Ahead of the Tokyo Olympics, there’s always speculation as to who will take home a gold medal. The Inner Sanctum looked at the individuals who are best placed to take home a gold medal.
Of all the athletes competing in the individual events, across the 28 sports at the Olympics, these are the favourites to take home the gold medal in their individual events.
Simone Biles – United States of America
Artistic Gymnastics – 2016 – 4 x Gold Medallist 1 x Bronze Medallist
It’s not a question of whether Simone Biles will win an Olympic Gold Medal at Tokyo 2020, it’s a question of how many gold medals she’ll win?
Ignoring the likely Team All-Around gold that Biles will lead Team USA to, she is also a shoo-in to win the Individual All-Around, Floor and Vault gold medals.
The challenge for Biles is the Floor and Vault events will be reaching the final, due to the caps of two gymnasts per nation reaching the final for each apparatus, she’ll need to beat teammates as well as everyone else on the events.
No one doubts Biles will make the Floor final but the Vault final is where questions loom, Jade Carey and MyKayla Skinner, both are looking to reach the Vault final.
There’s risk associated with moves such as the double Yurchenko pike which Biles has added to her arsenal on vault, possibly losing execution points if she has a step or a fall.
Balance beam, which Biles won a bronze medal for in 2016 will be a bigger challenge, should she make the final, the Chinese gymnasts who have a higher degree of difficulty than Biles will be the favourites running in, but with a clean routine she’s a good chance at taking gold.
The uneven bars is the one event Biles has little chance of reaching the final, let alone medalling but she’s upped that routine in the chase of All-Around gold too.
Mathieu van der Poel – Netherlands
Mathieu Van Der Poel has been one of the most visible cyclists in the world over the last fortnight. After racing in barnstorming fashion on Stage 2 of the Tour de France, he took the yellow jersey and the race lead.
Van Der Poel showed his abilities to win and to hold a lead through to the end of Stage 8. At the end of Stage 8, after giving up the race lead, he departed the Tour de France to prepare for the Olympics.
Van Der Poel made his name as a Cyclo-cross rider, as a four-time world champion in the discipline, and a six-time national champion. Van Der Poel has also won the European Championship and the Dutch championship in the Mountain Bike discipline.
Van Der Poel has proven himself to be a winner in one-day races in both cyclo-cross and road biking. With the Mountain Bike course to be very technical, with almost all the course to be either steep uphill or technical downhill.
Van Der Poel’s endurance will come to the fore over the tough race, and his previous result of a bronze medal at the 2018 Mountain Bike World Championships bodes well, given his improvement as a rider since that time.
As a result of his strong form, it’s very likely that Van Der Poel will be adding a gold medal to his yellow jersey collection now.
Katie Ledecky – United States of America
Swimming – 2012, 2016. 5x gold medallist, 1x silver medallist
It shouldn’t be a surprise to anyone that Katie Ledecky’s name is put forward in this conversation.
The prodigious talent will represent team USA and defend her Rio 2016 gold medals in the 200m, 400m and 800m freestyle, and seek the inaugural gold medal in 1500m freestyle.
Of those four individual events, Ledecky holds the world record in three at just 24 years old.
The 800m freestyle is her signature event, winning gold as a 15-year-old on Olympic debut in London 2012. A year later, she set the world record at the World Championships (8:13.36) and has beaten it four times since, including Rio 2016 (8:04.79).
Although her Tokyo time trial time did not make the fastest 25 times recorded in women’s 800m, she still owns the top 23 fastest times, making her a shoo-in for gold.
She also holds the top 10 fastest times in 1500m freestyle. While her Tokyo 2020 qualifying time was 20.02 seconds off her world record (15:20.48), it was still the quickest time in the world this year, which puts her as a clear favourite for this medal too.
The challenge for Ledecky is defending her 400m freestyle, with Ariane Titmus hot on her heels. The Aussie recorded the second-fastest time in history (3:56.90), while Ledecky swam 4:01.27. in their countries’ respective trials.
Teddy Riner – France
Judo – 2016, 2012 2 x Gold Medallist, 2008 1x Bronze Medallist
Teddy Riner will enter Tokyo as the clear favourite to win the men’s 100kg+ Judo event. At 6ft8 and 130kg, Riner’s imposing size has proven too difficult for his contemporaries to handle.
To go along with his two gold medals and one bronze, Big Teddy is also a 10 time World Judo Champion and five-time European Champion.
To add to Riner’s impressive resume he went through a period of 154 consecutive victories between September 2010 and February 2020 before suffering his first defeat in over a decade. Following his first loss in a decade, Riner showed no signs of slowing down winning the 2021 Judo World Masters earlier this year.
If Riner is successful in Tokyo he will match lightweight Tadahiro Nomura in winning gold in three successive Olympics.
Riner’s reign at the top of the men’s 100kg+ does not appear to be ending anytime soon with the Frenchman expressing his interest in competing at the 2024 Olympic Games in Paris.
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Shi Tingmao – China
Diving – 2016 2x Gold Medallist
Shi Tingmao has dominated the international diving scene for a decade since she moved across from gymnastics.
The Chinese diver specialises in the three-metre springboard, an event she has won 46 gold medals at the World Cup, Grand Prix and World Series events over the decade.
Shi became a double Olympic gold medallist at the Rio 2016 Games, winning the individual competition and synchronised event with teammate He Zi.
Her reign continued after the Olympic success. She is now a three-time individual World Aquatic Champion from the three-metre springboard and has been named FINA Female Diver of the Year five years in a row (2015 to 2019).
International diving has been impacted by the pandemic and Shi has not competed since 2019. However, she has competed in China’s two Olympic trial events and lost to synchro partner Wang Han.
Despite these two losses, Shi remains unbeaten at major international events and is the diver to beat in Tokyo.
Shi will have her sights set on Gold in the individual three-metre springboard as well as the synchronised event, as China aims for all eight diving gold medals.
Carissa Moore – United States of America
Surfing makes its debut at the 2020 Tokyo Olympic Games and Hawaiian local Carissa Moore has a great chance at claiming the sport’s maiden gold medal this year.
The regular-stanced rider is comfortably sitting in the top spot on the 2021 Women’s Championship Tour having finished inside the top three of each of the six events already this season. It includes a first-place finish at the Rip Curl Newcastle Cup in April.
Since the Surf Ranch Pro in September 2018, Moore has achieved a top-three finish in 18 out of 20 races, finishing first on five occasions.
The 28-year-old is the World Surf League’s Women’s World Tour defending champion from 2019, adding to championship wins in 2011, 2013 and 2015.
From humble beginnings of being named Rookie of the Year in her first season on the world tour in 2010 as a 17-year-old, a year later she became the youngest world champion.
Continuing the records, Moore is part of an elite group to have won four or more surfing world titles.
Now, Moore will be hoping to become the sport’s first Olympic Gold medallist.