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20 Stars To Watch Who Could Make Their Olympic Debut – And Medal – In Tokyo

By Todd Kortemeier | July 24, 2019, 4:12 p.m. (ET)

This week marks one year out from the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020, which kick off on July 24.

The names on the roster for the 2020 U.S. Olympic Team are just starting to trickle in, but many more will be added in the coming months. Aside from the well-known Team USA stars, many American athletes will be making their first-ever Olympic appearance. Here are 10 male and 10 female Olympic hopefuls who you could see on the Olympic podium should they qualify for the Games.

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Kolohe Andino, Surfing

Surfing will already garner a lot of attention in its Olympic debut. Based on Kolohe Andino’s 2019 World Surf League Men’s Championship Tour campaign thus far, all eyes will be on him as the gold-medal favorite. Andino hasn’t won a tour event, but has been a model of consistency, scoring a top-three finish in four of six events and currently standing at No. 1 in the world.


Michael Andrew, Swimming

Michael Andrew has been in the public eye since he turned pro at the age of 14, the youngest professional swimmer in American history. Though the choice drew criticism, and Andrew struggled at first, he soon started smashing records — including those of 23-time Olympic gold medalist Michael Phelps. Now 20, Andrew is a five-time short course world champion.


Amanda Anisimova, Tennis

Every time Amanda Anisimova has stepped on a Grand Slam court this year, she’s set a new career-best. That’s easy to do when you’re only 17. But Anisimova has done more than survive on the biggest stages, she’s thrived, making it to the fourth round at the Australian Open and the French Open semifinals. The latter included an upset of world No. 3 and defending champion Simona Halep. She’s currently the youngest player in top 100 of the WTA rankings.


Ashley Carroll, Shooting

With a bronze medal at a world cup event earlier this season, Ashley Carroll claimed an Olympic quota spot for Team USA in women’s trap. The competition better watch out if Carroll claims that spot for herself, as she went on to become trap world champion, the first American woman to do since 1999.


Kate Courtney, Cycling

Kate Courtney has spent much of 2019 at the peak of women’s mountain bike. She won the 2018 world title, the first for an American in 17 years, then won her world cup debut in 2019. With three world cup victories this year (of four events), Courtney remains atop both the cross-country and overall world cup standings.


CJ Cummings, Weightlifting

Where to begin on Clarence Cummings, Jr, better known as CJ? All he’s done in 2019 is set record after record, including the senior American records and junior world records at his weight category. In June, he became the first weightlifter in the world — male or female, of any nation — to win four junior world titles in a row. Still only 19, Cummings currently ranks third internationally in the 73 kg. qualification list for Tokyo.


Justin Dowell, Cycling

BMX freestyler Justin Dowell is another athlete hoping to make his debut in his event’s Olympic debut. He’s had a rapid rise to Olympic hopeful. As an 18-year-old in 2018, Dowell became a world champion, just one year after he finished eighth as a junior. Now 19, Dowell is atop the UCI BMX Freestyle Men Elite rankings and will be a podium contender when Olympic fans first see BMX freestyle park.


Nick Gwiazdowski, Wrestling

Since bursting onto the international scene in a big way in 2017, Nick Gwiazdowski has been one of Team USA’s top heavyweights. The 125 kg. wrestler has earned two championship bronze medals at his two appearances, and two gold medals at the Pan American championships. Gwiazdowski, 26, will compete with Team USA at the upcoming Pan American Games, followed by September’s world championships.


Keni Harrison, Track and Field

Hurdler Keni Harrison narrowly missed out on the Rio Games, coming up just .07 seconds short in the 100-meter hurdles at the U.S. Olympic Team Trials. That same month, she broke the 28-year-old world record. Harrison has since gone on to become a two-time national champion, and will look to make it three in a row this weekend. Internationally, she’s become a force to be reckoned with, ranking first in the world in 100-meter hurdles and winning 14 Diamond League races over the past four seasons.


Nyjah Huston, Skateboarding

Nyjah Huston is already one of the most successful skateboarders of all time. The holder of eight X Games gold medals and three world skateboarding championships, the 24-year-old will look to add an Olympic medal to that resume in the sport’s debut. Huston was recently named Best Male Action Sports Athlete at the 2019 ESPY Awards, and is currently ranked No. 1 in the Olympic rankings.


Alix Klineman, Volleyball

Alix Klineman and two-time Olympic medalist April Ross have proven to be a formidable duo on the sand since pairing up in late 2017XXX. Klineman and Ross have won three events thus far on the 2019 FIVB Beach Volleyball World Tour, and recently claimed silver at the world championships, Klineman’s first. Klineman and Ross currently sit second in the Olympic rankings.


Brooks Koepka, Golf

The rest of the golf world continues to look up at Brooks Koepka, who is as consistent as it gets as of late. The world No. 1 finished top five in all four majors this year, including a second consecutive win in the PGA Championship. He won the U.S. Open in both 2017 and 2018, and is the first golfer to win both the U.S. Open and PGA Championship in back-to-back years.


Evy Leibfarth, Canoe/Kayak

Evy Leibfarth is only 15, but is already racing like someone beyond her years. In the first world cup of her career, Leibfarth made both the women’s kayak final and the women’s canoe final, placing seventh and 10th. One week later, she made history with a world cup bronze medal in Slovenia, becoming the first American woman to win a canoe slalom world cup medal. That event makes its Olympic debut in Tokyo.


Noah Lyles, Track and Field

Sprinter Noah Lyles’ name has been on the minds of track and field fans for years, ever since he won gold at the Summer Youth Olympic Games Nanjing 2014. So he’s something of a veteran even though he’s still only 22. He has eight 200-meter Diamond League victories to his name and one in the 100. Lyles set the world-leading time of 19.50 seconds in the 200-meter earlier this month – which is the fourth-fastest time run in history – and holds the second-best 100-meter time of 9.86 seconds.


Matt McElroy, Triathlon

Matt McElroy made U.S. triathlon history in June with his silver medal at the ITU World Triathlon Series stop in Leeds, England. McElroy became just the second American man in history to win a world series medal and the first in a decade. That finish alone boosted him into the top 25 in the Olympic qualification rankings, and the top-ranking American.


Carissa Moore, Surfing

Carissa Moore carries the banner for her native Hawaii in the World Surf League, but she’ll be wearing the stars and stripes should she qualify for the Olympic Games. And Moore is on track to do just that, after scoring her first win on the 2019 Women’s Championship Tour she is on top of the season leaderboard. Moore hasn’t finished any lower than fifth at any event this season and previously won the world title three times.


Michael Norman, Track and Field

Michael Norman opened some eyes as a high school senior competing at the 2016 U.S. Olympic Team Trials, where he beat Olympic champ Justin Gatlin in the semis of the 200-meter. Norman is the current indoor world-record holder in the 400-meter. He has three Diamond League wins on his resume in 2019, twice in the 400-meter and once in the 200-meter.


Hannah Roberts, Cycling

In June, 17-year-old Hannah Roberts scored her second consecutive gold medal in BMX freestyle park on the world cup circuit. She is seeking her third consecutive overall world cup title. The 2017 world champion currently sits atop the women’s elite rankings, just ahead of U.S. teammate and 2018 world champ Perris Benegas.


Brighton Zeuner, Skateboarding

Brighton Zeuner is more than just good for her age, the 15-year-old is legitimately one of the best women’s skateboarders in the world. She is not only the youngest gold medalist in X Games history, she is the youngest to even compete, having made her debut at 11 in 2016. She is now a two-time defending gold medalist.


Anastasija Zolotic, Taekwondo

Anastasija Zolotic had a breakout performance last month at the grand prix in Rome, winning the bronze medal in the 57 kg. class to become the youngest grand prix medalist in history. Zolotic, 16, won a gold medal at the 2018 world junior championships, and followed that up with a silver medal at the 2018 Youth Olympic Games.

Todd Kortemeier is a sportswriter, editor and children’s book author from Minneapolis. He is a contributor to TeamUSA.org on behalf of Red Line Editorial, Inc.

Related Athletes

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Kate Courtney

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Clarence (CJ) Cummings, Jr.

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Justin Dowell

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Alix Klineman

Beach Volleyball
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Evy Leibfarth

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Matt McElroy

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Hannah Roberts

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Anastasija Zolotic