TIME takes you on a world tour to introduce you to the most compelling athletes you’ll be seeing in the Beijing Games. Out of their 100 we picked the most spiritual ones. Here’s our Top 4:
# 1 LeBron James, U.S., Basketball
LeBron thinks of the Beijing Games: “It’s going to be like waking up on Christmas Day.” Oh and by the way: James has already had his political baptism by fire.
# 6 Allyson Felix, U.S., Sprints
She’s the ideal savior — young and telegenic, with a smile as wide as a hurdle. She’s participating in a pilot program, Project Believe, in which athletes undergo extensive blood and urine analyses that go beyond the World Anti-Doping Agency’s guidelines. If Felix is doping, you might just as well put down the starting guns for good.
# 7 Shawn Johnson, U.S., Gymnastics
She’s the Muse of the Mats, texting poems with lines like these:
“You remember the struggles and pain you had
When all the good had turned to bad
When behind the scenes you crumbled and prayed
For it all to simply just go away”
#11 Asafa Powell, Jamaica, Sprints
The son of pastors, he is one of the few among the many famous Jamaican sprinters who has not emigrated.