Anticipation Builds for Summer Games

As the world gears up to watch its countries’ athletes compete for a gold medal in London, the anticipation is already mounting for those who have followed the Olympic trials. The 2008 Beijing Games will be difficult to top, but these Olympics have already afforded fans great competition and controversy. Records are sure to be broken and history is going to be made in the Games, which begin on July 27. Here’s a look into some of the athletes and events to watch for when the world turns to London next week.

Lochte vs Phelps: No one can forget the spectacular show Michael Phelps put on in Beijing four years ago. He was the story of the Games, breaking records left and right and winning eight gold medals. Teammate Ryan Lochte competed alongside Phelps in 2008 and earned two gold medals of his own (he never competed directly against Phelps). But now, this so-called “rivalry” is a highlight of these Olympics. All eyes are on the pair after Lochte beat Phelps at the world championships last year (and shattered his record, no less). Throughout the Olympic trials, Lochte and Phelps both had their victories, so it’ll be interesting to see what happens when the two go head to head in London.

USA Basketball: Usually there’s not much of a question when it comes to United States basketball. Our teams have almost always dominated, but it’s always interesting to see NBA players match up with their counterparts representing their native countries. Thursday USA took on Luol Deng’s Great Britain team and won easily by 40 points. But many are hoping for a USA-Spain gold-medal matchup, as the Oklahoma City Thunder’s Serge Ibaka (who plays for Spain) had some words for LeBron James in the NBA Finals. Also making headlines was Kobe Bryant, who made the outlandish claim that this year’s Olympic team is better than the 1992 Dream Team. He might’ve had an argument if injured stars Dwayne Wade, Blake Griffin, Chris Bosh, Dwight Howard and Derrick Rose were playing, but for now, keep dreaming, Kobe.

USA Women’s Soccer: The US Women’s Soccer Team has big expectations coming into these games. Though they won gold in Beijing, they have some scores to settle after a devastating penalty-kick loss to Japan in last year’s World Cup finals. Many are hoping for a rematch, which would definitely be one of the highlights of these Games. But first, the women have to get through another contender in the Brazil team.

USA Women’s Gymnastics: One of the most talked-about events from 2008 was the controversial gymnastics all-around competition. It was all about the U.S. and China, and controversy swirled about the ages of the Chinese gymnasts. However, China came out on top and the U.S. took silver. This year, there’s a new group of Americans looking to take gold, particularly Gabby Douglas and Jordyn Wieber. They have big rivals in Romania and Russia, but this young group of gymnasts is ready to take the floor.

“Blade Runner”: Running for South Africa, Oscar Pistorius will make history as he becomes the first amputee to run in an Olympic Track & Field event. Some other runners didn’t think he should be allowed to compete with his prosthetic legs, but the Paralympic star will run in the 400-meter spring and 4×400-meter relay.

Missy Franklin: The 17-year-old will be the first U.S. woman to swim in seven events at one Olympics. There’s a lot of pressure on her as the new face of U.S. Women’s Swimming, and she’s even been dubbed the “Female Michael Phelps.” She set her first world record in 2011, and could continue to make history if she wins gold in London.

Tune in when the Opening Ceremonies kick off next Friday, which will be at about 3 p.m. CT.

Follow on Twitter @laurencomitor