This summer’s Tokyo Olympics will go down in history for several reasons. For one, it’s the only time other than World War I and World War II where an Olympic games could not be held as planned. Luckily, unlike in the case of the World Wars, the Tokyo 2020 Olympics will go on, albeit a year late. Another change this year is the exciting introduction of karate, surfing, skateboarding, and sport climbing to the Olympics.
The pandemic has delayed many elite athletes’ plans, but has also given them an extra year to practice. Here are some Asian athletes expected to make waves at the Olympics starting this July 23rd:
Mary Kom – Boxing (India)
Get ready to have your resume ripped to shreds. This 38-year-old is an Indian boxing legend, with an Olympic bronze medal and a record eight World Amateur Boxing Championship titles under her belt. As a mother of four children, Tokyo 2020 will be Kom’s last Olympics, and possibly her last time in the ring. She’s not slowing down, though—after the games she will serve as a member of the Indian Parliament, which she has been on since 2016. Fun fact: Priyanka Chopra played Kom in a movie about her life.
Pandelela Rinong – Diving (Malaysia)
This summer will be the diver’s third straight Olympics. The 28-year-old was the flagbearer for Malaysia at the 2012 London Olympics. With one silver and one bronze medal, Rinong was the first female to win an Olympic medal for Malaysia.
Alexander Massialas – Fencing (U.S.A.)
The half-Greek, half-Taiwanese fencer is set to compete in this year’s Olympics. The 25-year-old previously won a silver and bronze medal at the 2016 Olympics for individual Men’s foil and Men’s team foil, respectively. He won the NCAA title in individual Men’s foil while enrolled at Stanford University. His father, Greg Massialas, is his coach and a former Olympic fencer.
Sakura Kokumai – Karate (U.S.A.)
The Hawaiian-born martial artist has won a bronze medal at the 2012 World Karate Championships and a silver medal at the 2013 World Combat Games. She is a 7-time USA National Champion at the senior level. The 28-year-old hopes to snag the first ever gold medal in this all-new Olympic event.
Naomi Osaka – Tennis (Japan)
As one of the most popular athletes in the world today, all eyes will be on four-time Grand Slam champ Naomi Osaka. In 2019, she gave up her U.S. citizenship so she could represent her native country, Japan, in her first Olympics. The 23-year-old is the defending U.S. Open and Australian Open champion.
Fan Zhendong – Table Tennis (China)
The 24-year-old, known for his aggressive technique, is the number-one ranked male table tennis player in the world (International Table Tennis Federation). When he was 16, he became the youngest ITTF World Tour Champion. After winning two gold medals in the 2014 Youth Olympics, Tokyo 2020 will be his official Olympic debut.
Takeru Kitazono – Gymnastics (Japan)
This 18-year-old is surely one to watch after winning a record five gold medals at the 2018 Youth Olympics—when he was just 15. He won the All-Around, Floor Exercise, Rings, Parallel Bars, and Horizontal Bar events. In 2020, Kitazono was named one of Forbes’ 30 Under 30 in Entertainment & Sports.
Morgan Hurd – Gymnastics (U.S.A.)
Hurd was born in China and adopted by her American mother when she was a baby. The 19-year-old was the All-Around World Champion in gymnastics in 2017. While her spot on the U.S.A. gymnastics team is yet to be officially confirmed, she is seen as one of the most likely candidates. Hurd confidently wears glasses at every competition, a rarity in the elite gymnastics world.
Lalu Muhammad Zohri – Track and Field (Indonesia)
This track and field sprinter made history for his country by being the first Indonesian to win a medal at the IAAF World U20 Championships. In 2018, along with winning the gold in that competition, he won the gold at the Asian Junior Championships. The 20-year-old could make history again this summer by winning Indonesia’s first track and field medal.
Manu Bhaker – Shooting (India)
The 19-year-old up-and-coming athlete plays a unique sport—airgun shooting. Bhaker has won a total of 13 gold medals in the sport, at various International events. One of those wins was at the 2018 Youth Olympics, where she became the first Indian female to do so.
If you liked this article, check out these Top 5 Asian Athletes of 2020.