A crop of accomplished and fearsome young athletes will be taking the stage at the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.
After an unprecedented year-long delay due to the Coronavirus pandemic, the 2020 Olympics are at long last being held this summer in Tokyo from July 23 through August 8. The nation’s top athletes have trained tirelessly and even offered barrier-breaking performances on the road to the Tokyo Games. With the Olympic Trials wrapping up, it has become evident that there is no shortage of awe-inspiring athletes set to compete at the upcoming Games.
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Having won a whopping seven national championships, 19 world titles, and five Olympic medals, Simone Biles has already established herself the greatest gymnast of all time. The small yet powerful gymnast has not lost a single all-around national, world, or Olympic competition since 2013, and is determined to maintain that momentum in Tokyo.
Although she endured an uncharacteristic fall off the balance beam on Day 2 of the Trials, Biles cruised her way to her second Olympic Games with the rest of her physics-defying performances, where she will defend her four Golds from the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro.
After delivering a series of outstanding performances, 18-year-old gymnast Suni Lee finished in second place at the women’s U.S. Olympic Gymnastics Trials, even managing to outscore teammate Simone Biles on night two, a feat that has not been done in competition since 2013. The reigning world silver medalist on floor exercises, Lee is known for her elegant artistry.
After battling through an ankle injury to make the Olympic team and expertly delivering what many are calling one of the most difficult bar routines in the world (with acrylic nails on) Lee has proved herself an extremely formidable competitor, and many are predicting a gold medal win for her this month.
No stranger to the spotlight, McLaughlin became the youngest Olympic track and field athlete since 1976 upon qualifying for the 2016 Olympics in Rio at age 16. In addition to the many accolades she has garnered both on and off the track since then (including a global ambassadorship with Tag Heuer and upcoming apparel collection with New Balance), the 21-year-old will compete in the Tokyo Olympics after winning the 400-meter hurdles finals and setting a new world record in the process, with a time of 51.90.
The most decorated competitive street skater in the world, Nyjah Huston will be competing in his first-ever Olympic Games this year—the same year skateboarding makes its Olympic debut, no less. Huston secured a Tokyo bid upon finishing in second place at the 2021 World Street Championships in June. Prior to qualifying, Huston won three consecutive World Street Championships, and stands as the highest-paid skateboarder in the world.
After winning the 200-meter final at the U.S. Trials with a world-leading time of 19.74 seconds, 23-year-old Noah Lyles secured himself a spot on the U.S. Olympic track team. Lyles specializes in sprinting, holding a personal best of 9.86 seconds for the 100m. In 2019, Lyles was named the fourth fastest man ever when he ran the 200m in a mere 19.50 seconds at the Lausanne Diamond League meeting, with only Usain Bolt, Yohan Blake, and Michael Johnson ever having run faster.
At only 17 years old, Florida native Erriyon Knighton is the youngest American man to make the Olympic track and field team since Jim Ryun in 1964. Having toppled two of Usain Bolt's youth records at different 200-meter competitions in June, Knighton qualified for the Tokyo Olympics upon finishing in third place in the men's 200-meter final at the Trials in Eugene, Oregon.
After winning the 100-meter breaststroke at the U.S. Swimming Trials, Lilly King will be bringing her signature spunk and confidence to the Tokyo Olympics, where she will vie for her second Olympic gold medal. In 2016, King took home the gold for completing the 100-meter breaststroke in an Olympic-record time of 1:04.93 minutes.
Twenty-one year old Sha'Carri Richardson won the 100-meter at the Olympic Trials with a time of 10.86 seconds on June 19. However, after testing positive for marijuana, the gold-medal favorite in the women's 100-meter was given a one-month suspension by the Unitest States Anti-Doping Agency, which consequently makes her unable to run in the Olympics.
Upon her positive result, Richardson revealed in an interview with NBC that she smoked weed to cope with the unexpected loss of her mother while she was in Oregon for the trials.
The decision to disqualify her from competing has sparked outrage across social media due to the fact that marijuana is not a performance-enhancing drug, with fellow athletes and the general public arguing that the decision is little more than an unjust demonstration of the over-criminalization of the substance. It is unclear as of yet whether public opinion will lead to an overturn of Richardson's disqualification, however many are hoping the decision will be re-evaluated.