Who are the Aussies to watch at Tokyo 2020?

Ash Barty is one of the many Aussies to watch at Tokyo 2020
Ash Barty is one of the many Aussies to watch at Tokyo 2020 Photo: Ash Barty - Twitter

The Australian Olympic team is jam-packed with superstar athletes in Tokyo, among them are many entertainers ready to put on a show in their respective events. For all your Tokyo 2020 coverage, stay tuned to The Inner Sanctum’s Olympic hub and the Olympics Central.

The Inner Sanctum has compiled a list of eight Aussies to watch at Tokyo 2020 in a variety of events.

Harry Garside – Boxing (Debut)

There are a plethora of reasons why you should be keeping your eye on Harry Garside, who will be out to prove a point in Tokyo. 

After capturing gold at the 2018 Commonwealth games, Garside failed to secure Olympic qualification at the 2020 Asia and Oceania tournament. Instead, he was awarded his spot through World ranking quotas after being narrowly defeated by the man he beat for gold in 2018, Manish Kaushik of India. 

Make no mistake, the 23-year-old will be out to show that he is still among the very best in the stacked lightweight division. 

While the redemption angle alone is enough reason to tune in, Garside’s boxing style also makes for entertaining viewing. 

An unorthodox southpaw, the man known as “Kangi” fights in a way that is reminiscent of American Hall of Famer, Tommy Hearns. Garside keeps his lead hand low and bounces on his toes, which allows him to quickly change angles. 

Should opponents move forward thinking they have an easy opening, there is every chance they will be met with a deadly accurate jab or a counter hook as he circles out of danger. Fans will need to try their best not to blink when Garside is in the ring in Tokyo. 

Liahm O’Brien

Keegan Palmer- Skateboarding (Debut)

With skateboarding debuting in Tokyo attracting new fans, Australians will want to keep their eye out for Aussie Keegan Palmer.

At just 18 years of age, Palmer will enter Tokyo with plenty of experience skateboarding on the biggest stages. From 14 years old Palmer was grinding up the Australian skateboarding scene winning the 2017 Bondi Bowl-A-Rama and in the process becoming the youngest competitor to ever win the pro division at this event. He followed this up by also winning the 2017 Dew Tour Am Bowl Final.

Since leaving the amateur scene and joining the professional skateboarding circuit, Palmer has continued to shine. In his first pro tour, the 2018 Pro Dew Tour he finished seventh in the final and a year later went one better securing his first podium finish, placing third at just 16 years of age. 

In 2020 Palmer won his first national title at the Australian National Championships and enters the Tokyo games ranked fifth in the world rankings. 

It is not just that Palmer has a strong chance of competing for a medal in Tokyo which should have people watching but the insane skills and tricks which the 18-year-old can pull off will have spectators in awe of his abilities.

Ben Filosi

Jess Fox – Canoe (Slalom)

1x Silver (2012), 1x Bronze (2016)

Jess Fox was the fifth selected Australian athlete for Tokyo 2020, learning that she’d be attending her third Olympic Games back in November 2019.

27-year-old Fox launched onto the canoe slalom scene in the early 2010s, having claimed three gold medals – C1 and K1 Junior World Championships and Singapore 2010 Summer Youth Olympics (K1) – when she was 16, one year after making her senior international debut.

She’s represented her country at the last two Olympic Games events, her silver medal win at London 2012 seeing Fox become the youngest woman in canoe slalom to medal at an Olympics. She stood on the podium again at Rio 2016, having been in a position to win gold but ultimately, was awarded bronze.

Fox has only been getting stronger over the past few years, achieving first place in the C1 and K1 in the Canoe Slalom in the 2019 Canoe Slalom World Cup Final. It follows up World Cup Final C1 wins in 2018 and 2013 (and runners-up in 2017, 2016, 2015) as well as a K1 win in 2016 (and runners-up in 2017, 2015).

Strong in each division, C1 and K1, since 2019 she has had a mixed bag of results but still made the podium in each outing. In her last five races, four times she has achieved gold, keeping her in good stead and form leading into this year’s Olympic Games. 

Heading into Tokyo, Fox is currently ranked second in C1 and first in the K1 Canoe Slalom World Cup standings, winning gold in one of each division in 2021, along with a third-place finish in K1 at Prague.

Fox will be giving it her all in Tokyo, looking to make this Olympic Games experience third time lucky and finally drape an elusive gold medal around her neck.

Jason Irvine

Eziyoda Magbegor – Basketball (Debut)

Caption: Magbegor representing Australia at the FIBA U19 Women’s Basketball World Cup in 2017 (Photo: FIBA)

Fresh off being named the WNBL’s Youth Player of the Year for the second time at the start of 2020, Magbegor makes her Olympic debut.

The accolades don’t end there, Magbegor was also named at centre in the WNBL Second Team at the end of the 2020 season. She’s been a mainstay of the Opals squad since her first appearance in 2018, and she’s showing why in the lead up to the Olympics.

With Liz Cambage’s withdrawal, someone needed to step up and take over her role in centre against Team USA. Magbegor led the charge in the 70-67 comeback victory with a domineering double-double, putting up 17 points and 12 rebounds.

She returns to represent Australia after her second season with WNBA side Seattle Storm, averaging 12.6 minutes on court a game as she continues to build her game. Magbegor averaged five points and four rebounds a game in 2021.

At just 21-years-old, she provides a youthful spark to an experienced Opals team which could only be a joy to watch on the biggest stage there is.

Alex Catalano

Ash Barty – Tennis (Debut)

All of Australia was watching with anticipation as Ash Barty brought home the Wimbledon title and as she competes in the Olympics it’s sure to be no different. 

The World number one will be off to her first Olympics and playing in both singles and doubles. She’s sure to come in with a lot of confidence after being the first Australian female tennis player to win Wimbledon title since her idol Evonne Goolagong Cawley won in 1980. 

Barty is no stranger to the history books when she won the French Open in 2019 she was again the first Australian woman to do so since Margaret Court in 1973.

Barty opted for limited travel in 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic that was hitting hard across the globe, but if Wimbledon is anything to go by Barty is set for a big second half of 2021 with her focus now on the Olympics.

Elly McNerney

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Sam Kerr – Football

There are plenty of reasons to watch the Matildas in Tokyo but perhaps the main drawcard is that you have the chance to watch Australia’s greatest ever footballer in action. 

In 88 appearances for her country, Sam Kerr has scored 42 goals, a ratio of almost one in every two games, an outstanding return. 

Her individual accolades list is impossibly long and given she is just 27 years of age, it is set to grow even longer as she continues to go from strength to strength. 

Perhaps the only thing missing from her resume is success with the national team on the world stage. 

The Matildas won the Asian Cup in 2010 at the very beginning of Kerr’s international career, but since then have not made it past the quarter-final in either the World Cup or the Olympics. 

In Tokyo, Kerr and company will be out to change that and earn the Matildas their first medal in Olympic history. 

To do so will be a tough task, though, as Australia lines up against New Zealand, the USA and Sweden in Group G. 

They will no doubt be relying on Sam Kerr to be at her brilliant best if they are to make it to the knockout phase, but it is anything but beyond her capabilities. 

Kerr is coming off of a Golden Boot winning season in the FA Women’s Super League so her form will not be of concern. 

An outstanding talent, football fans will be looking forward to a chance to watch one of the world’s best. 

Ben Lennon

Ariarne Titmus – Swimming (Debut)

Over the past four years, Ariarne Titmus has readied herself for an Olympic debut at just 20 years old.

After earning bronze in the 2017 World Championships in the 4x200m freestyle relay, and finishing fourth in the 400m freestyle event, Australia knew a star was in the making.

In her own backyard, she secured three gold medals in the 400 and 800m freestyle, and the 4x200m freestyle relay, and a silver in the 200m freestyle in the 2018 Commonwealth Games.

However, in recent years, her and American juggernaut Katie Ledecky have formed one of the Games’ biggest rivalries, going head-to-head in the 200m and 400m freestyle events.

Titmus has proven she is capable of beating the three-time Olympian in 400m freestyle, stunning her at the 2019 world championships, and almost beating Ledecky’s world record in Australian trials in June.

To be involved in a rivalry as big as this on Olympic debut is simply remarkable, and a testament to her talent.

Ledecky may not be taking notice of the Aussie rising star, but Australia should be. This is only just the beginning for her, and with her resume, an Olympic medal is well on its way.

Rebecca Ruthven

Matisse Thybulle – Basketball (Debut)

You can count on one hand the numbers of humans on earth that can block a Kevin Durant fadeaway. But in the Boomers’ exhibition game against Team USA, Matisse Thybulle did just that. 

The 24-year-old Philadelphia 76ers wing is as gifted a defender as you will ever see. He forces offences to adjust their plays just by being on the court. At 6’6” (198 cm), Thybulle can switch from guarding one through to five – and smother each opponent.

In his first-ever defensive possession representing Australia, he switched from guarding the corner to the centre on the low block, denied the ball’s entry into the post, then switched back onto the ball-handler as the shot clock fell to five and timed his jump to block the mid-range jump shot as it left the shooters’ hands.

He simply makes defending fun, and you can’t say that of too many players in the world. 

Offensively, he attacks the rim as if he’s been shot out of a cannon. His aggression and explosiveness off the bounce saw him dunking over a litany of players in his three hit-outs for the Boomers. 

Ready to announce himself to the world, Matisse Thybulle will be a must-watch at Tokyo 2020.

Jasper Chellappah

For all your Tokyo 2020 coverage, stay tuned to The Inner Sanctum’s Olympic hub and the Olympics Central.

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