With the Tokyo Olympics starting tomorrow (Friday 23rd July), there are always athletes who bring both hope and inspiration to the Games no matter their result.
In this article, we look at five athletes from around the world who you should be rooting for over the next two weeks at the Tokyo Olympics.
Sky Brown (Great Britain), Skateboarding
We start this list of inspirational athletes with one of the Olympics’ newest sports, Skateboarding and with Britain’s youngest competitor to ever take part in a summer games.
Sky Brown is just 13 years old, but don’t let her age fool you, she is one of the best skateboarders in the world, ranked third in park skateboarding and will be one of the favourites to take home a medal on 4th August.
Like all great stories, there is a sense of a comeback too – as much as you can have for a teenager. She fractured her skull and broke her left wrist falling at high speed during training just a year ago, but has come back “stronger and tougher” since then.
This has all the ingredients of an incredible story, so make sure you tune in to see whether Sky can hit the heights on 4th August. Oh, and she has Japanese heritage too – the perfect story?
Hend Zaza (Syria), Table Tennis
Hend Zaza makes Sky Brown seem comparatively middle-aged as this 12-year-old is set to become the youngest ever Olympian in 51 years..
From Syria, this table tennis starlet qualified for the Olympics at just 11. She has not been able to play much, according to her coach, due to the continuing civil war.
This will be a huge leap for the young athlete, but expect her to become a firm favourite for fans very quickly. Ranked 43rd in her youth category, it is an incredible achievement for her to be representing her country, giving hope to many who will be cheering her on at home.
To reach the tournament, she won four out of five games in the Western Asia Olympic Qualification Tournament in Jordan in 2020 – just six years after picking up her first paddle at the age of five after following her brother into the sport..
Hend plays Austria’s Liu Jia on Saturday (24th August) morning, in Japan, in the Women’s Preliminary Round. A win in this game could spark national celebrations before the first round proper begins.
Eddy Alvarez (USA), Baseball
What can capture the imagination more than a summer/winter Olympian crossover?
Eddy Alvarez is one of a handful who has competed in both summer and winter editions of the Olympics, and could become part of a very select few to win medals in both games if his US Baseball team can go all the way.
Surprisingly for someone from Miami, Eddy won a silver in Sochi at speed skating and will now play as an infielder for the US team.
Not only that, but he will be one of the US team’s flag bearers at the opening ceremony, an honour like no other.
If the US team goes on to make the final at the Tokyo Olympics, you can catch it on Saturday 7th August.
Jake Gibb (USA), Beach Volleyball
We’ve spoken about two young guns looking to steal the show in Tokyo. Now it’s time to focus on the other side of the spectrum.
Jake Gibb will be heading to his fourth Olympics at the age of 45, but it’s off the court where this story lives.
Jake has had two fights with cancer, one in 2010 and another four years later, both of which he won.
Since then, he has gone on to win World Tour events into his 40s and, although he has had a late change of partner, will be there or thereabouts come the end of the beach volleyball tournament.
This will also be his last dance, as he is set to retire once the Olympics ends, starting his career in coaching. The tournament starts on Saturday with Gibb’s first match starting a day later.
Kento Momota (Japan), Badminton
Let’s finish this article with a home nation hero, who has come through a lot since the last games in Rio de Janeiro, five years ago.
One of the best badminton players in the world, Kento Momota is a two-time world champion that has “rediscovered the joy of badminton” after a turbulent five years.
He missed out on Rio after being banned by his national federation after admitting to a gambling addiction – something that is illegal in Japan.
He was then involved in a car accident that saw him need surgery on a fractured eye socket just 18 months ago.
Not only that, but the world number one comes from Fukushima, the place where just 10 years ago was one of the world’s worst earthquakes that left the city decimated.
He now goes to the Tokyo Olympics seeking to seal a medal that will give him an incredible redemption story. And he knows it, promising to make up for Rio and make his country proud.
The badminton competition starts on Saturday and the medals will be decided for Kento on Monday 2nd August.
Excited for the Tokyo Olympics? Let us know by telling us your favourite sport on social media and whilst you’re waiting for the Games to officially begin, why not read this interview with Spanish ice queen Sara Hurtado.
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