I’m sure by now, you’ve all seen the big headlines for Tokyo 2021. The disqualifications of Sha’Carri Richardson and Brianna McNeal by the World Anti-Doping Agency and World Athletics, respectively; no spectators in the stands; mothers being forced to leave their children at home, even if they’re being breastfed. The Japanese people aren’t even very keen on hosting, according to a poll in a Japanese newspaper. But since there are no signs of anyone calling the whole event off, here are a few things (maybe USA related?) we can actually look forward to during the 2021 Tokyo Olympic Games.
It’s no surprise that the US Women’s National Team is once again the favorite for gold. There are plenty of familiar faces on the roster, including Carli Lloyd, Tobin Heath, Megan Rapinoe, Kelly O’Hara, and Alex Morgan. There are a few exciting new faces as well, including the Mewis sisters Kristie and Samantha (MA natives), Emily Sonnett, Rose Lavelle, and Adrianna Franch, all of whom have been USWNT regulars in the years between the Olympic Games.
This week they beat Mexico twice in Hartford, 4-0 in both matches. They remain undefeated since losing to France in January of 2019. In the Olympic Tournament, the US will face Australia, New Zealand, and Sweden in the opening group. They open their 2021 Olympic run against Sweden on July 21 at 4:30am EST on USA Network. The US tied Sweden 1-1 the last time they faced off in April of this year. They have not played New Zealand or Australia since 2019.
Another no-brainer is that Simone Biles is once again representing the US. She won her 7th national all-around title this year and finished first at the Olympic Trials. Biles is the only familiar Olympic face on the women’s team, however. The newcomers to the Olympic stage are Jordan Chiles, Sunisa Lee, and Grace McCallum. Lee was the runner-up at the Olympic Trials; she beat Biles in the balance beam and uneven bars. In 2016 we were spoiled to know how 2 athletes performed in the Olympics (3, if you count an alternate). This year, we know Biles will shine, but we have 3 other athletes to watch blossom.
On the men’s side, there’s another familiar face. Sam Mikulak is coming back for his 4th Olympic Games. Joining him are Brody Malone, Yul Moldauer, and Shane Wiskus. Malone held the top spot at the Olympic Trials, Moldauer, and Wiskus behind him. Mikulak just managed to clinch the fourth spot. It seems they each have one special event, rather than multiple. Maybe together they can get the USA on the podium.
Perhaps the sport with the most controversy thus far, USA track and field is set to be formidable. Among the multitude of talented athletes is Kendra “Keni” Harrison. As a former hurdler of the same height, I have an insane amount of respect for Keni. Hurdles is an event often dominated by taller runners; Harrison breaks that stereotype. She currently holds the World Record for 100m Hurdles at 12.20. For reference, my personal best was 16.44; I was ranked 8th in my state division. She barely missed qualifying for the 2016 team (she set that World Record the same month), so she deserves not only this spot, but to win Gold.
Speaking from experience, 400m hurdles are a form of torture. Only the strongest run it all the way to the Olympics. And perhaps a goddess among mortals, Sydney McLaughlin is the heavy favorite to win the event. At only 21, McLaughlin set the World Record for the 400m hurdles at 51.90; she is the only woman to ever break 52 seconds. The thought of running a regular 400m that fast makes me want to vomit. I was absolutely blown away watching her run, and her reaction to setting the record was priceless. And what makes the event even more exciting is that the former WR holder, Dalilah Muhammad, is also going to Tokyo. They bring out the best in each other; the last 3 races against each other have resulted in World Records.
USA v. the World
Nothing brings out the competitive spirit of the United States quite as much as the Olympics. We have so many talented athletes competing for us every cycle, but this year it seems there’s someone to watch in every event. It’s been a rough few years for all of us; this is a chance to take a breath and enjoy sports together as a country. Go USA!
-Heidi Thomas (@DamselOnDrums)
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