- BBC News World
Those in Tokyo will be the first Olympic Games in 17 years that will not have the two historical giants of the Olympics: Jamaican sprinter Usain Bolt (winner of 9 gold medals) and American swimmer Michael Phelps (with 23 medals in his pocket) .
In addition, it will be an Olympic Games that take place one year later than planned due to the covid-19 pandemic and that, also due to the new coronavirus, will not have an attendance of the public at the level of previous editions.
However, elite athletes they are counting the days and the fans have their sights set on them. There are several who not only excelled in previous Rio 2016 games, but have also widely dominated their sports in recent years.
In BBC Mundo we present 10 of the most prominent stars that will take the Olympic Games. Tokyo, including our Latin American athletes they are closer to bathing in gold.
1. Simone Biles, USA | Gymnastics
Even before stepping on the ground in downtown Ariake – where the artistic gymnastics events will take place from July 24 – Simone Biles is already the queen of these Olympics.
And although she is considered by far the best gymnast in history, Biles has not been enough and has redoubled the bet.
After his feat in Rio 2016, where he achieved the record of four gold medals, in recent years he has achieved things that were thought impossible in their discipline.
For example, at the 2019 U.S. National Championships he performed a triple-double jump, a skill that no one had yet achieved.
The movement was dubbed Biles II, because the original Biles that he had already stamped in history is a double start in his routine on the balance beam.
And at 24, Ohio’s prowess is sure to show all his repertoire at these Olympics.
2. Yulimar Rojas, Venezuela | Triple jump
The history of this Venezuelan is one of struggle, although her discipline is that of triple jump.
Born in Caracas but raised in Puerto la Cruz, this 25-year-old won the silver medal in the triple jump event in Rio 2016, but it has been her growth in recent years that places her as a favorite for be crowned reigns not only in her specialty, but also in the long jump.
Due to her achievements – she holds the world record for indoor triple jump and is the current triple jump world champion – she was elected the best female athlete in the world in 2020 by the World Athletics.
Although she will face Colombian Catherine Ibarguen (a gold medal in Rio), her background places her as the favorite to win the gold medal.
3. Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce, Jamaica | Atletismo
It’s true that we ran out of Usain Bolt, but Jamaica never disappoints in athletics and introduces Shelly-Ann Fraser again.
No woman in history has won more medals than her in the 100 meters. He already won the gold in Beijing 2008 and London 2012 and, although in 2016 he could not revalidate the three-time championship – he came third – the truth is that with his triumphs in the 2019 Doha World Cup, he is again at the forefront in the bets of who will stay with the victory in the queen test of women’s athletics.
In addition, she will quite possibly put another medal in her suitcase alongside her teammates on the almost unbeatable 4×100 meter relay team.
His ability to maintain dominance in the 100 meter dash during this time has undoubtedly led him to stardom and being a favorite of the slopes, where it usually surprises with its constant changes in hair color.
In Tokyo he could match a men’s record: win the Olympic gold medal in the 100-meter sprint three times, just as his compatriot Usain Bolt did.
4. Mariana Pajón, Colombia | BMX
Colombia had to wait 104 years for the Olympics to get its first gold medal. It was in Sydney 2000.
But now the country is on the verge of a single athlete achieving his third consecutive gold medal with BMX rider Mariana Pajón, who has already managed to climb to the top of the podium in London 2012 and Rio 2016.
She was the first Latin American to win two gold medals in an individual sport.
Although in recent years she has suffered several injuries that have taken her away from the tracks, the truth is that the postponement of the games has worked in her favor: in May she achieved victory in one of the Supercross BMX events and her level puts her as one of the favorites to get that third gold medal.
5. Naomi Osaka, Japan | Tennis
The world number two tennis player made global headlines last May when she decided to withdraw from Roland Garros amid her refusal to speak to the media during the tournament.
Osaka explained that she made her decision for her mental health and revealed that she had had “long periods of depression.” In a statement, the tennis player said she feels “huge waves of anxiety” before speaking to the media.
However, Osaka confirmed his presence at the Tokyo Olympics (in fact, he declined to participate in Wimbledon to focus on the Olympics). Although she grew up in the US (and has a US passport), the tennis player was born in Japan and also has Japanese citizenship, making her the biggest star of the host delegation.
And it also has a great gold medal option. Osaka, who has won four Grand Slam tournaments, arrives as one of the favorites to win the women’s tennis title alongside world No. 1 Australian Ashleigh Barty.
6. Mijaín López, Cuba | Greco-Roman fight
Mijaín is a legend from Cuba and the Olympic Games.
In the 130 kg category of Greco-Roman wrestling, Mijaín has been unrivaled in the last 15 years.
Winner of the gold medal at Beijing 2008, London 2012 and Rio 2016, he will now fight to put his fourth gold medal around his neck.
However, to achieve this, the athlete, who turned 38 last October, will have to beat the current world champion in his category: the Turkish Rıza Kayaalp, six years his junior and who was also the silver medalist in Rio 2016.
7. Caeleb Dressel, USA | Swimming
The USA has a number of swimmers who are sure to take the most medals in aquatic competitions (Simone Manuel and Katie Ledecky, among others), but this 24-year-old from Green Cove Springs, Florida, may be destined to occupy the aquatic Olympus, which was already reached by Mark Spitz in Munich 72 and Phelps in Beijing 2008.
Although Dressel has already achieved two golds in Rio 2016 – one of them the 4×100 meter test (in the team that was also Phelps), it has been in recent years that he has broken several world records and has been crowned world champion in the 50s meters and 100 meters freestyle and butterfly (in butterfly style he holds the world record), medley relays and 4×100 freestyle. It was at the World Cups in Gwangju, South Korea, which were held in 2019.
If he manages to get at least three victories, he will match the Spitz and Phelps records of getting three gold medals in the same Olympics.
8. Paula Pareto, Argentina | Judo
Judoka Paula Pareto could be the first gold medal for Latin America at Tokyo 2020. She will have her litmus test on Saturday, July 24, the day after the opening ceremony.
That is why she gave up being the standard-bearer of her country in the inaugural parade to concentrate on winning back the gold in the category of less than 48 kilos, which she already managed to win in Rio 2016.
Pareto, born in San Fernando, province of Buenos Aires, has tried to maintain the level that led her to be at the top of the judo podium, but will have very strong rivals such as the Japanese Natsumi Tsunoda, who has just been crowned champion in the World Cups that were held in Doha, last June.
9. Eliud Kipchoge, Kenya | Marathon
Only one person has managed to cover the 42 kilometers of a marathon in less than two hours. And that person is Eliud Kipchoge.
The Kenyan long distance runner achieved that mark at a special event held in Vienna in October 2019, when he covered the course in 1:59:40.
And although the brand was not officially recognized as the world record (which, by the way, Kipchoge also owns), the truth is that it once again showed the athlete’s ability to achieve the unthinkable.
The runner has already won in the 2016 Rio Olympic marathon and will surely be the one to set the pace for this classic test of the Olympics in Tokyo.
10. Briseida Acosta, Mexico | Taekwondo
In Mexico, taekwondo is synonymous with Olympic medals: Victor Estrada, bronze in Sydney 2000; Óscar Salazar, silver in Athens 2004; Iridia Salazar, bronze in Athens 2004; María del Rosario Espinoza, gold in Beijing 2008, silver in Rio 2016 and bronze in London 2012 and Guillermo Pérez, gold in Beijing 2008.
Now it is Briseida Acosta, who collects the testimony to continue the tradition.
Especially since he beat Tokyo to a taekwondo legend from his country: María del Rosario Espinoza, triple Olympic medalist.
As a Pan-American champion in Lima 2019, silver in the 2013 World Cup in Puebla and bronze in Manchester 2019, Acosta arrives in the Japanese capital in a good place to keep up with the pace of his country’s medals in this sport.
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Eddie is an Australian news reporter with over 9 years in the industry and has published on Forbes and tech crunch.