Ones To Watch

Athens 2004

August 13, 2004|By RANDY HARVEY | RANDY HARVEY,SUN STAFF

Christine Arron

Track, France

With Torri Edwards and Kelli White out in the women's 100 meters, Arron has become the favorite. She was fifth in last year's world championships and second in the Grand Prix final. She was born in Gaudeloupe and moved to France in 1990. She trained in the United States under John Smith in 2001.

Kenenisa Bekele

Track, Ethiopia

Even before Haile Gebrselassie is gone, Ethiopia already has identified his successor as the world's dominant distance runner. Bekele, 22, set world records in the 5,000 and 10,000 meters this spring. He has entered both events in Athens, trying to become the first person to win that double since Ethiopia's Miruts Yifter in 1980.

Natalie Coughlin

Swimming, United States

The female Michael Phelps, she could become the first U.S. woman to win five gold medals in swimming in the same Olympics. She is entered in the 100-meter backstroke, 100 freestyle and three relays. She could have qualified for more individual events if the schedule had allowed.

Hcham El Guerrouj

Track, Morocco

Perhaps the greatest miler ever, El Guerrouj owns world records in the 1,500 meters, mile and 2,000. He won world championships in the 1,500 in 1997, 1999, 2001 and 2003. Yet, he has not won an Olympic gold medal. He feared he might miss his chance in Athens when he developed a mysterious breathing disorder this spring, but he believes now that he is regaining his form.

Allyson Felix

Track, United States

No U.S. track and field athlete had turned pro out of high school until Felix did it last summer, turning down a scholarship offer from the University of Southern California to sign with Adidas. Part of the deal was that the company pay for her tuition to USC. She won the 200 meters at the U.S. trials this summer and is favored to medal in Athens. She trains under Pat Connolly, the famously anti-drug coach who tutored Evelyn Ashford.

Anju Bobby George

Track, India

Despite a population of 1 billion, India had never produced a medal in a major international track and field meet until George's third-place finish in the women's long jump in last year's world championships. A customs officer who supports her training on $16,000 a year, she practiced her craft on a dirt runway and mud pit before 2003, when she moved to California to work with world-record holder Mike Powell.

Ana Guevara

Track, Mexico

Anamania took over Mexico even before Guevara became the first from her country to win a gold medal in track and field's world championships with her victory in the 400 meters last year. Undefeated in 24 finals from 2001 until July 2 this year, she is expected to recover from a minor injury in time to became the first Mexican to win an Olympic track and field gold medal in an event other than race walking. She's also changing stereotypes in a country in which women have not been encouraged to participate in sports.

Mia Hamm

Soccer, United States

The greatest women's soccer player of all time ends her career in Athens, along with two others, Julie Foudy and Joy Fawcett, who have been leading the national team for more than a decade. They have won two World Cups and one Olympic title. Hamm, who holds the record for goals scored in international competition, is also known as Mrs. Nomar Garciaparra.

Paul Hamm

Gymnastics, United States

Hamm (pronounced hom) became the first U.S. man to win the men's gymnastics all-around title at a world championships last year and, along with twin brother Morgan, could lead the U.S. men to their first team title at the Olympics since 1984. Both Paul and Morgan also were named to People's list of 50 Hottest Bachelors.

Marion Jones

Track, United States

Since 2000, when she won three gold medals, a silver and a bronze, she has been replaced as the focus of the national magazine covers by Michael Phelps and as the leading U.S. sprinter by LaTasha Colander in the 100 meters and Allyson Felix in the 200. She also is among athletes under investigation in the BALCO drug scandal. But she's the favorite in the women's long jump. It wouldn't be wise to bet against her.

Lauren Jackson

Basketball, Australia

The basketball player earned attention at home in the 2000 Olympics because of her confrontation with the United States' Lisa Leslie. Jackson pulled Leslie's ponytail hair extension. Jackson said it was an accident. Leslie thought not. Four years later, Jackson has become the WNBA's Most Valuable Player while playing for Seattle and could lead the Australians to a medal.

Kostas Kenteris

Track, Greece

Kenteris shocked the world in 2000 by winning the men's 200 meters. No Greek man had won an Olympic gold medal since 1912. No Greek runner had won a gold medal since 1896. He is expected to win in Athens, especially by his adoring countrymen. He has replaced the soccer players as Greece's most popular athlete despite persistent drug rumors. It will surprise no one if he is the final torch bearer in the opening ceremony.

Svetlana Khorkina

Gymnastics, Russia

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