In the Olympics, as in the world, the dominant forces are the U.S. and the Soviet Union. One or the other will "win" the Olympics—that is, capture the most medals, raise its national flag the most times, hear to the point of embarrassment the repeated playing of its national anthem. Germany—which fields two teams this time, one East and one West—will be close behind, and other traditionally strong nations will follow along. But the Olympics are changing. More and more, the so-called lesser countries are moving into the Olympic spotlight, and others are making an impact in events that historically have not been their province. Imagine a Colombian threatening the European monopoly on cycling medals, or an Italian vaulting nearly 17 feet, or a Yugoslavian basketball team seriously challenging the U.S. Here is a Finn with a world record in weight lifting. Finns run, they don't lift weights; no Finn has ever won so much as a bronze in Olympic lifting. But there he is. The times are changing. The athletes shown on these pages are not sure-pop medal winners—no one is at an Olympics—but they are coming on. They matter. Watch for them.
Mexican army Sergeant José Pedraza Zu√±iga, 31, standing near the Pyramid of the Sun outside Mexico City, is a threat in the 20- and 50-kilometer walks if his unusual stride does not disqualify him.
Maria del Pilar Roldan of Mexico, daughter of a fine fencer and mother of two sons, seventh at Rome in 1960, was the only non-European in top eight at either Rome or Tokyo.
Interrupting a pickup soccer game in the Slovenian Alps, Yugoslavia's basketball team, which upset U.S. Olympians this summer, shows muscle it will need to win in Mexico.
Irish Flyweight Brendan McCarthy, posing before monument with the 1916 proclamation of independence, has lost only two bouts in last two years.
Sporting pearl earrings as she trains, sturdy world record holder Vera Nikolic, 19, is the favorite to win 800-meter gold medal for Yugoslavia.
Seventh at Tokyo, Finnish Weight Lifter Kaarlo Kangasniemi, holding daughter Leena and son Ari, set middle-heavyweight world record in August.
New Zealand has never placed in the Olympic eights but has high hopes for a surprise gold medal with this crew, working out on the Avon River in Christchurch.
Bearded, 20-year-old Renato Dionisi, a member of Italy's Carabinieri, started pole-vaulting in his father's vineyard and now, at 16' 10¾", is one of best in world.
Nigeria is counting on Light Heavyweight Boxer Fatai Ayinla, All-Africa silver medalist, and Sprinter Ronke Akindele, fastest woman runner on the continent.
Before his shoulder was injured, Roar Loeken seemed certain to win Norway's first medal in diving. Now there is serious doubt, but Roar will be trying anyway.
Rapidly improving Keisuke Sawaki of Japan moved to the top flight of world distance runners this year with excellent times at both 5,000 and 10,000 meters.
Colombian Cyclist Martin (Cochise) Rodriquez, enormously popular four-time winner of the Tour of Colombia, will go for medals in the pursuit races.
Guillermo Echeverría set world mark in 1,500-meter freestyle earlier this year, seems certain to be first Olympic swimming medalist in Mexico's history.