The non-Phelpsian reasons to watch the Games.

By Curtis Peters


Blind Archer

What could possibly spark interest in archery? Well, maybe knowing that one of the two favorites for gold, South Korea’s Im Dong Hyun, is legally blind. (He sees the target’s colors and has learned to “feel” each shot.) Im was No. 1 in the world until 2011, when he was unseated by American Brady Ellison.

Wall Street Wheeler

In 2008, American Evelyn Stevens was working as an investment banker when her sister persuaded her to compete in a bike race in Central Park. The 29-year-old was quickly hooked. She moved to Boulder, Colo., to train with former Olympic gold medalist Connie Carpenter. She won a major women’s race in Belgium this April and clinched a spot in the Olympics when she won the Exergy Tour in Idaho a month later. She’s a contender in both the road race and the time trial.

Ping-Pong Princess

The 16-year-old table tennis phenom Ariel Hsing is getting her long-awaited first shot at the games, where she’ll be America’s greatest hope for defeating China, a team that’s dominated the sport with 22 out of 33 possible Olympic golds. She will be cheered on by two men whom she calls Uncle Warren and Uncle Bill (Warren Buffett and Bill Gates). She was a guest at Buffett’s 75th birthday party and attended three of Berkshire Hathaway’s shareholder meetings, where she quickly vanquished brave challengers in gladiatorial fashion.

Beach Boys

Rooting for the perennially dominant Misty May-Treanor and Kerri Walsh Jennings in beach volleyball is kind of like pulling for the Yankees — the gold medalists from Athens and Beijing are almost too good. This year, cheer on the American men’s team of Todd Rogers and Phil Dalhausser as they hope to defeat the reigning world champions from Brazil.

Master of Ceremonies

Hollywood director Danny Boyle is rumored to have spent over $126 million (well exceeding Beijing’s reported budget of $100 million) on the elaborate opening ceremony. Sir Paul McCartney will headline, and if the typical London weather doesn’t make an appearance, Boyle has promised synthetic clouds that will deliver authentic wetness and dreariness.

Badminton Badasses

Defending gold medalist Lin Dan of China once reportedly punched his own coach in the face after a tournament. He’ll most likely confront the world’s No. 1 player, Malaysia’s Lee Chong Wei, in the final. The two have met 27 times before, and Lin has won 19 times. (Bonus trivia: Shuttlecocks can reach speeds of 250 miles per hour, and they’re made of feathers taken only from the left wings of geese.)

Laser-Wielding Athletes

For the first time since the ancient Greek contests, the pentathlon will involve only four events: fencing, swimming, show-jumping, and a combination of shooting and running (historically, the latter two were regarded as separate). In another first, lasers will replace pellet guns. They’re cheaper, more environmentally friendly, and much, much cooler.

Brave Boxer

As female boxing makes its debut (and replaces BMX as the newest addition to the Olympics), expect Ireland’s Katie Taylor to dominate. But if you have heartstrings, let them be pulled by Sadaf Rahimi of Afghanistan. She’s the only London-bound woman who’s had to fight clothing restrictions and endure death threats to compete.

Strong Mangold

22-year-old super heavyweight lifter Holley Mangold, younger sister of New York Jets center Nick Mangold, was an offensive lineman on her high school football team. At 18, she won the U.S. Junior Nationals in weight lifting. In 2010 she dropped out of college to focus on the sport full-time. Although she has little hope of medaling in her first Olympics — her personal record is nearly 150 pounds less than the Olympic record — competing in the Games will be one more accomplishment she can hang on her brother. In the clean-and-jerk event, she can lift 320 pounds — 13 more than he can.

Lone Gunner

Because Israel lacks a substantial Olympic budget, 22-year-old shooter Sergey Richter almost missed the Games altogether — which would have been a shame, since he’s considered one of the world’s best. He shares the junior world record in the 10-meter air rifle, having scored 599 out of 600. To fund his Olympic bid, Richter took to the Internet, where he sold T-shirts and private shooting lessons. In all, he raised $13,500 from more than 150 donors.


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