Rio Olympics: Top U.S. star athletes competing in 2016 games

Let the patriotism begin.

Let the patriotism begin.

The Olympics are back, four years after the United States led the 2012 Games in London in both the gold and overall medal counts.

This time, the athletic showcase descends upon Rio de Janeiro, where the Brazilians are one hour ahead of New York. Although these Games’ myriad issues are well-documented (Zika virus fears, reports of polluted water and air), the talented contingent of U.S. athletes set to represent their nation has what it takes to overshadow off-the-field drama.

Among the Americans competing after Friday’s opening ceremony through the final day on Aug. 21 are several stars who will chase history in Rio. Here’s a look at a few of the most prominent U.S. athletes.

Michael Phelps

This name may ring a bell. Phelps has twice as many gold medals (18) than the next-closest in history, and will look to increase his all-time lead in overall medals (22). Competing in his fifth Olympics, he’s expected to swim in the 100- and 200-meter butterfly, the 200-meter individual medley and the 4×100-meter freestyle relay.

Serena Williams

The superstar enters Rio in a tie with sister and doubles partner Venus with four gold medals apiece, the most in Olympic tennis history. As the favorite in both singles and doubles, it would be a shock if she settled for anything less than first in either event.

Katie Ledecky

Ledecky isn’t as decorated as the others on this list, but at 19 she already has earned Olympic gold — she won the 800-meter freestyle in London as a 15-year-old. She’s favored to win the 200-, 400-, 800- and 4×200-meter freestyle relay. With age on her side, she may one day surpass Jenny Thompson’s eight swimming golds.

Carmelo Anthony

With Team USA once again favored to win gold, Melo is on the cusp of individual history. The Knicks star surely will become the first American to earn four medals in men’s basketball, and could be the first man in history to earn three gold medals in hoops.

Allyson Felix

The track star from California has medaled in each of the last three Olympics and brought home three golds from London in 2012. She’s scheduled to run the 200-, 400- and 4×400-meter relay this month. With one more gold or two more overall medals, Felix will become her sport’s all-time leader among women in either respective category.

Kerri Walsh Jennings

The beach volleyball star won gold three of the first five times the event has been part of the Olympics. Now pairing with April Ross, she’s poised to break a tie with longtime teammate Misty May-Treanor for most golds in the sport. Walsh Jennings and Ross are favored to win, so there’s a good chance she gets there.

Scott Fontana