The world had to wait an extra year, but the Olympics are back, as many of the greatest athletes from around the globe converge in Tokyo.
Some of the Olympians are highly recognizable, such as U.S. gymnastics icon Simone Biles and NBA great Kevin Durant. Meanwhile, others will only earn their worldwide stardom in the coming days.
Here is a look at 20 athletes — 10 Americans and 10 from other nations — to watch during this summer’s games.
Simone Biles, USA, gymnastics
Widely considered the greatest female gymnast ever, Biles will now try to win the gold medals to back up that title. In her previous Olympic outing — in Rio de Janeiro in 2016 — Biles won four golds and a bronze. With five more gold medals, she would tie 1950s and ’60s Soviet legend Larisa Latynina for the most by a female gymnast.
Biles, 24, is also looking to lead the American women to their third straight team all-around gold.
Biles on Wednesday received her own Twitter emoji — a cartoon goat (eponymous for the “Greatest of All Time” acronym) in a gymnastics outfit, wearing a gold medal.
Sue Bird and Diana Taurasi, USA, basketball
Former teammates at UConn and longtime rivals in the WNBA, Bird, 40, and Taurasi, 39, are attempting to become the first basketball players to win five Olympic gold medals.
Taurasi, of the Phoenix Mercury, is the WNBA’s all-time scoring leader, while Bird, of the Seattle Storm, is its all-time assists leader. Also, look for Bird in the opening ceremony, when she will be one of Team USA’s two flag-bearers.
Sky Brown, Great Britain, skateboarding
Having just turned 13 years old earlier this month, Sky is not even the youngest Olympian this year. (More on that later.) She, however, is the youngest-ever summer Olympian to represent Britain.
Sky, who trains in the U.S. with Tony Hawk, is ranked third in the world in park skateboarding, a sport that is making its Olympic debut this year. The teen skater managed to come back from a harrowing injury last year, in which she fell from a ramp in training and fractured her skull and left hand.
Born in Japan to a Japanese mother, Sky will likely have some support from the locals in Tokyo, although she faces stiff competition, both on the course and for adoration, from Japan’s Misugu Okamoto, who is just 15 years old herself.
Caeleb Dressel, USA, swimming
Dressel could emerge as one of the breakout stars of these Olympics. The 24-year-old Floridian won two gold medals in Rio, but they both came in relay events. At the 2019 world championships in Gwangju, South Korea, Dressel cleaned up with six gold medals and two silvers.
He has a shot at seven medals in Tokyo — in four relays, the 50 and 100 freestyle, and the 100 butterfly, in which he holds the world record.
Kevin Durant, USA, basketball
The Brooklyn Nets superstar is looking to capture his third Olympic gold with Team USA. A two-time NBA champ and former league MVP, Durant set the U.S. record for most points scored in an Olympic basketball tournament with 156 in 2012, and then nearly broke it four years later, finishing with 155.
Durant averaged 26 points per game with the Nets last season, his first year back after tearing in his Achilles tendon in the 2019 NBA Finals with the Golden State Warriors.
Allyson Felix, USA, track and field
The nine-time Olympic medalist is appearing in her fifth — and possibly last — summer games. With one more medal, Felix would become the most decorated female U.S. track-and-field athlete ever and tie Carl Lewis for the most medals by any American in the sport.
A Los Angeles native, Felix, 35, will compete in the 400 meters as well as the 4x400 relay.
Laurel Hubbard, New Zealand, weightlifting
Hubbard will make history as the first transgender athlete to compete in an Olympics.
Hubbard, 43, won a silver medal at the 2017 world championships and competed in the 2018 Commonwealth Games before suffering a serious elbow injury that nearly ended her career. She competed as a man before transitioning in 2013, but not on the international level.
In 2015, the International Olympic Committee changed its guidelines to allow transgender women to compete if their testorone level remains under 10 nanomoles per liter for at least a year, a standard adopted by the International Weightlifting Federation.
Nyjah Huston, USA, skateboarding
One of skateboarding’s superstars, Huston could prove to be the perfect ambassador to introduce the sport to a larger, new audience as it makes its Olympic debut.
The 26-year-old from California has been wowing crowds since he was a kid. Huston is a four-time world champ, a 12-time X Games gold medalist and the world’s top-ranked street skater. He’s also a social media star, with 4.7 million Instagram followers.
Eliud Kipchoge, Kenya, marathon
Since winning the gold medal in Rio in 2016, Kipchoge has won four of the five marathons in which he has competed. In 2018, he set the world marathon record, finishing in Berlin in 2 hours, 1.39 seconds. In 2019, he made more history by becoming the first person ever to run 26.2 miles in under two hours, although the feat is not officially recognized because it was not in open competition and included a rotation of official pacesetters.
Kipchoge, 36, is competing in his fourth Olympics and also owns silver and bronze medals.
Katie Ledecky, USA, swimming
Ledecky will look to defend her 2016 gold medals in the 200-, 400- and 800-meter freestyles. The 24-year-old also is the favorite to take home gold in the 1,500-meter freestyle, an event just added to the Olympic menu this year.
A five-time gold medalist already, Ledecky, with three more, could tie Jenny Thompson for the most golds ever won by an American female swimmer.
Wilfredo Leon, Poland, volleyball
The 27-year-old Leon is called the Cristiano Ronaldo of volleyball. He used to compete nationally for his native Cuba before defecting to Poland, helping elevate his new country’s team to elite status.
The 6-foot-8 Leon is known for his high vertical leap, thunderous spikes and blazing-fast serves. He was named the best outside hitter at the 2019 World Cup, where Poland lost to powerhouse Brazil in the final. .
Carissa Moore, USA, surfing
Surfing is another sport making its Olympic debut in Tokyo, and Moore, 28, has been one of its faces for years.
The Honolulu native is a four-time World Surf League champion and the top-ranked women’s surfer today. Earlier this year, she turned heads by landing a rare air reverse during a WSL Championship Tour event in Newcastle, Australia.
Keep an eye on Moore’s rivalry with Australian Stephanie Gilmore. They’ve combined to win 11 of the last 13 world tour championships.
Naomi Osaka, Japan, tennis
Since upsetting Serena Williams in the 2018 U.S. Open final, Osaka has risen to become one of tennis’ biggest stars. She has gone on to win three more Grand Slam tournaments — the Australian Open in 2019 and 2021, as well as the U.S. Open again last year.
Osaka, 23, was born in Japan and raised in the United States. She elected to represent the country of her birth at the Olympics and will be playing on home soil.
Osaka has made headlines this year for sitting out events — including last month’s French Open — to focus on her mental health. As a result, she has emerged as a celebrity advocate for destigmatizing mental health.
Megan Rapinoe, USA, soccer
Rapinoe is a star among stars on the U.S. women’s national team. The 36-year-old forward has been a member of two World Cup-winning clubs, as well as the 2012 Olympic gold-medal winning team.
In the 2019 World Cup, she won both the Golden Ball — awarded to the best player in the final — and the Golden Boot — given to the top goal scorer.
Rapinoe is also known for her colorful dyed hair and for being an outspoken advocate for causes such as racial justice, equal pay for women and LGBTQ rights.
Rapinoe and Team USA have stumbled early in Tokyo, losing their opening match Wednesday to Sweden, 3-0.
Abdulrashid Sadulaev, Russian Olympic Committee, wrestling
“The Russian Tank,” as Sadulaev is known, won a gold medal in Rio in the 86-kg class, in which he had also won two world championships. Sadulaev, 25, has since moved up in classification to 97 kg and won two more world titles.
The reigning 97-kg gold medalist, American Kyle Snyder, is back, potentially setting up an intriguing matchup in Tokyo. They’ve split their two previous meetings.
Due to sanctions from systematic doping, Russian athletes are not competing under their country’s flag at the Olympics, but rather as “the Russian Olympic Committee.”
Shi Tingmao, China, diving
Having won 40 of 56 gold medals since 1984, China will look to continue its dominance in Olympic diving. Shi, meanwhile, is a five-time International Swimming Federation Female Diver of the Year.
The 29-year-old won gold medals in 2016 in the 3-meter springboard and 3-meter synchronized springboard with Wu Minxia — the two events in which she’s competing again this year.
Ariarne Titmus, Australia, swimming
One of the more intriguing showdowns in the Olympics could be in the pool between Katie Ledecky and the 20-year-old Titmus, whose nickname is the “Terminator.”
At the 2019 world championships, Titmus beat out Ledecky in the 400 freestyle, an event in which Ledecky holds the world record. Ledecky was battling a stomach virus then, but Titmus’ times suggest she’s no fluke and could seriously challenge Ledecky in shorter races in Tokyo.
Hend Zaza, Syria, table tennis
At 12 years old, Hend is the youngest Olympian this year, and one of the youngest ever to compete in the Olympics.
Her coach says Hend hasn’t been able to compete in many tournaments because of Syria’s civil war. But that limited experience didn’t stop her from beating 42-year-old Lebanese player Mariana Sahakian to win the West Asian Olympic Qualification Tournament in Jordan last year, despite that Hend was just 11 and playing on an injured ankle.
Zhu Ting, China, volleyball
The 26-year-old captain of the Chinese team is widely considered one of the greatest volleyball players ever. Zhu, who stands 6 feet 6 inches tall, has led China to gold medals in the 2016 Olympics, as well as the 2015 and 2019 World Cups, winning MVP honors at all three.
Zhu will make history Friday when she becomes the first woman ever to carry China’s flag in the opening ceremony of a Summer Olympics.