2021 Tokyo Olympics: Team USA's Gold Medal Hopefuls

David KenyonFeatured ColumnistJuly 22, 2021

2021 Tokyo Olympics: Team USA's Gold Medal Hopefuls

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    Caeleb Dressel
    Caeleb DresselCharlie Neibergall/Associated Press

    Olympics scenes will be different for Tokyo 2020, but Team USA is expected to take a familiar place atop the medal count.

    Since 1996, the U.S. has earned the most overall and gold medals at five of the last six Summer Olympics. Team USA's depth of success in swimming and athletics (track and field) has primarily contributed to the trend, which may continue in 2021.

    Additionally, Team USA has a great opportunity to excel in basketball, gymnastics―largely thanks to Simone Biles―soccer, softball and several other events.

    Given the hectic schedule of the Olympics, you might be most interested in watching Team USA's best chances at a gold. B/R has you covered with this primer.

More Team USA Members to Know

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    Heimana Reynolds
    Heimana ReynoldsBryn Lennon/Getty Images

    U.S. Men

    • Brady Ellison (archery)
    • JuVaughn Harrison (long jump, high jump)
    • Nyjah Huston (street skateboarding)
    • Brody Malone (high bar)
    • Heimana Reynolds and Cory Juneau (park skateboarding)
    • Team USA Baseball

    U.S. Women

    • Valarie Allman (discus)
    • Adeline Gray (76 kg wrestling)
    • Nevin Harrison (canoe sprint)
    • Carissa Moore (surfing)
    • Katie Nageotte (pole vault)
    • Brittney Reese (long jump)
    • Hannah Roberts (BMX freestyle)
    • Team USA Volleyball
    • Team USA Water Polo

April Ross and Alix Klineman, Beach Volleyball

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    Handout/Getty Images

    For the first time in 21 years, Kerri Walsh Jennings won't represent the United States at the Summer Olympics. But her Rio 2016 partner, April Ross, is looking for gold.

    Ross, who also earned a silver alongside Jennifer Kessy at the 2012 Games in London, is now paired with Alix Klineman. She switched from being an indoor player in 2017 and will be making her first appearance at the Summer Olympics.

    The top challengers to Ross and Klineman are two of the world's top-ranked teams: Brazil's Agatha Bednarczuk (a silver medalist at Rio 2016) and Duda Santos Lisboa, and Canada's Sarah Pavan and Melissa Humana-Paredes.

    Fellow Americans Kelly Claes and Sarah Sponcil are also medal contenders.

Simone Biles, Gymnastics

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    Jeff Roberson/Associated Press

    One of the most obvious choices, Simone Biles is aiming for a second prolific medal run at the Olympics.

    Biles brought home five medals at Rio 2016, including four golds (team, all-around, vault and floor exercise). While the U.S. team is again the team favorite, Biles remains the front-runner in all-around, vault and floor, and she has a chance to medal on the beam, too.

    If she doesn't win a single gold, it would be stunning. Mostly, the storyline is whether Biles will become the first woman to land a Yurchenko double pike in the Olympics.

    Two of Biles' teammatesSunisa Lee and MyKayla Skinnerare also strong contenders for medals. In particular, Lee should be a leader for the gold in uneven bars.

Men's and Women's Swimming

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    Katie Ledecky
    Katie LedeckyCharlie Neibergall/Associated Press

    During the 2016 Olympics, the United States won more swimming medals (33) than the next four delegations combined. Australia earned the second-most medals with 10.

    Even though Tokyo is considered a down cycle, Team USA should still be headed for another productive year.

    Most notably, Caeleb Dressel will be aiming at a Michael Phelps-like run. He's a strong medal contender in seven eventsincluding the 50- and 100-meter freestyle and 100-meter butterfly, all of which he won at the U.S. Olympic Trials in June.

    Katie Ledecky is expected to pad her medal count via the 200-, 400-, 800- and 1,500-meter freestyle swims. She's a six-time Olympic medialist with five golds.

    More men's swimmers to know: Ryan Murphy (backstroke), Michael Andrew (freestyle, breaststroke and individual medley) and Chase Kalisz (IM). And women's swimmers: Lilly King and Lydia Jacoby (breaststroke), Torri Huske and Hali Flickinger (butterfly), Annie Lazor (breaststroke) and Regan Smith (backstroke and butterfly).

    The U.S. relay teams have consistently fared well, but repeating the 5-of-6 gold count from Rio is unlikely.

Men's and Women's Basketball

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    Madison Quisenberry/Getty Images

    Team USA is primed for three basketball medals, not just two.

    In addition to the typical men's and women's teams, the U.S. is hoping for a gold from the women's 3x3 team. After the departure of Katie Lou Samuelson (health and safety protocols), the roster features WNBA standouts Kelsey Plum, Allisha Gray, Jackie Young and Stefanie Dolson.

    The full women's team is the undisputed favorite, boasting a roster with A'ja Wilson, Breanna Stewart, Tina Charles and veterans Sue Bird and Diana Taurasi. The team is seeking a seventh straight gold.

    Lastly, the men's team is seeking its fourth straight gold medal and is expected to lean on Kevin Durant. Other key players include Damian Lillard, Jayson Tatum and Draymond Green, while Devin Booker, Khris Middleton and Jrue Holiday will link up with Team USA now that the NBA Finals are over.

Women's Soccer

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    Brad Smith/ISI Photos/Getty Images

    Sweden stunned the U.S. women's national soccer team in Rio, eliminating the 2015 World Cup champions in the Olympic quarterfinals. The loss halted the USWNT's gold-medal streak at three.

    And on the opening day of the Tokyo Games, Sweden pulled off another surprise with a 3-0 shellacking of the USWNT.

    Nevertheless, the U.S. women remain a major threat. Group-stage wins over Australia and New Zealand would put the USWNT into the knockout round.

    Megan Rapinoe, Carli Lloyd, Alex Morgan and Julie Ertz are the most familiar names. Lindsey Horan, Abby Dahlkemper, Rose Lavelle, Sam Mewis, Christen Press and Tobin Heath are also key players for the USWNT, which hadn't dropped a game since January 2019 until Sweden's upset victory.

Athletics (Track and Field)

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    Noah Lyles
    Noah LylesSteph Chambers/Getty Images

    Given that the U.S. earned 32 medals in athletics five years ago, it shouldn't be surprising this list is extensive.

    On the men's side, the top gold-medal contenders are Trayvon Bromell and Ronnie Baker (100m), Noah Lyles (200m), Michael Norman (400m), Grant Holloway (110m hurdles), Will Claye (triple jump), Ryan Crouser (shot put) and multiple relays.

    The U.S. women may be even more productive. Key athletes to watch are Gabby Thomas (200m), Quanera Hayes and Allyson Felix (400m), Keni Harrison (100m hurdles), Sydney McLaughlin and Dalilah Muhammad (400m hurdles), DeAnna Price (hammer) and Jessica Ramsey (shot put), along with multiple relays.


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    Monica Abbott
    Monica AbbottJae C. Hong/Associated Press

    Six teams are in the Tokyo field, and they'll play a round-robin schedule to determine the gold-medal game. Whichever two countries post the best record―including tiebreakers, if necessary―through five games will meet in that final showdown.

    Fortunately for Team USA, it has already made significant strides toward qualifying for the gold-medal game.

    After opening with a 2-0 victory over Italy, the U.S. clipped Canada 1-0. Cat Osterman and Monica Abbott both tallied nine strikeouts in their shutout wins.

    Japan, which topped the U.S. for gold in 2008, is considered the primary challenger to Team USA. The teams will meet July 26 to close the round-robin portion of the tournament.


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