“USA, USA, USA, USA.” I can hear the chants now as athletes from across the globe head to the Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro. From gymnastics to basketball, rowing to judo, the United States always boasts top contenders. I have always been fascinated with the Olympics. Okay maybe not fascinated - more like obsessed. I remember crying as I watched Michael Phelps win his eighth gold medal in Beijing and Lolo Jones hitting a hurdle and failing to medal in the 110m high hurdles in 2012. The Olympics truly showcase the best of the best in the world. Here’s what to watch after the opening games on Aug. 5.
While I am bias toward gymnastics, this year’s women’s competitors are fierce and hungry for gold. Simone Biles of Ohio is a reigning world champion and is the first female to ever win the national title four consecutive years. She may be 4’9”, but I can assure you she is one of the greatest athletes to dazzle crowds in Rio. While Simone is a shoe-in for the All-Around Gold Medal, don't count the rest of Team USA out. Veteran performers Aly Raisman and Gabby Douglas are back to help the United States win its second team gold in a row. Madison Kocian and newbie Laurie Hernandez round out the medal contending team. The USA men’s basketball team is also ready to defend their gold medal status from 2008 and 2012 with an all-star lineup. While NBA stars LeBron James and Stephen Curry have pulled out of the Rio Games, their teammates Kyrie Irving and Klay Thompson will be joining the rest of the star-studded team. Carmelo Anthony and Kevin Durant will be leading Team USA under the direction of Duke Coach Mike Krzyzewski. I see gold in the future for this team, especially considering that they are in qualifying group with no world ranked teams. In the pool, Team USA truly has some of the world’s best swimmers going into the Rio Games. On both the men’s and women’s sides, world records were broken at just trials. Katie Ledecky, also an incoming freshman at Stanford University in the fall, has the fastest time in the world in the 800-meter freestyle. Ledecky has eight of the top 10 best times in history and plans to make that nine out of 10 in August. Michael Phelps will be swimming for gold once again as he ousted long-time rival and teammate Ryan Lochte at the United States trials. The 200-meter freestyle will surely be one to watch to see which American can take home the gold. Familiar faces from the 2012 games, Missy Franklin and Nathan Adrian, will take on the world again hoping to defend their gold medal titles. The Summer Olympics would not be complete without the world’s oldest sport - track and field. Decathlete Ashton Eaton is back and ready for gold as he competes in the shot put, high hurdles, pole vault and the metric mile just to name a few. If he reclaims the title of World’s Greatest Athlete, Eaton will be the first male ever to do so. Justin Gatlin, gold medalist from 2004, will be competing in the 100- and 200-meter sprints, but will face fierce competition from the fastest man the world has ever known, Jamaica’s Usain Bolt. Evan Jager looks to be the first American to place in 31 years in the 3000-meter steeplechase but will have to complete the run of a lifetime in order to do so. He currently holds the United States record. The 4x100 meter and 4x400 meter relays also hope to be atop the podium in Rio. The women’s track and field team has gold medal contenders as well. English Gardner hopes to knock off Jamaica’s Elaine Thompson for gold in the 100-meter sprint. Her teammate Tianna Bartoletta is also in the hunt for a medal in the shortest track event. My track inspiration Allyson Felix will run for gold in the 400-meter dash. While boasting 2016’s best 400 time, she unfortunately did not qualify for the 200 meter event where she won gold in 2012. Longtime American favorite, famous for defeating Russia in the home stretch of the 4x400 meter relay in Beijing in 2008, Sanya Richards-Ross will notbe joining Team USA this year. Overcome by injuries at the US Trials, Richards-Ross retired with a few golds under her belt. A younger generation of runners is now preparing for Rio including the youngest female to compete for the United States since 1972- Sydney McLaughlin; she’s only 16, and yes, she is the sixth fastest in the world. Men’s and women’s soccer are going for gold after capturing World Cup wins since the last Olympic games along with a handful of divers, weightlifters, volleyball players, boxers and tennis players. The beach volleyball duo we have all grown to love, Misty May Treanor and Kerri Walsh, will not be a pair this summer, but Kerri Walsh hopes to earn her fourth gold medal in four Olympics with a new partner. I expect to see the stars and stripes flying high and our national anthem playing pretty frequently between the wide variety of sports at the Summer Olympics. This August anything could happen. Some could achieve unexpected golds, and some could be knocked off the podium unexpectedly. Tune in starting with the opening ceremony on Aug. 5 to see all of your favorite sports and athletes take on the world in the best showcase of athletic abilities and talents the world has to offer.