More than 10,000 athletes from 200 countries will converge on London over the next few days to compete in the 2012 Summer Olympics.
There are so many athletes, in fact, many will pass through the Games almost unnoticed outside of their own friends and family. Others will grab an outsized chunk of publicity.
We know a few of those headliners already Jamaican sprinter Usain Bolt, American swimmers Michael Phelps and Ryan Lochte and U.S. women gymnasts Gabby Douglas and Jordyn Weiber.
But what about some athletes with North Carolina connections who have a shot at garnering some serious NBC facetime over the next three weeks? Here are five who have a chance.
Nick McCrory, diver
One of the best divers in America, McCrory grew up in Chapel Hill as the son of a mixed marriage his Dad went to Duke, his Mom to North Carolina.
McCrory ultimately chose to go to Duke, where he joined renowned coach Drew Johansen (who is also the U.S. Olympic teams head diving coach this year).
At age 20, the first-time Olympian has made the Olympic team in two events the 10-meter platform individual event and in synchronized diving off the same platform. McCrory took the year off from Duke this year to train solely for these Games, but still practiced on campus and will return to school in the fall.
Because diving is such a visual sport, McCrory is sure to be on TV a lot. His best bet at a medal is in synchro (the final is July 30), where he and partner David Boudia are a strong pairing.
The Chinese traditionally field the worlds best divers and will be heavily favored in both events. But if McCrory does well, he could make a mark on these Games.
Jesse Williams, high jumper
Williams was a star athlete at Raleigh Broughton, not only in track but as a wrestler. He was the 2011 world high-jumping champion but nearly missed the 2012 U.S. Olympic team. Williams finished fourth at the U.S. Olympic Trials but qualified anyway when one of the jumpers in front of him didnt meet the Olympic qualifying standard (which Williams had cleared in an earlier meet).
Williams, 28, is now a two-time Olympian but didnt jump well at 2008 in Beijing, missing the final. For him to move the publicity needle in London, he will likely need a gold medal in the Aug.7 high-jump final. But Williams has already shown that he is capable of such a leap.
Dremiel Byers, wrestler
At 37, Byers is one of the oldest athletes on the U.S. team. A Kings Mountain product who won a North Carolina state wrestling championship way back in 1993, Byers made the Olympics for the first time in 2008. But then he finished seventh in the 264.5-pound weight class in Greco-Roman wrestling (the kind where combatants cant grab each others legs).
A Sgt. 1st Class in the U.S. Army, Byers now lives in Colorado Springs. Hes a good interview, but what he needs to make himself a great story is to pull a gold-medal upset on Aug.6, much like his friend Rulon Gardner did in the same weight class in the 2000 Olympics.
Shalane Flanagan, marathoner
Flanagan, one of the best runners ever in the ACC, won an Olympic bronze medal in 2008 in the 10K despite being weak from a case of food poisoning. She has been extremely good at every distance she has run from 3,000 meters and up.
Now the North Carolina graduate and three-time Olympian has moved all the way up to the marathon. She was literally born to run her mother, Cheryl Treworgy, held the world record in the 1970s at that 26.2-mile distance.
Although Flanagan won the U.S. Olympic Trials, she is an inexperienced marathoner and wont be favored over the Ethiopians and Kenyans expected to dominate the Aug.5 event. But the marathon is such a quintessential Olympic sport that if Flanagan did win a medal of any color, it would be well publicized.
Cullen Jones, swimmer
Of the athletes on this list, only Jones already has an Olympic gold medal to his credit. He won it in his lone race the 4x100 relay in 2008.
This time Jones will have far more to do. The former N.C. State standout and current Charlotte resident since 2008 qualified for two individual races the 50- and 100-meter freestyle. He also will still swim that same relay.
Jones is gregarious, African-American and committed to a cause he does lots of work for the Make a Splash organization to try to get more minority kids in the pool. Already somewhat high-profile (he has been the subject of a long HBO feature), multiple medals in these Olympics would increase Jones visibility dramatically.