10 Olympian All-Stars: Ryan Lochte, Abby Wambach & More (Photos)

These folks came to win. From swimmer Ryan Lochte to soccer star Abby Wambach, see photos of a dozen athletes who are early favorites as they head to London.

There will be plenty of surprising, jaw-dropping moments at the London Summer Olympics, and a good chunk of them are sure to be provided by established athletes who are mainstays in their sports. While we all love cheering for the underdogs, there’s a certain beauty in watching brilliance in action (read: Michael Phelps, Beijing). From Phelps to Nastia Liukin and Usain Bolt, here are 12 athletes that are sure to make this round of the games as electrifying as ever.

Bob Leverone / AP Photo

Michael Phelps, United States

Sport: Swimming
2008 Shining Moments: Eight (eight!) Olympic golds

What isn’t there to say about Phelps? The “Flying Fish” soared to a record eight Olympic gold medals in Beijing after nabbing six in Athens in 2004. London will likely be his last Olympic showing, as he’s now reached the ripe old (at least for the swimming world) age of 27. At the 2011 world championships, Phelps won four golds and was nudged out of the top spot of the 200-meter individual medley by fellow American Ryan Lochte.

Ted S. Warren / AP Photo

Liu Xiang, China

Sport: Track and field
2008 Shining Moment: Sadly, none

The Chinese hurdling star was devastated in 2008 when he had to pull out of the starting blocks with an injury. He had won gold in 2004 in the 110-meter hurdles and looked to be a strong contender to repeat, but recurring inflammation in his right Achilles tendon did not allow him to compete, leaving Beijing National Stadium stunned. But the soon-to-be-29-year-old won the world championships earlier this year with a world-record time of 12.87 seconds, setting him up for another shot at gold in London.

Gregorio Borgia / AP Photo

Roger Federer, Switzerland

Sport: Tennis
2008 Shining Moment: Doubles gold medal

Federer, who will turn 31 by the end of the Games, has told the tennis media he will play through the Olympics and then ... well, he’ll see. But the man who has been christened as the sport’s Greatest of All Time fell short in Beijing, losing in the quarterfinals to then-world No. 8 James Blake. The grasses at the All England Club—where Wimbledon is held—should help Fed reach for the elusive gold: he’s won six titles there in the last nine years.

Michael Probst / AP Photo

Yelena Isinbayeva, Russia

Sport: Track and field
2008 Shining Moment: Pole-vault gold

She’s widely considered the best female pole vaulter in her sport’s history and in London will be going for three in a row after winning gold in both Athens and Beijing. Isinbayeva is famous for getting the crowd riled up before her vaults, for which she has held the world record since overtaking American Stacy Dragila in 2003.

Lynne Sladky / AP Photo

LeBron James, United States

Sport: Basketball

2008 Shining Moment: Olympic gold!
After a disastrous effort from Team U.S.A. in Athens, James helped lead the Americans to gold in Beijing in 2008. Fresh off his Miami Heat’s NBA championship—his long-awaited professional first—James looks to lead a U.S. team led by legendary Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski.

Bob Leverone / AP Photo

Ryan Lochte, United States

Sport: Swimming
2008 Shining Moment: Six medals

Lochte has long been known as Michael Phelps’s wingman, though that could change in London this summer. The New York native won five golds at the 2011 world championships, including in the 200-meter freestyle, where—gasp—he even beat Phelps. “Once I was able to beat Michael, it gave me motivation,” Lochte said. “Once I beat someone, they won’t beat me again.”

Ronald Zak / AP Photo

Paula Radcliffe, United Kingdom

Sport: Marathon
2008 Shining Moment: There wasn’t one

She flamed out in Beijing, sputtering to a 23rd-place finish. But since then, Radcliffe, the veteran marathoner beloved by running fans around the world, has mounted a serious comeback, winning the New York City Marathon that fall and again in 2009. After giving birth to her second child in 2010, she finished third at the 2011 Berlin Marathon. But an Olympic medal in front of a home crowd for the 38-year-old would be of epic proportions.

Sang Tan / AP Photo

Usain Bolt, Jamaica

Sport: Track and field

2008 Shining Moment: World’s fastest man!

Usain Bolt lit the track-and-field world on fire in 2008 with a lightning-fast sprint, helping the sport recover from years of doping headlines. He won gold in the 100- and 200-meter dashes while also anchoring the winning 4x100-meter relay team. Bolt has hardly slowed down since, winning at least one gold at each world championships since Beijing. Though he false-started in the 100 meters at the world championships in 2011, he claimed the premier Diamond League title in June 2012, winning with his famous “To di world” pose—a position he will surely strike again should he win in London.

Misha Japaridze / AP Photo

Kerri Walsh Jennings, United States

Sport: Beach volleyball

2008 Shining Moment: Sand-soaked gold

She and partner Misty May-Treanor have been called “the greatest beach volleyball team of all time.” The pair won gold in both Athens and Beijing, having teamed up on the beach since the year 2000. Their Beijing win was especially sweet, not losing a set and beating the No. 1–ranked Chinese team in the final. With a combined age of 71, the pair is now ranked third internationally and garnered silver at Rome in 2011.

Armando Franca / AP Photo

Abby Wambach, United States

Sport: Soccer

2008 Shining Moment: Didn’t play

Wambach was the star of the U.S. team before she broke her left leg prior to the Beijing Olympics, putting her on the sidelines. Her team would win gold without her, however. Wambach rocketed to international fame last year when she led a spirited American run to the finals of the Women’s World Cup, where the team lost to Japan in a shootout final. Wambach scored four goals in the Cup, all on headers.