LONDON — Olympic track and field competition begins Friday, and the U.S. team has been out in London getting ready.
The U.S. track and field team won 23 medals in Beijing four years ago. This year, they hope to beat that with 30. But they will be facing some tough competition.
Former 400-meter World Champion Sanya Richards-Ross is one athlete hoping to win when she runs the 200- and 400-meter races for the United States. She was the favorite for gold in the 400-meter four years ago, but took home the bronze. Now she is back for more and says she is ready.
“Excited is an understatement. This is what I have been waiting for for four years, to be able to come back to the Games. And I feel like I am in great shape,” she said.
Richards-Ross was born in Jamaica and moved to the United States when she was 12 years old. But that has not stopped her from feeling the competition against her former homeland.
“It is a great rivalry for us," said Richards-Ross. "You know, the sprint rivalry has become very real between the Jamaicans and the Americans, and they have definitely pushed us to want to get better every single year. And so this year, I think the Americans are ready, and I am looking forward to it.”
Richards-Ross is being coached by Clyde Hart, who says the Jamaicans are not the only competition.
“We do not really try to single out Jamaicans, although I have to say they have some awfully good runners," the coach said. "But there are good runners and every country has some, so we are not just concentrating on beating any one country. But certainly, Jamaica is a force in sprinting right now.”
Hart says Richards-Ross is in the best shape of her life. The U.S. team hopes she will be add her name to America's medal count. And Richards-Ross is not the only track and field athlete hoping for gold.
Shot putter Michelle Carter says she’s ready to make the best throw of her life.
“Once I feel that throw, I know it is going to change everything for me as far as my technique, and me as a thrower in general. But it is there and it is waiting to come out, and all of the pieces are just waiting to melt together and happen,” she said.
Sprinter Andrew Wheating competed in the 2008 Games in Beijing, but did not make the semifinals. He says he hopes it will be a different story this year.
"I have been there. I have kind of experienced that top level, gotten accustomed to it and it is all business," he said. "To me, it is another track meet. I am here. I am here to do business, and the pleasure will come later."
With track and field one of the big highlights of the Olympic Games, all eyes will soon be on them.