Guts and Glory: The Most Anticipated Events of the 2012 Summer Olympics

Summer has become synonymous with everything from lemonade stands and family vacations to romantic getaways and part-time jobs. Well, that’s for most people. For the sports lovers out there, this summer will mean so much more. Since 1896, the Summer Olympics has been the highlight of a season that’s often packed with an abundance of memories and very few regrets. It manages to overshadow the blockbuster movies with the CGI Superheroes.  The world’s greatest athletes become our heroes for a few weeks as they represent us on the world stage.  They shine brighter than the stars you gazed at with the person who made the leap from an attractive stranger to the love of your life in less than 24 hours. Oh and the memories from the Olympics are even more potent than the aroma from your mother’s kitchen during your summer family reunion. See, while there is something empowering about the freedom and adventure of summer, nothing matches the passion and excitement of the Summer Olympics. It is skill, grace, artistry and national pride all mashed together in a dish that is served once every four years.

Before we get into it, lets take a stroll down memory lane. In 1984, the then 16-year-old Mary Lou Retton flipped and tumbled her way into the hearts of spectators when she became the first American gymnast to win gold in the all-around competition. This was a major deal since prior to her feat, women’s gymnastics was ruled by the Soviets and Eastern Europeans. The world was glued to the television when Retton made her mark as a young acrobat with a fearless attitude and immense talent. Four years later at the 1988 Seoul Olympics, it was time for Greg Louganis, one of the most talented divers the sport has ever seen, to touch the hearts of those watching. Despite suffering a concussion after hitting his head against the springboard in the preliminaries, Louganis went on to win two more gold medals in the 10m Platform and the 3m Springboard. Oh, and what about Michael Johnson at the 1996 Summer Olympics in Atlanta, GA? Do you remember when he sported the gold spikes and became the only male to win both the 200 and 400-meter races at the same Games? Yeah, it was a magical moment for all of us.

Now, we can go on and on reflecting about great moments from the past, but with the 2012 Summer Games rapidly approaching, we have a whole lot to look forward to. The London Olympics, which will include 302 events over the course of 19 days, will give you more than enough to talk about. Since the days of summer can be so demanding, I am going to make it easy on you by telling you about some of the events that you simply can’t afford to miss.

Ryan Lochte vs. Michael Phelps

This is what everyone has been waiting for. Who is the best swimmer on the planet? For the past four years, Micheal Phelps has been the reigning Golden Boy of American swimming. You’ve seen him on magazines, television shows and in those adorable Subway commercials with his mom. After winning eight gold medals at the 2008 Summer Olympics, all of the attention and fame is well deserved for the man who is arguably the greatest swimmer ever. But despite all of his accomplishments, Phelps isn’t going into the London Games as a shoo-in to win gold in all of his events. Why is there even any doubt? Say hello to Ryan Lochte – the 27-year-old talent who beat Phelps twice at the world championships last year. Lochte is a laid back, charismatic surfer type from Daytona, FL. Meanwhile, Phelps comes off as somewhat awkward, yet brilliant superstar athlete who catapulted into the spotlight. The two great American swimmers will go head-to-head in two races at the Olympics – the 200 and 400 individual medleys. Although some people seem to think that Phelps will turn it on when it matters most and win both events, I am picking the explosive Lochte to win the 200-meter medley and Phelps to win the 400-meter race. You can watch the first chapter of their battle on Saturday, July 28th, which happens to be the first full day of competition. The 200-meter race is set to take place on August 2nd.

Men’s 100-Meter Dash Final

This always seems to be one of the most anticipated events at the Olympics. We wait patiently to see who will make their mark as the “Fastest Man in the World.” At the 2008 Games, Jamaican sprinter Usain Bolt stormed into headlines when he won the 100 and 200 meters in Beijing. But unlike Phelps, who was really the humble superstar that everyone loves, Bolt is arrogant and disrespectful to his competitors in a myriad of ways. He has won races with his shoe strings untied. He sticks his tongue out and laughs at the competition before getting out of the blocks. He even has a trademark dance move known as the “Lightning Bolt” to celebrate his victories. His arrogance makes him interesting — when he backs it up with wins.  But, lately, his swagger has been empty because he may not even be the fastest man in his own country. Enter Yohan Blake, Bolt’s 22-year-old training partner and the greatest threat to his legacy. When Blake beat Bolt twice at Jamaica’s Olympic Trails this year, it left everyone in awe. Well, everyone except Bolt. See, he has been well aware of what his compatriot can do. He calls him “The Beast” and knows his talent and ability all too well. This is one of the main reasons why I am picking Bolt to defend his crown in London. Yes, I know that no man has repeated as sprint champion in both the 100 and 200 meter races since Carl Lewis (1984 and 1988). I am also aware of the fact that Blake, along with American sprinters Justin Gatlin and Tyson Gay are real threats to win the gold. However, I think that when Bolt is focused and motivated, he can’t be defeated. With everything on the line on August 5th (100 meter final) and August 9th (200 meter final), Bolt will strike again.

Gymnastics – Women Individual All Around Competition

Much like in the previous two events on this list, the Women’s Individual All-Around Competition has two major players. First there is Jordyn Wieber, a fiery 17-year-old who is currently the world champion. Wieber is a powerful, strong acrobat who is undoubtedly the favorite to take home the gold. However, it won’t be easy at all thanks in part to her teammate Gaby Douglas. Even though Wieber is the world champion, it was Douglas who captivated audiences at the Olympic trails. At just 16, Douglas as graceful as it comes in the sport and definitely has the edge over Wieber on the uneven bars – her best event. This year’s rivalry reminds many of the battle between American gymnasts Shawn Johnson and Natasha Liukin at the 2008 Games in Beijing. Back then, it was Liukin who took the gold in the event with the final score of 63.325. So, what will happen this year? Well, it really is hard to call. Wieber is by far the more polished gymnast in my opinion and she triumphs on the balancing beam – the one part of the competition that could spell trouble for Douglas. At the same time, Douglas has the presence and beauty of a ballerina who belongs on the world’s biggest stage. If she can hold the audience captive, it may be enough to give her the edge. You can watch the showdown on Thursday, August 2nd at 11:30am.

Basketball Men’s Gold Medal Match

There are several reasons why this made the most anticipated list. First there’s the fact that this may be the last time we get to see seasoned NBA players representing the United States of America. NBA Commissioner David Stern and a contingent of other NBA executives are mulling over a rule that will only allow players age 23 and under to compete in the Olympics in the future. While nothing is imminent, it is definitely something to keep in mind. Then there is the fact that the rest of the world is catching up to the United States talent wise. This isn’t the 92′ Dream Team that trumped opponents by an average of 43.75 points per game and if the exhibition games have been any indication of things to come, we are in for a very competitive Olympic Games. This version of the Dream Team, which is filled with gifted perimeter talent but lacks size, had to rally from a 10-point deficit to get by Brazil with an 80-69 win and sneaked by Argentina 86-80 thanks to flurry of three pointers from NBA scoring champ Kevin Durant. It would be safe to guess that the gold medal game will pin the USA against Spain, the favorites to knock off LeBron James, Kobe Bryant and the star-studded American squad. This should be a close game because Spain’s greatest strength, is team USA’s greatest weakness … size. With NBA players Pau Gasol, Marc Gasol and Serge Ibaka in the front court, team USA will definitely have their hands full. Even though the game will likely be interesting, I don’t see team USA losing. At the end of the day, the Americans simply have too much firepower and excellent guard play with the likes of Chris Paul and Deron Williams in the backcourt. The gold medal game is set for Sunday, August 12th.

Tennis Men’s Singles

It was in 1988 when tennis was re-introduced as an Olympic sport, but since then, it hasn’t really been one of the most intriguing parts of the Games to say the least. Well, nowadays tennis isn’t only competitive, but it is also somewhat addictive thanks to an array of new storylines. Fresh off winning the title at Wimbledon, tennis great Rodger Federer should be the favorite to win, especially since the tournament will take place at the All England Tennis and Croquet Club, the same site where he won the Wimbledon title a few weeks ago. But if Federer hopes to claim gold, he will have to go through some very familiar faces. First there’s Andy Murray, the 25-year-old Scot who lost to Federer in the Wimbledon final before giving a tear-jerking speech. Murray is the pride and joy of Great Britain’s tennis squad and he is bound to have a raucous crowd behind him. Then there is Novak Djokovich, the Serbian beast who is currently ranked No. 2 in the world behind Federer. Even though Djokovich didn’t look like himself at Wimbledon, he should be more motivated than ever to reclaim his No. 1 World ranking. While the event lacks some steam without the injured Rafael Nadal, who happens to be the defending Olympic champion, the likes of Frenchman Jo-Wilfried Tsonga and Spaniard David Ferer are sure to make things even more interesting. In the Olympics, its best-of-three sets until the final and I am picking the explosive Djokovich to rise to the occasion and win the gold. Lets watch the final match together on Sunday, August 5th.

About Renaldo Smith, Contributor

Renaldo is a journalist who is passionate about journalism. Simple enough, right? He is currently a writer in Miami, FL and dedicates a great deal of his time to watching/playing sports and writing music. He received his Bachelor's in Journalism from Florida International University. He has written for the Miami Herald and a number of online publications. His journalistic interests range from immigration policy to race and religion in America to the smoothness, if not the accuracy, of Dwayne Wade's jump shot. Some people call his diversity of interests confusion, but we call it versatility.