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Athletes Rev Up for Start of the Beijing Games

Crowds cheered Thursday as the Olympic torch made its way through Beijing, heralding the official start of the games on Friday. Ray Suarez talks to Sports Illustrated writer Brian Cazeneuve about the athletes to watch.

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  • RAY SUAREZ:

    With the Olympics set to begin this weekend, all eyes will soon be on Beijing and the thousands of athletes descending on the city from all over the world.

    We take a look at some of those athletes with Brian Cazeneuve who previewed the games in the new issue of Sports Illustrated. He'll be covering the games in China for the magazine.

    And, Brian, it's a very large American team that will be marching into the stadium in Beijing. How are hopes, what are the expectations for the 2008 edition of the American team?

  • BRIAN CAZENEUVE, Sports Illustrated:

    Well, it's a very strong team in the larger sports, the traditional sports, such as track and field, swimming, and gymnastics.

    Obviously, there are very difficult challenges that they face over there, such as the fact that the host nation will be very competitive and will be trying to swipe the medal count from the United States. The U.S. usually wins the medal count.

    It's a goal — a stated goal of the Chinese to try to win it this time. There's a time difference. There's question about pollution, a lot of challenges for the U.S. team. But it will have a very strong showing this year in Beijing.

  • RAY SUAREZ:

    A lot of the attention seems to be focused on one Michael Phelps.

  • BRIAN CAZENEUVE:

    Absolutely. He won eight medals at the last Olympics in Athens, six of them gold. And he's actually a little stronger this time around than he was four years ago.

    His turns are better; his starts are better; he's more mature. And this time, he has a chance to win all eight. It's five individual events and three relays.

    There are enough potential pitfalls and good competitors out there who could trip him up, but it's not inconceivable that he could win all eight. And at the very least, he'll probably be the all-time leader in Olympic gold medals. He already has six. He should get at least four of them; that would put him in the lead with 10.

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