OF THE 2012 OLYMPIC GAMES
WORDS BY BARRON BAZEMORE + PRODUCED BY TINA CATHERINE
The 2012 London Olympic Games are upon us and to celebrate the occasion, we’ve decided to count down our list of Top 10 Most Fascinating Athletes. From swimmers and gymnasts, to runners and basketball players, check out who we think you definitely should get to know…and fast.
ALEX MORGAN | USA | Soccer
While the United States women’s soccer team has been a powerhouse for the past decade, there is no denying that the future of the heralded program rests solely on the shoulders of Alex Morgan, the 23-year-old striker from sunny California. Since being selected first in the 2011 Women’s Professional Soccer draft, Morgan has had a stellar international career, notching 29 goals in a mere 43 appearances. So far at the Olympics, Morgan has lived up to the hype, scoring 2 goals in 3 games and providing team USA with the necessary spark to make them the clear-cut gold medal favorites in this year’s games.
TOM DALEY | UK | Diving
Considered by many to be the ‘most scrutinized athlete at the Olympics,’ Tom Daley has quickly become a household name. Starting off his Olympic career at the 2008 Beijing Olympic games at the age of 13, Daley has been one of the most consistent divers ever since, winning Junior, European, and World Championships in his already remarkable career. With close to 1 million Twitter followers, a best-selling book, and dashing good looks, Daley has become one of the most recognizable celebrities in the United Kingdom. At 18 years of age, expect to see the young diver on the podium…and on the front page of tabloids, for a very long time.
KOHEI UCHIMURA | Japan | Gymnastics
His nickname says it all. Kohei Uchimura, also known as Superman for the ability to contort his body into almost any shape he desires, is the first male gymnast to win three consecutive world all-around titles (2009, 2010, 2011), already has two medals at the 2012 Olympic games (including his first gold), and is considered a hero in his country of Japan. The greatest male gymnast in the world today has no plans of slowing down anytime soon and at only 23, is expected to elevate Japan to gymnastics dominance for years to come.
RUTA MEILUTYTE | Lithuania | Swimming
The youth movement is more evident in this year’s Olympics than ever before, and Ruta Meilutyte is surely proof. At 15, Ruta won the gold medal in the women’s 100m breaststroke, becoming the youngest Lithuanian athlete to win gold, and instantly providing the script for one of the best feel-good stories of the 2012 games. While she may not get the same attention as US swimmer Missy Franklin, Ruta gets the nod here as her age and country of origin (Lithuania hadn’t medaled in swimming since 1990) couldn’t keep her from showing the world that she means business, on the greatest stage of all.
IM DONG-HYUN | South Korea | Archery
It’s not often that an archer from South Korea gets as much media attention as LeBron James and Michael Phelps. But then again, it’s not often that archers, yet alone world class archers, are legally blind. Despite the physical limitation that would make shooting arrows at a board 70 meters away (three-quarters the length of a football field) impossible for most, Dong-Hyun has defied all odds and become one of the most lethal archers in the world today. With a new world record score (1 point shy of perfection) and an Olympic medal under his belt, his legend continues to grow, as does the fan base he continues to inspire.
ALY RAISMAIN | USA | Gymnastics
Known as the Fab 5, the US women’s gymnastics team, a group of five girls who wear their emotions on their sleeve, love to compete, and above all, are really good, have taken us all on quite the rollercoaster ride since the start of the Olympics. After world number one Jordyn Wieber failed to qualify for an individual medal, the team quickly bounced back, winning team gold, America’s first gymnastics gold medal since the 1996 games. Almost as big of a story has been the emergence of Aly Raismain, the 18 year old from Massachusetts who still has a shot at individual gold along with teammate Gabby Douglas. Raismain quickly captured the hearts of millions following her near-flawless routines and unbridled enthusiasm following her and her team’s successes. The only people more fascinating may just be her parents (click here).
YANNICK AGNEL | France | Swimming
Move over Michael Phelps, there’s a new sheriff in town and his name is Yannick Agnel. Standing at 6’8”, the French swimmer quickly made a name for himself at this year’s games after catching American swimmer Ryan Lochte (despite his substantial lead) in the final lap of the 4x100m freestyle relay to win gold. Yannick also won gold in the 200m freestyle and silver in the 4x200m freestyle relay, bringing his medal count to 3, tied for the most in the Olympics up to this point. At only 20 years of age, expect the Frenchman to be the next swimming superstar for a long, long time.
JONAS VALANCIUNAS | Lithuania | Basketball
Touted as the next big basketball star to come out of Europe, all eyes are on Jonas Valaciunas, the 20-year-old Lithuanian center who, following the Olympic games, will bring his talents to Toronto, where he’ll suit up for the Raptors and have an immediate impact on a franchise that desperately needs his help. Known for his ferocious dunks and shot-blocking ability, as well as a soft touch around the rim, Valanciunas is definitely someone to look out for not only in the Olympics, but in the upcoming NBA season as the Raptors look to become a formidable team once again.
YE SHIWEN | China | Swimming
16-year-old Ye Shiwen is good. So good in fact, that following her gold medal finish in the 400m individual medley, rumors of possible doping began to make headlines after an almost unimaginable record-setting performance (her time bested many of the male competitors). Since then, the Olympic committee has made it clear that the Chinese swimmer has never tested positive for any sort of banned substance, substantiating her victory and putting to rest any remaining doubt. Following the brief melee, Ye went on to win gold 200m individual medley, cementing herself as one of the most dangerous female swimmers in the world.
USAIN BOLT | Jamaica| Track & Field
Michael Phelps and Usain Bolt were the big names heading into the 2012 Olympic games, and while Phelps has shown signs of decline, Usain’s place among the world’s best remains to be seen. Will the world’s most electrifying sprinter repeat what he was able to do at the 2008 games, or will he pass the metaphorical baton to countryman Yohan Blake, arguably his biggest competition in London. Until we get an answer, Usain Bolt, and his continued quest for world dominance, remains one of the most fascinating stories of the year.
And there you have it, Tina Catherine’s 10 Most Fascinating Athletes of the 2012 Olympic games. We can’t wait to see what’s going to unravel in these next few days…we’ll definitely be at the edge of our seats.
See you in Rio!