The countdown to the 2020 Summer Games has begun. On July 23, 2021, about 11,000 athletes from 206 countries will gather at the Olympic Stadium in Tokyo, Japan, for the opening ceremony of the Games of the XXXII Olympiad. Here are a few contestants to keep an eye on at the world's most prestigious sporting event.
Sky Brown — Skateboarding
Sky Brown is making history before even stepping into the arena. The skateboarder, who will be 13 years and 11 days old when she competes, is Great Britain's (GB) youngest-ever Summer Olympian. The previous record was held by swimmer Margery Hinton. She was 13 years and 43 days old when she competed at the 1928 Olympics in Amsterdam, Netherlands. Since skateboarding is debuting at the 2020 Games, Brown will make further history as part of Team GB's first-ever skateboarding team.
Brown is also a talented surfer. The teenager had initially planned to compete in the inaugural Olympics surfing competitions as well. However, she later decided to pursue just skateboarding. If that is not impressive enough, Brown is also an outstanding snowboarder, figure skater, and accomplished dancer. She won the Dancing With The Stars: Juniors competition in 2018.
Janja Garnbret — Sport Climbing
Slovenia's Janja Garnbret was just eight years old when she entered her first climbing competition. Despite coming in last in her category, she was captivated by the sport and persevered. Her hard work and dedication have resulted in a slew of gold medals in competitions worldwide.
In 2019, Garnbret became the first climber to win gold in all six bouldering competitions at the International Federation of Sport Climbing World Cup. Bouldering entails climbing as many routes as possible in four minutes without a rope or harness. The 22-year-old is now considered the best women’s competitive climber in the world. She is a favorite to win the gold medal at the Olympics' first-ever sport climbing event.
Kristóf Milák – Swimming
Kristóf Milák was just 17 years old when he clinched a silver medal in the 100m butterfly at the 2017 World Championships. A month later, the Hungarian swimmer cemented his status as a world-class athlete by winning five gold medals at the FINA World Junior Swimming Championships. This included helping Hungary win its first gold medals in the 4x100 and 4x200 relays.
Milák's biggest achievement to date, however, came at the 2019 World Championships. The talented swimmer stunned the world by completing the 200m butterfly in 1 minute 50.73 seconds and claiming Michael Phelps's 18-year-old world record. Whether Milák can accomplish or surpass his record time at the Olympics remains to be seen. However, given that he clocked one of the fastest 200 m butterfly times in history at the Hungarian National Finals in March 2021, the gold medal seems within reach.
Eliud Kipchoge — Marathon
Kenyan runners have a long history of dominating marathons. However, none have been as overpowering as Eliud Kipchoge. The 36-year-old is the only man in the world to run the 26.21 mile (42.19 km) distance in less than two hours. Unfortunately, his eye-popping time of 1:59:50, achieved in Vienna, Austria, in October 2019, was not recognized as a world record due to marathon regulations.
However, Kipchoge still holds the world record for the long-distance event, a time of 2:01:39, achieved at the 2018 Berlin Marathon. Not surprisingly, the twelve-time marathon winner and three-time Olympic medalist is the favorite to win the gold medal in Japan.
Simone Biles — Gymnastics
No Olympics article would be complete without mentioning Simone Biles, the world's most decorated gymnast. The 24-year-old, who already boasts five Olympic medals, is known for performing moves so difficult that four have been named after her.
The dominant athlete is so far ahead of other gymnasts that she does not need to add to her difficulty level to medal at the Tokyo Olympics. However, if the U.S. Classic is any indication, Biles may have some new tricks up her sleeve. This could include becoming the first woman to attempt the Yurchenko double pike in the Olympics.
Resources: CNN.com, NPR.com, Businessinsider.com, theguardian.com, Climber.com