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A glance at Stanford’s Olympic gold contenders

Thirty-seven Stanford students and alumni will be competing in the next couple of weeks in the London 2012 Olympic Games, leading to hopes of yet another large medal haul for the Cardinal. Here we present some of the potential highlights for Stanford fans, focusing on the teams and athletes most likely to be able to bring home gold based on past success:

Stanford defender Melissa Seidemann (above) redshirted her 2012 collegiate season to prepare for the Olympics. In addition to playing a major role in the Cardinal's defense set, she has scored at least 50 goals in all three seasons. Seidemann and the US women's water polo team will kick off their tournament on July 30 against Hungary. (IAN GARCIA-DOTY/The Stanford Daily)

Women’s rowing:

Elle Logan ‘10 won gold in the eights for Team USA at Beijing 2008 and finished second in the pairs in the first two rounds of the World Rowing Cup in 2012. She will compete in the eights again at London 2012, hoping to relive the success of four years ago.

The women’s eights competition starts on July 29.

Men’s swimming:

Markus Rogan ‘04 currently holds the world record in the 200-meter backstroke for the short course format (1:47.84) and won silver for Austria in both the 100 and 200 backstroke at Athens in 2004. He was originally set to retire in 2008 when he won gold at the World Championships in Manchester in the 200 backstroke, but changed his plans to pursue his medal hopes in the men’s 200 individual medley and 4×200 freestyle relay. Rogan will also have the honor of being Austria’s flag bearer in London.

The preliminary heats of the men’s 200 individual medley start on Aug. 1, and the 4×200 freestyle relay is slated to begin on July 31.

Women’s soccer:

Four former Cardinal players will play in the Olympic Games: goalkeeper Nicole Barnhart ‘04, defender Rachel Buehler ‘07, forward Kelley O’Hara ‘10 and defender/midfielder Ali Riley ‘10. Barnhart, Buehler and O’Hara are all on the No.1-ranked U.S. national team and will be favorites to win gold, as Team USA has won the last two Olympic titles and three out of the four ever played. Barnhart may have to sit on the sidelines for the majority of the time like she did in Beijing 2008, as fellow goalkeeper Hope Solo is the team’s regular starter at that position. Riley, meanwhile, will be playing for New Zealand, which, ranked No. 23 in the world, will be considered an outsider.

The women’s soccer tournament started yesterday, with New Zealand falling to Great Britain 1-0 in the opening game and the U.S. dismantling France 4-2. Both teams will next play on July 28, when New Zealand will face Brazil and the U.S. will face Colombia.

Women’s volleyball:

The U.S. national team is ranked No. 1 and sealed a hat trick of titles in the annual World Grand Prix at the beginning of this month. Middle blocker Foluke Akinradewo ‘09 and outsider hitter Logan Tom ‘03 should have a great chance of going one better than at Beijing 2008, where the U.S. won silver.

The women’s volleyball tournament starts July 28, when the U.S. will play against the Republic of Korea.

Women’s beach volleyball:

Kerri Walsh ‘00 is perhaps one of Stanford’s most famous current Olympians, having won the gold for Team USA at both Beijing 2008 and Athens 2004 with her teammate Misty May-Treanor. Currently ranked No. 3 in the world behind the leading Brazilian and Chinese teams,  Walsh’s quest for a third straight gold medal is far from guaranteed. But given their achievements so far, Walsh and May-Treanor will be tough for any duo to beat.

The beach volleyball tournament beings on July 28.

 Men’s and women’s water polo:

In the men’s competition, attackers Tony Azevedo ‘05 and Peter Varellas ‘06 and defenders Layne Beaubien ‘99 and Peter Hudnut ‘03 walked away with silver for the U.S. from Beijing 2008.

On the women’s side, the result was the same for attacker Brenda Villa ‘03, defender Jessica Steffens ‘10 and the rest of the U.S. team. Villa will be looking to add another medal to her collection, which already consists of a silver from Athens and a bronze from Sydney in 2000. This year the women are joined by junior center Annika Dries, junior defender Melissa Seidemann and freshman-to-be Maggie Steffens.

Both teams will be hoping to go one better in London, but it may be a tough task even to repeat the silver medals of four years ago against higher-ranked competition.

The men’s water polo tournament begins on July 29, when the U.S. will face Montenegro, and the women’s starts on July 30, with the U.S. opening its tournament campaign against Hungary.