playing cricket for the West Indies, he still occasionally plays T20 cricket where he considers himself to be a better pace bowler than his illustrious track rival Usain Bolt, however, it’s on the track where Blake is quickly establishing himself as the Next Big Thing. Nicknamed The Beast for his unforgiving training regimen, Blake is the exact opposite to the seemingly laidback Bolt.
Sprinters Yohan Blake and Usain Bolt. Blake beat Bolt in Jamaican Olympic trials in Kingston city recently. REUTERS
Hiroshi Hoketsu (Jap) (Equestrian)
Before you ask who is Hiroshi Hoketsu it is pertinent that we tell you that he competed in his first Olympics in Tokyo 1964. Now, 48 years later, the 71-year-old is back for one last dig (we think). Till five years ago, the Germany-based Hoketsu had given up the sport and was ensconced in the corporate life as a company director at Johnson & Johnson. Catch him if you get a chance, it’s not every day you see a 71-year-old gunning for gold atop a horse!
Jordyn Wieber (USA) (Gymnastics)
The 17-year-old is the youngest gymnast in the American squad, but with her perfect form and technique she could teach a thing or two to the older competition. Her name rhymes with teenybopper Justin Bieber, meeting whom is her priority #2. What’s her top priority? A gold medal at the Olympics. To fulfill that dream the defending all-around world champion will have to achieve a feat which no woman has in 40 years — simultaneously hold the world and Olympic all-around titles. Will Wieber Fever take over in London?
James Harden (USA) (Basketball)
The NBA’s rising star has got some serious skills. However, the primary reason for his inclusion in this list is his distinctive beard and Mohawk — imagine the unholy fashion union of Hashim Amla’s beard and Mr T’s hair. It’s only fair that as the Olympics head to England, there’s an athlete who pays homage to the nation’s first sporting hero. WG Grace, may his soul rest in peace.
Neymar (Bra) (Football)
The 20-year-old plays for Pele’s former club Santos, and like the legend who helped Brazil to their first World Cup title, Neymar could lead them to their maiden football Olympic gold medal. The electrifying striker has attracted interest from the top clubs in Europe, both Real Madrid and Barcelona covet his signature. If all goes to plan at London, one of the continental giants could come knocking. He was recently named as the most marketable footballer in the world. If you catch the football action during the Olympics you’ll know why.
Oscar Pistorius (RSA), (4X400m relay)
The double amputee will create history when he becomes the first athlete with prosthetic limbs to compete in the Olympics. Nicknamed Blade Runner because of his carbon-fibre limbs, Pistorius has been at the centre of a moral debate ever since the IOC banned his blades, called the Cheetah Flex-Foot, because critics felt it gave him an added advantage over the competition. Some reports said the Cheetah gave about a 10 second advantage over 400m. However, the CAS allowed him to compete, saying that while the springy, curved blades did have its advantage, it also had disadvantages.
Sarah Attar (KSA) (Women’s 800m)
Feminists are not the IOC’s biggest fans, and it has nothing to do with Pierre de Coubertin’s waxed moustache. The Frenchman felt that women should not compete until they could hold their own with men and till 1936 only four disciplines were open to women. The French baron, then, had a lot in common with the Saudi sheiks. Had! Sarah Attar, a 19-year-old raised in California, will become the first woman from the Arab nation to compete in Olympics.
Timi Garstang (Marshall Isles) (Men’s 100m)
Hailing from the timy Pacific nation of Marshall Islands, Timi competed in his first track event just a few weeks ago. To put things into perspective, when he steps onto the track the 80,000 fans watching him will be 30,000 more than the population of his country. He has a personal best of 12.56s, a timing that would hardly give Usain Bolt nightmares (come to think of it, that would hardly give women’s 100m champ Carmelita Jeter sleepless nights).
Nick D’Arcy (Aus) (Swimming)
The ultimate bad boy of the swimming pool, D’Arcy’s has spent more time in courtrooms than most lawyers. In the lead up to the Beijing Olympics, he broke the jaw of teammate Simon Cowley in a drunken brawl. He then declared himself bankrupt to avoid paying the A$370,000 compensation to Cowley. The Australian was at it again, when he and the paradoxically named Kendrick Monk, posted pictures on a social networking with guns. As a consequence, the AOC have banned the duo from staying on in the Olympic Village after their competitions are over.
Leryn Franco (Par) (Javelin)
Serbian tennis star Novak Djokovic wasn’t the only one enamoured by Paraguayan javelin thrower at the Beijing Olympics, we’ve had are our eyes on the former Miss Paraguay runner-up ever since. Her annual calendars have added to the jovial spirit of the festive season. When she attempts one of her throws many viewers have been known to collectively pray for her to stick the javelin directly into the turf and use it as a pole to break into a few impromptu spins. If only dreams came true!