SARA KHOSHJAMAL, IRAN, TAEKWONDO
Weightlifter Hossein Rezazadeh, a 345-pound man-mountain nicknamed the “Iranian Hercules,” is the first athlete from his country to have won two gold medals, and a massive celebrity in his homeland. He was forced to drop out of the Games this past month due to injury, so his countrymen will have to content themselves rooting for, among others, Khoshjamal, Iran’s first female taekwondo qualifier. “In keeping with Iran’s conservative religious rules,” Time reports, she “trains and competes wearing a headscarf,” also noting that huge posters of her adorn the walls of Tehran and 120,000 girls there are emulating her strikes and kicks.
BUTCH JOHNSON, US, ARCHERY
Butch Johnson was a wide receiver with the Dallas Cowboys. But not this Butch Johnson. This Butch Johnson was raised in Webster, Massachusetts, and is the greatest archer to come out of Worcester County since, well, ever. He’s been around for a while. Johnson, 52, has been loosing volleys of arrows at speeds approaching 200 miles per hour for nearly 40 years. Beijing will mark his fifth consecutive Olympics, one of only three athletes on the US team making trip number five.
ANASTASIA DAVYDOVA, RUSSIA, SYNCHRONIZED SWIMMING
This was a toughie. Who to pick? Anastasia Davydova, or her long-time syncro partner Anastasia Ermakova? We went alphabetically, but either would’ve been worthy. What are the odds that two synchronized swimmers would have names that similar? Does their coach have trouble telling them apart? Think they’ve seen that old Harry Shearer/Martin Short SNL clip from the ’80s? (“I know you! I know you!”) Either way, I’m sure they’re thinking gold. “I mean,” as Christopher Guest once said, “who would wanna wear bronze, anyway?”
USAIN BOLT, JAMAICA, TRACK AND FIELD
Bolt, a 21 year old from Kingston, is not an underdog. This spring he ran 100 meters in 9.72 seconds, obliterating the world record, and establishing himself — for now, at least — as the world’s fastest man. He merits inclusion on this list simply on the merits of his utterly and uncannily apropos surname.