There will undoubtedly be plenty of surprises at this year's Olympics. Heading into the London Games, however, the following athletes are the world's top non-American gold medal contenders.
1. Usain Bolt
World records in the 100 and 200 meters at the 2008 Olympics. Ditto at the 2009 World Championships. But what have you done lately? OK, there was a 2011 World Championship in the 200. And dominating victories in almost every race he’s run. And with the big Olympic stage looming, don't bet against more lightning from Bolt in London.
2. Yohan Blake
If anyone can challenge Bolt this year, it's fellow Jamaican Blake, who benefited from Bolt's false start in the 100 in Daegu, then ran the second-fastest 200 of all-time (19.26 seconds) later in 2011.
4. Kirani James
The 2010 World Junior 400-meter champion became the surprise World champion in Daegu in 2011, two days short of his 19th birthday. But after flaming out at the 2012 World Indoor championship final, the Grenadan should be extra hungry for gold in London.
The 19-year-old Jelimo was an instant sensation in 2008 and won the Olympic 800-meter final decisively. She failed to regain her winning form over the next three years, but rebounded with a gold medal perforance in the 2012 World Indoor Championships. Jelimo is back on top heading into the Olympics, but she’ll face a tough field in London.
Since finishing fifth in the 5000 meters in Beijing the Kenyan distance ace has earned three World Championship gold medals, two in the 5000 and one in the 10,000. She’ll be the favorite in whichever event or events she enters in 2012, although veterans Meseret Defar and Tirunesh Dibiba will both be tough to beat.
8. Mo Farah
Without question the greatest female pole vaulter in history, Isinbayeva ended a 3-year drought by winning the 2012 World Indoor Championship gold medal. The two-time defending Olympic champion enters the Games as the favorite, but the question remains – which Isinbayeva will appear in London? Will it be the competitor who failed to earn medals at the 2009 and 2011 World Championships, or the athlete who dominated women’s pole vault from 2004-08?
10. Renaud Lavillenie
The Frenchman never earned more than a bronze medal in World Championship competition until he won the World Indoor title in 2012, just three months after breaking his hand in a training accident. He’ll be looking forward to competing in his first Olympic final in 2012.