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ATHLETES TO WATCH
|MISSY FRANKLIN - SWIMMING
At 17, Missy Franklin is arguably the top young swimmer in the world and has her sights set on up to seven medals this summer. She already has one world record (the short course 200-meter backstroke) and won five medals (three gold) at the World Championships in 2011.
Nicknamed "Missy the Missile," Franklin started swimming at 6 months old, prompted by her mother, who always had a fear of water. From her hometown in Colorado, she has worked hard to balance normal life as a teenager (going to the prom, getting a driver's license) with the intense training regimen required for Olympic swimmers. She also plans to swim in college, and so must keep her amateur status, turning down upward of $150,000 in prize money from past competitions and endorsement deals.
TERRANCE JENNINGS - TAE KWON DO
Terrance Jennings can credit his start in tae kwon do to anthropomorphic turtles. "I watched a lot of 'Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles,'" he said. "One day I was walking through the mall and they had an ad for tae kwon do. I walked in, kicked and fell in love. I hung around and then it turned into something more serious than trying to be a ninja turtle." Jennings defeated the reigning Olympic silver medalist, Mark Lopez, in the U.S. trials to earn his spot on the team for the London Games.
RYAN LOCHTE - SWIMMING
Competing in the shadow of 16-time Olympic medal (14 gold) winner Michael Phelps is no easy task but since the 2008 Beijing games, Ryan Lochte has emerged to dominate the sport. In the 2011 World Championships, Lochte won all five events he entered and set the world record in the 200-meter individual medley, the first world record to be broken since high-tech swimsuits were banned in 2010. Already the winner of six Olympic medals, Lochte hopes to at least double that number in London.
AlEX MORGAN - SOCCER
Alex Morgan burst onto the international scene during the women's World Cup last year. She scored two goals coming off the bench and has since cemented a starting position with the U.S. national team, notching a hat trick in a game against Sweden in March. Morgan found herself the center of attention after the World Cup, garnering several endorsements and offers from the entertainment world, including posing in body paint for the 2012 Sports Illustrated Swimsuit issue. But it's her scoring ability and prowess on the field that have the U.S. a favorite for Olympic gold.
WALTER DIX - TRACK & FIELD
This will be the second Olympic appearance for Walter Dix, who won bronze in both the 100- and 200-meter races at the 2008 Beijing Olympics. Battling Jamaican world record-holder Usain Bolt is the task before Dix, but he feels after finishing second in both the 100- and 200-meter races at the World Championships in 2011 that his time has come to dethrone the world's fastest man.
London Olympics At a Glance
• Starts July 27, ends Aug. 12
• London is the first city to host the games three times (1908, 1948, 2012)
• Competitions: 26 sports, 300 events, 31 venues
• Dropped sports: baseball and softball
• 10,500 athletes from 205 countries will compete in the games
• Gold medals are 92.5 percent silver, 1.34 percent gold and 6.16 percent copper
• Silver medals are 92.5 percent silver and 7.5 percent copper
• Bronze medals are 97 percent copper, 2.5 percent zinc and 0.5 percent tin
Did you know ...
• U.S. women's basketball team is the first traditional team sport to win
four consecutive gold medals. Their streak of 33 consecutive wins dates
back to the 1992 Olympic bronze medal game.
• Equestrian is the only Olympic sport in which men and women compete
against each other on equal terms.
• At the 1904 Paris games, the winners were awarded paintings instead
of medals, as the French believed that they would be more valuable.
• In the 117-year history of the modern Olympics, the games have been
canceled only three times (all due to world wars): in 1916, 1940 and 1944.
• The last time that solid gold medals were used to award Olympic
winners was at the Stockholm games in 1912. For the 2012 London
games, nearly 3,600 grams of gold, worth more than $190,000, will be
used to plate the gold medals.
• Past Olympic sports have included tug of war, croquet, cricket, motor
boat racing, lacrosse, tandem cycling and even a live pigeon shooting
event in 1900.
• The United States has won the most medals of any country: 2,112. The
next country (USSR) has nearly 1,000 fewer.