2012 Olympics: 5 Must-Watch Finals and Predictions

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Athlon previews and predicts five of the Olympics top upcoming events.

<p> 2012 Olympics: 5 Can't Miss Finals and Predictions</p>

Some of the top Olympic finals will be held over the next week, starting with Thursday's 200m backstroke and concluding on August 9th when the men's decathlon. All eyes will be on Usain Bolt on August 5th as he goes for gold in the 100m dash. Can the American duo of Tyson Gay and Justin Gatlin knock him off?

Athlon previews and predicts five of the Olympics top upcoming events.

August 2nd: Team USA Men’s Swimming returns with a vengeance in the 200m Backstroke

The men of Team USA swimming have been the subject of tremendous criticism from fans who expected the team - led by the duo of Michael Phelps and Ryan Lochte - to continue the absolute dominance exhibited in Beijing.  Fresh off a disappointing showing in the 200m freestyle, Lochte will be hungry for another gold medal in the 200m backstroke which he won back in 2008 and more recently, the 2011 World Championships.  At the Olympic Trials, Lochte won with a 1:54.54 time, followed by Tyler Clary in 1:54.88 who should also contend for a medal in this event.  Standing in their way is Ryosuke Irie (JPN) who has been the model of consistency, posting 4 of the best 6 times in the world this year.

Team USA has already seen a one-two finish in the backstroke in London Olympic Games coming from Grevers and Thoman in the 100m.  We expect USA's streak of backstroke dominance to continue with another 1-2 finish from Lochte and Clary. 

August 3rd: US Men’s Shot Put Win First Gold Medal Since 1996

The United States has a storied history in men’s shot put, with competitors reaching the podium in all but 2 Olympic Games (1976, 1980).  In London, Team USA has qualified three men who all possess a legitimate shot at the gold medal.  Christian Cantwell, who came in third at the Olympic Trials, won the silver medal at the 2008 Beijing Games. Newcomer Ryan Whiting, age 25, has recently emerged as a medal contender after a first place finish in the 2012 indoor championship and a 2nd place finish at the Olympic Trials.  Rounding out the team is Reese Hoffa who came in first at the Olympic Trials.  His 22.00m throw at the Trials is the longest recorded throw this season. 

With the bitter aftertaste of the 2011 Worlds still in their mouths, the U.S. contingent should come out with a vengeance and reassert their dominance in this event by winning a gold medal.  While a sweep is not out of the question, a strong group of international competitors including Canadian Dylan Armstrong - the 2011 World Championship gold medalist - will likely prevent this dream from materializing. 
 

August 5th: Usain Bolt defeated in the 100m dash

While Bolt may be the overwhelming favorite in the 100m dash after his Olympic record 9.69 in Beijing (further improved to 9.58 in the 2009 World Championships in Berlin), the field is stacked this year and could spell an upset if Bolt doesn’t show up with his A-game.  Countrymen Yohan Blake and Asafa Powell in addition to the American duo of Tyson Gay and Justin Gatlin all come into the London Olympics with realistic hopes of reaching the podium. 

Tyson Gay, whose personal best of 9.69 ranks second in history, will have to overcome his hip surgery from last July that took him out of competition for the majority of the 2011 season.  Despite this setback, Gay is a proven competitor and is only one of two sprinters to have beaten Bolt in the 100m since his record-breaking performance at the Beijing Olympics.  Gay appears to be regaining his old form, running a 10.00 into a 1.5 m/s headwind at the Adidas Grand Prix on June 9th, which converts to a windless 9.90s. Gay should be in peak form as he steps onto the blocks in London and could once again challenge Usain Bolt for gold. 

One of the most intriguing storylines for the upcoming Olympic Games has to be the emergence of Usain Bolt’s training partner Yohan Blake.  Blake is the reigning world champion in the 100m (albeit in a race where Bolt was disqualified for a false start) and wants to prove that last year’s performance was no fluke.  He has already posted a 9.84s 100m this season, which is only .08 seconds off of Usain’s fastest 2012 time.  Nicknamed “The Beast”, Blake has trained tirelessly for these upcoming Olympics in hopes of finally emerging out of Bolt's shadow.

 

August 5th: Federer Finally Brings Home the Elusive Individual Gold Medal

Roger Federer, arguably the greatest tennis player of all-time, has accomplished every possibly feat in the sport other than an individual gold medal at the Olympic Games.  Fresh off of his victory over Murray at Wimbledon, Federer is back to playing at his highest level after a two-year drought without a Grand Slam victory.  Playing on the grass courts at Wimbledon and with the notable absence of 2008 gold medalist Rafael Nadal, the tournament is Federer’s to lose. 

Federer knows that this Olympics marks the last chance for him to take home the individual gold medal that has eluded him for so many years and will rise to the occasion in what would be the capstone of his storied career.  

 

August 9th: Led by Ashton Eaton, Team USA Sweeps Gold and Silver in the Men’s Decathlon

The decathlon, perhaps the most grueling Olympic event, should receive greater attention this time around in London with a talented American duo that should continue the United States’ historical dominance in the event.  The recent emergence of Ashton Eaton, a five-time NCAA champion at the University of Oregon who set a world record enroute to the top qualifying spot at the 2012 Olympic Trials, should provide additional drama to the event.  Eaton is joined by two-time world champion Trey Hardee, who should push Eaton at the London Games and also contend for the Gold Medal.  One of the biggest stories coming out of the Olympic Trials was 2008 Gold Medalist Bryan Clay’s failure to qualify for the Olympic Team, putting a dagger in any hopes of a repeat of 1952 when an American trio swept the podium. 

For 24-year-old Ashton Eaton, anything less than a gold medal around his neck and perhaps even an improvement on his world record score will be a disappointment.  Be sure to watch coverage of the Decathlon to see the birth of the next great American track star, Ashton Eaton. 

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