Date of birth: August 21, 1986
Top achievement: Three gold medals in 2008 Beijing Olympics
No one is faster than Usain Bolt. At least not yet. He is a five-time World and three-time Olympic gold medallist, and currently holds the record for the 100m and 200m. His performance in Beijing was magical – gold medals and world records in the 100m, 200m and sprint relay. Sure, Bolt hasn’t been as supernatural for the past couple of years, but one expects him to peak just in time for the big show in London. There is no reason why he can’t win a few more gold, though world records may be too much to ask. His toughest competition in the 100 and 200 is likely to come from compatriot Yohan Blake.
In Beijing, Bolt won the 100m gold in 9.69 seconds and broke the world record. However, from the moment he clocked 10.04 seconds in Ostrava at the end of May — the slowest 100m of his senior career — the whispers began that some of the old magic might be missing. It will be fascinating to watch what happens on the track in London...
Date of birth: October 14, 1983
Top achievement: Gold in 2008 Beijing Olympics; Four-time World champion
The reigning gold medallist is considered by many to be the greatest badminton player in the world. He is a four-time world champion, five-time All England winner and the reigning Olympic gold medallist and favourite to win in London as well.
No shuttler has defended the men’s singles title in the history of the Olympic Games ever, and Lin Dan has a chance to break the jinx after he beat Malaysia’s Lee Chong Wei in a one-sided final four years ago.
Rated the most decorated shuttler of all time, Lin has won every major title available to an Asian.
Standing in the way of the 29-year-old’s quest for a second Olympic title will again be his main rival Lee.
Though the Malaysian tore a tendon in his ankle during the Thomas Cup match last month and lost the world No.1 place to Lin for the first time in nearly four years, he is still the biggest barrier for Lin.
Date of birth: May 12, 1986
Top achievement: Team gold medals in Athens and Beijing Olympics
Im Dong-Hyun is almost legally blind but is considered by many to be one of the best archers in the world. This year, he will be going for his third Olympic gold. Apart from the multiple Olympic gold medals and the world records Im holds in archery, what really impresses is his success with such poor eyesight.
With vision of 20/200, Im is what most people would consider too impaired to even hold down a job, much less compete and win on the world’s biggest stage.
Being legally blind has never been an issue with Im.
It is something that he has lived with, and thus it would never become an excuse or a reason to feel any better about his many successes.
In the 2006 Asian Games, with some of the continent’s best archers, Im won two gold medals as an individual competitor. Only 20 at that time, Im’s star was still on the rise... Expect him to reach to reach the zenith in London.
Date of birth: September 29, 1988
Top achievement: Gold medallist in 2010 World championship
The success of the US men’s basketball team at the London Olympics depends much on the form of NBA superstar Kevin Durant. The league’s three-time defending scoring champion has become the sport’s most versatile scorer, easily one of the finest the game has ever seen. Considered the golden boy, Durant led a much less experienced US team to the gold at the 2010 World Championships two years ago as a 21-year-old, averaging 22.8 points per game, the most by any American and the third -most in the tournament.
Recently, against the Dominican Republic, Durant led the US team to a huge victory. The US won by 54 points, and no player was more dominant during their time on the floor than Durant, who shot 5-of-6 from behind the 3-point line and grabbed a game-high 10 rebounds.The Americans should not have much trouble defending their gold this summer and it is expected that their path to success will be paved by Durant.
Date of birth: August 8, 1981
Top achievement: 17 Grand Slams; Doubles gold in Beijing
After his seventh triumph at the Wimbledon, all eyes will be on Roger Federer as the lack of an individual Olympic gold remains the only miss in an otherwise flawless career of the Swiss tennis star.
Luckily, he has a terrific opportunity to change that this summer.
The Olympic tennis tournament will take place on the same courts — the All England Club — where he has just re-created his old magic to win the Wimbledon. He did win doubles gold four years ago with Stanislas Wawrinka, but he has never finished better than fourth in the individual competition.
Federer was dominant during his Wimbledon run. He didn’t benefit from a lucky draw, either.
The 30-year-old had to beat world No. 1 Novak Djokovic in the semis and fan favorite Andy Murray in the title match. Both players have been ranked inside the top five for quite some time. That is enough hint that Federer is more than ready.
Date of birth: 23 March 1976
Top achievement: Three gold in Beijing --- keirin, team sprint and individual sprint
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. In Beijing, the three-man team sprint squad included, Hoy, Jason Kenny and Jamie Staff. Jason Kenny replaced Ross Edgar just before the Games. They defeated the French by a clear margin, despite the French team’s previous dominance of the event. The keirin was Hoy’s second gold medal, when he came home clear winner ahead of team mate Ross Edgar. Hoy reached the final round of the individual sprint without a glitch, where his opponent turned out to be his young team mate, Jason Kenny.
The Scot was knighted ‘Sir Chris’ by Queen Elizabeth II in 2009 and could become Britain’s most decorated Olympian. With a total of four gold and a silver, Hoy could eclipse rowing great Steve Redgrave’s British record of five golds and a bronze.
Date of birth: June 3, 1982
Top achievement: Gold medals in 2004 Athens and 2008 Beijing Olympics
Having broken her own world record only recently, Isinbayeva, the two-time Olympic champion showed she was still the undisputed queen of pole vaulting. The Russian, who has struggled with injury and loss of form in recent years, cleared the bar at 5.01 metres. Isinbayeva, 29, who was almost unbeatable from 2003 to 2009 but whose last major international title came at the 2008 Beijing Olympics, will now be the overwhelming favourite to win a third Olympic crown in London. “This was my night, and my body answered ‘yes’,” she said. “I just jumped. I just enjoyed the competition, I enjoyed my performance.”
Isinbayeva failed to record a height in the 2009 World Championships in Berlin, came fourth in 2010 World Indoors and sixth in the 2011 World meet in Daegu. But Isinbayeva said that she was not afraid of the competition, saying if she comes into the Games in top form nobody can stop her.
Date of birth: February 5, 1992
Top achievement: Became South American Player of the Year at the age of 19 in 2011
Argentina failed to qualify for the Olympic soccer competition, meaning Lionel Messi won’t be coming. But Brazil did qualify and Neymar is the player to watch. “The Prince” is a prolific goal-scoring striker for Santos, the Brazilian club which Pele, “The King,” made famous in the 1960s. However, Barcelona have reportedly won the race to sign Neymar by securing a 60 million-euro deal for the striker. The Catalan club is hopeful of bringing Neymar to the Camp Nou after the Olympic Games, although it is unlikely he will move before the 2013-14 season.
The 20-year-old Neymar has already scored nearly 100 goals for Santos in less than three seasons. Pele recently called Neymar the best player in the world – better than 3-time Fifa player of the year Messi. The Olympic title is the only significant football competition Brazil has yet to win.
Date of birth: June 30, 1985
Top achievement: Eight gold medals in 2008 Beijing Olympics
No list of must-see athletes would be complete without Michael Phelps. He is a 14-time Olympic gold medallist and one of the top athletes in the 2004 and 2008 Olympic Games. People are expecting big things from Phelps once again this year.
After winning a record eight gold 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 colour to become the most decorated Olympian in any sport ahead of Soviet gymnast Larysa Latinina’s 18 medals in the 60s.
He has called his results over the past three years “horrendous” but he was back in top form at last month’s Indianapolis meet. US teammate Ryan Lochte is Phelps’s top rival. He will undoubtedly face stiff competition during his pursuit of individual gold medals, and will need to be at his best if the US is going to have legitimate gold-medal shots in the three relay races.
Date of birth: November 22, 1986
Top achievement: Three gold medals in Paralympics in 2008 Beijing Games
The South African double amputee, who runs on carbon-fiber blades, has made history by becoming the first amputee runner to qualify for the Olympics. Pistorius, for the record, also plans to run in able-bodied IAAF events in Europe and the US.
Pistorius’s inclusion is likely to fire up the long-running debate over whether his flexible, carbon-fiber blades give him an unfair advantage. Pistorius, 25, runs on Cheetah Flex-Foot blades, J-shaped limbs that are 16 inches long and weigh a little over a pound each.
Pistorius, whose lower legs were amputated when he was a baby after he was born without the fibula bones in his shins, has a personal best in the 400 meters of 45.07 seconds — almost two seconds off Michael Johnson’s world record — and ran a 45.20 this year. Never before has a disabled person been such a threat to the able-bodied in a sports event.