The start of the Tokyo Summer Olympics is drawing close and Team USA is obviously expected to enjoy significant success. While there is plenty of talent across the board on the United States' overall roster, here's a look at 25 athletes to pick an eye on from July 23-Aug. 8.
Softball is back on the Olympic program for the first time since 2008. Abbott was part of that '08 United States squad that earned a silver medal in Beijing. Abbott, who will turn 35 during these Games, will again on the American roster this year. There's really no reason to doubt Abbott won't be sharp and on her game. After all, she's the NCAA all-time leader in pitching victories (189), strikeouts (2,440), and shutouts (112).
What more needs to be said about Biles? She's one of two women on the overall U.S. Olympic roster capable of dominating her competition. In her Olympic debut, Biles won four gold medals, including the all-around title, and a bronze at the 2016 Summer Games in Rio. Biles wasn't perfect at the recent U.S. gymnastics trials, but her routines are so difficult and complex that even if she's off a bit, she's better than the rest of the world. All eyes will no doubt be on her again this summer.
The U.S. men's national team received a major boost when Kevin Durant decided to take part in the Tokyo Games. However, there is plenty of talent to help the Americans in their quest for a fourth straight Olympic gold medal. Booker, though, could prove to be the class of the group this summer. He's already positioned himself among the NBA's elite scorers (averaging 26.0 points per game since 2017-18) and had the Phoenix Suns in a position to win their first NBA title in 2021. He should be fun to watch.
Usain Bolt's Olympic run of sprint dominance has ended with his retirement. So, is anybody worthy of stepping into Bolt's legendary track shoes? Probably not, but Bromell should be in the conversation for Olympic gold in the 100 meters at Tokyo. Bromell, 26 just prior to the Games, currently holds the world record time of 9.77 seconds in the 100. Now, healthy, he'll also look for some redemption after he finished eighth in the event at the 2016 Rio Games.
Michael Phelps has retired, and the United States is looking for a new king of the pool. Is Dressel the guy? After winning a pair of relay golds at Beijing in 2016, Dressel seems ready to enjoy some individual success on the Olympic level. According to USA Swimming, Dressel is the first American swimmer since Matt Biondi in 1988 to qualify for the 50 meters, 100 freestyle, and 100 butterfly at the same Summer Games.
Felix will certainly be a feel-good story at the Tokyo Games, regardless of what transpires. A 35 and three years after giving birth, Felix will be competing in her fifth Olympic Games. She punched that ticket by finishing second in the 400 meters at the recent U.S. track and field trials. Felix, the only woman to win six Olympic gold medals who also has three bronze medals to her name, might not be in the hunt for gold at Tokyo, but it should be fun watching her try this summer.
Grimes proved to be the darling of the 2021 U.S. swim trials by qualifying for the Tokyo Games with a second-place finish in the 800 freestyle. At just 15-years old, Grimes is the youngest swimmer since star Katie Ledecky (more on her in a bit), in 2012, to qualify for the U.S. Olympic Swim Team. We don't know what's in store for Grimes during these Games, but we're confident her future beyond Tokyo seems pretty bright.
The United States has never won an Olympic medal in canoeing. However, Harrison might be in position to change that when it comes to Tokyo. Harrison, who recently turned 19, won gold in the women's C-1 200 meters at the 2019 world championships and Pan American Games. Though canoe might not be a high-profile sport that draws a lot of attention at these Games, U.S. Olympic fans might want to go out of their way to follow Harrison's progress.
For those who don't follow competitive skateboarding, consider Huston the LeBron James of the professional circuit. The highest-paid skater on the planet, the 26-year-old Huston is a four-time world champion in the Street competition and won gold 12 times at the Summer X Games since 2011. Skateboarding should be a popular addition to the Olympic program, and the ink-covered Huston is poised to be its star attraction.
Just how good is King? Her last defeat in the 100 breaststroke came in 2015. That spanned included gold at the 2016 Rio Olympics, during which she also was part of the first-place 4x100 relay squad at the same Games. A fiery competitor, the 24-year-old King will head to Tokyo is the obvious favorite in 100 breaststroke, and should have plenty of confidence to continue her dominance in the event.
This should be a truly special moment for the Korda sisters. After all, their mother Regina was an Olympian (tennis) who competed in the 1988 Seoul Summer Games. Nelly, who will turn 23 during the Games and as of June 28 was the world's top-ranked female golfer, and 28-year-old Jessica, 13th in the world, join Danielle Kang and Lexi Thompson on a U.S. squad that is hoping for big things in Tokyo
Like Simone Biles, Ledecky will be must-see Olympic TV this summer. Ready for her third Olympics, Ledecky is a six-time medalist at the Summer Games. Five of which are gold, with four (200 meter free, 400 free 800 free, 4x200 free relay) coming from Beijing in 2016. At the ripe age of 24, Ledecky heads to Tokyo looking to continue her Olympic dominance after winning the 200, 400, and 800, plus the new 1,500 freestyle, at the recent U.S. swim trials.
If Simone Biles is the current gold standard in world gymnastics, then the 18-year-old Lee just might be the future. She finished second in the all-around competition at the 2021 U.S. gymnastic trials, and actually scored better than Biles on the second night of the competition thanks to first-place finishes in the balance beam and uneven bars. Lee could be in store for a smashing Olympic debut in Tokyo.
One of the more anticipated Olympic debuts will be that of Lyles. He'll turn 24 during the Games, but Lyles has been smack dab in the middle of the international sprint radar for some time now. With Usain Bolt retired, there will be even more attention focused on Lyles, whose best bet for gold will come in the 200 meters at Tokyo. It should be noted, however, that Lyles' 17-year-old teammate Erriyon Knighton also has the ability to heads in the 200.
Manuel was one of the biggest, and most pleasant, surprises while winning four medals (two gold, two silver) at Beijing in 2016. However, the lane back to the Olympics has been far from smooth. Even with a strong showing at the 2019 world championships, Manuel has struggled with depression and continues to deal with overtraining syndrome. She failed to qualify for the 100 free, the event she won gold at Rio, but did in the 50, so she will be in Tokyo. How strong she'll swim there remains to be seen.
As the youngest U.S. track and field athlete ever to qualify for the Olympics in 2016, McLaughlin, who will turn 22 at the end of these Games, finished fifth in the 400-meter hurdles. Fast forward, and McLaughlin heads to Tokyo as the current world record holder (51.90 seconds) in the event. She is the first female to break the 52-second mark, which should have her feeling good about her chances this week.
Surfing is another new sport added to the Olympic slate for the Tokyo Games, and Moore is by far America's best medal hopeful in the competition. The 28-year-old Hawaii native learned to surf on Oahu's famed Waikiki Beach as a toddler. She's since blossomed into a four-time World Surf League champion. Her main competition for gold in Toyko (Chiba, Japan, to be exact) should come from Australia's Stephanie Gilmore.
Morgan, 32 in July, could be playing in her final Olympics. Actually, the postponement of the Tokyo Games to 2021 enabled Morgan to be part of Team USA -- considering she'd just given birth in May 2020. Morgan, who has more than 100 goals in international competition, and the rest of this veteran-laden squad, are poised to bounce back after losing to Sweden in penalties during the quarterfinals at the 2016 Rio Games.
While Sydney McLaughlin turned heads with her world record-setting performance in the 400 hurdles at the U.S. trials, teammate Muhammad is the reigning Olympic gold medalist in the event. The 31-year-old Muhammad finished second in the 400 hurdles at the national trials, setting up what could be a memorable showdown in Tokyo. Is Muhammad ready to pass the torch?
Along with Monica Abbott, the 38-year-old Osterman is one of the elder stateswomen on the U.S. Olympic softball team. In fact, Osterman is the oldest member of the squad. Not to mention a bronze medalist from Athens 2004 and silver-medal winner from the '08 Beijing Games. Arguably the best pitcher in NCAA history, Osterman has come out of retirement to once again lead the charge for a U.S. team that she believes is capable of winning gold in Tokyo.
Plum is not part of the U.S. women's Olympic basketball team, but she will be in Tokyo competing in the new 3-on-3 tournament. Along with fellow WNBA buddies Stefanie Dolson, Allisha Gray, and Katie Lou Samuelson. Plum, though, is one to keep an eye on. The fourth-year pro point guard is the motor of this squad and averaging a career-high 13.3 points, plus 3.2 assists (as of June 29), for the Las Vegas Aces this season.
There was arguably no bigger breakout star at the U.S. track and field trials than the flashy and personable Richardson. With her long, polished nails and flowing gold hair, the former LSU NCAA champion sprinter seemed more than ready for her close-up by winning the 100 (in 10.86 seconds) meters at the trials. If track fans thought Richardson had that certain star quality with that victory on the national stage, we can't wait to see what will happen if she wins international gold at Tokyo. That's if she's able to go. Her status for the Games appears to be in doubt following a one-month suspension for a positive marijuana test.
After winning a silver medal with Jennifer Kessy at the 2012 Olympics in London and bronze beside Kerri Walsh Jennings in 2016 at the Rio Games, Ross will try again for that elusive gold medal this summer. She'll also have a new partner in Alix Klineman, an indoor standout who has played with Ross since late 2017. Last year, the 39-year-old Ross and Klineman won the AVP Monster Hydro Cup, Wilson Cup, and AVP Champions Cup.
Better known as "Captain America" in national wrestling circles. Snyder was 20-years old when he stunned the Olympic wrestling world by winning gold in the 97 kg weight class in Rio. Snyder has since won another world championship and four golds at the Pan American Games. With Jordan Burroughs' time in the spotlight completed, Snyder continues to carry the torch for USA wrestling.
Simply put, the U.S. women's basketball team is loaded with the best of the best from the WNBA. A'ja Wilson, Tina Charles, Diana Taurasi, Sue Bird. Then there is Seattle's Stewart, who just might be the best of the bunch. The 2020 WNBA Finals MVP ranked second in the league in scoring (21.8 points per game) and rebounding (10.1 rebounds per game) as of June 29. There's a good chance she'll also be the brightest to shine among a team full of established stars.
Jeff Mezydlo has written about sports and entertainment online and for print for more than 25 years. He grew up in the far south suburbs of Chicago, 20 minutes from the Mascot Hall of Fame in Whiting, Ind. He’s also the proud father of 11-year-old Matthew, aka “Bobby Bruin,” mascot of St. Robert Bellarmine School in Chicago. You can follow Jeff at @jeffm401.