Every four years the world gathers around to watch some of the world's finest athletes compete in the Summer Olympics.
It tunes in to see incredible athletic achievements, but also to possibly witness something that transcends sports. The Olympics, to many, is as much about the background stories as it is about the actual competition.
It's why the world became some engrossed as swimming phenom Michael Phelps shattered Olympics records on his way to eight gold medals. Or the amount of pride Americans had when sprinter Jesse Owens overcame blatant racism when he won four gold medals in front of Nazi dictator Adolf Hitler. It even explains why the passing of the Olympic Torch -- an indelible symbol of glory and achievement -- becomes a must-watch event for viewers of all shapes, sizes, and backgrounds.
But then we forget -- we move on. After investing more than a rooting interest in the Olympics, we move on to the start of the NFL season or some other distraction and forget all about those athletes that dazzled us in the summer.
Even though we may not be paying a lot of attention, athletes aren't able to just fast forward their lives every four years to the next Olympics. They constantly train, while battling injuries, outside of the limelight for another chance at glory at the Olympics.
That chance is finally upon them with less than 100 days until the start of the 2012 Olympics in London. One of the biggest driving factors for athletes heading into the London Games is the shot at redemption.
For U.S. sprinter Sanya Richards-Ross that means getting a chance to build off her 2008 results, which included a gold and bronze medal.
In London I hope to have my best performance of the year, Richards-Ross said. I've been living that in my mind over and over again the last four years. You do wait for this moment and you do hope it goes perfectly.
I think win or lose it's a great experience, but hopefully this time I'll win.
That bronze medal weighs heavily in her mind as a source of motivation heading into the Olympics. She was considered by many to be the favorite to win gold in the 400-meter race -- she was the fastest qualifier -- but struggled down the stretch before losing to Christine Ohuruogu and Shericka Williams.
She still has to qualify for the U.S. Track & Field team during qualifying trials in June, but feels confident that she's well-prepared this time around.
I haven't changed up a lot of my training, Richards-Ross said about her routine since 2008. I know I have the right coach and support system for me; it has just been about increasing my intensity in the workouts. I've taken my training to a whole new level and I feel like I'm going to be uber prepared for London.
A shot at redemption is something that women's soccer captain Christie Rampone understands well. Rampone, a four-time Olympian, was a part of a devastating loss to Japan in the 2011 World Cup and uses it as a source of motivation for the upcoming Summer games.
The feeling coming off that loss to drive us to the Olympics and through the Olympics, Rampone said. Going to the Olympics within itself draws that adrenaline, that competitor in everybody. I think for the younger players the World Cup was a great platform for experience for them and now it's almost game time.
Rampone, 36, is the most capped active player in the world and the elder stateswoman for the popular women's soccer team.
Rampone's presence in the public eye is needed now that the Women's Professional Soccer league decided to suspend the entire 2012 season.
The WPS league right now is suspended and we are hoping maybe a great experience in the Olympics and great exposure will help bring the league back, she said. It was a great product on the field and it allows girls who aren't excelling on the college level to maybe make it onto an Olympics roster.
It's difficult imagining a LeBron James or Derek Jeter having to do the same for their sports, but such is the case for women's sports in the U.S. Sports promotion is added pressure for female athletes as their respective sports can border on irrelevancy in their home nations with a poor showing on national television. Rampone said she not only feels obligated to promote women's soccer, but also to push for all other female athletes.
Even with the additional pressure of promoting her sport, Rampone is still zeroed in on winning gold in London. The U.S. has won gold in the last two Olympics and the expectations to extend the streak remain very prevalent.
As long as we stay fit, stay healthy, stay on task and the team is still working together on that common goal of winning a gold medal, it will be about not letting the pressure get to us, she said, It's really about timing and making sure we are peaking at the right time and not letting the pressure of the Olympics get to you.
Note: These interviews were conducted at Citi's Every Step of the Way event in New York City. Read about the event and Citi's initiative here.