Olympic swimming legends Rowdy Gaines and Janet Evans both told The Daily that the 16-year-old Colorado wunderkind will be one of the biggest names to come out of London. At 6-foot-1, she already holds one world record in the 200 meter backstroke and used her size-13 feet to win three gold medals at last summer’s world championships in Shanghai. She has a chance to show just how good she is at the U.S. swimming trials in Omaha, Neb., starting June 25.
Burning Questions for London Olympics
As a massive celebration in Times Square today will showcase, there are only 100 days left until the 2012 London Olympics. In comparison to the concern over unfinished venues that plagued Athens at this point in 2004 or the environmental worries in Beijing in 2008, the process in England seems to be going as planned. While more than 1 billion people are expected to tune into the opening ceremonies on July 27, which will be organized by “127 Hours” and “Slumdog Millionaire” director Danny Boyle, there will be plenty of Olympic storylines to pay attention to before the torch is lit. Here are eight things we’ll learn between now and the Games. - Chris Strauss, The Daily
Can Oscar Pistorius be the first amputee runner to compete in the Olympics?
The 25-year-old South African, who was born without fibulas and competes on carbon fiber “cheetah” legs, finished seventh in the 400 meter run in his country’s national championships. Yet he remains the only athlete in his country to have beat the Olympic qualifying time in the event thus far. If he breaks 45.30 seconds one more time by the end of June, he will officially qualify for the Games.
Will Caster Semenya make it to London?
Like her countryman Pistorius, the 21-year-old Semenya has been a beacon of international attention leading up to this Olympic year. After her victory in the 800 meters at the 2009 world championships led the IAAF to conduct an extensive gender inquiry before clearing her to compete against women, Semenya ran a sub Olympic qualifying mark at the same race last year. She’ll need to beat 1:59.9 one more time before the end of June to compete in London, where she’ll likely be a medal contender.
Will the “comeback kids” make the Games?
After retiring in 1996, four-time gold medalist Janet Evans (pictured) qualified for the Olympic swimming trials in the 400 and 800 meter freestyle at age 40. She’s the biggest name among a group of prior Olympians hoping to revive their past glories after layoffs or injuries. A gymnastics senior citizen at 24, Alicia Sacramone took two years off after a disappointing effort in Beijing, only to blow out her Achilles’ tendon while preparing for last year’s world championships. She’s finally completing her rehab but will have only one meet before entering late June’s gymnastics trials in San Jose. Kerri Walsh and Misty May-Treanor are aiming for a third straight Olympic title after taking a three-year break as teammates due to injuries (May-Treanor) and pregnancies (Walsh). They need to play in more tournaments before London to qualify as one of the two U.S. teams.
Is London ready?
It seems so. The Olympic Stadium and all other main venues have been constructed and appear to be getting positive reviews during test events. The biggest questions leading up to the Games will be security and traffic around the already congested city. While the British government expects protests during the torch relay and possibly throughout the Games, a combined force of 40,000 soldiers and police will be mobilized for the events and there will be a warship situated on the Thames River and rocket launchers positioned in Blackheath, just six miles from the Olympic Village. As for traffic, a 100-mile Olympic road network, including special “Zil” lanes, will be introduced in July.
Will more Olympic athletes test positive for HGH?
Weightlifter Pat Mendes, the top-ranked American in the over-105-kilogram weight class, was suspended earlier this week for two years after testing positive for human growth hormone. Mendes became the first American in an Olympic sport to be disciplined for a positive HGH test. With tests for the substance becoming more advanced, it will be interesting to see if any other prospective Olympians get caught by U.S. Anti-Doping Agency.
Will Michael Phelps be able to reach 19 lifetime medals?
The legendary swimmer said he doesn’t plan to enter enough events for a repeat of his eight gold medals in Beijing, but he is just three medals away from owning the most in the history of the Games. USA Swimming director Frank Busch said this year’s team has the potential to be the “best Olympic team we’ve ever had,” making Phelps less of lock to qualify for as many events should he falter in Omaha. After three subpar seasons by his standards, Phelps appears to be back in Olympic shape, swimming this year’s fastest time in the 200 individual medley three weeks ago.
Are the Jamaican men’s sprinters beatable?
Anyone debating the chances of top American sprinters like Tyson Gay and Walter Dix in London may want to expand their focus beyond the U.S. trials in Eugene in late June. That week, 2008 three-time gold medalist and world record holder Usain Bolt (pictured) will be taking on his training partner, 22-year-old Yohan Blake, the 2011 world champion in the 100 meters and fellow 2008 relay mates Asafa Powell and Nesta Carter in the Jamaican Olympic track trials.