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RYAN LOCHTE, U.S.
Lochte has picked up three Olympic medals in London (two gold and one silver). Almost 28, the swimmer only seems to be improving with age, holding the world record in the 200-meter individual medley, the 4 × 200-meter freestyle relay and the 400-meter individual medley. Still, he says: "I know I could go a lot faster." Fast enough to give his main rival and former roommate, Michael Phelps, a serious run for gold medals. Lochte beat his good pal Phelps in the Olympic qualifiers this year, making swimming the must-watch sport of the London Games.
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ROGER FEDERER, SWITZERLAND
One of the all-time greatest in his sport, with a record 17 Grand Slams, Federer has surprisingly never won the top prize in Olympic singles tennis. But he's made his desire for a gold medal known. "As you can imagine, with the history I have at Wimbledon, it's going to be super-exciting," Federer, 30, told the AP of the upcoming London competition. The fact that he just won at Wimbledon, on the same courts he'll be competing on for the Olympics, shouldn't hurt his chances, either.
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YOHAN BLAKE, JAMAICA
Sport: Track and Field
The current 100-meter sprint world champion, Blake, 22, is nicknamed The Beast because of the way he throws himself into torturous workouts and for his 13 gold medals in international championships. When he bested the world's fastest man, Usain Bolt, not once but twice at Jamaica's Olympic trials, the sporting world stood up and took notice. Still, Blake has set the bar extremely high for himself. "I'm 'The Beast,' right?" he told the Washington Post in June. "I don't expect anybody to be beside me."
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DAVID BOUDIA, U.S.
As America's top diver and a 16-time national champion, Boudia, 23, has picked up a bronze medal in the men's synchronized 10m platform event and he still has his individual event coming up. Olympic diving great Greg Louganis believes Boudia can do it: "He's got all the tools, and now he's acquired some belief," Louganis told the Los Angeles Times in June. "That's a big component in a dive list. Belief. So let's wait and see."
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NEYMAR DE SILVA SANTOS, BRAZIL
Brazilian forward Neymar's prowess with the ball has made him a global sensation – and won praise from soccer legend Pelé, who called the 20-year-old the best player in the world. Neymar has confidently promised to bring home gold from London."My dad always taught me that you need to have a special relationship with the ball," he said of his soccer philosophy. "He told me that the ball is like the most jealous woman that has ever existed…You have to treat her well for her to help you. And I really love her."
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CLEMENTE RUSSO, ITALY
Italian heavyweight Russo, 30, won a silver medal at the 2008 Beijing Olympics, and earned the nickname The Buffalo (for which he has a tattoo of a bison) for his pugnacious fighting style. He's currently team leader of the Dolce amp Gabbana Milano Thunder boxing team, and is a popular model when the clothier needs a chiseled face and rock-hard body to fill out one of its suits. But when he's not trading blows in the ring or modeling, he's fighting crime: Russo is an officer on the Italian police force.
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LEBRON JAMES, U.S.
Though he's no longer Cleveland's native son after abandoning the Cavaliers for the Miami Heat, the NBA All-Star – and newly minted NBA champ – is otherwise one of the most popular sports figures in the world and possibly the best all-around pro star on the court today. The versatile baller, 27, is arguably the strongest player on the U.S. team, which is favored to bring back gold from London. And he says the 2012 group is every bit as good as the 1992 Dream Team, which featured greats including Michael Jordan and Magic Johnson, to whom he's often compared. "We can stack up with those guys," James said.
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LIU XIANG, CHINA
Sport: Track and Field
China's favorite son at the Olympics this year, world champion Liu won gold at the 2004 Athens Games, setting a record for the 110-meter hurdles. When the 29-year-old had to withdraw from the event at the Beijing Games four years later, the home-country audience broke down in tears and treated it as a national tragedy. London is Liu's chance to cap off his long recovery from his 2008 Achilles-tendon injury with another gold.
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GIUSEPPE LANZONE, U.S.
Lanzone, 29, has been competing on the global circuit regularly since he left the University of Washington as a two-time Pac-10 championship rower in 2005, winning silver once and bronze four times in international rowing competitions. Though he finished a disappointing ninth in the men's four at the 2008 Games, he and rowing partner Sam Stitt have been training with a burning focus on claiming a medal in London. Standing at 6 ft., 4 in., the part-time Wilhemina model was the obvious choice to be brand ambassador for Ralph Lauren at the 2012 Olympics.
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JAMES MAGNUSSEN, AUSTRALIA
Nicknamed The Missile, Magnussen is spearheading Australia's hopes for gold this year. The confident Aussie's earned the fastest time in history in the 100-meter freestyle achieved without the aid of a speedsuit (they're now banned in international competitions). At the London Games, Magnussen, 21, has his sights set on one person in particular: Michael Phelps. "If you want to be the best, you have to beat the best," he told Sydney's Daily Telegraph in May. "I want the chance to race him at the Olympics…He's someone I have looked up to, but when I get on the blocks there is no love lost for anyone that I race against."
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TEDDY RINER, FRANCE
Nicknamed "Teddy Bear" both because of his affable personality and his imposing size – he's 6 ft., 8 in., and 310 lbs. – Guadeloupe-born Riner dominates the world of judo, having taken gold at a record-breaking six straight world championships (and bronze at the Beijing Olympics). He is currently the No. 1-ranked judoka in the world, and also happens to have been the youngest world champion on record, earning his first gold at the age of 18. But it's Olympic gold he's after in London. "It is the only medal I want," the 23-year-old told the AP. "I've been preparing for this for four years."
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ALDO MONTANO, ITALY
The son and grandson of Olympic fencers, Livornese native Montano, 33, already has Olympic gold to his name, having slashed his way to victory in the saber individual event at the 2004 Athens Games (he also won silver in the team event that year and bronze in the team event in Beijing). With his striking, model-handsome looks and athletic pedigree, it was only natural that he also began gracing the cover of Italian celebrity magazines and became a familiar face at Milan's fashion shows.
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