The 2016 Summer Olympics are nearly upon us! It might not seem like they’re actually going to happen given that the news leading up to summer has almost exclusively concerned the Zika virus worries, and the athletes opting to stay home rather than travel to Rio. But plenty of Olympians are deciding that, Zika, crime concerns, and general dysfunctional organization be damned, they’re going for gold!
The world will tune in on August 5 to watch two weeks of competitions that, as always, will display some of the best athletic talent on the planet. And because everyone else seems too preoccupied with outlining the Rio Olympics’ various issues, we thought we’d highlight some of the most dominant athletes who will be competing. Get ready to see these gold medal hopefuls on TV.
The Jamaican sprinter with six Olympic gold medals, 11 world championships, and world records in multiple events might not be what he was in London in 2012, but he’s still expected to be competitive in the 100m, 200m, and 4x100m races. According to NBC Olympics’ recent report, Bolt made the Jamaican team despite pulling out of qualifying with an injury. That right there pretty much describes how dominant a figure he is in sprinting.
The decathlon doesn’t always get the same attention of some other more viewer-friendly sports, but in some ways it’s the quintessential Olympic sport—or at least the most comprehensive test of athleticism. Twenty-eight-year-old American Ashton Eaton won gold in 2012 and is looking to do the same in Rio, while breaking his own world record.
Katie Ledecky is just 19 and has a chance to become the defining headline of the 2016 Olympics. Sports Illustrated’s early lineup of headlines for the summer event called her “arguably the most dominant swimmer in the pool,” and with good reason. She’s the only swimmer ever to sweep the 200m, 400m, 800m, and 1500m frees in an international competition, according to SI, and she’ll be looking for a similar run of wins in Rio. If she gets them at her age she’ll start to look like the female Michael Phelps pretty quickly!
Wait until you see Simone Biles. That’s the tone of a lot of articles that have been going around lately, because Biles seems to be about the only non-Zika Olympic story making headlines. Like Ledecky, she’s a 19-year-old American looking to establish herself as a historically great Olympian, though she’ll be doing it in gymnastics. Her combination of skill and joy is said to be nothing short of captivating.
Unlike golf, in which many of the top pros are skipping Rio due to various concerns, tennis is bringing its stars to Rio, and Serbia’s Novak Djokovic is leading the pack. Winner of five of the past six Grand Slam events, Djokovic is such a clear favorite that his image now adorns the entire at Betfair’s online exchange, where he’ll also no doubt lead with the top odds for gold when the Olympic tipsters make their selections. He’s the unquestioned top player in tennis even after a recent stumble at Wimbledon.
While we’re on tennis, Serena Williams will be in Rio as well, and has a legitimate argument as the most dominant living athlete. At 34—past the age of decline for most tennis players, male and female—she’s just tied Steffi Graf’s record of 22 Grand Slam titles, and seems as if she’s not slowing down at all.
When you hear about Jamaican sprinting you think about Usain Bolt, who’s become one of the more recognizable athletes in the world. But fellow Jamaican Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce has at times been just as formidable, and according to an editorial by CNN, she actually has a chance to beat Bolt to history. If things go well for Fraser-Pryce, she’ll become the first sprinter (male or female) to win the 100m gold at three consecutive Olympics. She would do so a day before Bolt has a chance to accomplish the same feat.
In Japan, they call him Superman. In London in 2012, he was the all-around gymnastics gold medalist. And in 2016, according to the same Sports Illustrated article cited previously, he’ll have the chance to become the first man to repeat in the all-around championship since 1972.
Olympic gold has evaded this Kenyan marathoner so far, but outside of the Olympics he’s been about as strong a distance runner as we’ve ever seen. Kipchoge wins pretty much every time he runs these days and has conquered the London, Berlin, and Chicago marathons, to name a few.
It’s not always as easy to highlight dominant individuals in team sports at the Olympics. For instance, the U.S. men’s basketball team will feature a handful of the very best basketball players in the world, but it’s not necessarily likely that any one of them will show through as a dominant Olympian. But Marta, a Brazilian soccer star who’s been named the world’s best player five times, has a chance to do just that. Naturally, there will be more attention than usual on soccer given that the games are in Rio, and Marta is one of the world’s top stars playing for the home nation.
We’ll begin hearing more about the games and athletes (as opposed to Zika and poor organization) as we inch closer to August 5. But as an early preview of the people who will be all over our television screens next month, these are some of the names to keep in mind!