21 U.S. medal contenders to watch on the road to the Tokyo Olympics, which open in six months on July 23 …
World Rugby Sevens Player of the Year in 2017 and 2018, beating out players from powers Fiji, New Zealand and South Africa. Baker reverted to rugby after a brief football career, failing a physical with the Philadelphia Eagles but playing two years in the Arena League as a wide receiver.
Biles, whose last all-around defeat came in 2013, can become the first woman to win back-to-back Olympic all-around titles since 1968. She can also become the first U.S. woman in any sport to win five golds at a single Games.
Four-time medalist on the platform. Switched to springboard after suffering a concussion on a failed 2018 dive off the platform, his head and stomach hitting the water first from nearly 33 feet in the air. One more medal would match Greg Louganis for the most in U.S. diving history.
Won two relay golds in Rio. Since blossomed into a gold-medal threat in seven events when including relays, after taking seven golds at the 2017 World Championships and eight medals at the 2019 Worlds. Only Michael Phelps and Mark Spitz won more than six golds at one Olympics.
A gold-medal contender on the road and the track. Must now come back from crashing over a guard rail at last September’s world championships and suffering a not-for-the-faint-hearted leg laceration.
Owns three Olympic medals but still seeking gold. In 2019, became the first American to win an individual world title in 34 years, re-ascending to the world No. 1 ranking. The last time an American won Olympic archery gold was 1996.
A five-time world champion dating to 2012, but so far only associates the Olympics with heartbreak. Failed to qualify for 2012. Upset in the quarterfinals in Rio. All three of the active U.S. wrestlers with Olympic gold medals face major obstacles to make the Tokyo team, but Gray owns her division domestically and internationally.
Eighteen-year-old phenom in canoe, which debuts as an Olympic women’s discipline in Tokyo. In 2019, Harrison became the first American woman to win a world title in a sprint canoe or sprint kayak event, doing so in the 200m, three years after becoming a serious canoeist after hip dysplasia forced her to stop sprinting on the track.
ON HER TURF: U.S. women who can extend medal streak in Tokyo
The world’s most famous skateboard competitor over the last decade. Goes into his sport’s Olympic debut year as three-time reigning world champion in street, one of two disciplines added to the Games.
Followed one gold at age 15 in 2012 with four more in 2016. Ledecky could win five events in Tokyo with the addition of the women’s 1500m freestyle to the Olympic program, but she was slowed by illness at the last world championships in 2019.
Track and Field
Has the ability to match the retired Usain Bolt‘s feat of sweeping the Olympic 100m, 200m and 4x100m titles, and a similarly electric personality. Lyles is the reigning world 200m champion and became the Olympic 100m favorite following Christian Coleman‘s suspension.
After two historic golds in Rio, Manuel won five golds at the 2017 Worlds and a female record seven medals at the 2019 Worlds, cementing her reputation as a championship-meet performer. Manuel has a chance at six medals, and they could all be gold. The only U.S. woman to win six medals at one Olympics was Natalie Coughlin.
Four-time world champion in the new Olympic sport. Moore attended the Punahou School in Honolulu (most famous alum: Barack Obama), where she was such a convincing tour guide for prospective students that admissions officers reportedly called her “The Closer.”
Track and Field
In 2013, unsponsored, reportedly raced in shorts and a tank top bought on clearance at Ross Dress for Less. Now is the reigning Olympic and world 400m hurdles champion and twice lowered the world record in 2019. Muhammad is the top U.S. female sprinter at the moment, though another American, 21-year-old Sydney McLaughlin, is the second-fastest in history.
Swept the Golden Ball and Golden Boot at the 2019 World Cup. Rapinoe, at 35, is among veteran U.S. national teamers trying to hold off the next generation for spots on the 18-player Olympic roster, and to rebound from a quarterfinal exit in Rio.
April Ross/Alix Klineman
Ross, a silver and bronze medalist at the last two Olympics with two different partners, took a chance on the unproven Klineman after splitting with legend Kerri Walsh Jennings in 2017. The A-Team is now ranked No. 2 in the world, while Walsh Jennings and new partner Brooke Sweat battle for the second and final U.S. Olympic berth.
The U.S. women’s water polo team won gold medals at the Olympics in 2012 and 2016 and world championships in 2015, 2017 and 2019. Steffens, a two-time FINA Player of the Year, was a pillar on all of those teams and, among those titles, graduated from Stanford.
Track and Field
Won six of the seven Olympic and world triple jump titles in the 2010s, and switched takeoff legs in the middle of that stretch. Taylor has come within a cigarette’s length of the world record in an event where the world’s best marks get near 60 feet.
Much is made of her pursuit of Margaret Court‘s record 24 Grand Slam singles titles, but in Tokyo, she can break her tie with older sister Venus Williams for the most Olympic tennis titles (currently four).
Too young for the Olympic radar in 2016, when she was a rising junior at South Carolina, guided by the now U.S. national team head coach Dawn Staley. Since, she’s been named the NCAA Tournament Most Outstanding Player (2017), WNBA Rookie of the Year (2018) and WNBA MVP (2020) and honored with a statue on campus in Columbia.
ON HER TURF: Tokyo Olympics storylines in women’s sports
OlympicTalk is on Apple News. Favorite us!