Though sports such as track and field, swimming and gymnastics will garner most of the attention at the London Olympics next summer, other U.S. athletes and teams will also enjoy a rare spot in the limelight. Here are four of them...
McLain Ward (Equestrian)
Currently third in the international rankings, Ward recently established himself as one of the Olympic medal contenders in individual jumping. Ward was a member of the U.S. jumping squads that won gold medals in the team competition at the 2004 and 2008 Olympics, but he has never won an individual medal. In 2010, his horse Sapphire was eliminated from competition at the World Cup final in Geneva because of a positive test for hypersensitivity in her left forelimb, which can increase a horse's willingness to jump. Ward remains loyal to his horse and believes the test was faulty; he also remains loyal to his father Barney Ward, who in 1996 was sentenced to 33 months in prison for arranging to have four horses killed as part of an insurance cover-up.
Kayla Harrison (Judo)
Harrison has medaled at the last two judo world championships in the 78-kg weight class, winning bronze in 2011 and winning all five of her matches to take the gold in 2010. No U.S. athlete has won Olympic gold in judo, a slump that Harrison might have a chance to break. The Middletown, Ohio native trains in Wakefield, Mass. with Team Force coach Jimmy Pedro, who was the last U.S. judoka before Harrison to win a world title in 1999.
Jordan Burroughs (wrestling)
The 23-year old from Camden, N.J. is a world champion freestyle wrestler in the 74-kg weight class. He captured his gold medal in Istanbul just six months after winning the NCAA title at 165 pounds for the Nebraska Cornhuskers. Collegiate rules differ from the rules contested at the international level, but that hardly matters to Burroughs, who has won every tournament he has entered since 2009.
Women's field hockey team
The U.S. team qualified for the Olympics by beating favored Argentina, 4-2, for the first time ever at the 2011 Pan-Am Games in Guadalajara. The Argentine women had won six gold medals in six Pan-Am tournaments and two of the previous three world titles before the stunning upset in Mexico. The U.S. last captured a field hockey medal at the 1984 Olympics in Los Angeles, where the women finished with identical win-loss and goal-differential records as Australia and then won the bronze in a penalty shootout. The team finished eighth in its most recent Olympic appearance, in Beijing.