Usain Bolt is one of a clutch of athletes from around the world being tracked by the BBC as they prepare for the 2012 London Olympics. What milestones have they passed in 2011? Numerous wins at a blistering pace are not what Usain Bolt will remember 2011 for. Disqualification from the 100m final of the World Championships for false-starting will rank higher. The Jamaican did however defend his 200m world title and set a new world record with the 4x100m relay team. He ended the season with his fastest 100m time of the year – 9.76 seconds in Brussels.
El Masri proved himself as a marathon man when he won the first ever Gaza marathon. The Palestinian has a personal best of 14 minutes 21 seconds in the 5,000m - some way short of the 13 minutes 27 seconds qualification time for the Olympics. El Masri has been told he won't receive a wild card for London 2012.
Alistair was crowned world champion back in September, adding to the world title he secured in 2009. It rounded off a spectacular year in which the Yorkshireman retained his European Championship title in Spain and secured his London 2012 berth by winning the Hyde Park triathlon.
Haider Rashid told Matthew Pinsent at the World Rowing Championships in Slovenia that his target for 2011 was to qualify for the London Olympics. Rashid finished 27th out of 34 competitors in the men’s single scull event on that occasion but he still has another chance to qualify - at the Asian qualifying regatta in April 2012.
It was a year in which Olga conquered Europe but stopped just short of ruling the world. The sabre specialist became European champion in Sheffield but could only manage bronze at the World Championships in Italy. On a personal level, she has enough winnings to build her own house so she can move out of her parents' one-bedroom apartment.
The Frenchman normally dominates the world of cross-country mountain biking but in 2011 Julien could only manage silver at the European Championships and bronze at the World Championships. He was however crowned French champion for the ninth time and he won the London 2012 Olympic Test event at Hadleigh Farm in Essex.
Qualification for London 2012 was assured in October when Majlinda bagged three gold medals in as many weeks. Her success has lifted her to third in the judo world rankings in the under 52 kg division. In 2012 Majlinda hopes to become the first athlete to represent Kosovo at the Olympics - a difficult proposition given the country is not formally recognised by the IOC.
At a Diamond League race in May, Jehue ran a time of 49.09 seconds, a time fast enough to guarantee a place at the London Olympics. Heartbreak followed as he failed to qualify for the final of the 400m hurdles at the World Championships by just one hundredth of a second. A week and a half later he set a personal best time of 48.66 seconds - the 13th fastest of the year.
Linet kicked off the year by winning the Great Winter Run in Edinburgh. She finished eight seconds ahead of compatriot Vivian Cheruiyot who took her revenge at the World Cross Country Championships - for the third year in a row, Linet came second. She did manage to defend her New York 10k title but at the World Championships in Korea she lost out to… you guessed it, Vivian Cheruiyot who took Linet’s 10,000m title.
Luol Deng will appear at London 2012 after Fiba, the governing body for world basketball, gave Team GB the green light to compete. And after being named International Player of the Year by Britain’s Basketball Journalists Association, Luol Deng was Team GB’s star performer at September’s EuroBasket tournament. Away from sport, Luol also visited his native South Sudan for the first time since he fled as a child due to civil war.
The diminutive pugilist from Manipur has been forced to balance training with the serious illness of one of her two children. As her son was due to undergo heart surgery, Mary Kom clinched the Asian Cup before winning her eighth Indian title in 12 years. In November she attended an Olympic test event and added her voice to a controversy about female fighters being forced to wear skirts, saying: "The tennis players wear skirts and the badminton players are wearing skirts so why don't the boxers wear skirts?"
Merlin Diamond's 2011 has been far from sparkling. At the beginning of the year she flew to the UK for the first time to visit the Olympic Park in east London. She then left all her family and friends to attend a high performance training camp on the island of Mauritius. Although she was lucky to have been sponsored by the IOC, the facilities were poor and she fell into a lonely depression. Arriving back in Namibia, she was overweight and struggling to run anywhere near fast enough to qualify for London 2012.
Afghanistan’s only Olympic medallist is all set for another crack at sport’s premier competition in 2012. Rohullah earned Afghanistan a place at the London Games by taking bronze in the under 68 kg classification at the Asian Olympic qualifying event in Bangkok. This followed a bronze medal won in May at the World Taekwondo Championships in South Korea.
After injuring her knee in a skiing accident in 2010, Shawn Johnson fought her way back into the US gymnastic team in 2011. Unfortunately, she wasn’t selected for the World Gymnastics Championships in Tokyo. Instead, she won two medals at the Pan American Games. Nike showed its faith in the gymnast by offering Shawn a sponsorship deal and she now has until June to prepare for the US Olympic team trials in San Jose.
Wu Minxia and her diving partner He Zi clinched a quartet of World Series wins before going on to seal qualification for the London Olympics. Everything they dived from turned to gold as they conquered the World Championships in Shanghai for the first time as a pair. However, it was gold at the Chinese Diving Championships in September which secured their place at the London Games. Since 'diving queen' Guo Jingjing retired, Wu has become the focus of Chinese diving and Fina, swimming's organising body, named her female diver of the year.