2021 Olympics: Power-Ranking Biggest Gold-Medal Favorites in Tokyo

Joe Tansey@JTansey90Featured ColumnistJuly 23, 2021

Katie Ledecky reacts after the women's 800 freestyle during wave 2 of the U.S. Olympic Swim Trials on Saturday, June 19, 2021, in Omaha, Neb. (AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall)
Charlie Neibergall/Associated Press

Some of the best individual athletes in the world will take over the Tokyo Olympics spotlight over the next two weeks. 

Novak Djokovic, Naomi Osaka and Jon Rahm are among the athletes that we typically talk about in a calendar year who are projected to come out on top in their respective sports. 

At the Summer Olympics, swimmers, gymnasts and track and field athletes will compete with other individuals to be the star of the Games. 

The United States' top star is Simone Biles, who could come away from Tokyo with a similar medal haul as her four gold medals from the 2016 Summer Olympics. 

In the pool, Katie Ledecky and Caeleb Dressel are the top hopes to bring home multiple golds for the United States. Ledecky will be in a direct battle with Australia's Ariarne Titmus in a few of her showcase events. 

Sydney McLaughlin, Noah Lyles and other American track stars will be focused on singular events, but their victories could look as dominant as Biles, Dressel, Ledecky and others. 


Power-Ranking Biggest Gold-Medal Favorites

10. Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce, Jamaica (women's 100 meters)

9. Nelly Korda, United States (women's golf)

8. Karsten Warholm, Norway (men's 400-meter hurdles)

7. Jon Rahm, Spain (men's golf)

6. Naomi Osaka, Japan (women's tennis)

5. Sydney McLaughlin, United States (women's 400-meter hurdles)

4. Novak Djokovic, Serbia (men's tennis)

3. Caeleb Dressel, United States (men's swimming)

2. Katie Ledecky, United States (women's swimming)

1. Simone Biles, United States (women's gymnastics)


Simone Biles

Biles comes into Tokyo as the reigning champion in the all-around, vault and floor exercise. 

She will also headline the United States squad that will try to defend its team title crown in women's gymnastics. 

Biles is one of the heaviest favorites to win not only one event but multiple disciplines because of her dominance at the highest level. The 24-year-old won the individual all-around competition, vault, balance beam and floor exercise at the 2019 World Championships.

Since her dominant run in Rio de Janeiro, Biles captured seven individual gold medals at the World Championships. She also won the team event with the United States in 2018 and 2019.

If Biles performs at her high level in Tokyo, she will come away with multiple gold medals and cement herself as one of the greatest Summer Olympians in history. 

Other athletes may win more than one gold medals, but none of them are as heavily favored as Biles. 

For example, Ledecky could collect a handful of first-place finishes, but she faces tougher competition in her showcase events. 


Katie Ledecky

Ledecky is the reigning champion in the 200-, 400- and 800-meter freestyle. 

She owns five gold medals and a silver thanks to the United States' high placings in relay events at Rio de Janeiro. Ledecky also won the 800 free at the 2012 London Games

Ledecky may come away with a similar medal haul as Biles, but she will face tougher competition in the form of Titmus to get there. 

Titmus posted the second-fastest 200 free time in history at the Australian Olympic trials and owns a season-best 400 free time that is over two seconds faster than Ledecky.

However, Ledecky still owns the world record in the 400 and is capable of producing a strong swim to outpace her top rival. 

The 24-year-old's individual program includes the 800 free and 1,500 free, where she is the favorite in both events. 

Even if she loses both races to Titmus or splits them, Ledecky is in a good position to come home with multiple golds. 


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