The ones to watch: medal hopefuls for London

By Stephen Wilson

Associated Press

Published: Wednesday, April 18 2012 12:00 a.m. MDT

FILE - This Oct. 3, 2011 file photo is a general view of the London 2012 Olympic stadium in London. Wednesday, April 18, 2012 marks the 100-day countdown to the London Olympics. As London organizers put the finishing touches on the venues and city officials prepare for an invasion of fans, athletes around the world are training for the big moment.

Tom Hevezi, File, Associated Press

LONDON — Wednesday marks 100 days until to the London Olympics, a good time to look at some of the athletes who will be thrilling sports fans on the biggest of stages this summer.

As London organizers put the finishing touches on the venues, and city officials prepare for an invasion of visitors from around the world, competitors are training for the big moment.

From the track to the pool to the hardwood, what follows is a list of athletes to watch (mindful that some still need to qualify). There are 11 names in all, going for 10 golds:

— USAIN BOLT: Surprise, surprise. Any talk of the Olympics has to start with the flashy Jamaican sprinter. His performance in Beijing four years ago was magical — gold medals and world records in the 100 meters, 200 meters and sprint relay. Sure, Bolt hasn't been as supernatural the past couple of years, but expect him to peak just in time for the big show in London. There's no reason he can't win another three golds, though world records may be too much to ask. His toughest competition in the 100 and 200 is likely to come from countryman Yohan Blake.

— MICHAEL PHELPS: Another no-brainer. After winning a record eight gold medals in Beijing, the 26-year-old American is back for his final big splash before retirement. With a career total of 16 medals, Phelps needs just three more of any color to become the most decorated Olympian in any sport. He called his results over the past three years "horrendous," but he was back in top form at last month's Indianapolis meet. U.S. teammate Ryan Lochte, who won five golds at the 2011 worlds, is Phelps' top rival.

— OSCAR PISTORIUS: The South African double-amputee athlete, who runs on carbon-fiber blades, is looking to make history by becoming the first amputee runner to compete in an Olympics. The "Blade Runner" has already gone under the 400-meter Olympic qualifying time of 45.30 seconds and needs to do it once more at an international meet to be eligible for Olympic selection. Pistorius also plans to run in able-bodied IAAF events in Europe and the U.S. ahead of the Olympics. He'll compete in the Paralympics, too.

— HIROSHI HOKETSU: At the age of 71, the Japanese equestrian will be the oldest competitor in London. Hoketsu has qualified for the individual dressage competition, riding a 15-year-old mare called Whisper. He competed in his first Olympics in 1964 when he was 23. Hoketsu was 67 when he competed in Beijing, finishing ninth in the team event and 35th in the individual competition. He still won't break the record as the oldest Olympian ever. That distinction belongs to Swedish shooter Oscar Swahn, who was 72 when he won a silver medal at the 1920 Antwerp Games.

— KERRI WALSH/MISTY MAY-TREANOR: Beach volleyball will be one of the main attractions in London, with the competition taking place at a temporary venue in Horse Guards Parade, a stone's throw from Downing Street and Buckingham Palace. No one will get more time in the spotlight than Walsh and May-Treanor, who won gold medals in Athens and Beijing and are favorites for a third title in London. And, yes, the Americans will still be wearing the standard bikini uniforms — not the more modest attire approved recently by the international volleyball federation.

— CHRIS HOY: Winner of three gold medals in Beijing, the British track cyclist is one of the host nation's top hopes for glory on home turf in the spectacular new velodrome. The Scot was knighted "Sir Chris" by Queen Elizabeth II in 2009 and could become Britain's most decorated Olympian. The "Real McHoy" is expected to compete in the keirin and the team sprint events, and possibly the individual sprint. With a career total of four gold medals and a silver, Hoy could eclipse rowing great Steve Redgrave's British record of five golds and a bronze.

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