Tokyo Olympics: Your checklist – who are top 10 superstars to watch at Games
- Will Simone Biles dominate once again? Can China’s ‘Queen of Volleyball’ lead her team to repeat glory? Is local favourite Osaka ready to perform at home?
- Now the Games are under way, fans can expect thrills and spills during the two weeks with some of the biggest names in sport going for gold
Follow our live coverage of day two of the Tokyo Olympics here.
With more than 11,000 athletes competing across 339 events at the postponed Tokyo Olympics, keeping track of each and every one can be a challenge for fans tuning in once every four years – in this case five.
Now the Games have started, we have you covered. Here’s our list of 10 Olympians considered to be the best of the best in their field who you simply must know about.
Showing unparalleled dominance at the 2016 Rio Olympics with four gold and one bronze medal, Simone Biles returns to the sport’s biggest stage to defend her all-around, vault, floor and team event titles.
The living gymnastic legend has won a record number of 25 world championships medals, including 19 golds.
Although she fell off the beam at the US Olympic trials, she remains a gold medal favourite because of her consistent performances and the high degree of difficulty she employs in her various routines.
She leads a talented quartet that also features Sunisa Lee, Jordan Chiles and Grace McCallum in their quest for glory in the team event.
The 24-year-old Biles will make her first appearance at the Tokyo Olympics at the artistic gymnastics women’s qualification on July 25. Although she had initially said she would retire after the Games, she has since indicated that she may continue to Paris 2024.
China’s “Queen of Volleyball” will captain the national women’s team in Tokyo and hopes to replicate the success from Rio 2016, where she scooped gold and the MVP title. She is also set to become the first Chinese woman to carry the national flag at the Olympics at the opening ceremony.
The 26-year-old had temporarily left her Turkish team VakifBank SKin 2019 to return to China and prepare for her second Games.
Towering at 1.98m, Zhu has a spike height of 3.27m and is known for powerful hits from the outside that penetrate opposition blockers. Drafted into the Chinese team in 2013 by legendary coach Lang Ping, she helped the national team to win the 2015 and 2019 World Cups, while also being crowned MVP.
Zhu is expected to show off her signature spikes against the likes of top-ranked USA and perennial challengers Brazil, Turkey and Japan. China will play their first game, against Turkey, on July 25. The final will be held on August 8.
History has shown that the US basketball team are guaranteed a medal in the Olympics – and more often than not gold. Although this year’s roster is missing many big names such as LeBron James, Stephen Curry and Kevin Love, it features Brooklyn Nets star Durant, considered one of the best players in NBA history.
The two-time Olympic, NBA and MVP winner showed his commitment to the team despite a thigh injury sustained in April. He is now chasing his third consecutive Olympic gold.
Should the US clinch their fourth gold medal on the trot, Durant would join Carmelo Anthony in becoming the only two male players in US history ever to win three Olympic titles.
Durant and Co must get through six games to be crowned champions, with their opener against France taking place on July 25. The final is scheduled for August 7.
The 34-year-old Jamaican sprinter will settle for nothing but gold ahead of her 100m and 200m events, as well as the women’s 4×100m relay.
Already one of the world’s most celebrated track athletes, Fraser-Pryce has six Olympic medals and nine world championship titles under her belt – a testament to her timelessly explosive starts and textbook form. She placed third in the 100m at Rio 2016, before helping the relay team to a silver.
Fraser-Pryce is in scintillating form having won 100m gold at the 2021 Diamond League meets in Doha in May, and ran her personal best of 10.63 seconds – a Jamaican national record – in June.
She begins her Tokyo journey at the 100m sprint on July 30, and if successful will go again in the semi-final and final the following day. The women’s 200m sprint starts on August 2 with the final on August 3, while the women’s 4×100m relay takes place on August 5-6.
Chen Aisen will return to defend his Rio Olympics gold in the individual and synchronised 10m platform events. Chen completed the individual competition more than 50 points ahead of runner-up German Sanchez, of Mexico. Similarly, Chen and synchronised diving partner Lin Yue led by nearly 40 points from the second-placed team.
The Guangzhou native maintained his success by capturing the world titles in 2017 and 2019 and winning a World Cup gold in Wuhan in between.
This time around, the 25-year-old will only be competing in the 10m synchronised event with Cao Yuan. Should they put in medal-worthy performances in the heats, as they are heavily favoured to do, they will compete for a podium spot on July 26.
Tokyo will be the 35-year-old sprinter Felix’s fifth Olympics. She has already stated this would be her last – but the drive for gold is still very much burning in her heart.
Ten months after the difficult birth of her daughter, Felix won her 12th gold medal at the 2019 IAAF World Championships, surpassing the legendary Usain Bolt‘s record for the most track-and-field world championship titles.
Although the nine-time Olympic medallist failed to qualify for the 200m – the event she won gold in at 2012 London Games and silvers in Beijing 2008 and Athens 2004 – she finished second in the women’s 400m finalat the Olympic trials in June.
Felix will take her place at the women’s 400m individual event and 4x400m relay, which start on August 3.
The 23-year-old Japanese tennis star is set to make her Olympic debut in Tokyo in women’s singles. She withdrew from the French Open and skipped Wimbledon over mental health reasons but the medal favourite is ready to return to her best in front of a home crowd.
The world No 2 lacks Olympic experience but had a confident opening to the year with a formidable win at the Australian Open in February – her fourth grand slam victory. She won her first at the 2018 US Open against her idol Serena Williams.
A new wrinkle in Osaka’s tennis success story is her openness about her struggles with anxiety and depression. She was fined by Roland Garros in May after refusing to appear at a mandatory press conference, prioritising her mental health. Despite her age, the Japanese-Haitian has emerged as a champion of not only mental health awareness but also racial equality.
The women’s tennis singles started on July 24, with the final on July 31.
After Michael Phelps bade farewell to his record-breaking career after the 2016 Rio Games, Dressel has led the way for the US men’s swimming team.
The freestyle and butterfly specialist won two golds at Rio 2016, before clocking a remarkable 49.50 to break predecessor Phelps’ 10-year 100m butterfly record – twice – at the 2019 World Championships.
The 24-year-old Dressel is also part-holder of the 4×100m freestyle relay and 4×100m medley relay world records.
After a marquee season in the International Swimming League, he will compete in the men’s 50m and 100m freestyle, and the 100m butterfly. He will be eyeing his first solo Olympic gold medal beginning with the butterfly.
All eyes will be on Karsten Warholm for the men’s 400m hurdles heats on July 30 after he broke the world record in July, and the 300m edition a month before.
The 25-year-old Norwegian is in tip-top shape and has held the No 1 title for men’s 400m hurdles for 106 weeks and counting.
Tokyo will be no walk in the park, however, as he will be challenged by world No 2 Rai Benjamin. The American is the only other 400m hurdler at the Games to have run under 47 seconds this season.
The men’s 400m hurdles final will take place on August 3.
The 24-year-old American swimmer boasts a stellar record of five Olympic golds and 15 world championships, making her one of the most decorated women’s swimmers in history.
Joining the Olympics for the first time in 2012, the then-15-year-old surprised the world by taking gold in the 800-metre freestyle as the youngest athlete on the US Olympic swimming team. She swept four more golds and one silver medal in Rio.
Now a team veteran, the world 400m, 800m and 1500m freestyle record-holder earned a Tokyo spot after putting in a strong performance at the US trials. She will compete in four individual events and is expected to participate in the 4×200m freestyle relay.
Her first event, the 400m freestyle’s qualifying heat, takes place on July 25.