Decathlete Ashton Eaton of Oregon broke the world record during trials in Eugene. High jumper Jesse Williams and triple jumper Christian Taylor (another ex-Gator) hope to show their 2011 world titles were not flukes.
In gymnastics, the world champion women’s team is being compared to the Magnificent Seven of 1996. Jordyn Wieber’s consistency and versatility make her the favorite for all-around gold, but Gabby Douglas upset Wieber at trials, and judges will find her charisma appealing. McKayla Maroney is considered a lock for vault gold.
The men want to move up from world bronze and challenge China and Japan. Miami’s Danell Leyva and John Orozco of the Bronx have emerged as the team’s young stars. They’re unlikely to unseat the king, Kohei Uchimura of Japan, but are capable of winning event medals, and 2008 silver medalist Jonathan Horton is back for more.
The Miami Heat’s LeBron James and Miami’s Sylvia Fowles lead the basketball teams. The men, short on centers and always slow to adapt to international rules, looked vulnerable against Argentina.
“The majority of the world wants our men to lose,” women’s coach Geno Auriemma said. “They assume our women will win.”
Watch the NBA pros now because they may not return in 2016. NBA owners are grumbling that Olympic summers put too much wear and tear on players — the injured Blake Griffin being a prime example of what can happen to an Olympian after a grueling season.
“There’s another side to that story,” argues Jerry Colangelo, head of USA Basketball. “What we’ve done has brought great marketing value to the NBA around the globe. The best story the NBA had was when we marched to the gold medal in Beijing. That’s worth a lot. Basketball is the No. 2 sport behind soccer, and the Olympics [are] the springboard to increase interest.”
Misty-May Treanor and Kerri Walsh Jennings won the past two Olympic beach volleyball tournaments without losing a set. Phil Dalhausser and Todd Rogers won in Beijing, and they will go for gold against at the makeshift beach at Horse Guards Parade in the middle of London.
U.S. divers, formerly the best and most innovative in the world, have not won a medal since 2000. China’s splashless athletes have taken over the sport. David Boudia, Christina Loukas and Miami’s Brittany Viola offer hope of a breakthrough, as does synchro springboard pair Troy Dumais and Kristian Ipsen.
The sailing team, which includes 2008 gold medalist Anna Tunnicliffe of Plantation, will encounter variable conditions in Weymouth. Fencer Mariel Zagunis goes for her third gold in saber. Queen Underwood will be one of the moving stories in women’s boxing. The women’s eight will row for its second consecutive Olympic title. The men’s and women’s volleyball and water polo teams are expected to be on the podium, as are the women’s soccer players, led by the ageless Abby Wambach. The men’s soccer team failed to qualify, and America’s favorite summer pastimes of baseball and softball have been removed from the Olympic schedule.