Is This the U.S.’s Best Women’s Gymnastics Team Ever?
This Could Be the Last Run for a True Dream Team
Ryan Lochte’s Work Ethic Has Him Primed to Take Some Medals from Michael Phelps
Will Usain Bolt Make History in London?
(NEW YORK – July 18, 2012) – Sports Illustrated previews the 2012 London Games in the July 23, 2012 issue, on newsstands now. This week’s issue features the U.S. women’s gymnastics team on the cover, 66 pages of Olympic preview coverage and SI’s medal picks—gold, silver and bronze—for all 302 events. Sports Illustrated Olympics staff writer Brian Cazeneuve (@BrianCaz) projects that Team USA will retain the overall medal crown, but believes China will finish first in gold medals won (49), four more than the U.S. Considering its strength across dozens of different events, China will likely do the same for many summer Games to come.
Thanks to five young, relatively inexperienced, but technically strong gymnasts, the United States could win its first Olympic all-round gymnastics title in 16 years. The last time women’s gymnastics appeared on SI’s cover was when Mary Lou Retton was on the Aug. 13, 1984, cover.
Leading the pack is 17-year old Jordyn Weiber, the current world champion, and two-time U.S national champion. Weiber was born a gymnast. Her talent is obvious to anyone who watches her perform, but it’s her work ethic and drive that make her a favorite to win the all-around gold. John Geddert, who has coached Weiber for 14 years said, “I’ve seen other kids with her talent, but Jordyn’s hunger to work separates her.”
Joining Weiber in London is Gabby Douglas, a 16-year old who won the 2012 Olympic trials over Wieber by a 10th of a point. McKayala Maroney, the world champion on vault, floor specialist Aly Raisman and Kyla Ross join Weiber and Douglas on the team (page 70).
To download a hi-res JPEG of this week’s cover here
On the Tablet: Slideshow on the women’s team.
The U.S. men’s basketball team is again the favorite to take home gold, and with good reason. Led by a coach and a core group of players with experience in international competition, the U.S. team will continue its dominance l over the rest of the world (page 82).
But despite its recent success, several questions surround this team as it prepares for London. Will this be the end of an era? Mike Krzyzewski has said these Olympics will be his last, and David Stern has hinted at the possibility of imposing a 23-and-under age limit for future teams. And with Dwight Howard, Andrew Bynum, Lamarcus Aldridge and Blake Griffin all missing the Games for a variety of reasons, how will the team fare?
If there’s going to be a roadblock for these players though, it will likely be fatigue from the condensed NBA season. One NBA executive says, “They are going to need everyone on that roster, because this is going to be an exhausted team. I don’t think they even know how exhausted they really are.”
On the Tablet: Video: Behind-the-scenes of the photo shoot.
The greatest rivalry in swimming used to be no rivalry at all. Starting in 2003, Ryan Lochte lost to Michael Phelps 20 straight times in major long-course 200- and 400-meter races before finally beating him in the 200m IM at the 2010 U.S. Nationals. Phelps is widely regarded as the greatest swimmer ever, but is he the greatest swimmer right now?
When accepting a trophy for a world-record-breaking performance last November at USA Swimming’s Golden Goggles Awards, Lochte made a point of thanking Phelps, “I wouldn’t get this if it wasn’t for Michael. He pushes me every day. And I push him. We have a great rivalry” (page 64).
On the Tablet: Swimming roundtable discussion among SI reporters.
Among track and field stars, Usain Bolt is in a special category. He doesn’t make a meet good or bad, he makes it glamorous. His life changed after he became the world’s fastest man in 2008, the year he ran the 100 meters in a spectacular 9.69 seconds at the Beijing Olympics. At the London Games he is expected to become the first person in history to win the 100 and 200 meters at consecutive games (page 89).
Bolt is the manifestly, a celebrity, the only one in his sport. Adam Nelson, a three-time U.S. Olympian in the shot put, said, “Without Bolt, I suppose we have no sport.”
There are 530 athletes who will compete for the U.S. in London, many of whom will never meet each other. The team is filled with diversity, athletes from different races, backgrounds, ethnicities and skill sets. They might not fit the standard definition of a team, but these athletes are precisely that, not least because they reflect—in their stories and aspirations—the very best of America (page 74).
Says spring Sanya Richards-Ross, “We’re all tight within our groups, the track and field people, the gymnastics teams, the swimmers and divers and what have you. But when you hear that U-S-A! U-S-A! chant go up, it doesn’t matter what spot it’s for. You realize that all athletes on this team are trying in different ways to do the same thing: make America proud.”
On the Tablet: Video: Behind-the-scenes of the photo shoot.
LONDON 2012 – ALEX WOLFF
As London gets set to host its record third Olympics, the London Organizing Committee for the Olympic Games (LOCOG) feels confident that these games will successfully balance tradition and change. What the organizers would like more than anything, though, is to have every visiting athlete feel right at home. Sebastian Coe, chairman of LOCOG said, “They’ve devoted half their lives to that moment. We can’t ever let them become victims of our own shortcomings” (page 50).
On the Tablet: Slideshow of London and a look at what the Olympics mean for everyone.
The wave of revolutions that toppled governments from Egypt to Yemen changed the lives of many London Olympians –for better and worse. Many Arab athletes path to London has been as triumphant and emotional as winning an actual gold medal. Many played roles in the civil upheaval of their governments. Amr Seoud, the fastest sprinter in Egypt history, was among those residents in his neighborhood who took part in setting up a 24-hour watch to protect themselves from government retaliation (page 100).
By Dec. 9, 2011, when the Arab Games—a mini-Olympics for the 22 Arab countries—opened in Doha, Qatar, the governments of Tunisia, Egypt, Yemen and Libya had been toppled. Mohammed al Rabti, a 33-year-old rower, led the Libyan delegation into the opening ceremony, but he did not bear the all-green flag from Gaddafi’s rule, instead he carried the red, black and green banner that had flown before Gaddafi’s military coup in 1969. Lwila, who lost his arm during the civil war said, “We died for these colors.”
On the Tablet: Video: How this project game together and a look at the athletes.
WHAT’S NEW AT THE OLYMPICS
Baseball and softball are no longer Olympic sports, but there are plenty of new things going on in London.
- Prosthetics: South Africa’s Oscar Pistorius will become the Olympics’ first double-amputee athlete and sixth Paralympian.
- Court Duos: Mixed-doubles tennis will return to the Games for the first time since 1924.
- Women’s Boxing: Thirty-six female fighters from 24 countries will compete in three weight classes (flyweight, lightweight and middleweight).
- Arab Women: Women from Qatar, Saudi-Arabia and Brunei will compete in the Olympics for the first time.
- False Starts: Track’s new no-false-starts rule will have an impact on at least one race.
MLB PLAYERS POLL
What TV show gets watched the most in your clubhouse?
MLB Network 14%
Intentional Talk 11%
Eastbound and Down 7%
Family Guy 3%
[Based on 272 NBA players who responded to SI’s survey]
FAST FACTS: Seinfeld, ESPN (unspecified show), Cash Cab, American Idol and MLB Hot Stove rounded out the Top 10. . . . Only 11 of the 28 shows that received more than one vote were sports-related. . . . Among programming in other sports, the NFL Network got the most votes (1.5%), followed by UFC (0.6%). . . . Non-Americans ranked MLB Network No. 1, while U.S.-born players preferred ESPN’s SportsCenter.
FBI director Louis Freeh’s scathing 267-page report about Penn State and the Jerry Sandusky scandal makes it clear that the school needs to embark on a new Grant Experiment (page 19).
Rosenberg writes, “Use football for a more concrete cause: Profits from the coming season could be diverted to create a facility to study and destigmatize child sex abuse. There’s a student-run organization already in place, the One Heart campaign (SI, July 2, 2012). Penn State could establish itself as a leading research institution for studying and preventing child abuse and embrace the very problem that brought it down.”
The ongoing rumors of a Dwight Howard trade have begun to make many forget the other NBA players who have looked to leave their teams. Senior writer Phil Taylor describes the backlash Howard is sure to receive no matter where he ends up playing basketball (page 124).
THIS WEEK’S FACES IN THE CROWD
- Alex Perkins (Westport, Conn./Washington) – Rowing
- Destinee Gause (Reynoldsburg, Ohio/Reynoldsburg High) – Track and Field
- Ryan Keaffabar (Wabash, Ind./Northfield High) – Baseball
- Hope Stockel (Hoschton, Ga./Flowery Branch High) – Weightlifting
- Wally Ellenson (Rice Lake, Wis./Rice Lake High) – Track and Field, Basketball
- Michaela Kiersch (Chicago/Whitney Young High) – Climbing
- Owen Graham (Argyle, Texas/Colorado State) – Climbing
To submit a candidate for Faces in The Crowd, go to SI.com/faces. Follow on Twitter @SI_Faces
INSIDE THE WEEK IN SPORTS
- MLB (page 35): Sleeper Sellers – The expanded postseason has allowed more teams to stay in contention. How will that affect teams at the trade deadline approaches? Albert Chen
- NFL (page 38): A Matter of Balance – As the NFL continues to evolve as a pass-first league, elite running backs are in decline. (@si_jimtrotter)
- NHL (page 41): Lonesome Coyote – Shane Doan has been with Phoenix since the team was in Winnipeg, but the current ownership situation could cause him to leave. (@MichaelFarber3)
- NBA (page 42): – There have been a number of intriguing player transactions this off-season. Here is a look at how some of these moves could pay off or hurt a team. (@SI_LeeJenkins)
- College Basketball (page 46): Dream Teen – High school junior Andrew Wiggins may turn out to be the best player to come out of Canada. (@SethDavisHoops)
- College Football (page 46): SECond Rate – The SEC has won the last six national titles, but USC, Oregon and Michigan State could challenge for a national championship this year. (@andy_staples)
- Tennis (page 48): Roger, All That – Just as many thought Roger Federer was on his way out, he proved he still is a champion. S.L. Price