Getty Images

Tokyo Olympics one year out: What to watch for in summer 2021

Leave a comment

July 23 marks one year out from the Tokyo Olympic Opening Ceremony. Here’s an early preview of what to look for in the summer of 2021 …

“A Beacon of Hope”
When the Tokyo Games were postponed by one year due to the coronavirus pandemic, organizers believed that the Olympics would become a symbol of resilience and a festival of unity in 2021.

“Tokyo could stand as a beacon of hope to the world during these troubled times and that the Olympic Flame could become the light at the end of the tunnel,” the IOC and the Olympic organizing committee said in a joint statement on March 24.

The modern Olympics, first held in Athens in 1896, have never been comprehensively postponed. Only World War I (1916) and World War II (1940 and 1944) ever stopped the Games from happening completely.

Organizers are preparing different scenarios for the Games, trying to plan for uncertainty.

“We have established one principle at the very beginning of all this discussion, way before the postponement [was announced], and this is that the Games must be organized offering a safe environment for all the participants,” IOC President Thomas Bach told NBC Olympics primetime host Mike Tirico in May. “At this moment, nobody can give you a reliable answer to the question of how the world will look like in in one year.”

Simone Biles’ Farewell
It’s a second and almost definitely final Olympics for Biles, considered by many the greatest gymnast in history. She earned four golds in Rio and could bag medals in all six events in Tokyo, leading another dominant U.S. women’s team.

If the previous Olympics were about Biles’ breakthrough, this cycle has been about her evolution to become a leading voice in sports. Biles has repeatedly called for (and often brought about) change in gymnastics since returning from a one-year break in 2017.

She also upped her domination, introducing new skills and winning by greater margins than in 2016. In Tokyo, Biles can become the first woman to win back-to-back Olympic all-around titles since 1968. She can become the first U.S. woman in any sport to win five golds at a single Games. She can end her career without an all-around defeat in eight years.

U.S. Swimmers Look Lethal Without Phelps
Michael Phelps‘ retirement doesn’t change this: the U.S. still rules the pool. Caeleb Dressel, who earned two relay golds in Rio, is now the world’s top male swimmer and expected to go for seven golds in Tokyo, one shy of Phelps’ record from Beijing.

Simone Manuel, who in Rio became the first Black female swimmer to win an Olympic title for the U.S., has a chance at six golds in Tokyo. Katie Ledecky, with the addition of the women’s 1500m freestyle to the Olympic program, can go from four golds in 2016 to five in 2021.

The U.S. has more returning gold medalists, including breaststroker Lilly King and backstroker Ryan Murphy, plus rising stars like 18-year-old Regan Smith, who broke three world records between two races at the 2019 World Championships. Don’t forget about 35-year-old Ryan Lochte, who at trials will bid to become the oldest man to make a U.S. Olympic swim team.

Usain Bolt’s Successor? Look to the USA
Two U.S. sprinters emerged the last four years to take the mantle from the retired Usain Bolt as the world’s fastest man.

Christian Coleman, a relay-only runner in Rio, was the world’s fastest 100m sprinter in 2017, 2018 and 2019 and entered 2020 as the clear Olympic favorite. But Coleman’s status for the Tokyo Games is in doubt for missing drug tests. Coleman, though he has never failed a test or been linked to banned substances, could be suspended up to two years in an ongoing case.

Noah Lyles, who missed the Rio Olympic team by one spot out of high school, is now the Alpha at 200m. Lyles is the reigning world champion and last year became the fourth-fastest man in history at the distance, clocking 19.50 seconds, .31 off Bolt’s world record. Lyles, like Coleman, harbors hopes of gold medals in the 100m, 200m and 4x100m in Tokyo.

In other track events, Allyson Felix bids for her fifth Olympic team and first as a mom. With nine medals, she is one medal shy of Carl Lewis’ record for a U.S. track and field athlete.

Team USA: Ladies First
The U.S. is again expected to top the medal standings with most of its medals coming from women. Biles, Manuel and Ledecky should be the biggest contributors.

Then there are the team sports. The women’s soccer team, potentially led by Megan Rapinoe, Alex Morgan and Carli Lloyd, looks to rebound from a quarterfinal loss in Rio. The women’s basketball team hasn’t lost at the Olympics since 1992 and wants to send Sue Bird and Diana Taurasi off with a fifth gold each. Kerri Walsh Jennings, a triple Olympic champion, could become the oldest Olympic beach volleyball player ever, but April Ross and Alix Klineman are the U.S. medal favorites.

In tennis, it could be the last Olympics for Venus and Serena Williams, who each own four gold medals, and the first for 16-year-old sensation Coco Gauff.

OlympicTalk is on Apple News. Favorite us!

MORE: Usain Bolt shares first photos of daughter Olympia Lightning Bolt

Serena Williams, reclusive amid pandemic, returns to tennis eyeing Grand Slam record

Getty Images
Leave a comment

Serena Williams travels with “like 50 masks” and has been a little bit of a recluse since early March and the onset of the coronavirus pandemic.

“I don’t have full lung capacity, so I’m not sure what would happen to me,” Williams said Saturday, two days before the start of the WTA’s Top Seed Open in Lexington, Ky., her first tournament since playing Fed Cup in early February. “I’m sure I’ll be OK, but I don’t want to find out.”

Williams, 38, has a history of blood clots and pulmonary embolisms. She faced life-threatening complications following her Sept. 1, 2017, childbirth that confined her to a bed for six weeks. She said her daily routine was surgery and that she lost count after the first four.

More recently, Williams enjoyed “every part” of the last six months at home in Florida, her longest time grounded since her teens.

“I’ve been a little neurotic, to an extent,” on health and safety, she said. “Everyone in the Serena bubble is really protected.”

Williams is entered to play next week in Lexington and at consecutive tournaments in New York City later this month — the Western & Southern Open and U.S. Open, the latter starting Aug. 31.

Williams is the highest-ranked player in the Lexington field at No. 9. Others include 2017 U.S. Open champion Sloane Stephens, older sister Venus Williams and 16-year-old Coco Gauff.

She has been bidding ever since having daughter Olympia to tie Margaret Court‘s record 24 Grand Slam singles titles, albeit many of Court’s crowns came before the Open Era and, notably at the Australian Open, against small fields lacking the world’s best players. Williams reached the last two Wimbledon and U.S. Open finals, losing all of them.

She showed her seriousness in committing early to this year’s U.S. Open by installing a court at home with the same surface. Three of the top 10 female singles players already said they will skip the U.S. Open due to travel and/or virus concerns, including No. 1 Ash Barty.

“Tennis is naturally a socially distanced sport, so it was kind of easy to go back and just walk on my side of the court and have my hitter walk on his side of the court,” Williams said.

The French Open starts two weeks after the U.S. Open ends. Williams was asked if she will fly to Europe for tournaments this autumn.

“I see myself doing it all, if it happens,” she said.

The Tokyo Olympics are too far away to make plans.

“We’ll have to kind of wait to see what happens in the fall,” she said. “One thing I have learned with this pandemic is don’t plan.”

MORE: Past U.S. Open champions get wild cards

OlympicTalk is on Apple News. Favorite us!

Conseslus Kipruto tests positive for coronavirus, canceling world-record bid

Getty Images
Leave a comment

Conseslus Kipruto, the Olympic and world 3000m steeplechase champion, tested positive for the coronavirus without symptoms, which will keep him from a world-record chase on Friday, according to his social media.

The Kenyan was to race in the first in-person Diamond League meet of the year in Monaco on Friday.

“Our World is going through a challenging period and we all have to take our responsibilities,” was posted. “Unfortunately my covid-19 test, as part of the Monaco-protocol, came back positive and therefore I can’t be part of the Monaco Diamond League.

“I don’t have any symptoms and I was actually in great shape. I was planning to go for the WR: it has stayed too long outside Kenya. As the World & Olympic Champion I feel strongly its something I should go for as well.”

Kipruto, 25, is the 14th-fastest steepler in history with a personal best of 8:00.12. The world record is 7:53.63, set by Kenyan-born Qatari Saif Saaeed Shaheen in 2004.

Last year, Kipruto won the world title by .01, extending a streak of a Kenyan or Kenyan-born man winning every Olympic or world title in the event since the 1988 Seoul Games. He was sidelined by a stress fracture in his left foot until opening his season extremely late on Aug. 24.

MORE: Trayvon Bromell’s road back through destruction, death

OlympicTalk is on Apple News. Favorite us!

View this post on Instagram

Our World is going through a challenging period and we all have to take our responsibilities. Unfortunately my covid-19 test, as part of the Monaco-protocol, came back positive and therefore I can’t be part of the Monaco Diamond League on August 14th. I don’t have any symptoms and I was actually in great shape. I was planning to go for the WR: it has stayed too long outside Kenya. As the World & Olympic Champion I feel strongly its something I should go for as well. Wish to thank Monaco for all the work they have done and I wish them and my colleagues a wonderful competition. Athletics is back and I will be back as well. Anyone willing to organise a steeple once I can be cleared? @diamondleaguemonaco #nike #quarantine #WR #Kenya

A post shared by conseslus kipruto Athlete🥇🥇🥈🥈 (@consesluskip) on