13 Olympians To Watch This Summer

These are the athletes to pay special attention to during the upcoming 2012 Summer Olympic and Paralympic Games.

1. Holley Mangold

Weightlifting | USA

The former football player is ready to take London by storm this summer. After dropping out of college in 2010, she moved in with her coach and steadily improved her lifts, which was documented last year on MTV’s True Life: I’m The Big Girl. And her take on her physical appearance? “I don’t want to be small,” she told the New York Times. “That would be awful. Nobody remembers the skinny girl’s name.”

2. Oscar Pistorius

BRENDAN MCDERMID / Reuters

Track & Field (Sprinting) | South Africa

Oscar is something of a god among men. The double-amputee is the fastest man on no legs and this year the Paralympics champion is attempting to qualify for the able-bodied races for the London games. While he missed the mark in a Belgium race, he still has two more chances to represent South Africa: one more race to run the qualifying time or be selected for the 4×400 relay team.

3. Lolo Jones

Christian Petersen / Getty Images

Track & Field (Hurdles) | USA

Lolo recently clenched her spot on the Olympics team when she placed third in the 100-meter hurdles. However, it’s her Twitter account where she talks about remaining a virgin that has won people over. Only time will tell if she’ll land a date with Tim Tebow.

4. Bryshon Nellum

LUCY NICHOLSON / Reuters

Track & Field (Sprinting) | USA

In 2008, tragedy struck when Bryshon was shot in both legs by gang members. While the gun wounds were not life-threatening, doctors told him he would never return to world-class running speeds he trained so long for. However, nearly 4 years later, the runner secured a spot on the 2012 Olympic team when he finished third in the 400 meters.

5. Brittany Viola

Diving | USA

Third time is a charm for the daughter of former Minnesota Twins pitcher, Frank Viola. Brittany finally secured a spot on the USA Olympic team when she dominated the trials over the weekend. However, diving wasn’t always the plan. She trained in gymnastics only to retire at 13 to focus on diving.

6. Ashton Eaton

Michael Heiman / Getty Images

Track & Field (Decathlon) | USA

Over the weekend, Ashton became an overnight sensation when he smashed the world record (originally held by Roman Šebrle - one of the world’s greatest athletes) in one of the most grueling Olympic events. He “joined the likes of Bruce Jenner, Dan O’Brien, Bob Mathias and Rafer Johnson among the Americans who have held the world record.”

7. Troy Dumais

Elaine Thompson / AP

Diving | USA

Troy is a veteran of the sport. At the age of 32 he will attend his fourth (and most likely) his final Olympic games. He’s the only American since Greg Louganis to participate in four games. Despite representing USA in previous games, it’s the only hardware missing from his trophy case. So this might be his last chance for a medal.

8. Nathan Adrian

Swimming | USA

Nathan caught the attention of media and fans when his speedo ripped during a race back in April. Since then, Nathan has been slowly rising from under the radar of Michael Phelps and Ryan Lochte turning into a fan favorite at this year’s trials. And barring any disaster, he will likely to continue to rise among the ranks during the summer games.

9. Matt Stutzman

Archery | USA

Born without any arms, Matt had to teach himself how to operate everything from driving a car to eating with his feet. He recently set a world record for the longest accurate shot from 230 yards away. And this summer he’ll represent USA at the 2012 Paralympics. Watch a video of him in action here.

10. Rebecca Bross

Gymnastics | USA

After suffering back-to-back injuries, most people wrote off Rebecca coming into this year’s trials. But being an underdog is proving to be the best thing right now as she fights to her first Olympic games. Despite a few wobbles at the Vias Championships, Bross has refocused her attention on London. If she does make the final cut she could be this year’s Cinderella story.

11. Matthew Mitcham

Chris Hyde / Getty Images

Diving | Australia

Matthew took the games by storm in Beijing when he received the highest single-score in Olympic history in the 10m platform. He also garnered media attention for being one of eleven openly gay athletes out of 11,028 to compete in 2008.

12. Race Imboden

Via in.com

Fencing | USA

At the age of 19, Race is hoping to garner more attention for the sport of fencing in America. “The U.S. is starting to be in the mix of guys who are top competitors in the world,” he told Sports Illustrated. “Being so young, I want to show people that Americans can mix with these guys, individually and [as] a team.” He’s poised to be the first American to win a medal in men’s foil since 1960. He’s also a bit of a wild child on Twitter and Facebook where he regularly posts photos like this one.

13. Matthew Emmons

Shooting | USA

Matt is regarded as the unluckiest Olympian. In 2004, teammates attempted to sabotage his gun at trials but he famously borrowed a female teammate’s gun to continue through the trials and eventually take gold in Athens. Though, in Beijing he shot the wrong target, which cost him a repeat gold. And in 2010, he learned he had thyroid cancer but was able to overcome after his thyroid was surgically removed. Now he’s looking to erase the blunders of 2008 at this year’s games.

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