Stars to gaze at...

Stars to gaze at...

Stars to gaze at...

Lin Dan

Widely considered as the greatest badminton player of all time, Lin Dan is a four-time world champion, five-time All-England winner and the reigning Olympic champion. Super Dan has primed himself for the quadrennial bash by powering China to a fifth consecutive Thomas Cup victory. With his biggest rival Lee Chong Wei yet to recover from injury, few would count out Lin.

Kobe Bryant


n At the moment, the $30M-a-year-earning Kobe Bryant is not the most profitable player in the NBA nor is he the most sought after basketballer in the world. ‘The Black Mamba’ is, however, who Team USA will place their faith upon in their quest to add one more gold to their sparkling tally of 13.

Bryant has made things worse by stating that the 2012 roster could beat the 1992 ‘Dream Team’. Even if the notion seems whimsical, Bryant is perfectly capable of leaving behind his own legacy.


Yohan Blake

n More known as Usain Bolt’s club-mate at one point in his career, Blake shot into fame following his success in the World Championships 100M final last year in Daegu, South Korea. Bolt’s false start took away much of the attention at that time but since then, the Jamaican has shown that he wasn’t just a one-race wonder.

    This season, he has laid down the marker with stunning wins in the Jamaican trials against a struggling Bolt, who has since then withdrew from Diamond League meeting in Monaco with an injury.

The 22-year-old owns the quickest times in both the 100 (9.75 seconds) and 200M (19.80) this season – timings that aren’t from Planet Bolt but good enough to make him aware that he needs to be at his very best to leave his trademark on London’s Olympic Stadium.

MICHAEL PHELPS

n After his sensational eight gold medal winning-effort in Beijing, surpassing the great Mark Spitz, the American swimming legend will once again take the centre stage in London.

Though, he dropped the 200M freestyle from his programme this time, Phelps, who had in his kitty 16 Olympic medals, will be looking to go past Russian gymnast Larisa Latynina’s record medal tally of 18.

 In his third Olympics, the 27-year-old might not be at his brutal best, but even an out of form Phelps could be a force to reckon with, for his rivals, especially for his compatriot Ryan Lochte. Lochte has sounded enough warnings in the run-up to the Olympics, and Phelps-Lochte rivalry will be the one of the most sought after battles in London, perhaps, on par with the Usain Bolt-Yohan Blake battle in the 100M.

Roger Federer

n With 17 Grand Slams adorning his trophy cabinet, Roger Federer is arguably the greatest player ever to have held a tennis racquet. The one glaring hole on his otherwise impressive résumé is the lack of an Olympic gold medal. The Swiss ace has a golden opportunity to fulfil his last remaining wish at the London Games. That Rafael Nadal, the men’s champion at the Beijing Games, will not be there to defend his title may have enhanced Federer’s chances but that would be belittling the credentials of the best of his generation.

     Having just bagged his record-equalling seventh title on his favourite surface at Wimbledon, it would be safe to assume that only Novak Djokovic stands between Federer, who already has a doubles gold in Olympics, and the ultimate glory.

Serena Williams

 Serena Williams appears to be a woman on a mission. Having spent
better part of the season tending to her illness, the powerfully-built American has comeback stronger – both physically and mentally.

Like Roger Federer, the only triumph that has eluded her otherwise glorious career is an Olympic Gold. She does have two gold medals in doubles (2000 at Sydney and 2008 at Beijing), but a singles title would replenish her already storied career.

With her fifth Wimbledon title a few weeks ago, Serena has established herself as the favourite to stand atop the podium for gold winner, but the owner of 14 Grand Slams would be fervently hoping that her back wouldn’t play up and scuttle
her ambition once again. A fit, firing and in the mood Serena will be unstoppable, as we have seen very recently in the Wimbledon.

Sally Pearson

n Kelly Wells might have pulled off a shocker in the London Diamond League meeting last week but that hasn’t affected Sally Pearson’s status as the top gun in the women’s 100M hurdles one bit. The 25-year-old Australian is in prime form and was beaten only once in 16 races last year, and that defeat should go  down as an irritating aberration.

One of those wins came at the World Championships in Daegu, where she produced one of the best performance in the final.

The Aussie was almost perfect in that race, sailing over the barriers with supreme confidence as she put daylight between herself and her rivals. In London, too her rivals will have to deal with her class and supreme form and high level of confidence. 

That run in Daegu, coupled with her brilliant performances through the season, was enough to fetch her the Athlete of the Year award, and all she needs now is an Olympic gold medal to crown her career. London, most certainly, should be the avenue for that gold.

Missy Franklin
n The American swimmer have all the qualities to take the centre stage and her effort to capture seven titles in London has already attracted enough headlines.. An all-round swimmer, who prefers backstroke, if she’s able to capture seven golds, will become the first female athlete to attain that mark. Her golden splash at the US trials in the lead up to the Olympics shows she is in good form. Will the 17-year-old Missy become the teenage sensation in London? Missy will compete in four individual events — 100 and 200 M freestyle, 100 and 200 backstroke –— and three relays — 4x100M and 4x200M freestyle relays, and the 4x100M medley relay.

     Her ambition and talent have already earned comparisons with swimming legend Michael Phelps, who had won eight gold medals in the Beijing Olympics in 2008. It indeed is a tough task, winning seven gold in a single Olympic Games, but the American has showed will power beyond her teen age, and her rivals from China and European nations will have to be massively fortunate to halt the American from realising her dreams.

David Rudisha

n The latest in a long line of Kenyan two-lap specialists, the 23-year-old world record holder will be aiming for his first Olympic gold when he lines up in the 800 metres in London. Rudisha, a Maasai tribe warrior, set a world record of 1:41.09 in Berlin in 2010 and then a few weeks later lowered it again to 1:41.01.

He is the current world champion — having won the title in convincing fashion in Daegu last year — and was voted world athlete of the year for 2011. This season, he has been sizzling form and if conditions are conducive another cracker of a show awaits in London, with another world record well within his reach. London Olympic chairman Sebastian Coe will have a keen eye on the lanky Rudisha's performance, having once held the world record over the distance himself. Rudisha said watching videos of Coe inspired him to run.

 

Usain Bolt

The face of the Beijing Olympics where the Jamaican sprinter's jaw-dropping speed earned him three gold medals in the 100M, 200M and 4x100M relay and three world records. He has won five gold medals from the last two World Championships – including more world records in 100M and 200M — but his superhuman status has since taken a hit. It started with the false-start in the final of the 100M in Daegu, where his compatriot Yohan Blake won the gold.

    Blake’s subsequent victories in the Jamaican Olympic trials, in both the 100M and the 200M, means Bolt will arrive in London with a point to prove, to the world and to himself. His fitness too has been a concern for Bolt, with a back problem requiring attention soon after the trials. Talks of a world record have been doing the rounds but Bolt will only be too happy to retain the titles he won in Beijing but for that he will have to ward off a lurking Beast.

 

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