By Tim Layden
July 24, 2012

Over the recent history of Olympic track and field, events on the grass in the middle of the stadium have produced some of the greatest stars in the history of the sport, including Carl Lewis of the U.S. (four consecutive gold medals in the long jump from 1984-'96), Jan Zelezny of the Czech Republic (A javelin silver in 1988 and then three consecutive golds from '92- 2000) and Sergey Bubka of Ukraine (a pole vault gold in 1988 and then four empty, medal-free Olympics for the greatest vaulter in history).


The 2012 version, however, brings few ready-made stars to the Games.

The biggest name among men's field eventers is Norwegian javelin thrower Andreas Thorkildsen, Olympic gold medalist in 2004 and 2008. However, Thorkildsen, who trains much of the year in California, has been fighting a right quadriceps injury and finished just fourth in the European Championships in June.

Only one person has triple jumped farther in the last 14 years than defending world champion Christian Taylor of the United States, who went 58 feet, 11 ¼ inches to win the title last summer in Daegu and has said he expects to make a run at Jonathan Edwards's now-17-year-old world record of 60 feet, ¼ inch. Brits hope he's challenged by Phillips Idowu, who has been injured for much of 2012.

Two-time world champion Robert Harting is a heavy favorite in the discus after finishing fourth four years ago in Beijing.

Defending pole vault gold medalist Steve Hooker of Australia suffered a knee injury, and has since been troubled by a complete lack of confidence in the scary technique needed for a vaulting.

American medal hopes in the field events are all over the map. Christian Taylor (see above) is a solid favorite in the triple jump and Will Claye, who won a bronze medal at the world 2011 worlds, is also a medal threat.

Both Claye and U.S. champion Marquise Goodwin could medal in the long jump, but their distances are dramatically lower than when when Carl Lewis, Mike Powell and Ivan Pedroso were the dominant jumpers. If 2004 Olympic gold medalist and four-time world champion Dwight Phillips had remained healthy at age 34, he would have been a gold medal threat.

Jesse Williams won the world high jump title in 2011, but struggled to make the U.S. team and only qualified with an 'A' standard and fourth place.

Brad Walker can challenge for medals in the pole vault -- another funky, often unpredictable event without a real superstar.

Three-time Olympian Reese Hoffa, 34, should be in the mix in the shot put, along with Ryan Whiting.

High jump: Jesse Williams (USA) vs Andre Silnov (Russia)

Williams, 28, a former high school wrestler from North Carolina who lives and trains in Oregon, won the 2011 world championship in Daegu. Silnov, 27, is the defending Olympic gold medalist.

Triple jump: Christian Taylor (USA) and Will Claye (USA) vs. The World

Taylor and Claye, the best U.S. triple jumping tandem since Willie Banks and Mike Conley, could go one-two in another event where weather, wind and pressure will play havoc with form, along with the crowd's support of Brit Phillips Idowu.

U.S. shot putter Ryan Whiting, 25, is a genuine medal threat, in the long of U.S shot succession that included John Godina and Adam Nelson, and current Olympians Reese Hoffa and Christian Cantwell. Whiting's story is also poignant, as three years ago he lost his mother, Jill, then just 50, to a sudden blot clot after routine knee surgery.

Not such fun for U.S. fans, but certainly a fact: In 2008, Team USA failed to win a men's field event gold medal for the first time in history, and won just a single medal in any field event: Christian Cantwell's silver in the shot put. ... The longest U.S. gold medal drought in any field event is 60 years since Cy Young (yup) won a gold medal in the javelin.

Fri. Aug. 3: Shot putSat. Aug. 4: Long jumpSun. Aug. 5: HammerTues. Aug. 7: High jump, discusThur. Aug. 9: Triple jumpFri. Aug. 10: Pole vaultSat. Aug. 11: Javelin

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