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Countdown to the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games - athletes to watch, each with a story of their own

By WcP.Story.Teller - Posted on 05 August 2008

Dara Torres, United States - Swimming

Among those featured in Time special issue "100 Olympic Athletes To Watch":


Dara Torres (United States) - 41, nine-time Olympic medallist in swimming and mother of a two-year old who has qualified for her fifth Olympic Games, something no other swimmer has ever done. The time in the 100m freestyle that got her a ticket to Beijing was 2.47 seconds faster than her Olympic effort in 1988, at age 21 - a lifetime in such a short race.

Liu Xiang, China - Hurdles

Liu Xiang (China) – 25. When Liu Xiang claimed victory in the 110-m hurdles in Athens, delivering China its first ever sprint gold, you could almost sense the alarm in the announcers' voices. Few had heard of this mystery athlete, much less knew how to pronounce his given name. What a difference four years make. In Beijing, Liu, 25, along with basketball star Yao Ming, will be the poster boy for China's mighty Olympic squad. His name (pronounced Sheeahng) means "to soar" in Chinese.

Usain Bolt, Jamaica - Sprints

Usain Bolt (Jamaica) – 21, the world's fastest man, nicknamed "The Lightning Bolt." This tall (6ft. 5in.), precocious Jamaican sprinter is a ray of hope for a sport whose unrelenting doping scandals have won it the same derision heaped on baseball and cycling. On May 31, at a meet in New York City, Bolt barreled to a100m world record of 9.72 seconds. Bolt is untainted by doping suspicion and has even sworn off legal partying (he loves to dance at his Aunt Lilly's reggae bar near his hometown, Trelawny) to prepare for Beijing.

Sheila Taormina, United States - Modern Pentathlon

Sheila Taormina (United States) – 39, the first woman to qualify for the Olympics in three sports, has struggled with depression as she wondered why she was still chasing the Olympics in her late 30s. She's had to fend off a stalker, who went to prison for five years but was released earlier this year (he has steered clear). And she fought, and won, a spot on the modern pentathlon team, even though she had never fired a gun, picked up an épee, or ridden more horse than a kiddie-ride pony before starting the sport three years ago (modern pentathlon combines swimming, running, fencing, shooting, and equestrian).

Yao Ming, China - Basketball

Yao Ming (China) – 27. When the NBA's Houston Rockets first sought permission from China's sports authorities to sign Yao Ming, 7-ft. 6-in, to play in the NBA, there was one term that was nonnegotiable: Yao would play for China's Olympic team, no matter what. He would lead the national team in Beijing in 2008. On Aug. 10, Yao will lead Team China in its first game — against the U.S.

Marta Vieira da Silva, Brazil - Soccer

Marta Vieira da Silva (Brazil) – 22, or just Marta, a single moniker being the mark of Brazil's great footballers. She is also known as Pelé in a skirt. The daughter of a poor family from the scrublands of Brazil's northeast, Marta had to force her brothers and his friends to even let her play the game. Once she made their team, the quick-footed striker was never off it. She signed with Swedish club Umea IK in 2004 and was soon helping Brazil challenge the U.S. and Germany's dominance in women's soccer. FIFA Player of the Year in 2006 and 2007, Marta has a lot to prove in Beijing.

Nader al Masri, Palestine - Long Distance Running

Nader al Masri (Palestine) – 28. Nader al Masri learned the hard way how to pour on the speed: living in the embattled Palestinian enclave of Gaza, he's used to sprinting away from whizzing bullets and Israeli missiles. For 10 years, al Masri has trained for the 5,000m race in the Olympics. Every morning, he would lace up his tattered running shoes and lope off along bomb-cratered roads as kids shouted "Run, Nader, Run!"

Ryoko Tani, Japan - Judo

Ryoko Tani (Japan) – 27, won consecutive Olympic golds in Sydney and in Athens, a first for a judo wrestler, and she's looking to take her third as a new mom. Nicknamed "Yawara-chan" after the character in a well-known judo manga. A judoka with seven world titles, Tani nearly missed qualifying for the Beijing team having given birth just a few months before national qualifiers.

Marianne Vos, Netherlands - Cycling

Marianne Vos (Netherlands) – 21, has won virtually all the Dutch, European and world prizes available to road, cross and track cyclists — except an Olympic medal. A prodigy who started racing at five years old, she would later cycle 24km each way to school as her daily warm-up before training. In her first season as a senior racer, at age 18, Vos became the youngest ever world cyclo-cross champion, adding the world road title shortly after. Effectively self-coached, the unassuming 21-year-old is still studying biomedical science and says she sees cycling as "a big hobby."

Mark, Diana, and Steven Lopez, United States - Taekwondo

Mark, Diana, and Steven Lopez (United States) - 26, 24, 29. Three siblings from suburban Houston who tried out taekwondo because their father was a fan of kung-fu movies, the second set of three sibling to make the Summer Games in the same sport — and the first since 1904, when three American brothers competed in gymnastics. Steven, already a gold medalist in the last two Olympics, is the straight arrow; middle child Mark, surprise, is the hyperactive one who likes attention. "I feel like a superstar," he recently said. Kid sis Diana is relatively shy. Their coach is older brother Jean. Just three years ago, they each won world titles.


Photos courtesy of Justin Stephens, Goh Chai Hin/AFP/Getty, Adrees Latif/AFP/Getty, Roger Celestin/AFP/Getty, Shaun Boterill/Getty, Paulo Fridman/Corbis, Mohammed Salem/Reuters/Landov, Dirk Waem/AFP/Getty, Matthew Stockman/Getty, Joel Saget/AFP/Getty

Original Source: Time

I have always respected sports people and their dedication to their passion. It is not easy, and there are many obstacles along the way that each had to overcome. Olympics is not just a celebration of greatness, it is also a celebration of people’s dedication to pursuing their passion.

Only day left until Beijing 2008 Olympic games opening ceremony starts on August 8th, 8:08:08 p.m. Wherever I go, all I see, listen to, and read is about the countdown date: ONE day left until this thrilling day. It seems everyone is prepared in Beijing. I don't listen to people complain about the inconveniences like I did a few days ago.

Dear Lopez Family,
You know how much we all miss and love you here in Sugar Land. You guys are truly the greatest in our eyes. Know that our thoughts, hearts and prayers are with you all.

Who are the athletes to catch in the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games? The question is answered by this online article very well. Touching on each athlete the article lists the background and the achievement of each athlete.

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