When the flames are finally lit at the Tokyo Olympics on Friday, a new era of athletes has a chance to make history in the absence of many established stars.
A lot has changed in the Olympic landscape in the five years since the Rio Games – three-time double sprint champion Usain Bolt is now making music and raising a family in Jamaica, while 28-medallist Michael Phelps leaves the pool. have retired.
In Tokyo, Caleb Dressel is the most likely successor to Phelps in the medal-collecting stakes.
The 24-year-old American is aiming to become only the fourth swimmer in history to win seven medals in a single sport.
Dressel is no rookie, having already won two relay golds at the 2016 Rio Games, but now his focus is on personal glory.
Bolt left a huge gap in the athletics world when he retired in 2017, but a new generation of stars is emerging.
Charismatic Norwegian 400m hurdler Karsten Warholm broke one of the longest running men’s track world records this month, and Sydney McLaughlin broke the women’s record in the same event at the US Trials.
Athletics-watchers will keep a close eye on 17-year-old Arianne Knighton in her search for a future sprint gold medalist.
The raft-legged American erased the 200m world age-group record set by Bolt this year, clocking a stunning 19.84 seconds at the US Trials to secure his spot at the Olympics.
In the field, Sweden’s Armand Duplantis is the undisputed new king of the pole vault at just 21 years old.
Ethiopia’s Letesenbet Gidi is also eagerly awaiting a fight with Dutch sprinter Sifan Hassan, as each broke the 10,000m world record within two days. Giddy, 23, now points at that distance and 5,000 meters.
The sky is the limit
Skye Brown will just be 13 years and 11 days old when the Japan-born Brit competes in skateboarding in Tokyo.
A strong performance from the teenager who rose to fame in America in 2018 by winning the reality TV show “Dancing with the Stars: Juniors” would be the perfect way to launch skateboarding on her Olympic debut.
American golfer Colin Morikawa could take a few weeks to the top by winning Olympic gold and extend the British Open title that the 24-year-old achieved last weekend. Norwegian Viktor Hovland, who is a year younger, may also be accompanied by a sigh.
While new names will shine through, Simone Biles will be one of Rio’s few returning superstars to lead a team much younger than the 24-year-old.
Biles, arguably the greatest gymnast in history, has a strong chance of equaling Larisa Latinina’s record of nine Olympic gold medals.
In short, the biggest challenge for Biles is himself as he hasn’t lost an all-out competition since 2013, redefining his game.
Disappointing for any youth challenger, Biles has suggested that he may be persuaded to continue until the 2024 Paris Olympics.