Three Kenyan immigrants-turned-U.S. Army soldiers slog it out in the races of their lives, while a Navy officer digs deep to prove his mettle on the rowing crew.
Two pole vaulters — one in the Army, the other in the Air Force — face off in a high-flying interservice shootout for the top of the medals podium.
- Meet Team USA's military troops and veterans going to the Rio Olympics
- Q&A with David Higgins, new military shooter on the 2016 roster of Military Olympians
- 2016 Military Olympians photo gallery
Representing the 555-strong Team USA will be 17 U.S. military athletes including 15 active troops, one veteran and a civilian employee of the Navy — as well as three alternates and five coaches.
They'll be among more than 10,000 athletes from 207 nations competing across 28 sports and 306 events in the first-ever Olympic Games hosted in South America.
And because they're in the Southern Hemisphere, this will also mark the first Summer Games held entirely during the host country's winter — not that cold weather is expected to be a problem in a country known for its year-round balmy tropical beaches.
Army Sgt. 1st Class Keith Sanderson of the U.S. Army World Class Athlete Program, seen here practicing at the U.S. Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs, Colo., is on his way to his third Olympic Games competing in the men's rapid fire pistol event.
Photo Credit: Tim Hipps/U.S. Army
Staying on target
No surprise, perhaps, shooting remains among the top Olympic events for military athletes.
But this year, a recent Air Force Academy graduate, who just cross-commissioned into the Marine Corps, will join the pack of six current and former Army shooters looking to zero in on podium-notching wins at the Games.
Marine 2nd Lt. David Higgins hasn't even had time to go to basic officer training since graduating in May as he prepares to compete in the prone rifle event.
This dark horse medal contender beat out three-time Olympic medalist Matt Emmons in a made-for-the-movies, come-from-behind win, shooting a personal best in the final round of competition at the qualifiers to earn his berth to Rio.
A Marine for eight years before joining the Army Reserve, Sanderson still serves as a chief marksmanship instructor for Marines stationed in Hawaii as a civilian when he's not on active duty training for the Olympics.
Meanwhile, skeet shooter and Army veteran Vincent Hancock is aiming for his third Olympic champion title in his third consecutive Summer Games.
Shooting events begin Aug. 6, with the last of the finals wrapping up Aug. 14.
Track & and field favorites
"They're soft-spoken guys, but also total warriors," says their U.S. Army World Class Athlete Program coach Maj. Dan Browne, a two-time Olympic distance-running veteran himself.
"It's amazing how much they've accomplished to get to this place in their careers," adds Browne, who travels with them to Rio.
Yet he did, notching a 4 hours, 3 minutes finish, averaging a 7:49-minute mile for more than 31 miles.
And then there's the interservice battle between Air Force 1st Lt. Cale Simmons and Army 2nd Lt. Sam Kendricks in the pole vault event.
Track and field events run Aug. 12-21.
Spc. Nathan Schrimsher of the U.S. Army World Class Athlete Program earned a berth in the 2016 Olympic Games with a third-place finish in the men's Modern pentathlon event at the 2015 Pan American Games in Toronto.
Photo Credit: Tim Hipps/Army
Following in footsteps
"It was the camaraderie of the team that was truly captivating for me," he recently told Navy Sports, the official website for Naval Academy athletics. "The atmosphere in the boathouse established by the varsity [team] was a competitive brotherhood where respect was earned, never given. We were expected to maintain discipline, and a quiet work ethic was valued above all else. It was quite an amazing experience to completely and utterly exhaust yourself side-by-side with your brothers ... for your brothers."
Also on Team Guam is 1999 Naval Academy graduate Peter Lombard, who will compete in the mountain bike event.
Waiting in the wings
- Army Staff Sgt. Dennis Bowsher, a 2012 Olympic athlete, will coach the modern pentathlon team.
- Army Cpt. Capt. Andrew Locke, Two two-time rugby All-American at the U.S. Military Academy, and four-time combat veteran with the 75th Ranger Regiment, Locke is the assistant coach for the women’s rugby team.
- Longtime Naval Academy coach Bruce Burnett is the head coach for the men’s freestyle wrestling team.
All in the family
Military family members are representing at the Rio Games as well.
- Gymnast Gabby Douglas, who brought home two gold medals from the London Games, is the daughter of an Air National Guard non-commissioned officer and Afghanistan veteran. She’ll be competing again competes again this year on the artistic gymnastics squad.
- Sailing team competitor Pedro Pascual Suitt credits his grandfather, retired Navy engineman Ira Suitt, for helping instill a love of the sea. Suitt will compete in the wind surfing event.
- Marine Corps 1st Sgt. Verice Bennett, who received the Silver Star after a 2011 tour of duty in Afghanistan, will be cheering for his half-brother, decathlon star and London Games gold medalist Ashton Eaton.
How to watch
NBC's primetime coverage, anchored by Bob Costas, will run most days from 8 p.m. to midnight Eastern/Pacific, with additional daytime coverage hosted by Al Michaels, and late-night programming with Ryan Seacrest.
Meanwhile, NBC Sports Network will air nearly full-day coverage beginning August Aug. 3, two days before the opening ceremony, starting with women's soccer prelims and running through closing ceremonies.
If you want to catch every second of the action in a particular sport, for the first time this year NBCOlympics.com and the NBC Sports app will also live-stream all Olympic competition for authenticated pay TV subscribers to desktops, mobile devices, and tablets, plus connected TVs.
The networks says it's also planning new 4K Ultra HD and immersive 360-degree virtual reality programing.