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What's Coming Over The Olympic Horizon


This is WEEKEND EDITION from NPR News. I'm Scott Simon. And it's time now for sports.


SIMON: OK, maybe that should be the (hums Olympic theme) because in just a few days, all the pomp and patriotism, the grit and athleticism, the sweat and pomposity of the 2010 Olympic Summer Games begins. Here with a preview NPR's Tom Goldman joins us. Tom, thanks so much for being with us.

TOM GOLDMAN, BYLINE: Did I just hear doves released in the studio there, Scott?


SIMON: Yeah. Hear the flapping of their little wings? First week of the Olympics, Tom. Swimming in the marquis sport.

GOLDMAN: Oh, is it ever.

SIMON: And Michael Phelps will obviously get a lot of attention but so will his chief rival, Ryan Lochte.

GOLDMAN: Oh, yeah. You know, with all due respect to all those scores of other fantastic swimmers, it's going to be all about Phelps and Lochte. The two races they go head to head in should be two of the most exciting at the games - the men's 200 and 400 individual medleys. In fact, the 400 IM is the first swimming final of the games the day after the opening ceremony.

And so what a way to kick things off. Those guys swam those races at the U.S. Olympic trials really close, one of them winning one race, the other guy winning the other. So it should be fantastic. Now, Michael Phelps needs three medals to become the Olympian to win the most medals ever. Right now, that mark is held by the gymnast Larisa Latynina of the former Soviet Union.

She had 18. Phelps now has 16. He needs three to get to 19. He's entered in seven events, four individual and three relays, and he should be able to get those medals and then some, and should go out with a big splash in his final Olympic Games.

SIMON: Let's look ahead to track and field because a couple of great Jamaicans - and I know there are many great Jamaicans - but Usain Bolt, the world's fastest man, and the man who's become his chief rival, Yohan Blake. Is it possible there will be a new world's fastest man by the end of these Olympics?

GOLDMAN: Yeah. I mean, I think most agree that Usain Bolt is still the world's fastest man, although Yohan Blake gave the world pause, certainly, at the recent Jamaican track and field trials. He beat his training partner and good buddy, Usain Bolt, in both the 100 and 200 meters. Of course, Usain is the defending champions at the Olympics and the world record holder in both those events.

You know, Scott, the greatest athletes need motivation and this obviously is great motivation for Usain Bolt. I predict there will be no antics like in the 100 meters in Beijing when, you know, he had so blown away the field that he spread his arms and looked at the crowd before he finished. He'll be all business.

And who knows how low Usain Bolt can go when he's all business. Now, as long as he does better on his starts, though. He's notoriously slow out of the blocks.


SIMON: Usain Bolt's notoriously slow out of the blocks, huh?

GOLDMAN: Relatively speaking.

SIMON: All right. What other sports or athletes you're going to keep an eye on?

GOLDMAN: So, so many. In track and field it's going to be fascinating to see Oscar Pistorius run from South Africa.


GOLDMAN: The first amputee to compete in a track event in the Olympics, as opposed to the Paralympics. He's called the Blade Runner for his curved prosthesis blades called Cheetahs. He's running in the 400 and a relay race. Other track and field - the decathlon with American Ashton Eaton coming off a world record performance at the Olympic trials. In swimming, Missy Franklin, a teenager from the U.S. She's in seven events. She could become a star at these games.

Women's soccer. Can the USA avenge its disappointment at the World Cup? And basketball, of course, Scott, mens and womens. The USA owns that. The women are so dominant they've won the last four gold medals. They should win a fifth straight. The men should win but could be pushed by Argentina, certainly Spain with the Gasol brothers.

So that'll be a great tournament.

SIMON: NPR's Tom Goldman. Thanks so much.

GOLDMAN: You're so welcome. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.