With the summer season in full swing, athletes across numerous sports are gearing up for their world championships or other premiere events. From Wimbledon to The Open, and World League to World Cups, here are 10 reasons to keep a close eye on Olympic and Paralympic sports this July.
1) No Serena Means Plenty Of Intrigue At Wimbledon
The United States has more seeded athletes at Wimbledon than any other nation, but with two-time reigning champion Serena Williams on the sidelines due to pregnancy, the field is open for someone else to step into the spotlight. Five-time Wimbledon champion Venus Williams leads the women’s contingent, while two-time Olympic medalist Jack Sock and No. 23 John Isner look to break through after previous disappointing finishes. In doubles, Bethanie Mattek-Sands will team up with the Czech Republic’s Lucie Safarova in pursuit of their fourth straight major title, and Bob and Mike Bryan attempt to win their first Grand Slam event since 2014. Main-draw competition began July 3 and runs through July 15.
2) U.S. Men’s Volleyball Team Tries To Complete Miraculous World League Comeback
The U.S. men’s volleyball team had a rough start in the FIVB World League, falling to 0-3 on the first weekend of competition. From there, they went 4-2 to earn the final berth in the final round, held from July 4-9 in Curitiba, Brazil. Led by up-and-coming stars Taylor Sander, Micah Christenson and Ben Patch, the young roster fell to France in its opening match, 3-2, but comebacks are right up its alley. The U.S. will take on Serbia in a must-win match to keep its title hopes alive.
3) Olympic Dreams Come To Forefront At World Cup Of Softball
With softball’s re-addition to the Olympic program beginning in 2020, 2017 marks the first year of the Olympic quad. For softball players, the World Cup of Softball is part of Olympic dreams for the first time since 2007. Held July 5-9 in Oklahoma City, second-ranked Team USA will take on No. 1 Japan, No. 3 Canada, No. 4 Australia, No. 7 Puerto Rico, No. 10 Mexico and No. 17 Philippines, in addition to the U.S. junior women’s national team. Team USA has never finished off the podium at the event, placing second in 2016 after back-to-back titles in 2014 and 2015.
4) New-Look U.S. Women’s Volleyball Team Kicks Off FIVB World Grand Prix
The U.S. women’s volleyball team will be in action as well, with the FIVB World Grand Prix running from July 7-23. Team USA won bronze at the Olympic Games Rio 2016 but returns an almost entirely new roster. The team will be led by Olympians Carli Lloyd and Kelly Murphy, as well as national team veteran Lauren Gibbemeyer, as it looks to return to the podium; the U.S. won in 2015 and finished second in 2016. Competition kicks off for Team USA against Russia, Italy and China in Kunshan, China.
5) World Fencing Championships Feature Top-Ranked U.S. Fencers
Almost the entire U.S. Olympic fencing team roster returns for the World Fencing Championships, held July 7-25 in Leipzig, Germany. The U.S. last won an individual world title when Miles Chamley-Watson won foil gold in 2013, and the last team title came in women’s saber in 2014. Team USA’s most decorated fencer, Mariel Zagunis, is pregnant and not competing, but U.S. athletes still figure to be in podium contention. Lee Kiefer, a 2011 world bronze medalist, is currently ranked No. 2 in the world in women’s foil, Daryl Homer is ranked No. 3 in men’s saber, Alexander Massialas is No. 2 in men’s foil and Chamley-Watson is No. 7 in men’s foil.
6) Olympic Medalists Abound At Star-Studded FINA World Championships
The FINA World Championships, held July 14-20 in Budapest, Hungary, is the premiere event for swimming, diving, synchronized swimming and water polo, and dozens of U.S. Olympians will be in action. Katie Ledecky, Nathan Adrian, Matt Grevers and Simone Manuel are just a few of the swimmers looking to assert Team USA’s dominance in the pool. Steele Johnson, Sam Dorman and Michael Hixon – all of whom left the Olympic Games Rio 2016 with silver medals – go for gold in diving. The women’s water polo team will attempt to defend its world title while the men’s team vies for its first-ever title. And synchronized swimmers, following Bill May’s breakout performances in mixed duet in 2015, will try to ride the momentum of a successful Synchro America Open into podium finishes.
7) Team USA Returns To London For World Para Athletic Championships
For the first time since the Paralympic Games Rio 2016, the top international track and field stars will face off once again. The World Para Athletics Championships are set for July 14-23 in London Stadium, the site of the Olympic and Paralympic Games in 2012. A delegation of 50 athletes and three guides will represent the U.S., including six athletes that medaled there in 2012: Tatyana McFadden, Lex Gillette, Ray Martin, Jeremy Campbell, David Prince and Scot Severn. Team USA won 42 medals in Rio and 39 at the 2015 world championships.
8) U.S. Olympians Headline Field At Golf’s Open Championship
Golf’s most prestigious event, the Open Championship runs from July 16-23 at Royal Birkdale in England. The last American winner was Zach Johnson, who won in a playoff in 2015. The field includes all four members of the 2016 U.S. Olympic Team – Bubba Watson, Patrick Reed, Rickie Fowler and bronze medalist Matt Kuchar – as well as Johnson, Jordan Spieth and Phil Mickelson, 2013 winner and 2016 runner-up.
9) Could U.S. Cyclists Break Out At BMX World Championships On Home Soil?
Rock Hill, South Carolina will play host to the UCI BMX World Championships from July 25-29; the event returns to the United States for the first time in more than 15 years. No U.S. athlete has won a world title since 2009, but that could change in short order. Nic Long, the fourth-place finisher in Rio, won bronze in 2016, as did Olympic silver medalist Alise Post. Post also won silver in 2014 and bronze in 2010. And while Connor Fields has been thus far kept off the world championship podium, a recent Olympic gold medal bodes well for his future.
10) Secret U.S. Classic Awaits Next Big Gymnastics Star
The Secret U.S. Classic – held July 27-29 in Hoffman Estates, Illinois – is the final qualifier for the P&G Gymnastics Championships, which is significant unto itself. But a look back at past winners of the event could signal even higher significance. From 2013-2016, Olympic gold medalists Kyla Ross, Simone Biles (twice) and Aly Raisman won the senior all-around competitions, while Laurie Hernandez won the junior all-around in 2015. With the entire 2016 U.S. Olympic roster currently on sabbatical from the sport, could the U.S. Classic be the breakout event for women’s gymnastics’ next star?