For two weeks, we were reminded why the Olympics are still going as strong as ever more then 100 years after they began handing out gold, silver, and bronze medals. They perfectly capture the thrill of victory, and the agony of defeat, non stop in all kinds of sports for 16 days.  We were thrilled by some incredible athletes, and it’s never too early to look ahead right? Here are a few people that we will be keeping our eyes on as the 2016 games in Rio De Janeiro slowly creep up.

Missy Franklin (Age 21 in 2016)

Let’s just get the obvious one out of the way. Missy Franklin will be the biggest USA name heading into the 2016 games. The 17 year old dominated these games, and figures to only be bigger, faster, and stronger when she hits the prime of her career in Rio. Think about this for a second.

Michael Phelps just completed the greatest Olympic career of all time, and his record could very well stand for only 8 years. Remember, Phelps has said he is retired, and if so, he’s doing so at a young age for swimmers (he’s 27).  There were several members of the USA team who were in their early 30’s in these games, and Ryan Lochte has already said he wants to come back at the age of 32.  Now if Franklin can stay healthy, and stay motivated, there’s no reason to think that she won’t have a shot at 8 medals in the next three games. If you do the math, there you can see that Franklin is setting herself up greatly to pass Phelps in just a few games. Will she be able to do it? Only time will tell.

 

Katie Ledecky( Age 19 in 2016) 

Name doesn’t ring a bell? If not, let me catch you up. Ledecky was the youngest member of the USA swim team at the ripe old age of 15. Ledecky came out of nowhere and dominated the 800 meter freestyle, posting the second fastest time ever. And yes, can I remind you again: She’s 15!!! Given that she’s a swimmer, she has AT LEAST three more games in her, with the next two ones being her prime time. If she can add a couple new events to her list, she could be a huge star in 2016.

 

Karani James (Age 23 in 2016)

This was one of my favorite stories of the London games. James was a virtual unknown heading into the games, largely because he’s from a Caribbean Island nation called Grenada, which had never won an Olympic medal before these games. However, James quickly emerged as the favorite in the 400, smoking past the competition in his semi final heat. Then, in an incredible act of sportsmanship and respect, he ran up to Oscar Pistorius, and asked to exchange name tags.  James went on to dominate the 400 final, taking home a gold medal. I hope he inspires Grenadians and other small nations, as he proved that no matter where you are from, you can always accomplish your dream.

How having said all that, let’s not forget that this kid is just 19 years old! If he’s able to expand his range, maybe add the 800 or even try his hand at some field events, James could quickly turn into one of the biggest stars in African Olympics history.

 

Usain Bolt (Age 29 in 2016)

In 2008, Bolt’s incredible three gold and three world record performance was overshadowed by Michael Phelps going 8 for 8 for golds in the pool. In 2012, Bolt got more love for once again dominating the sprints, but again, the attention was split as Phelps said goodbye to the Olympics. However, in 2016, it will be all Usain Bolt. Here’s what will be at stake. Bolt has already set history by being the first person to win back-to-back 200 meter golds, and the second(Carl Lewis) to win back-to-back 100 meters. No one, I repeat, no one, has won three in a row.

So if Bolt can go to Rio, at the ripe age of 29, and do it for a third time, where does he stand on the all time list? He already is the greatest sprinter of all time. With three more golds, he not only would become the greatest track and fielder of all time, but could you really argue against him being the greatest Olympian ever? Michael Phelps has three times as many shots at gold as Bolt does, so you can’t look at the total counts here for the full picture. Here’s what you can look at: if Bolt can pull off yet another sweep in 2016, he would have dominated for 12 years in a sport that is like a revolving door when it comes to world class speed. He is already a legend. Can he become the greatest to ever live? We will know in four years.

 

The Fab Five? (Ages 19-22 in 2016)

Kyla Ross, McKayla Maroney, Jordyn Wieber, Aly Raisman, and Gabby Douglas have all expressed interest in returning for the USA in 2016, but it won’t be easy to get there. The last USA gymnast to make back-to-back teams was Dominique Dawes in 1996 and 2000. It’s pretty simple most of the time if you are a gymnast: one and done. That’s what makes Wieber not qualifying for the individual final that much more sad. But let’s look at them each closely.

Raisman won’t be back. She’s the elder statesman of the group at 18, and at 22, she would be ancient for gymnastics standards. Weiber is the next oldest at 17, but I wouldn’t count her out. Is anyone going to be more motivated then her? She came into the games with the highest of expectations, and left London with one team medal. You have to figure she will be hungry to come back. I don’t see Douglas coming back either.  She did everyone she needed to do in London. What more does she have to prove? Her competitive fire will still burn, but I don’t think she will be back.

Now we move to the two youngest of the group: Maroney and Ross. I actually think they will try to and will come back, and here’s why. Both played a minor role in these games. Maroney was a vault specialist, and Ross was there as a role player. The only event she participated in was the balance beam in the team final. In four years, Ross will be ready to be the star, and she will only be one year older then Raisman was this year. Maroney will look to erase the memory of the silver medal that turned her into an internet sensation, while also looking to expand on her all around game. Don’t be shocked if we see two or maybe even three members of the “fab five” in Brazil.

Who are you looking forward to seeing in four years? Let us know in the comments!