Team USA enters the Olympic year with a full stable of established stars, as well as an impressive array of young, up-and-coming athletes who made breakthroughs in 2003.
Past Olympic gold medalists such as hurdler Allen Johnson , sprinter Maurice Greene , hurdler/sprinter Gail Devers, and pole-vaulters Stacy Dragila and Nick Hysong are on track once again, seeking to add more medals to their collections.
Triple gold medalist Marion Jones returns to competition after spending 2003 on maternity leave, and her competitive fires are burning as brightly as ever, while Tim Montgomery l ooks to take the Olympic stage for the first time since breaking the 100m world record in 2002.
Athletes who came into their own in 2003 are poised to take the next step in their impressive careers. Tom Pappas , the 2003 decathlon world champion, is the favorite to win gold in a classic Olympic event. Like Pappas, Dwight Phillips won both indoor and outdoor world titles in 2003 in the long jump. The event is resurgent for Team USA as Miguel Pate returns to health after suffering a knee injury, and 2002's No. 1-ranked jumper, Savante Stringfellow , also returns to form after winning the 2004 world indoor title.
John Capel won the 2000 Olympic Trials in the 200 meters and is back better than ever after returning to competition in 2003 and winning the world title. Tyree Washington was the world indoor gold medalist and world outdoor silver medalist in the 400 meters after more than a year off, and he finished the year ranked No. 1 in the world.
With so much world-beating talent to build on, it is some of Team USA's youngest stars who are offering even more exciting possibilities. Justin Gatlin , the 2003 World Indoor Championships 60-meter gold medalist, was hobbled by a hamstring injury outdoors last season, but his goals for the Olympic year are clear: gold medals, and more than one. Teen-agers Allyson Felix and Sanya Richards are tops among the female teens. The 18-year-old Felix is the youngest professional on the circuit and is coming off a year that saw her break American junior records held by Marion Jones, while 19-year-old Richards anchored Team USA to victory over Russia in the 4x400m relay at the 2003 world championships.
A host of other medalists, including Olympic and World Championships silver medalist Adam Nelson ; three-time world shot put champion John Godina; world indoor 800m champion David Krummenacker ; triple world championships medalist Torri Edwards , and two-time world cross country silver medalist Deena Drossin further bolster U.S. fortunes.