Italy's Stefano Baldini, the gold medalist at Athens, has called Hall the future of the marathon. Given that the U.S. hasn't produced a marathon gold since Frank Shorter in 1972, that's high praise. Hall has stomped onto the scene, running the fastest debut marathon for an U.S.-born runner, and becoming the first American to run a half-marathon under an hour. At the U.S. trials, he blew away the field. He'll arrive in China with a heavy heart: his friend and former training partner, Ryan Shay, died of cardiac arrest during the trials. Hall has said he will try to honor his pal in Beijing: it would be a very sweet salute from the medal stand.