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13 Olympians to Watch This Summer

The female athletes we're looking out for in the 2012 Summer Olympics.

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Antoine Verglas
Getty Images Sport
Nastia Liukin
Courtesy of the US Olympic Committee
Getty Images Sport
Steven Simko
Courtesy of the US Olympic Committee
Sports Illustrated
Getty Images Sport
Getty Images Sport
Sports Illustrated
Courtesy of the US Olympic Committee
Courtesy of the US Olympic Committee
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Lolo Jones

The U.S. record-holder for the 60-meter hurdles was a favorite for the gold in Beijing in 2008, but a tumble in the second to last hurdle cost her the medal and put her in 7th place. This summer, she gets the opportunity to redeem herself and finish her best race yet. We'll definitely be cheering this FITNESS cover girl on.

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Alex Morgan and the U.S. Women's Soccer Team

Fondly nicknamed "Baby Horse" by her teammates for her agility, 22-year-old Alex Morgan is making her Olympic debut this summer. As a reserve in the Women's World Cup in 2011, Morgan sealed the U.S.'s semifinal victory against France with her first-ever goal. The U.S. team will make their bid for their third consecutive gold medal in London, and we can't wait to watch.

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Nastia Liukin

Until late 2011, the reigning all-around gymnast had no plans of returning to the Olympics. Deciding to give it a go for another gold less than a year before the 2012 Games meant Liukin had to get back into star shape fast. Her 2012 comeback means stiff gymnastic competition in the uneven bars and balance beam, Liukin's top events.

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Natalie Coughlin

Michael Phelps may have stolen the swimming spotlight in Beijing in 2008 by winning eight medals, but Natalie Coughlin's got a collection of her own, too. The swimmer became the first woman to win back-to-back titles in the 100m backstroke and the first U.S. female swimmer to win six medals in a single Olympics in 2008. With a total of 11 medals, she has the potential to become the most decorated American woman in Olympic history this summer.

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Dara Torres

London is 45-year-old Dara Torres' sixth Olympic Games, making her the oldest woman to swim. The 12-time medalist has said that 2012 will be her final Olympics and she's not aiming to break records. After seeing her win three medals in Beijing, we're not counting her out just yet.

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Mariel Zagunis

Before last-minute replacement Mariel Zagunis became part of the 2004 U.S. Olympic fencing team, the U.S. had only won one gold medal in 100 years. That year Zagunis made history by becoming the first gold medalist for women's saber fencing, which made its debut as an Olympic sport in Athens. She won the gold again in 2008 and helped the U.S. team score the bronze. As the top-ranked saber fencer in 2012, Zagunis is hoping to top the podium a third time.

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Misty May-Treanor and Kerri Walsh

The dynamic duo is back for their third Olympics after announcing a break from sports after Beijing. Undefeated in both the 2004 and 2008 Games, the pair has been credited with raising the popularity of beach volleyball as an Olympic event. We can't wait to see them in action on the sand this summer.

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Kim Rhode

California native Kim Rhode's specialty may not be as enthusiastically followed as track and field or swimming, but her records are just as impressive as any athlete's. In 1996, the double trap and skeet shooter became the youngest female shooter at 17 to win a gold medal in her first Olympics. Since then, she's won medals in every Olympics and has a chance to become the first American athlete to make the podium at five consecutive Games.

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Sarah Hammer

Cyclist Sarah Hammer, 29, currently holds the record as the first American woman to win three medals at a world championship. A controversy in the 2008 Games, when Hammer and her teammates were asked to publicly apologize for wearing masks to shield them from pollution while stepping out of their plane in Beijing led to a disappointing finish. This time around she is ready to compete in a completely new race. Her signature event, the individual pursuit, will be replaced by the omnium, a two-day, six-event competition that includes tests of both speed and endurance.

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Marlen Esparza

Women's boxing will debut as a sport in the 2012 Games and representing the U.S. is featherweight Marlen Esparza, 22, of Houston. We love that this fighter is fierce and not afraid to show her feminine side: She became the face of CoverGirl in early 2012, along with volleyball pro Jennifer Kessy, showing that strong is beautiful.

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Shalane Flanagan

At the 2010 ING NYC Marathon, her first-ever 26.2-mile race, Shalane Flanagan finished second in 2 hours, 28 minutes, and 40 seconds. In the Olympic Trials, her second marathon, she broke records running a 2:25:38 race. We're hoping her future marathons just keep getting even better from here.

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Kara Goucher

Training alongside Flanagan is Kara Goucher, who ran the 2008 ING NYC Marathon as her first and finished in 2:25:53, making history as the fastest marathon debut for an American woman. Goucher took a year off running in 2010-11 following the birth of her son and an injury, but she's back in fighting shape just in time for the London Games.

Originally published on FitnessMagazine.com, June 2012.

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What do you think? Review this slideshow!

8036571998
pattislaughter1 wrote:

She did not qualify for the 2012 team at the USA trials. She took a bad fall off of the uneven bars.

7/8/2012 05:38:50 PM Report Abuse
hannon14760 wrote:

probably should've waited until after the trials to print this. She made an admirable attempt at a comeback, but fell short. Will be cheering on the rest of the women's team, tho!

7/6/2012 05:48:53 PM Report Abuse
jake48 wrote:

Nastia was great at the 2008 Olympics. But it was really unrealistic to think she could take three years off and then expect to get in Olympic shape in only a few months. It really showed in her routines, especially uneven bars. She was a disaster!

7/2/2012 04:06:27 PM Report Abuse
tiffehawk wrote:

she fell of the uneven bars which knocked out of the running for the olympic team. she was very graceful about it.

7/2/2012 01:02:13 PM Report Abuse
hjlee21 wrote:

It was more likely for her to not be in tip top shape, but she went for it anyways. I respect her so much for going for it for the sport, not for the glory.

7/2/2012 12:34:14 PM Report Abuse
jkhbme wrote:

she had a bad time at the trials unfortunately - but a couple of the others who made the team are definitely worth watching!

7/2/2012 10:34:33 AM Report Abuse
kubrenna1 wrote:

Sadly, Nastia won't be at the Olympics competing again. Just to cheer!

7/2/2012 10:13:03 AM Report Abuse

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