With the Tokyo Olympics opening ceremony kicking off tonight, anticipation about the Games is growing across the world. With about half of the Australian population currently in lockdown, this year’s Olympics might provide a welcome distraction over the next couple of weeks.
Here’s a list of some of the most exciting women (and girls!) to watch in Tokyo this year, across sports and nationalities.
Sky Brown, United Kingdom
Thirteen-year-old Sky Brown is set to become one of the UK’s first ever Olympic skateboarders, with the sport making its Olympic debut in Tokyo this year. She will also be the UK’s youngest ever Olympian, and is said to have learnt many of her skateboarding tricks by watching YouTube and is a friend of skateboarding legend Tony Hawk.
She comes to the Olympics after suffering a terrible skateboarding accident last year, when she fell 15ft and fractured her skull and several other bones. She has shared a video of the accident and her recovery on her YouTube channel.
In the video she said: “It’s OK to fall sometimes and I’m just going to get back up and push even harder. I know there’s a lot of things going on in the world right now but I want everyone to know that, whatever we do, we’re just going to do it with love and happiness.”
Speaking before heading to Tokyo, Brown said she hopes watching her compete at the Olympics will make other girls want to try skateboarding.
“I feel like sometimes girls are scared to be the only girl and they’re scared to be judged by the boys,” she said. “But I feel like watching the Olympics, seeing how many girls are doing the sport and how good [they are], they’re gonna really want to [try it].”
Allyson Felix, United States
Competing at her fifth Olympic Games, US track athlete Allyson Felix, 35, is the only female track-and-field athlete to win six Olympic gold medals. If she wins a medal in Tokyo, she will become the most decorated female track athlete in Olympic history.
This will be the first Olympics she has competed in since becoming a mother in 2018. Felix will be looking to secure her spot in the 400-metre final.
Hend Zaza, Syria
At just twelve years old, Hend Zaza from Syria, is the youngest athlete competing at Tokyo this year. The table tennis player started playing the sport at age 5, and is considered a prodigy by many commentators.
Zaza grew up amid conflict and civil war in Syria, and playing table tennis is said to have been a relief for her throughout her childhood. She will be the youngest table tennis athlete ever at an Olympics and will definitely be one to watch.
Ariarne Titmus, Australia
The 20-year-old Australian swimmer is pitted as the biggest threat to US champion Katie Ledecky at the Olympics. The Australian is nicknamed “The Terminator” for a reason. The competitive rivalry between the two swimmers has been hyped up in the lead up to the Games, and comes after Titmus claimed the 2019 world championship 400m freestyle final, stunning Ledecky in a memorable race.
Oksana Chusovitina, Uzbekistan
At age 46, Uzbekistan’s Oksana Chusovitina is competing in her eighth and final Olympic Games in Tokyo. The legendary gymnast, who has won two Olympic medals in the past, said this will be her final Games, as she wishes to spend more time with her 22-year-old son. Chusovitina started competing in gymnastics for the Soviet Union in the late 1980s, and after the collapse of the Soviet Union, she competed for the Unified Team. She also competed for Germany between 2006 and 2012 when her son received treatment in the country for leukemia.
Simone Biles, United States
One of America’s biggest sporting stars, 24-year-old Simone Biles is expected to put on a spectacle in Tokyo, after dominating gymnastics for the better part of a decade.
An all-rounder, Biles competes in all four gymnastics events (vault, balance beam, floor and uneven bars), and has pulled off an historic move, the Yerchenko double pike vault, while training for the Games. She performed the move in competition in May, becoming the first woman to ever pull off the move.