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9. Liu Xiang, Hurdler

Already a superstar in China after winning the country’s first track and field gold medal in Athens in 2004, Liu Xiang has more than 10 companies backing him, including Nike, Coca-Cola, GM's Cadillac, Visa and China Mobile.

He faced resentment and criticism when he failed to make it past the first round on his home turf of Beijing in 2008 due to an Achilles tendon injury. Liu suffered the same fate in London, again injuring himself on the first hurdle of the first round. But he picked himself up and, hopping on one foot, he finished the race, only stopping to kiss the last hurdle.

For Liu, the reaction at home has been remarkably different this time as he became the subject of sympathetic headlines. He may never see another Olympics, diminishing his marketability going forward, but his poignant farewell will ensure opportunities in his native land in the near future.

Photo: Adrian Dennis | AFP | Getty Images