The Olympics are back! From July 23 to August 8, sports fans around the world will have the honor of watching the globe’s fittest athletes compete in a myriad of events—from gymnastics to track and field—at the 2021 Tokyo Olympic Games.
Before the games begin, get to know some of these elite athletes and their inspiring stories. You’ve likely heard of Simone Biles and Naomi Osaka, but do you know the canoe sprinter who made American history? Are you aware of the dominance Maggie Steffens has over her respective sport? Do you know the fastest British woman in the world? Did you know skateboarders are Olympic athletes now?
We’ve got you covered. Here are 50 of the most fascinating athletes making the journey to the Tokyo 2021 Olympics.
Alica Ѕchmidt, Germany
The German runner has been making waves on Instagram where she has amassed 1.8 million followers, a number that is sure to go up when she competes in the 4x400m relay.
Ѕchmidt and her teammates took bronze in the 2019 European Athletics U23 Championships. This will be the 22-year-old’s first Olympic games.
Simone Biles, United States
The 24-year-old athlete is already considered by many to be the greatest gymnast of all time. In Tokyo, she is looking to extend her lead on that claim.
Biles won gold in 2016 for the team, in all-around, vault and floor exercise. In total she has 30 world and Olympic medals, 16 more than Shannon Miller who trails in second in the medal count.
Naomi Osaka, Japan
Osaka is the biggest rising star in tennis, and saying she is rising may be underselling her. At 23, she has already won four grand slam titles.
Though she grew up mostly in America, the tennis champ was born in Japan, and will represent Japan at the Olympics. She is the first Asian woman to be ranked No. 1 in women’s tennis.
She is seen here holding her award for the 2021 Laureus World Sportswoman of the Year.
Noah Lyles, United States
Lyles is the reigning 200 meters world champion.
The 23-year-old from Virginia will compete in his first Olympic games for the same race. He came in first place in his trial, posting a time of 19.74 seconds. That’s 0.04 seconds faster than the time Usain Bolt achieved to win gold in 2016.
Sunisa Lee, United States
The 18-year-old competitor is the artistic gymnast on the women’s national gymnastics team.
Though this is her first time participating in the Olympic games, don’t count out her experience.
She already won gold at the 2018 Pacific Rim Junior Championships and at the 2019 world championships with her respective teams.
Sydney McLaughlin, United States
At 16, McLaughlin was the youngest person to qualify for the U.S. track and field team in the 2016 Olympics. She placed 17th for her event, the 400 meter hurdles.
Now, she is more experienced and faster. McLaughlin just set the world record for fastest woman to ever run the 400 meter hurdles at the Olympic trials. She heads into the event as the favorite to win.
Simone Manuel, United States
The 24-year-old swimmer holds three world records with her relay team and is a six-time NCAA individual champion.
Manuel competed in the 2016 Olympics where she tied for first in the 100 meter freestyle with Penny Oleksiak of Canada. In doing this, she became the first African American to win gold in an individual swimming event. She is one of the captains of the USA Olympic swim team for the 2021 games, where she will compete in a medley of races.
Dalilah Muhammad, United States
This elite athlete is the reigning Olympic 400 meter hurdles gold medalist.
Muhammad also took gold in the most recent world championships for that event and the 4x400 meter relay.
Alex Morgan, United States
Morgan broke out on the world stage as the youngest member of the 2011 U.S. World Cup squad, where she scored goals in the semi-final and final.
She has become one of the most popular female athletes in America. The U.S. women’s team was upset at the 2016 Olympic games. After bouncing back with a World Cup win in 2019, they aim to reclaim gold in Tokyo.
Nyjah Huston, United States
That’s right, skateboarding is an Olympic sport now. Athletes who have been tearing up tours are about to get tricky on the world stage.
There’s no bigger name in street skateboarding right now than Nyjah Huston. Since 2011, Huston has won 16 gold medals in the X Games and World Skateboarding Championships.
Xander Schauffele, United States
The 27-year-old professional athlete enters the 2021 Olympics ranked as the No. 5 golfer in the world.
He’s never won a major, but has come second in the Masters and the Open Championship. Olympic gold could, to this point, become the crown jewel of Schauffele’s golfing career.
Nevin Harrison, United States
Harrison, 19, became the first American to win a medal for the world championships of sprint canoe, and it was gold.
She looks to bring more pride to her country during the 200 meter event this summer.
Stephanie Gilmore, Australia
Surfing is coming to the Olympics in 2021, and it’s bringing seven-time world champion Stephanie Gilmore.
The Australian surf team elected to go under the name “The Irukandjis,” which was gifted from the local indigenous Yirrganydji people. It means “box jellyfish” and symbolizes the team's strong connection to the water.
Leticia Bufoni, Brazil
Bufoni first competed in the X Games when she was 14. Now 28, she is the veteran skateboarder who is looking to hold off the youngsters to win the first-ever women’s street skateboarding Olympic competition.
Her resume includes a 2015 World Skateboarding Championship gold medal, and six more X Games gold medals.
Danusia Francis, Jamaica
Francis, 27, is a British-born artistic gymnast who gained Jamaican citizenship to represent the nation at the Olympics, partly due to her love for track and field legend Usain Bolt.
Her biggest achievement to date is winning an NCAA Championship on the balance beam for UCLA, but that could all change when she hits the world stage at the 2021 Olympics.
Rohan Dennis, Australia
The accomplished Aussie athlete is one of the top men to beat at this year's cycling event.
Dennis won back-to-back UCI Road World Championships in 2018 and 2019.
Anastasiya Savchuk and Marta Fiedina, Ukraine
Russia has dominated synchronized and artistic swimming since 2000. Ukraine has never medaled.
However, the country has been on the rise in the event recently and the duo of Savchuk and Fiedina hold their best chance of taking home gold in the aquatic sport.
Dina Asher-Smith, Great Britain
The 25-year-old sprinter is the fastest British woman ever recorded in the 100 meter and 200 meter dash. Her national record time of 21.88 in the 200 meter was enough to take home gold at the most recent world championships.
A British woman has never won either race at the Olympics. But it’s possible Asher-Smith could change that this year.
Christian Coleman, United States
Coleman, 25, is the reigning 100 meter dash world champion.
The Atlanta native also brought home gold that same year running the 4x100 meter relay with Justin Gatlin, Mike Rodgers and Noah Lyles.
Laura Kenny, Great Britain
Hailing from Essex, England, Laura Kenny is one of the biggest names in cycling.
She has already won four Olympic gold medals between the 2012 and 2016 games, seven UCI World Championship golds and fourteen European championship golds. She will no doubt add to that impressive resume this year in Tokyo.
Mariya Lasitskene, Russia
The 28-year-old Russian athlete is one of her nation’s greatest hopes to bring home gold from Tokyo.
Lasitskene won gold at the World Athletics Championships for high jump in 2015, 2017 and 2019.
Eliza McCartney, New Zealand
The 24-year-old track and field star is the current Oceania record holder for highest pole vault.
She earned bronze at the 2016 Olympics. She hopes to improve that to gold for her home country of New Zealand.
Kylie Masse, Canada
The Canadian swimmer, 25, is the current 100 meter backstroke world champion and record holder.
Masse took home bronze in the event in Rio De Janeiro. This time she’s coming for the gold.
Tomoa Narasaki, Japan
Since 2016, Narasaki has either taken first or second in the IFSC Climbing World Cup. He took home gold at the Climbing World Championships in 2019 for bouldering and combined.
With climbing added to the Olympics, the host country has another chance at gold.
Teddy Riner, France
Riner is the Michael Jordan of Judo. Between Olympic events, world championships, European championships and other major events, the 6’8’’, 290-pound Frenchman has won 37 medals.
It’s almost a given that he will three-peat as an Olympic gold medalist, so don’t watch it for the suspense—watch it for the athletic mastery.
Duncan Scott, Great Britain
At 24, Scott is already a decorated relay swimmer.
He is entering his second Olympics, but this will be the first in which he competes in individual events. Since 2016, he’s become the British record holder in the 100 and 200 meter freestyle as well as the 200 meter individual medley.
With Michael Phelps out of the pool, the race for individual and relay gold is wide open for him.
Ariarne Titmus, Australia
Hailing from the island of Tasmania, Titmus is a force to be reckoned with in the pool.
This will be her first Olympics, where she will compete in the 200, 400 and 800 meter freestyle. She finished first in all the qualifiers for those events.
Kōhei Uchimura, Japan
The 32-year-old Japanese gymnast is the back-to-back all-around Olympic gold medalist.
He is set to earn the host country their second consecutive team gymnastic gold in 2021.
John John Florence, United States
The man with the name so nice, you have to say it twice. Florence has gone from the youngest person to ever compete in the Vans Triple Crown of Surfing to one of the most dominant pipe surfers ever.
He won back-to-back World Surf titles in 2016 and 2017. This will be his, and every other surfer's, first opportunity at Olympic gold.
Maggie Steffens, United States
You are looking at the record holder for most water polo goals scored by a woman in a single Olympic games.
Steffens needs just nine goals to become the leading female Olympic goal-scorer of all time, which would cement her as the greatest female water polo player in history.
Matt Anderson, United States
Anderson is a senior member of the U.S. men’s volleyball team.
This will be his third Olympics. His team lost in the quarterfinals in 2012, then earned a bronze medal in 2016. This year he is determined to continue the incline towards gold.
Sam Mikulak, United States
The six-time U.S. all-around gymnast champion did not medal in his first two appearances at the Olympics.
Is the third time the charm for Mikulak? Fans will find out soon.
Regan Smith, United States
Smith is the current female world record holder for the 200 meter backstroke.
In the 2021 games, she will be competing in relays as well as the 100 meter backstroke and 200 meter butterfly.
Hanna Folkesson, Sweden
Folkesson, 33, is a veteran midfielder on the Swedish squad, which took down the U.S. team in the last Olympic games.
She returns for possibly her last Olympics. Swedish hopes rest on her ability to control the midfield.
Ryan Murphy, United States
At the last Olympics, Murphy won gold in both backstroke events.
He is one of the American captains on the swim team this year, and is looking to repeat wins in both events.
Julie Ertz, United States
Ertz, 29, was injured and sidelined for most of her Olympic debut, which saw a shocking quarter-final exit against Sweden.
She won the award for the U.S. Soccer Female Player of the Year in 2017 and 2019, the latter year leading the defense to another World Cup.
Tokyo is a big chance to add Olympic gold to her resume.
Keni Harrison, United States
Harrison, 28, is the current world record holder for the 100 meters hurdles.
Still, she lost to fellow American Nia Ali at the most recent World Championships. Tokyo is her chance to reclaim her spot at the top of the podium.
Ryan Crouser, United States
The 2016 shot put Olympic gold medalist has only improved in recent years. He recently beat a 31-year-old shot put record by ten inches!
Expectations are high for Crouser to win gold this year in Tokyo.
Adriana Leon, Canada
Team Canada has taken third place at the previous two Olympic games.
If they want to break through to the final, chances are the opportunities will come through their soccer star midfield attacker Adriana Leon, 28.
Nikita Nagornyy, Russia
Despite three golds in the world gymnastic championships and eight golds in the European gymnastic championships, Nargornyy has never won gold in an Olympic event.
The 24-year-old Russian seeks to rectify that this year in the Tokyo games.
Tom Daley, Great Britain
The proud Brit is one of the most popular divers in the sport. He’s earned three golds in the World Diving Championships and five more in the European Aquatic Championships.
This year Daley hopes to win his first gold in his third Olympics.
Novak Djokovic, Serbia
The 34-year-old Serbian is the world’s No.1 ranked men’s tennis player. After winning this year’s Wimbledon competition, he has tied Rafael Nadal’s record of winning 36 Masters events.
The only thing missing from Djokovic’s impressive resume is an Olympic gold medal, which he seeks to win this year.
Rudy Gobert, France
The 7’1’’ Frenchman is set to dominate the paint at the 2021 Olympic games.
Gobert is the three-time NBA Defensive Player of the Year. His team has come in sixth place in the last two Olympics.
Christen Press, United States
At the time of publication, this spectacular soccer player has scored 63 goals in 149 appearances for the United States national team.
She joins the lethal attack of Tobin Heath, Carli Lloyd and Alex Morgan to form the best collection of forwards in the world. Will it be enough to strike gold?
Abby Dahlkemper, United States
The professional soccer player is one of the greatest female defenders in the world.
The 28-year-old is making her Olympic debut this year.
Mikkel Hansen, Denmark
This long-haired handball player is the most dominant athlete in his sport and has won the IHF World Player of the Year award three times.
The Danish team overtook France in the final in Rio De Janeiro. They are looking to repeat with Hansen still in his prime.
Rupinder Pal Singh, India
From 1928 to 1980, the Indian men’s field hockey team won eight Olympic gold medals. They have not been to the podium since.
However, thanks to players like Rupinder Pal Singh, they are poised to return to glory in this year's tournament.
Nichelle Prince, Canada
Prince, 26, is an exceptional athlete who has been with the Canadian national soccer team since 2013. She plays forward.
She has an Olympic bronze medal from her team’s appearance at the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro.
Sakura Kokumai, United States
The country where karate was developed will be the one to host its first-ever Olympic event.
Kokumai, 28, won gold in individual kata at the 2019 Pan American Games. She is America’s greatest hope to reach the podium in 2021.
Emma Coburn, United States
Coburn, 30, is the first American woman to ever win gold at the world championships in steeplechase. She did it in 2017 after taking bronze at the 2016 Olympic Games.
After a silver at the most recent world championships, she has proven to be one of the most dangerous competitors in the intense 3000 meter event.