SANTA CLARA Usain Bolt? He's pretty good. And Michael Phelps and Gabby Douglas aren't bad, either.
But the Olympic favorite among the 49ers is a bit more low profile: T'erea Brown, one of three Americans racing in the final of the 400-meter hurdles today.
Brown, 22, is the longtime girlfriend of 49ers safety Cory Nelms, who ran track alongside her at the University of Miami. As Brown has advanced from the Olympic Trials to London, and from quarterfinals to semifinals to today's medal race, the close-knit group of 49ers defenders has been watching as if she's a little sister.
"I've been with him and his girlfriend through the whole process," said cornerback Chris Culliver, Nelms' roommate. "I just keep hoping for her to keep going forward and to keep pushing. And she's doing a really good job."
Said defensive backs coach Ed Donatell: "So many people around the team are so happy for him and his loved ones. Guys care about each other, and we share it. When she wins, the Niners win. We're part of that."
Donatell surprised Nelms on Monday with a rare offer during the dog days of training camp. He told Nelms, who is in his second season, he could take a 20-minute break in the middle of practice to watch Brown run in her semifinal heat.
Brown finished third in the first of three heats. But because it was a personal best for her 54.21 seconds Nelms had a good feeling she'd advance to the final.
When he ran back onto the practice field, his teammates searched his face for the news. "He definitely was happy," Culliver said. "He came back out smiling. I knew that she must have done well."
Football-track relationships aren't all that unique.
Jacksonville cornerback Aaron Ross, for instance, was in London on Sunday to watch his wife, Sanya Richards-Ross, come from behind to win the gold medal in the 400 meters.
Back in Florida, Jaguars coach Mike Mularkey ended practice early that day so the players as well as 1,200 fans could watch the event inside the team's stadium.
Tameka Jameson, who ran track with Brown and Nelms at Miami, is dating Arizona wide receiver LaRon Byrd, who also played football for the Hurricanes.
Jameson said the athletes have similar schedules, have the same sort of intensity and can relate to one another. She also said it doesn't hurt that football and track facilities at Miami are next to each other.
"We don't have a choice sometimes but to cross paths," she said.
Nelms said his relationship with Brown began with a Facebook greeting before she arrived as a freshman in 2007. The following February, they began talking one day, "and it just went from there," he said.
Nelms, a walk-on defensive back for the Hurricanes, said Brown is driven and determined and that she's helped him pursue his goal of sticking in the NFL. Jameson described it as a "tough-love" relationship.
"She definitely reminds me that I have to keep working hard and do what I do," Nelms said. "She reminds me of who I am every day that I'm a person that comes in and works hard and doesn't take no for an answer. I think it definitely helped me a lot in college and in growing up. She helps me really attack my career."
As a rookie last year, Nelms won the 49ers' Thomas Herrion award for his work ethic and for his selfless nature as a member of the practice squad.
"This guy gives a lot to this team," Donatell said. "Whatever they ask him to do, he does it. There's been times when there's been late changes and they say, 'We need you to be a receiver today.' He doesn't blink. Those are (Jim) Harbaugh's kind of guys, the guys he wants around the team. So we'll see how it plays out."
The question for now, though, is whether Nelms will get another 20 minutes to watch his girlfriend run for a medal. Her race is scheduled to begin at 12:45 p.m. PDT.
"If she's running for the gold, well, he's got to see that," Donatell said. "If there's a conflict with meetings, you've got to approve it with coach Harbaugh. But I'm sure he'll get that shot."