Katie Ledecky (United States): Ledecky was one of the biggest stars of 2016, winning five Olympic golds and setting two world records — one in the 400-meter freestyle and one in the 800-meter freestyle. She was the first swimmer since 1968 to win the 200-, 400- and 800-meter freestyles at the same Olympics, and she will be looking to defend all of those titles in Tokyo. She will also be favored in the 1,500-meter freestyle, which is making its debut this year on the women’s side. Ledecky, 24, has broken 14 world records during her illustrious career.
Nyjah Huston (United States): Skateboarding makes its Olympic debut in Tokyo, and Huston is one of the sport’s icons. The 26-year-old, who has nearly 5 million followers on Instagram, has won three of the last four world titles in the street category. He’s also won the most street medals in X Games history.
Noah Lyles (United States): Lyles, center, is the current world champion in the 200 meters and many people’s favorite to win the event at the Olympics, which Usain Bolt won in each of the past three Games. Bolt’s retirement also opens the door for a new 100-meter champion. Lyles, 23, was expected to compete in that event, too, but he finished seventh at the US Olympic trials and failed to qualify. The winner of that race, Trayvon Bromell, is now among the favorites there.
Stephanie Gilmore (Australia): Surfing makes its Olympic debut this year, and the highly decorated Gilmore will be one of the favorites on the women’s side. The 33-year-old has won more world titles — seven — than any of her competitors. She’ll be looking to beat out American Carissa Moore, the current world champ.
Caeleb Dressel (United States): Michael Phelps, the most decorated Olympian of all time, has called it a career. But Dressel might be the next big thing in men’s swimming. The 24-year-old has already got two Olympic gold medals, and he’s the world-record holder in the 100-meter butterfly. He’ll be racing in that event as well as the 50-meter freestyle and the 100-meter freestyle.
Shi Tingmao (China): China’s diving teams have been dominating Olympic competitions since 1984, taking home 40 gold medals out of a possible 56. Shi, 29, won two golds in 2016 and will look to add to that tally before calling it a career. She’s owned the 3-meter springboard events since 2015, rarely losing an event.
Hend Zaza (Syria): At 12 years old, Zaza is expected to be the youngest Olympian in Tokyo — and the fifth-youngest person ever to compete in the Olympics. The table-tennis player actually qualified in February 2020 when she was just 11. Because of the country’s civil war, she hasn’t been able to enter many tournaments, her coach has said.
Zhu Ting (China): Zhu is the captain of China’s indoor volleyball team, which won Olympic gold five years ago in Rio de Janeiro. The 6-foot-6 outside hitter is 26 years old, but she’s already considered one of the greatest volleyball players of all time.
Ryo Kiyuna (Japan): Kiyuna is from the island of Okinawa, which is considered the birthplace of karate, and he is one of the favorites to win gold as the sport appears at the Olympics for the first time. The 31-year-old competes in the kata event, which is a solo discipline where the athletes demonstrate various forms.
Kevin Durant (United States): Team USA has dominated men’s basketball since 1992, when NBA players were first allowed to play and the “Dream Team” became a global phenomenon. The Americans have won the last three gold medals and six of the last seven — only coming up short in 2004. Durant, 32, is one of two returning players from the team that won in 2016, and he’ll be looked to for leadership and scoring. Durant led the team in scoring in 2016, and he averaged 34.3 points in the NBA playoffs this year.
Ariarne Titmus (Australia): The biggest threat to Katie Ledecky’s dominance in the pool could be Titmus, a 20-year Australian nicknamed the “Terminator.” Titmus defeated Ledecky in the 400-meter freestyle two years ago at the World Championships. Ledecky was battling a stomach virus at the time, but Titmus has only gotten better since then. She nearly broke Ledecky’s 400-meter world record in June, finishing just .44 seconds off the pace.
Diana Taurasi and Sue Bird (United States): If the US women’s basketball team wins gold — as it has in every Olympics since 1996 — then Taurasi, left, and Bird will become the first basketball players of any gender to win five Olympic gold medals. The two guards are two of the greatest women’s basketball players of all time. Taurasi, 39, is the WNBA’s all-time leading scorer. Bird, 40, is the league’s all-time leader in assists.
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