Olympics: Athletes

A closer look at the events and key competitors:

Usain Bolt: The fastest man on Earth
Kayla Harrison: A classic judo throw
Steffen Peters and Ravel: Fluidity on four legs
Miranda Leek: Up-and-coming archer
Mariel Zagunis: Third time isn’t a charm
Ryan Lochte’s backstroke technique
Michael Phelps kicks into history
Kohei Uchimura: Superman takes flight
Kim Rhode: Shooting straight toward a medal
Basics of skeet shooting

Hope Solo: Protecting the goal

The U.S. women’s soccer team, which has lost just once in six years with Hope Solo as goalkeeper, successfully defended its gold medal at the London Olympics. Here is a closer look at Solo, who made several tough saves during the final against Japan.

Solo regains her balance, staying low and square to the ball.

If ball is played across the net, she makes a quick drop step.

Shuffling her feet helps Solo reposition quickly.

She stays low and balanced, with her hands in front.

When a kick is made, she’s ready to react quickly.

Usain Bolt: The fastest man on Earth

The world-record holder and two-time Olympic champion in the 100-meter dash (9.58 seconds) benefits from a unique combination of height, strength, acceleration and endurance.

1-10 meters

Bolt has an unexceptional reaction time after the starting gun sounds.

10-20 meters

His center of gravity is off balance during his drive forward, but he stays even with the other runners.

20-60 meters

He usually starts to break away from others at 20 meters. He says the first 40 to 50 meters are his weakest.

60-80 meters

Bolt reaches and maintains top speed of about 27 mph.

80-100 meters

He decelerates slightly before the finish.

Kayla Harrison: A classic judo throw

Kayla Harrison, who won the first-ever U.S. gold medal in judo, demonstrated her strength and speed with a classic throw — the harai goshi, or sweeping hip throw — to win a match in Abu Dhabi in 2011:

Gripping the opponent’s right arm and left shoulder, Harrison pivots.

Harrison sweeps her right leg back, lifts the opponent over her hip …

… and throws her on her back for a winning score.

Steffen Peters and Ravel: Fluidity on four legs

U.S. rider Steffen Peters, of San Diego, and the Dutch warmblood Ravel personify the strength and harmony that is required of horse and rider in dressage. Here’s a look at one of the sport’s most complex moves:

Miranda Leek: Up-and-coming archer

The U.S. men’s archery team took silver in London, but current world No. 1 Brady Ellison fell short of the podium in the men’s individual recurve competition. The women, including up-and-comer Miranda Leek, failed to medal this time around. A closer look at Leek and her sport:

Mariel Zagunis: Third time isn’t a charm

Mariel Zagunis’ bid for a third gold medal in women’s individual saber fencing unraveled when a 12-5 lead slipped away against eventual champion Kim Jiyeon of South Korea.

Ryan Lochte’s backstroke technique

Ryan Lochte battled Michael Phelps and other top swimmers in a number of races at the 2012 Games, but backstroke is his specialty. How he does it:

Michael Phelps kicks into history

All-time Olympic medal leader Michael Phelps is fast off the block going into a powerful dolphin kick for the maximum of 15 meters underwater. Phelps’ V-shaped body gives him little drag, and his short legs provide explosive power.

Kohei Uchimura: Superman takes flight

Japanese gymnast Kohei Uchimura, known by his peers as Superman, won Olympic gold after taking consecutive all-around titles at three world championships, where his floor routine took gold in 2011. A sample tumbling pass:

Kim Rhode: Shooting straight toward a medal

Skeet shooter Rhode won her first Olympic medal at age 17 and she has been winning ever since. Her skeet victory in London earned her the distinction of being the first athlete ever to medal in five consecutive Olympics in an individual sport.

Basics of skeet shooting

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