds better than the long-legged Jamaican. 

    While the matchup won't run longer than 10 seconds, it'll be perhaps the most exciting snippet of Olympic action in London. 

Women's Gymnastics Squad: Rebuilt and Seeking Gold

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    In the case of women's gymnastics, it's a little bit of, "out with the old, in with the new."

    The longtime face of Team USA—Nastia Liukin—will no longer grace fans with her presence as her comeback attempt was unsuccessful. 

    While it's certainly sad to see the 2008 Olympic individual all-around champion gone, London marks the beginning of a new era for women's gymnastics. 

    Team USA will attempt to replace Liukin with a group of young, but talented women who had to earn their way onto the Olympic squad. 

    Headlining the squad is 16-year-old Gabrielle Douglas. 

    Checking in at just 4'11", the girl who should be worried about getting through high school, now has the pressure of helping replace an American icon. 

    Despite her age, Douglas won the Olympic Trials earlier this month, finishing ahead of current all-around champion Jordyn Wieber (via Alice Park of Time). 

    After relying on Liukin in 2008, it'll be up to Douglas and her teammates to spark a new generation of USA gymnastics. 

Oscar Pistorius' Historic Feat

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    If you need a little motivation to get off the couch, I encourage you to take a look at Oscar Pistorius. 

    The South African is one of the fastest men in the world.

    He just so happens to run without legs. 

    Utilizing artificial limbs, the double amputee has beaten countless able-bodied athletes throughout his young career. 

    At just 25 years old, his Olympic dream will finally come true. 

    Earlier this month, the South Africa Sports Confederation and Olympic Committee ruled in favor of Pistorius being able to run the 400-meter despite him not meeting all of its qualifying criteria (via Associated Press on ESPN).

    The former rugby player has endured a tough life, but as he's proven time and time again, you can never count him out.

    "The Blade Runner" is an inspiration and will truly be a sight to see in London.