Tokyo Olympics 101: what you’ve been missing since Rio
The period between each Olympics always produces a lot of change, but with the global pandemic delaying the Tokyo Games by a full year, even more time has passed than usual.
Over the past five years, many stars of the Rio Olympics have continued to win, but some of the biggest names have officially pulled out of competition and have seen exciting new faces take their place.
Who is back for other Olympics? Who is missing ? And what are the new names to know before these Tokyo Games? Some of the biggest stories are covered below.
Simone Biles still dominant
After taking a year off after the Rio Olympics, Simone Bilès returned to competition and continued his dominant lanes. She won her fourth and fifth all-around world titles in 2018 and 2019, and she remains undefeated in the all-around since 2013. Meanwhile, Biles also unveiled two new skills that had never been achieved before in women’s gymnastics ( videos below).
The 24-year-old will remain the favorite for multiple gold medals in Tokyo and could become the first woman to win back-to-back Olympic titles in over 50 years.
SEE MORE: 2019 Worlds: Simone Biles hits “Biles II” in qualifying on the ground
SEE MORE: Worlds 2019: Biles completes new outing on beam
From Phelps to Dressel
There was no late change of mind from Michael phelps this time. The most decorated Olympian of all time has officially announced his resignation after the 2016 Games and has not looked back.
But the future of American men’s swimming appears to be in good hands thanks to the emergence of Caeleb Dressel. After winning two gold medals in Rio on the US relay teams, the 24-year-old has emerged as a dominant force with 13 combined gold medals at the 2017 and 2019 World Championships. In recent world championships, he also broke Phelps’ longtime record in the 100m butterfly (video below). Dressel will compete in the Tokyo Olympics as the favorite in the 50m and 100m freestyle, as well as the 100m butterfly. He could also compete in all four relay teams, which would give him a chance to win some truly prolific medals.
SEE MORE: 2019 Worlds: Dressel beats Phelps 100m butterfly WR
A challenger for Katie Ledecky?
After the last Olympic Games, Katie Ledecky spent two seasons competing for Stanford University before turning pro in 2018. She continued her dominance since the Rio Games, but a real rival may have emerged in the form of an Australian swimmer. Ariarne Titmus. At the 2019 World Championships, Titmus beat Ledecky (video below) in the 400m freestyle, although Ledecky was ill at the time and out of his usual pace.
At the Australian Olympic Trials this year, Titmus further strengthened her status as a competitor by posting second place in history in the 200m and 400m. The match between Ledecky, 24, and Titmus, 20, is one that will provide a lot of intrigue in Tokyo.
SEE MORE: 2019 Worlds: Ledecky loses 400m freestyle against Titmus, 18
“Swimone” continues to win
Five years ago, Simone Manuel became the first black woman to win an individual Olympic gold medal in swimming. She went on to win eight more gold medals (five in 2017, three in 2019) at the world championship level.
Surprisingly though, Manuel did not qualify for the 100m freestyle, the event she won in Rio and is the reigning two-time world champion. (She later revealed that she had had overtraining syndrome before the Olympic Trials). However Manuel did qualify for the 50m freestyle, where she won the world title in 2019 (video below).
SEE MORE: 2019 Worlds: Simone Manuel wins the 50m freestyle
Replacement Usain Bolt
Usain Bolt, one of the most famous Olympians of all time, is now retired after sweeping the 100m and 200m sprints at three consecutive Olympics. He will end his Olympic career with a total of eight gold medals (including relays), and he still holds the world record for both distances.
With Bolt gone, the question becomes, who is ready to step in and fill the void as the world’s fastest man? A competitor is the American sprinter Noah lyles, who became the 200m world champion in 2019 (video below). At 21, Lyles had faster times in the 100m and 200m than Bolt at the same age, so he’s on a very promising trajectory. The 24-year-old just days before the opening ceremony, Lyles currently holds the world leader in the 200m and has established himself as one of the people to watch in this event.
SEE MORE: 2019 Worlds: Noah Lyles’ late rise to power seals gold in 200m
New beach volleyball partners
After winning a bronze medal together in Rio, April Ross and Kerri Walsh Jennings have gone their separate ways and teamed up with new partners in a quest to add to their Olympic medal collections, but only one will be in Tokyo.
Ross and Walsh Jennings announced their separation nine months after the Rio Games. Ross then contacted Alix klineman, an indoor volleyball player who had missed out on the Olympic team several times, and mentioned that she was looking for a new partner. Klineman made the transition to beach volleyball and eventually teamed up with Ross after the end of the 2017 season. The “A-Team” won silver at the 2019 world championships and are now among the top teams. ranked in women’s beach volleyball. As for Walsh Jennings, she teamed up with the 2016 Olympian Brooke Sweatshirt but failed to qualify for his sixth Olympics.
USWNT finishes World Cup race
The American women’s football team saw their streak of three consecutive Olympic gold medals come to an end in Rio, but they rebounded by winning the Women’s World Cup in 2019. During that race, many players from the USWNT got big. stars of the time, including team captain Megan Rapinoe. They will be looking to become the first women’s team to win Olympic gold after winning the World Cup.
On the men’s side, the United States will be out of the tournament for the third consecutive time at the Olympics after the country’s Under-23 team lost the deciding game in an Olympic qualifying tournament. This continued the recent struggles of the American men, as the senior team also failed to qualify for the 2018 World Cup. Thanks to a crop of young players breaking through at major European clubs, the arrow points to the high for American men’s football in general, but USMNT fans will have to wait at least three more years to see their team play in the Olympics.
NBA schedule impacts American basketball roster
American fans are used to seeing some of the biggest stars in the NBA team up on a quest for Olympic gold every four years, but things weren’t that simple this year. Like every other major sports league, the NBA schedule has been rocked by the global pandemic, so last season featured a squeezed schedule with a later end date. Game 7 of the NBA Finals could potentially be played on July 22, three days before Team USA’s opening game.
This left the Tokyo roster in a state of uncertainty, as many big names were unable to make the decision to join Team USA until later in the process. A roster of 12 players was eventually named, but USA Basketball was given the opportunity to make substitutions (which they ultimately had to do). Despite the quick turnaround, three players involved in the NBA Finals – Devin Booker of the Suns, and Jrue Holiday and Khris Middleton of the Bucks – have agreed to join the team in Tokyo.
Tennis star Naomi Osaka set to make Olympic debut
Since announcing his arrival with a title at the US Open in 2018, Naomi Osaka has become a real superstar in the tennis world. On the pitch, she won four Grand Slam titles, and off the pitch, she has become a strong advocate for social justice issues. Today she is one of the highest paid athletes in the world.
But the Olympics are uncharted territory for the 23-year-old. Osaka is set to make her first appearance at the Tokyo Games, and she will do so representing Olympic host country Japan.
New (and old) sports join the Olympic program
Six new sports have been added to the Tokyo Games Olympic program – baseball, softball, skateboarding, surfing, sport climbing and karate – while the basketball program has expanded to include a new 3 × 3 tournament.
In the case of softball, American fans will see some familiar faces returning. The U.S. team will include pitchers Osterman cat and Monique Abbott, who were both on the list in 2008 when softball last appeared on the Olympic program. The United States lost to Japan in the gold medal game that year.
With skateboarding and surfing among the events making their Olympic debut, the Olympic audience will be introduced to established stars of these sports as Nyjah huston (skateboard) and Carissa moore (surfing) for the first time.
SEE MORE: Get to know Olympic hopeful Nyjah Huston