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One Year Out From Tokyo, Who’s Going? These U.S. Athletes And Sports Have Already Clinched Spots

By Karen Price | July 24, 2019, 10:10 a.m. (ET)

(L-R) Ashley Twichell, Haley Anderson and Michael Brinegar celebrate winning bronze in the mixed 5-kilometer relay final at the 2019 FINA World Championships on July 18, 2019 in Gwangju, South Korea.


It’s only the beginning, but with exactly one year to go until the opening of the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020, the U.S. team is starting to take shape.

By this time next year, roughly 600 U.S. athletes will be readying for the Opening Ceremony and the start of competition. Right now we know just three of them by name, along with a host of other spots that with a full year to go have already guaranteed Team USA will field over 100 athletes. Which athletes fill those quota spots will be known as each sport’s selection procedures are complete.

Here’s a look at the athletes who have already qualified for the Games, along with the events in which U.S. athletes have earned quota spots, meaning the country will enter in that event:

Although the U.S. had some early qualifying teams, including powerhouses such as women’s softball, women’s water polo and women’s basketball, Team USA only recently had its first individual athletes earn their spots on the Olympic team.

Open water swimmers Haley Anderson, Ashley Twichell and Jordan Wilimovsky became the first athletes to qualify for the 2020 U.S. Olympic Team at the recent FINA World Championships. Anderson became the first, and to date only, U.S. swimmer to win an open water medal at the Games when she won silver in 2012. She won the silver medal at this year’s world championships to make her third Olympic team while Twichell finished sixth to make her first Olympic team after a few prior unsuccessful attempts. The top 10 finishers in the event earned Olympic spots by name.

Wilimovsky followed shortly thereafter, becoming the first U.S. man to qualify for the 2020 team. In a tight contest, he finished just seconds off the lead in fifth place in the men’s open water 10K race, where again the top 10 qualified for the Games. This will be his second Olympic appearance after finishing fifth in Rio in open water and fourth in the 1,500-meter in the pool.

With hundreds more athletes to be officially named over the next year, a portion will come from the teams that have already qualified.

The first to do so was a team that waited a long time for its chance. Softball was removed from the Olympic program after the 2008 Games but will be back in 2020, and the U.S. team made sure it would be there by advancing to the gold-medal game in the WBSC Women’s Softball World Championship in August 2018. Playing against host nation Japan, which has an automatic place in the Games as host nation, the U.S. needed only to play its longtime rivals for the title in order to get a quota spot. The American women won in extra innings, just for good measure.

The women’s basketball team secured its spot last September by winning the 2018 FIBA World Cup, becoming the first women’s basketball team in the Games. The team will still be busy over the coming year, with competitions including the Pan American Games and an Olympic qualifying tournament that starts in November and ends in February in which as many as 35 U.S. athletes might take part as the coaching staff makes evaluations toward the final 2020 Olympic roster.

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The women’s water polo team made it official in June by winning the gold medal at the FINA World League Super Final. The team holds every major title in the sport and has medaled in all five Olympic Games in which women’s water polo has been contested, including golds in 2012 and 2016.

And in an unprecedented run of success for both the men’s and women’s rugby sevens teams this season, both qualified for the Games by virtue of their standings in the HSBC World Rugby Seven Series. The top four teams earned Olympic spots, and the men cemented their place in that bracket before the series was even over. They ended up in second place, by far the highest ever finish for the men, who had to win a regional championship to qualify for Rio in 2016, where they would place ninth.

Likewise, the women also had their best season to date, also finishing second in their series to clinch a spot in the 2020 Games. They finished fifth in Rio and, like the men, also qualified that year via a second-chance regional tournament.

The U.S. has also qualified to field athletes in a slew of individual events.

In women’s gymnastics, they went from the “Fierce Five” to the “Final Five” and while a nickname has yet to be determined for the 2020 squad, the team of now four athletes will be competing in Tokyo. They earned that right when they won their fourth consecutive world team title last fall by a huge margin.

In the world of equestrian, both the dressage and jumping teams have earned their spots already, guaranteeing the U.S. three spots in each discipline’s individual event as well. The dressage team, which won Olympic bronze in 2016, qualified by nabbing the silver medal at last fall’s FEI World Equestrian Games, where the top six teams qualified for 2020. The jumping team followed suit a week later by winning the world title for the first time in 32 years and will try to land on the podium again in 2020 after winning silver in 2016.

Men’s archery and women’s mountain biking each have one spot, while a number of divers qualified at last week’s FINA World Championships in South Korea: women’s 10-meter synchro earned a place, the women earned two quota spots in 10-meter platform and the men earned two quota spots each in 3-meter springboard and in 10-meter platform.

Sailing has racked up a number of quota spots, with places for U.S. athletes earned in the Laser, Laser Radial, Finn and two-person men’s 470 classes.

Finally, U.S. shooters have earned a total of 14 quota spots so far: two in women’s skeet, men’s skeet, women’s trap and men’s three-position rifle, and one each in men’s air pistol, women’s air rifle, men’s air rifle, women’s sport pistol, women’s three-position rifle and men’s rapid fire pistol.

Karen Price is a reporter from Pittsburgh who has covered Olympic sports for various publications. She is a freelance contributor to TeamUSA.org on behalf of Red Line Editorial, Inc.

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Jordan Wilimovsky