Michael Phelps. Missy Franklin. LeBron James. Allyson Felix. Venus and Serena Williams.

Michael Phelps. Missy Franklin. LeBron James. Allyson Felix. Venus and Serena Williams.

That's not a bad way to start an Olympic team.

Traditionally, however, Uncle Sam's team focuses on its strengths and lets its depth in those events build the medal count.

At the 2008 Beijing Olympics, Team USA won 31 of its 110 medals in swimming, 23 in track and field and 10 in gymnastics.

It's not a unique formula. Host China won more medals in diving (11) at the Beijing Games than in track and field and swimming combined.

The Chinese also piled up 24 of their 100 medals in the sports of badminton, table tennis and shooting.

Great Britain, meanwhile, won 12 medals in cycling. Germany, once a track and swimming powerhouse, won only four medals in those sports in 2008, but a combined 13 in canoe and equestrian.

Japan took seven medals in judo. South Korea earned a combined eight medals in judo and taekwondo.

Australia, as expected, won 20 of its 46 medals in the swimming pool.

Every Olympic nation plays to its strength.

In every Olympic Games, the U.S. team has pulled a golden surprise or two. In London, it may be Sarah Hammer on the cycling track or Kayla Harrison in judo.

But if you want to pan for U.S. gold in the Olympic telecasts, try to be watching when these events appear on the NBC dance card:



Gymnastics

Regrettably, the best U.S. men's gym team in 28 years (led by Danell Leyva and John Orozco) will likely be upstaged by a deep and experienced women's team.

Prediction: Team USA will win the women's team gold medal, and Jordyn Wieber will become the third American in a row to win the Olympic all-around gold medal after failing to win the U.S. Trials.

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Track and field

Faulty baton exchanges, a botched final hurdle and a Jamaican hurricane all conspired to dampen the U.S. team's performance in Beijing. But the United States still won 23 medals in 2008 in "athletics," as the rest of the civilized world calls it. The self-proclaimed "world's best track and field team" should again reap its medal haul.

Prediction: With a hype-boost from NBC, newly crowned world record holder Ashton Eaton's quest in the men's decathlon may become the U.S. highlight of the Games. In the women's sprints, Felix may get the attention but look for Carmelita Jeter to win the 100 and maybe even two more golds. Marquise Goodwin has a solid medals chance in the long jump.

And this time, expect the USA sprinters (Justin Gatlin, Tyson Gay) to not be chased off the track by Usain Bolt, Yohan Blake and Team Jamaica.

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Swimming

Admittedly, eight of the 31 U.S. medals in the pool in Beijing came from one man, the incomparable Phelps. He shouldn't be expected to repeat that, but depth abounds on the U.S. swim squad.

And who's the cover boy for Time's Olympic issue? Not Phelps, but teammate Ryan Lochte.

Prediction: Lochte will win more individual gold medals (three) than Phelps. Franklin, age 17, will earn gold in the 200-meter backstroke. Rebecca Soni will win both the 100 and 200 breaststroke. And Dana Vollmer will get her first Olympic gold medal in an individual event, the 100 butterfly.