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Let the Games Begin

The athletes, the venues, the medals, the odds, the styles and everything else you need to know about the London 2012 Olympic Games

Author KEVIN ALEXANDER

From left, DAVID OLIVER (Michael Steele/Getty); DAVID BOUDIA (Quinn Rooney/Getty); MARIEL ZAGUNIS (Clive Brunskill/Getty)

ONES TO WATCH

DAVID OLIVER
TRACK AND FIELD

Nowadays, a lot of athletes have blogs, with most featuring short, mundane posts on the day-to-day happenings in their careers. Not so with David Oliver: The 2008 Olympic 110-meter hurdles bronze medalist doesn’t update his blog (davidoliverhurdles.blogspot.com) very often, but when he does, he pours his heart out.

Oliver’s pièce de résistance? His stream-of-consciousness recap of the 2011 season, which tops out at 5,877 words and is part diary, part insider column (“I know this sport is definitely one that everyone builds you up to tear you down”) and part manifesto (“95 percent of life’s issues are black and white and boil down to two options: You’re either going to do something or you’re not”).

The first two-time All-American in any sport from Howard University, Oliver grew up in Denver and for the past several years has been living and training in Orlando, Fla., under legendary coach Brooks Johnson (who’s been coaching Olympians since 1960). Though his 2011 season was plagued by injuries, Oliver feels confident about his chances this year. Or, as he puts it in the blog: “Don’t be surprised when you see me at the top of the podium in London!”

MARIEL ZAGUNIS
FENCING

The year 1904 was a big one for the United States. It gained control of the Panama Canal, Theodore Roosevelt was re-elected president and an American won a gold medal in fencing at the Olympic Games, a feat not repeated until Mariel Zagunis did it.

One hundred years later.

As a last-second alternate.

It should have surprised no one that Zagunis, now a two-time gold medalist in individual sabre and a heavy favorite to pull off a three-peat at the London Games, would succeed at the highest level. The Beaverton, Ore., native comes from championship stock (her parents were Olympic rowers at the 1976 Montreal Games), and she also was part of a U.S. team that captured gold at the Senior World Championships when she was only 15.

Now with 19 World Championship medals to her name, Zagunis is by far the most decorated fencer in American history, and will play a significant role in determining whether 2012 is another big year for the United States. Perhaps it’s not a coincidence that she talks quietly and carries a big stick.

DAVID BOUDIA
DIVING

Note to whoever is in charge of marketing the sport of diving to the public: Please make the names of the dives cooler. For instance, 16-time U.S. national champion David Boudia has a dive in his arsenal that boasts the highest degree of difficulty in the world. Its name? The 109C. His favorite dive? The 207B or the 5255B. We appreciate that diving is a very precise sport, but suspect that there are rooms in science labs with more colorful names.

Such quibbles aside, Boudia, who just turned 23, is poised to impress at the London Olympic Games. In 2011, the Noblesville, Ind., native won the silver medal in the 10-meter at the FINA World Championships, becoming the first U.S. man to medal in that event in 25 years.

A communications major at Purdue (where he won NCAA Diver of the Year three times), Boudia occasionally works as a motivational speaker when he’s not training, talking to kids about the importance of staying healthy and active.

As for those dive names, maybe a big showing at the Olympic Games could get the 207B — a.k.a. the backward three-and-a-half-somersault pike — a new handle: “The Boudia.”

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