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9 young Olympians you should be watching

The United States is sending 530 athletes to London for the 2012 Olympic Games—and more than half of the athletes are female. While GL will be following all of the athletes from now through the closing ceremony on August 12, we’ve got our eyes on all the youngin’s going for gold. Here are nine young women we think will take London by storm.

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    Missy Franklin – Swimming

    Seventeen-year-old Missy had just about as good an Olympic trials as a girl could hope for. She qualified for seven events—the 100m and 200m freestyle, 100m and 200m backstroke, 400m freestyle relay, 800m freestyle relay and the 400m medley relay.  It’s the greatest number of swim events an American woman has ever qualified for.

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    Reed Kessler – Show Jumping

    Reed’s trainer has been talking about her going to the Olympics since she was 13. For a girl who just turned 18—and just became eligible to jump Olympic-height jumps, which clock in at over 5 feet this year—that’s some big talk. Reed is the youngest equestrian to compete in the Olympics ever, and if you had asked her teammates if she had the potential six months ago, they probably would have been iffy. And then she went into the trials and won, beating a ring full of veterans.

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    Gabrielle Douglas – Gymnastics

    The week before trials, gymnastics aficionados had already put Gabby Douglas on the Olympic team, a step behind world champ Jordyn Wieber. And after the first day of competition, it looked like the status quo would hold…until Gabby knocked out a stellar day two and seized the win—and the automatic bid to London. We’re not sure what we love about her more: her gorgeous smile, her grace or her nickname, “the Flying Squirrel.”
     

    Photo by John Cheng for USA Gymnastics

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    Kayla Harrison – Judo

    Two years ago, Kayla won the judo world championship. She was the first American woman to do so in 46 years. Now, she has her sights set on Olympic gold. It’s her final goal in the sport, and if she accomplishes it, she says she’ll probably retire and move on to other things, like going to college and possibly teaching. One more thing: She’s a Harry Potter nerd. Yes!

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    Lee Kiefer – Fencing

    Lee hated fencing when she started at age 5 in her parents’ dining room. But she stuck with it and now the 17-year-old is one of the sport’s rising stars. Now that she’s graduated from high school (and attended prom, natch), she’s focused on London. And while she wants a medal more than anything, she’s realistic about her chances, telling ESPN she expects that to come in 2016, when she has more experience. Still, we can’t wait to watch her fight it out in the next few weeks.

     

    Photo courtesy USA Fencing

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    Jordyn Wieber - Gymnastics

    For the last few months, world champion gymnast Jordyn Wieber has been everywhere promoting her sport. She’s even on cereal boxes. At 17, Jordyn is cool as a cucumber under pressure—something U.S. Gymnastics Team Coordinator Marta Karolyi loves about her.

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    Sarah Scherer – Shooting

    Air rifle master Sarah, 21, has been the queen of NCAA shooting for most of her college career. She’s won national titles, but this will be her first Olympics. And to beat her veteran competitors, nothing less than perfect will do.  

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    Aly Raisman – Gymnastics

    Like her peers, Aly is a full-time gymnast, clocking 35 hours a week of practice time. But unlike some of her teammates, Aly can claim nearly 16 years of experience. She first stepped on the mat when she was 18 months old. It’s all been leading up to this point, she says.

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    Marlen Esparza – Boxing

    Right now, Marlen says, her life is 100-percent boxing. She promises that the Olympic Games, where she’ll compete in a sport that’s been dominated by guys for most of its history. She’s here to tell ya that’s all about to change. She is the first U.S. amateur boxer to sign an endorsement deal with CoverGirl, and as she told the L.A. Times, "When I get ready for a fight, it's kind of like I'm getting ready for a date. I take a shower. Perfume. I shave. I fix my hair….We don’t have to look like men to fight like men.”  

     

    Photo courtesy of CoverGirl

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BY BRITTANY TAYLOR ON 7/12/2012 5:08:00 PM

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