Years from now, the Tokyo Olympics will be looked at as the games that almost didn’t happen. But despite a global pandemic and lingering concerns about the spread of COVID-19, the 2020 Olympics are set to get underway this week. As usual, American athletes will be front and center in a variety of sports. So let’s take a look at some of the sports to watch from an American perspective.
Track & Field
Notably absent from the Olympics will be American sprinter Sha’Carri Richardson, who has been barred after testing positive for marijuana. She would have been likely to take home gold, although the U.S. track & field team has others who are worth watching. For starters, there is nine-time medalist Allyson Felix. Then there is hurdler Sydney McLaughlin, who competed at the last Olympics when she was just 16 and could be ready to become a household name. On the men’s side, there is Noah Lyles, who is the world champion in the 200 meters but will be participating in the Olympics for the first time.
There is a fair amount of skepticism around the U.S. team after exhibition losses to Nigeria and Australia in preparation for the Olympics. On the other hand, the Americans responded to that adversity with wins over Argentina and Spain, two of the better teams in the tournament. Group play shouldn’t be a problem for the Americans, giving the team a little more time to gel, especially after Bradley Beal and Kevin Love had to withdraw from the games. Of course, this isn’t exactly the Dream Team of the 90s, which will put plenty of pressure on Kevin Durant as the team’s marquee player.
There is also a little concern regarding the U.S. Women’s Basketball Team, which has also lost two games in the lead-up to the Olympics. Team USA has lost to both the WNBA All-Stars and Australia over the past week. Coach Dawn Staley doesn’t seem to be too concerned, although there are clearly issues on both ends of the court. Talent-wise, no other team at the Olympics should be able to compete with the Americans. But this team is yet to come together and play up to its potential fully.
The U.S. gymnastics team has been downsized to just four competitors this year, but fan favorite and previous Olympic hero Simone Biles will lead the way for the Americans. She was far from perfect but finished first at the qualifying trials. She also brings previous Olympic experience with her to Tokyo. Biles will be joined by Sunisa Lee, who finished second at the trials, and Grace McCallum and Jordan Chiles.
This year’s Olympics could be more about who’s not on the tennis court. For starters, Serena Williams has decided that four gold medals are enough for her, so she won’t be going to Tokyo. Meanwhile, 17-year-old sensation Coco Gauff has pulled out after testing positive for COVID-19. So that leaves Jennifer Brady as the best chance for the Americans have to win gold in singles, while Bethanie Mattek-Sands and Nicole Melichar will compete in doubles.
Once again, the American men failed to qualify for the Olympics, but the U.S. Women’s Soccer Team will be in Japan to save face. After winning the 2019 World Cup, the American women will try to become the first women’s soccer team to win Olympic gold after winning the previous World Cup.
While this veteran-laden is two years older than they were during the 2019 World Cup, one could argue that they’ve never looked better than during the run-up to the tournament. In fact, the extra year could benefit the U.S. because it’s given key players more time to rest and recover after winning the tournament. Granted, the competition in the Olympics is never easy. Still, traditional heavyweights like Germany and France didn’t qualify, so the path to Olympic gold isn’t as difficult for the U.S. as it could be.