From groundbreaking superstars to precocious teenagers, the PA News Agency is picking eight world stars to see at the Tokyo Olympics this month.
The greatest gymnast in the world, who won four gold medals and one bronze medal in Rio, wants to be the first woman to defend the all-around title since Vera Caslavska in 1968: you can count on her being in top form again in the Japanese capital.
All eyes will be on Osaka when she returns to action in front of her home fans in Tokyo, whether she likes it or not. The 23-year-old, a four-time Grand Slam winner, withdrew from the French Open after being fined for not speaking to the media and also skipped Wimbledon to get some time off to take from her family, however, has pledged to make her Olympic return.
As the undisputed king of the cycling time trial, Ganna starts as the clear favorite with the men and also switches to the track to join his Italian teammates in the team pursuit and possibly also in the Omnium. The rider from Team Ineos – nicknamed “La Bestia” (“The Beast”) – won both time trials at this year’s Giro d’Italia.
The American swimming superstar is almost certain he can significantly increase her six medals in her third game. Ledecky stormed through the US exams and is expected to compete in up to six disciplines, including the women’s 1,500m, a discipline that appears for the first time at the Games and in which it is almost untouchable.
The 34-year-old Jamaican, winner of the women’s 100 meters in Beijing and London, timely reminded that she is the one to beat when she reached 10.63 seconds in June – the second fastest time in the Story behind the late Florence Griffith -Joyner. In a field wrested from rising American star Sha’Carri Richardson, the Jamaican’s rivals – including Dina Asher-Smith – have lost their jobs.
The remarkable 38-year-old, six-time world boxing champion, who also won Olympic bronze in London in 2012, is back for another shot. Rising from a remote part of rural India to become a member of parliament, mother of three and a true superstar in her homeland, Kom doesn’t mind her search for another medal.
The 32-year-old French competes in the men’s judo competitions over 100 kg as a two-time defending champion. Riner has won 10 world titles over the course of his illustrious career and was undefeated for nearly a decade by February 2020. His potential final battle with Japanese Harasawa Hisayoshi could prove to be one of the moments of the games.
Nicknamed “Mondo”, the US-born Swede is in a world of his own in the men’s pole vault and an unrelenting favorite for his first Olympic gold. Last year Duplantis set a new indoor world record of 6.18 m and then overtook the 26-year-old outdoor record of the great Sergei Bubka with 6.15 m at the Diamond League meeting in Rome.