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Beijing bound

10 athletes to watch for at the 2008 Olympics in Beijing:

August 08, 2007|Diane Pucin

* KOSUKE KITAJIMA, Japan, swimming -- Kitajima, 24, won two gold medals at the 2004 Olympics, in the 100- and 200-meter breaststrokes, and is the world leader this year in the 200. His controversial style has prompted protests, but he has never been disqualified from a major meet.

* OUSSAMA MELLOULI, Tunisia, swimming -- Mellouli, 23, is ranked first in the world in men's 800 meters and fifth in the 400 individual medley. He swam four years for USC.

* PAOLA ESPINOSA, Mexico, platform diving -- Espinosa won the gold medal in the 10-meter event at the Pan American Games last month. She also won a silver medal in synchronized diving.

* LIN YUE , China, men's platform synchronized diving -- Lin, 16, and Huo Liang, 18, have dominated the event over the last two years. Lin is also a medal contender in the men's platform.

* SHAWN JOHNSON, Des Moines, gymnastics -- While her U.S. teammate, Nastia Liukin, has become better known over the last two years, Johnson, 15, has already stamped herself as an all-around gold medal candidate by winning that event at the Pan Am Games.

* MESERET DEFAR, Ethiopia, distance running -- She set the world record this summer in the 5,000 meters and also set a two-mile world record at the Adidas Track Classic in Carson. Defar and her husband recently adopted a 6-year-old Ethiopian girl.

* XIANG LIU, China, track and field -- The Olympic gold medalist in the 110 hurdles at the Athens Games, he tied the world record of 12.91 two years ago and his 12.93 is fastest in the world this season.

* SANYA RICHARDS, Austin, Texas, track and field -- Born in Jamaica but now a U.S. citizen, Richards, 22, is ranked first in the world in the 400 meters and second in the 200.

* MARTA SILVA, Brazil, women's soccer -- Already world player of the year at age 21, Marta leads a rapidly improving Brazilian team and is called "Pele with a skirt."

* ALEXANDER ARTEMEV, Lakewood, Colo., gymnastics -- The 21-year-old son of Russian gymnasts grew up in Colorado and became the U.S. all-around champion last year.

-- Diane Pucin

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