HT takes a look at the male athletes most likely to conjure up magical moments that will live on long after the summer ends...
Michael Phelps (USA) (Swimmer)
There is no way you can see Don Bradman bat in the middle or Pele break into a dribble, but this summer you’ll be able to see the most decorated champion in Olympic history — the owner of an astounding 14 Olympic gold medals, American swimming ace Michael Phelps. That alone is worth the ticket. Think of it as going to a concert conducted by Mozart or a play directed by Shakespeare.
Usain Bolt (Jam) (Sprinter)
The fastest man in the world could just as easily pass-off as the most laidback man on the planet. The Jamaican’s trademark winning-without-working-up-a-sweat style is something that was thought to never be possible in a sprint race. Of course, it was also thought that human beings can’t run 100m under 9.6s and 200m under 19.20s. Bolt changed all that. Will he break into his patented arms in the sky pose or will the competition catch up?
The Manchester United legend is the most successful player in English football history with multiple Premier League, FA Cup and Champions League medals in his trophy cabinet. However, hailing from Wales, he could never play a major football tournament. Until now, that is. At 38, Giggs will captain the home team, hoping to add the one thing missing from his glittering CV — an international trophy. Will the Welsh Wizard inspire the hosts to triumph?
Roger Federer (Sui) (Tennis player)
A month after he won a record 17th Grand Slam at SW19, Roger Federer will be back to add one of the few accomplishments missing from his overflowing resume, an Olympic singles gold medal. For all you other athletes, who’re getting your autograph books out, be cautioned. Federer won’t be staying in the athletes village, he’ll rent the same house he stays in during Wimbledon. With 7 titles it’s safe to say its proved to be a lucky pad.
LeBron James (USA) (Basketball player)
The greatest basketball player in the world at the moment was conferred the title King long before he won a crown, but this year, King James finally had his coronation and won his first NBA title. The 6’8, 250-pound American is part Michael Jordan part Magic Johnson. Possessing a potent offensive arsenal, his defense is not bad either (Contrary to what may be portrayed in Jay-Z videos).
Kenenisa Bekele (Eth) (Runner)
The Ethiopian has succeeded compatriot Haile Gebraselassie as the greatest distance runner in the world, at Beijing he became one of the rare athletes to complete 5,000m and 10,000m double. Unlike the sprinters he doesn’t always get his due because of the relatively unpopular status of long distance events.
Tyson Gay (USA) (Sprinter)
Lost amid all the hoopla around the newly-emerging Usain Bolt-Yohan Blake rivalry, is the medal chances of American sprinter Gay, who is as quick as the competition (He has run 100m in 9.71s and a wind-aided 9.69s) and as a former double world champion has the credentials to go the distance at the London Olympics. If Bolt and Blake aren’t careful, Gay could creep up the rear and pip them at the post.
Liu Xiang (Chn) (Hurdler)
He won China’s first track & field Olympic gold at Athens. Four years later, he was overwhelming favourite to win gold, but anti-climactically pulled up injured in the heats to leave a billion Chinese fans heartbroken (albeit heartbreak that was offset by topping the medals count and successfully staging the event). Now, the Chinese icon will look to script a memorable final chapter in his illustrious career at London.
Chris Hoy (GBR) (Cyclist)
He was Britain’s knight in shining armour in Beijing, soon, he became a knight. Like every true knight (Sir Lancelot included) he’ll do anything but commit that most dishonorable of sporting sins — referring to oneself in the third person. Sample this gem after he was asked what Chris Hoy thought of Chris Hoy: “Chris Hoy thinks that the day Chris Hoy refers to Chris Hoy in the third person is the day that Chris Hoy disappears up his own ar*e.”
Lin Dan (Chn) (Badminton player)
Popularly known as Super Dan, the Chinese shuttler is known for his powerful smashes and super-quick strokes. He is the reigning Olympic champion, world champion and the All-England champion, so he naturally starts off as a firm favourite in London. His closest rival, Malaysia’s Lee Chong Wei is nursing an ankle injury. This is the ideal situation for him to win a second gold — something no one in men’s singles has achieved.