The Tokyo Olympics are nearly six months away.
Thousands of athletes will step out on the world stage in Japan and vie for Olympic gold medals in their respective sport.
While some are already established stars, others will be attempting to become household names and achieve a life-long dream of finishing at the top of the podium.
As competition increases, here are 10 Olympic hopefuls to watch.
Christian Coleman (100m and 200m)
One of the finest athletes of the current era, the 23-year-old will be the man to beat over 100m in Tokyo. Standing at 5 ft 9 in, Coleman stormed to world championship glory in a personal best time of 9.76 seconds in September, the sixth-fastest time recorded in history. Over 200m, he will also arrive on the start line as one of the key favourites, compatriot Noah Lyles his closest competition. Despite being charged with missing three drugs tests in 12 months by the US Anti-Doping Agency – an offence that comes with a lengthy two-year ban – the Atalanta man has constantly pleaded his innocence and the case was subsequently dropped.
Simone Biles (Gymnastics)
It has been said, in gymnastics, the only competition for Biles is herself. Such has been her class over the years – since winning four golds over seven days in Rio 2016 – the 22-year-old continues to re-write the record books. The record for Olympic gymnastic titles is nine by Larysa Latynina in 1956, 160 and 1964, and the Texan could match that with five golds in Tokyo, given she secured four golds, a silver and a bronze at the world championships in Doha late last year. At just 4 ft 8 in and 105 lbs, her dominance is unrivalled, perhaps in any sport at present.
Katie Ledecky (Swimming)
People love to have debates about who is the greatest of all time in any given sport, and in women’s swimming, Ledecky is operating at a different level compared to her competition. The Washington native has 14 world records, 14 world championship golds and five Olympic golds – and is still only 22. In Tokyo, Ledecky will almost certainly become the most decorated women’s swimmer in history – she needs four golds – and based on her recent form, looks impossible to be stopped. Michael Phelps may be the marquee name in American swimming history, but Ledecky could potentially soar beyond that if she can thrive in Japan. It’s all on the table for one of the world’s most gifted athletes to show this summer.
Stephanie Gilmore (Surfing)
The Queensland native is used to the view from the top of the world. In November 2018, Gilmore recorded her seventh world title win, taking her level with compatriot Layne Beachley on the all-time list of female champion surfers. With over 30 World Tour wins, the Murwillumbah resident has entered the pantheon of surfing greats and continues to inspire young sports stars around the world with her commitment, dedication and overall influence in and out of the water. Still only 31, Gilmore represents one of Australia’s key medal hopes, alongside Sally Fitzgibbons, in the sport’s Olympic debut. She is certainly riding waves to greatness and based on recent displays is showing no signs of slowing down.
Naomi Osaka (Tennis)
Tennis’ world number three has impressed far and wide, and not just for her supreme skills on court. Indeed, Osaka’s grace in handling a controversial 2018 US Open final with Serena Williams earned plaudits globally. The nature of that victory catapulted her into the mainstream consciousness, capping a formidable year for the 22-year-old after rising from number 68 to number five in the world. Now a massive superstar across all of Asia and beyond, the burgeoning Japanese icon further enhanced her reputation with a stunning second Grand Slam success at the Australian Open in 2019. With two Slam titles to her name, the only way is up for the Florida native who will have the weight of a nation on her shoulders at the Olympics later this year.
Teddy Riner (Judo)
Japan may have invented judo long ago, but no one has been as dominant as Riner. The Frenchman has scooped two Olympic golds and 10 world titles since 2007 – and is unbeaten since September 2010. If Big Teddy clinches gold in Tokyo he will join Tadahiro Nomura on three Olympic titles – surely enough to motivate him to stick around Paris 2024 – the city he was raised in. Has not competed much over the last two years as his coach wanted him to have more rest time in a bid to return to peak sharpness. Expect the additional rest and training time to have the 30-year-old in crisp mental and physical shape for the Olympics.
Dina Asher-Smith (100m and 200m)
Team GB’s poster girl in Tokyo has a chance to cement herself as a household name with a strong showing in Tokyo. Last September, the 24-year-old Londoner secured three world championship medals in Doha, including a stunning 200m gold, making her the greatest Britain sprinter of all time. In Japan, she’ll compete in 100m, 200m and 4×100 relay events, where she stands a formidable chance of collecting medals in each. Glory at the Olympics would secure her place among the country’s sporting icons.
Rohan Dennis (Time trial)
The Adelaide man raised eyebrows when he climbed off his bike during stage 12 of the Tour de France and walked off into the night. Two months later, Bahrain-Media terminated his contract and he subsequently penned a new deal with heavyweights Team Ineos. At 29, and entering his peak, Dennis will be firm favourite to seal time trial gold in Japan, adding to his silver from 2012 and two world golds from 2018 and 2019. His talent, ambitions and power on the saddle will be hard to match, especially given he will arrive in Asia after a strong block of training with his star-studded Ineos team-mates.
Mutaz Barshim (High Jump)
Not many people in their respective sport get the chance to compete for glory in front of their home crowd, never mind the chance to win a world championship in front of friends and family. Even at that, fewer deliver, but Barshim, Doha born and bred, cemented his status as one of Qatar’s greatest ever athletes with a stunning 2.37m jump to snatch world championship high jump gold in September. An Olympic silver medalist from Rio 2016, the 28-year-old’s swift recovery from ankle surgery last year should have him primed and ready for a tilt at a third Olympic medal – and first gold. A joy to watch.
Shaunae Miller-Uibo (200m and 400m)
The Bahamas athlete, winner of 400m gold at the Rio Olympics, has the chance to replicate Michael Johnson’s 200m and 400m winning exploits from Atalanta 1996. A flyer over 400m, she was also the fastest over 200m for large stretches of the year, before Asher-Smith stole the show in Qatar. The tight schedule of running both events may go against the 25-year-old in Tokyo. Her clear priority is the 400m – where she will be hoping to improve on her silver medal display from the world championships recently. Ironically, her husband Maicel Uibo also won a silver at the world championship in decathlon.