Olympic Track Stars to Watch
Allyson Felix | U.S.
A preacher's daughter, Felix, in 2007, became only the second female to win three gold medals at a single IAAF world championships (Marita Koch was first in 1983). With Jackie Joyner-Kersee's husband, Bobby, as her coach, Felix is the favorite to win the 200.
Tyson Gay | U.S.
A three-time gold medalist at the 2007 world championships, Gay has been the star of the show for the U.S. men's Olympic team, especially after setting an American record in the 100-meters at the trials in June with a time of 9.77 seconds. Though he injured his leg in the 200-meter trials, thereby eliminating his shot at competing in that event, he's expected to be fully recovered for the 100 by the opening ceremonies.
Sanya Richards | U.S.
She was named the 2006 IAAF Female World Athlete of the Year after setting a world record in the 400 meters with a time of 48.70. At the 2008 U.S. Olympic Trials, she gave a brief preview of what's to come in Beijing when she blew away the competition by nearly a full second to win the 400 in 49.89.
Liu Xiang | China
Along with basketball player Yao Ming, Liu Xiang is one of the faces for the Chinese team at the Olympics. The 110-meter hurdler is the defending Olympic champion in the event, with his 2004 gold medal marking the first for his country in a men's track and field event.
Tirunesh Dibaba | Ethiopia
Known for her late burst of speed, Dibaba became Ethiopia's youngest medalist in 2004 when she won the 5,000-meter bronze in Athens at just 19 years old. Born into a family of runners (her cousin Derartu Tulu won the 10,000 meters at the 1992 and 2000 Olympics), Dibaba owns the 5,000-meter world record (14 minutes, 11.15 seconds), which she set at the IAAF Golden League Meeting in Oslo this year.
Jeremy Wariner | U.S.
Wariner captured gold in 2004 in the 400-meters and as a member of the 4x400-meter relay team, and it looks like he's on track to repeat in both in Beijing. He ran the year's best time in the 400-meters at the Gaz de France Golden League in July.
Jenn Stuczynski | U.S.
She owns the American women's record-holder in pole vault at 4.92 meters.
Usain Bolt | Jamaica
While he faces his stiffest competition in the 100-meters -- from Gay and Asafa Powell, who has come up short in previous races -- 200-meter specialist Usain Bolt has the chance to strike gold, twice. Running alongside Gay and Powell in the 100, Bolt, the 200-meter Jamaican record holder at 19.75 seconds, is the favorite.
Blanka Vla&#353;ic | Croatia
Named after the city of Casablanca, where her father, Joško Vlašic, competed in the 1983 Mediterranean Games as a decathlete, Blanka Vlašic is the current world champion in the high jump. She owns an unbeaten streak of 33 competitions and has jumped over two meters in 48 of her competitions. This season, Vlašic has jumped three centimeters higher than any of her opponents.
LaShawn Merritt | U.S.
Merritt won the 2008 U.S. Olympic Trials, beating the favored Wariner in the process. A year ago he became the ninth sprinter to break the 44-second barrier in the race, turning in a 43.96 at the 2007 World Outdoor Championships in Osaka, Japan.
Lolo Jones | U.S.
A three-time NCAA champion at LSU, Jones captured her first world indoor championship gold in March (she won the 60-meter hurdles with a time of 7.80) and won the 100-meter hurdles at the 2008 U.S. Olympic Trials. Her 12.29 at that event was the second-best time ever run under any conditions.
Bernard Lagat | U.S.
Lagat became the first athlete to win both the 1,500- and 5,000-meters at the world championships, accomplishing the feat in 2007. Representing the U.S. in Beijing, the two-time Olympic medalist takes on a slew of Kenyan favorites as he sets his sights on two gold medals.
Veronica Campbell-Brown | Jamaica
Her four-medal performance (two gold, one silver, one bronze) at the 2004 Olympics made her the most successful Caribbean athlete ever at a single Games and the first Caribbean athlete to win a sprint title. The reigning world 100 champion won't compete in that event in China, but she will look to defend her golds in the 200 and 4x100-meter relay.
Bryan Clay | U.S.
After the 2008 U.S. Olympic Trials, there are many reasons why Clay is considered the best in the event heading to Beijing. In the two-day span at the Trials, he scored 8,832 points, breaking the previous Olympic Trials record (8,726) set by Dan O'Brien in 1996, the year O'Brien won Olympic gold.
Pamela Jelimo | Kenya
A competitive runner for the past six years, 19-year-old Jelimo has run five of the year's seven fastest times.
Irving Saladino | Panama
On track to follow compatriot and New York Yankees star Mariano Rivera into professional baseball, Saladino decided to stick with the sport that he says had always been in his heart: track and field. A world championship gold-medalist (2007), Saladino aims to become Panama's first gold medalist and its first Olympic medalist since Lloyd La Beach won bronze in the 100 and 200 in 1948.
Dayron Robles | Cuba
At only 22, Robles is the world record-holder with a time of 12.87, set June 12 at the Golden Spike meet in the Czech Republic. In Beijing he'll be trying to upstage home country favorite Liu Xiang.
Susanna Kallur | Sweden
Born near Nassau Coliseum, Kallur, the 2006 European champion, is the daughter of Anders Kallur, a forward who won four Stanley Cups with the New York Islanders in the 1980s. Last year, she was voted the country's top sports figure -- ahead of its national hockey team.
Kenenisa Bekele | Ethiopia
The world record-holder in both the 5,000 and 10,000, Bekele is the most accomplished runner in IAAF World Cross Country Championships history, with six long (12K) course and five short (4K) course titles. In 2005, Bekele grieved the loss of his fiancée, who died of heart failure during a run with him, but he returned to win gold at the 2005 world championships in the 10,000.
Kerron Clement | U.S.
The man who broke Michael Johnson's 400-meter indoor mark will vie for another victory in Beijing. Clement's 44.57 seconds at the NCAA indoor championships in 2005 turned heads, and now he's set to capture his first Olympic gold medal
Yelena Isinbayeva | Russia
The defending Olympic champion, Isinbayeva set a new world record in Athens with a vault of 4.92 meters. But that record would only stand for about a month before she would re-set it. She has set the outdoor world record 12 times and is the first female to break the five-meter barrier.
Reese Hoffa | U.S.
As the reigning world indoor champion, Hoffa enters the Beijing Games almost a year after earning a gold medal in Osaka with a throw of 22.04 meters. If Hoffa's performance at the U.S. Olympic Trials this year are any indication (he won with a throw of 22.10 meters), China may be just another chance for him to exceed his own previous marks.
Zhou Chunxiu | China
With her second-place finish at the 2007 world championships, Chunxiu became China's first marathon medalist. That same year, she also won the London Marathon in 2:20:38, making her the seventh woman to break the 2:20:00 mark. While she may have been a surprise winner last year, Zhou is the favorite heading into the 2008 Games.
Stefan Holm | Sweden
He's the reigning Olympic champion in his event, having leaped 2.36 meters in Athens. He also owns five medals from the world championships -- four of which are gold.