If you read this space, you’re already very familiar with the likes of Michael Phelps, Usain Bolt, Missy Franklin and Ryan Lochte. Here are 10 more gold-medal contenders we’ve been tracking on the road to Rio:
Simone Biles, Gymnastics: The two-time reigning World all-around champion is also known for being chased off a medal podium by a pesky bee Oct. 10 in Nanning, China. She’s certainly not been scared by any other gymnasts, going unbeaten in all-around competitions the last two years. The 18-year-old, home-schooled Texan could be favored to win five medals in Rio (tying a U.S. women’s gymnastics record for a single Games) and extend the U.S. streak of Olympic all-around champions to four (Carly Patterson, Nastia Liukin, Gabby Douglas).
David Boudia, Diving: In 2012, Boudia headlined an American diving team that captured four medals, the first U.S. Olympic diving medals since Sydney 2000. Boudia, the Olympic platform champion, was the only American to earn a World Championships diving medal in 2013. He’s in a similar position now as he was four years ago, chasing the mighty Chinese after earning a third straight Worlds platform silver on Sunday. Boudia could become the first U.S. diver since Greg Louganis to win gold in back-to-back Olympics.
Jordan Burroughs, Wrestling: Since winning 74kg freestyle gold at London 2012, Burroughs nearly saw his sport booted from the Olympic program, became a father and tasted defeat for the first time in more than four years. He hopes to become the third American to win back-to-back Olympic wrestling titles, but he may run into a Russian with whom he compares his rivalry to that of Magic Johnson and Larry Bird.
Ashton Eaton, Track and Field: The reigning Olympic decathlon champion and world’s greatest athlete is still considered the world’s best over 10 events, even though he hasn’t completed a decathlon in two years. Eaton took 2014 off and tried his hand at the 400m hurdles instead. He’s back to his signature two-day event, and in Rio he will also be rooting for his wife, Canadian heptathlete Brianne Theisen-Eaton, who owns the world’s best score this year. They may both wear ice hats.
Allyson Felix, Track and Field: The woman they used to call “chicken legs” finally captured an individual gold medal at the London Games. In Rio, she can make more history. Felix remains the world’s best in the 200m, despite having to be carried off the track by her brother at the 2013 World Championships, and could be a medal contender in the 400m, too. So much so that she chose to race the 400m over the 200m for this month’s World Championships. She is tied with Jackie Joyner-Kersee for the most Olympic track and field medals earned by a U.S. woman (six) and three behind the most won by any woman in the sport (Merlene Ottey, Jamaica). In London, Felix ran two individual events and was on both the 4x100m and 4x400m relays, so four medals in Rio is possible.
Justin Gatlin, Track and Field: Gatlin could take down Usain Bolt at this month’s World Championships, which would rattle the sport one year before Bolt’s final Olympics. Gatlin, the last man other than Bolt to win an Olympic 100m title in 2004, is five years removed from a four-year doping ban and five years older than Bolt. His critics are many. There are suspicions over how one can clock personal-best times at such an advanced age. But it’s crystal clear Gatlin has been the world’s best sprinter the last two years.
Gwen Jorgensen, Triathlon: The former accountant has won 12 straight triathlons dating to 2014, a record streak by a man or woman. She’s looking to vastly improve on her London 2012 experience, when she finished 38th, her hopes punctured by a flat tire on the bike. Triathlon has been part of the Olympic program since 2000, and the U.S. has collected one medal, a bronze in 2004.
Katie Ledecky, Swimming: The recent high school graduate is the greatest female freestyle swimmer of all time from 400m through 1500m. She’s approaching world’s best status in the 200m, too. Ledecky, the youngest member of the 2012 U.S. Olympic team of more than 500 overall athletes, is perhaps now the most dominant. So dominant, that there’s been talk of her racing Michael Phelps in an exhibition.
Claressa Shields, Boxing: Shields rivals Ledecky invincibility. In 2012, at age 17, she took gold at the first Olympics for women’s boxers. The Flint, Mich., native is undefeated since, instilling so much fear that an opponent’s trainer threw in the towel to end a 2014 World Championships fight at the 11-second mark.
Kerri Walsh Jennings, Beach Volleyball: Walsh Jennings’ run for a fourth Olympic title appears to be her toughest yet. She and new partner April Ross (Misty May-Treanor retired after London) were arguably the world’s best pair in 2014, but Walsh Jennings’ right shoulder, previously operated on four times, has dislocated in matches twice this season, forcing her to miss several weeks of action. The 36-year-old mother of three must prove more durable over the next 10 months just to qualify for Rio.