The widely-believed story behind the Olympic rings is actually a myth. Many of us grew up thinking each of the five rings represents a different continent: Blue for Europe, yellow for Asia, black for Africa, green for Australia and red for the Americas. But it isn’t so. Baron Pierre de Coubertin, who founded the modern Olympics, never had the continents in mind at all. He saw the rings as a way of showing the connection between the various parts of the world.
But just for fun, we decided to name the Olympian to watch from each continent in the London 2012 Games, which begin one year from now.
Before we begin, please keep in mind that nobody has qualified yet and some of these athletes may not even be in London. Remember that Michael Phelps sustained a severe wrist injury in the months leading up to the Beijing Games and worried he’d have to drop out. So anything can happen. We've also narrowed the field down to athletes who have already won at least one gold medal.
With the fine print out of the way, here is each continent's top Olympian to watch in the coming year:
The moment of the 2012 Games is sure to be Usain Bolt's assault on the unfathomable 9.5-second mark in the 100-meter dash, but the top Olympian from our continent is arguably the top Olympian of all time. That would be Phelps.
Only seven years ago, the Baltimore native laid out a goal for the Athens Games: One gold medal. Now he has 14 and he’s got a good shot at 20. He’s a virtual lock to win three medals in London, which would make him the most decorated Olympian ever -- passing Soviet gymnast Laris Latynina, who won 18 medals in her career. Some say
Phelps is on the downside of his athletic life, but he’ll only be 27 next year, and sources close to him say his competitive drive is stronger than ever. Don't bet against Phelps in 2012, or for that matter, in 2016.