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Experienced US Athletics Team Set for Olympic Action

The United States had a relatively young track and field team at the 2004 Athens Olympics and medal expectations were not high. But the athletes brought home 25 medals, exceeding a typical U.S. total of 17 to 20 medals. Most of them qualified again for the Beijing Olympics, so they won't catch other nations by surprise this time. VOA Sports Editor Parke Brewer is in Beijing and has more.

The Americans won 26 medals at last year's World Athletics Championships, so the question is, on an even bigger stage, can they equal or exceed that total.

U.S. men's coach Bubba Thornton has great confidence in his athletes, even comparing them to that famous U.S. basketball team from the 1992 Olympics.

"We're excited," he said. "The guys are excited. And I'd like to say that this is "the dream team." They're going to show up. You all are going to be pleased with what you see."

One of Coach Thornton's stars is 400-meter runner Jeremy Wariner, a two-time world champion and the defending Olympic champion.

"I've had real good workouts these last few days, probably my best ones of the season," said Wariner. "I'm feeling quicker and stronger right now, so I'm looking forward to getting going on Monday. I'm real antsy [anxious] now, so it's time to go [compete]."

One of Wariner's new Olympic teammates in Beijing is Bernard Legat, who ran for Kenya in the past two Summer Games. Legat took bronze in the 1,500 meters in 2000 in Sydney, then silver at the 2004 Athens Olympics. He is now an American citizen and is competing for Team USA.

"Really I'm so excited to be back in the Olympics," said Legat. "You know the previous Olympics were fantastic for me. I really enjoyed them, but most importantly this is the one I've been looking forward to."

Legat is hoping to get the gold this time, and he will also run in the 5,000 meters.

Allyson Felix is also aiming for gold, after a silver in Athens when she was only 18. She's the two-time reigning 200 meters world champion.

"I think it's going to be a really great final," said Felix. "And also it's a lot different from 2004 when I came in as an 18-year-old. I was just, I didn't know what to expect, and I was all about enjoying the experience. And as I come back this time, it's all about business. I've waited four years to have a rematch, and I'm not taking it lightly."

Neither is teammate Sanya Richards, who has a relay gold medal from Athens, but was sixth in the 400 meters. But she's now ranked first in the world in the 400.

"To come back to the next Olympics and to be the favorite and leaving with a gold medal in my main event would mean so much to me," said Richards. "It would mean that all my sacrifices and hard work have paid off."

Most all of the track and field athletes who reach the finals will compete at night in the so-called "Bird's Nest" National Stadium, before expected capacity crowds of 91,000.