In support of Team USA and all the elite athletes who have spent the better part of their lives training for this moment, I've compiled a list of reasons to support London 2012. Let us not forget the summer of 1980 where the U.S. boycotted the Games in Moscow for political reasons — there is never a guarantee of the next Olympic Games and certainly not a guarantee your favorite athletes will return. These athletes, not to mention our country, deserve our undivided attention and quite frankly a few chestbumps interwined.
1. Allyson Felix
The 26 year old eight-time-world-champion (six-time U.S. champion) sprinter from Los Angeles is headed to London and she's probably the best reason to tune in to the Games. Not only did I get the chance to meet this elite athlete at SXSW this year (she declined my challenge for a nice jaunt through Austin, but all is forgiven), this woman of firsts is also the same inspiration on about a million pieces of Nike training and motivational running collateral.
She is the first woman ever to win national championships in the 100, 200, and 400 meters and is a gold (a member of U.S. women's 4x400 team in Beijing in 2008) and silver (200 meters) Olympic medalist. Aside from all she's accomplished in the past, her tenacity and training regime are second to none. Literally, none.
You may recall a bit of controversy from the trials held in Eugene in June. Jeneba Tarmoh crossed the finish line in the 100-meter race to see her name pop up on the scoreboard for 3rd place, securing what she thought was her spot in London. Shortly after, it was ruled a dead heat with her training partner, none other than Felix as they both crossed the line in exactly 11.068 seconds.
The two were set for a rematch on the track days later on prime time television to see which would be heading to London alongside Carmelita Jeter and Tianna Madison. Perhaps the most talked about race in all of track and field, it never happened as Tarmoh pulled out at the last minute and conceded to Felix.
While it may mean Felix had it in her heart more than Tarmoh, it does mean one thing for sure: Felix is working that much harder to prove to the world she deserves to be there. In a statement in a recent Huffington Post article
, she said, "I wanted to earn my spot on this team and not have it conceded to me so I share in everyone's disappointment that this runoff will not happen. All I can do now is turn my focus to London."
I can assure you this focus of hers is something you'll want to tune in to.
Follow her tweets (@allysonfelix
) and send her notes of encouragement during the next few weeks- the lady is beast-mode busy and has one thing on her mind: GOLD.
2. Joe Buck will not be announcing
(Sports fans everywhere can rejoice)
3. The Ryan Lochte vs. Michael Phelps matchup
In 2008, American swimmer Phelps dominated every newspaper, every blog, every bit of Olympic coverage and every woman's dreams thanks to his all-star performance in Beijing with a record-setting eight gold medals. This is the same Phelps who holds 16 Olympic medals and more world records than any other swimmer, but this year eyes aren't just on him, they're split dead even.
While it seems last time we saw Phelps on the grand stage in Beijing, there wasn't anything the Speedo-laden beast could have done to better prepare himself - either mentally or physically. He was king of the pool, not to mention the world and there was no denying that. Lochte on the other hand, has since changed his diet, started lifting heavier weights and gotten his mind right - although great in his last two Olympic appearances, he had room for improvement, where it seems Phelps did not.
Both 27, both in impeccable shape, both starving for gold, but perhaps Locthe is a bit hungrier. Although Lochte has won six medals in his last two Olympic appearances (including a gold alongside teammate Phelps in the 4x200-meter freestyle relay), he hasn't had nearly the notoriety as Phelps. As with all things in life, change may just be around the bend.
It'll be interesting to see what this additional training and focus does in the water and how it'll serve as stiff competition for Phelps. In last month's Olympic trials in Omaha, Lochte actually beat out Phelps in the 400-meter individual race which prompted addtional debate over who will reign supreme in London waters. This will be Phelps fourth appearance on the Olympic stage and Locthe's third.
It's no question we'll get to witness two of the world's best swimmers competing in parallel lanes in the 200-meter freestyle and the 200 individual medley, where Phelps is the defending Olympic champion. Lochte is certainly no stranger to the events by winning both world titles this year. The two claim to be close friends, but come Games time, the two are competing to see which hardbody will be donned with gold as the fastest swimmer in the world. No matter which one of these amazing athletes wins, it's a win for the USA and will be worth watching.
Follow both of these great athletes, teammates and competitors @ryanlocthe @michaelphelps
4. Bryshon Nellum
We all love a feel good story, and this is the one. Almost four years ago, Nellum was shot three times in the leg after a Halloween party near the campus of the University of Southern California, where he was on the track and field team. Fearful he'd never walk again, it seemed any Olympic journey was out of question, but now, his dreams are coming true.
It took 44 months and three surgeries (his last one just last August), but now the most decorated high school sprinter in all of California just ran his personal best in the 400-meters (44.80 seconds) at the U.S. Trials in Eugene last month and is headed to London to chase his lifelong dream of not only making the Olympics, but coming home with a well-deserved medal around his neck.
In a Los Angeles Times article, Nellum recalled his accident, "It's crazy because I never did fall to the ground. I kept going, just to run to safety."
Perhaps it was this need and persistence to keep moving that not only saved his life, but got him back on track, literally. The men who shot Nellum were tried for attempted murder and are now serving 15 years. When I asked Nellum via Twitter for a quote about his journey both past and present, he offered this: "When the odds are against you keep faith and never give up."
You can follow Nellum's inspirational journey on Twitter @bnellum1
5. Missy Franklin
She's 17. And she rocks a size 13 shoe. The young girl who just two months ago went to her junior prom is the same girl (woman) to become the first American woman to swim in seven events in a single Games (four individual events and three relays). Franklin set a new American 100-meter backstroke record in Omaha where she qualified for her spot on the U.S. Swim Team sending her to London.
Even Michael Phelps calls Franklin "a stud" with her 76-inch wingspan, which is three inches longer than she is tall (standing at 6-foot-1). She's got a body built for swimming and an attitude built for anything she can possibly dream.
Franklin has already won a total of seven medals in major international competition, three gold, three silver, and one bronze in the World Championships and the fresh-faced youngster is now setting her sites on Olympic gold. Having dual citizenship (in both Canada and the U.S.), Franklin was urged to represent Canada during the Games due to the depth and experience already on Team USA. But showing her true patriotism, she went for it and is now a proud representative for Team USA.
It's hard not to root for a gal like this both in and out of the water. Franklin has come a long way having competed in the 2008 Team Trials at the age of 13 and not making the trip to Beijing to now being a world record holder. Her toughest competition, 11-times medal winner Natalie Coughlin also happens to be her lifelong role model where both have shown immense support for one other.
Both Coughlin and Franklin will be ones to watch in London, but if I had to keep my eyes on just one, it'd be Franklin all-the-way.
You can follow this amazing athlete and inspriation to us all on Twitter @franklinmissy.
Those are just my Top 5 reasons to tune into London, but it seems almost every Olympian has a story worth telling and certainly one worth watching. What's your favorite story heading into the Games this year? Perhaps we'll compile a Top 10 list before the end of it all.