10 U.S. Track & Field Hopefuls to Watch at the Tokyo Olympics
There may be no more thrilling 10 seconds in Olympic sports than the men’s 100m finals, which the U.S. has dominated historically with 16 golds, leaving Jamaica tied for second with three. The rub, however, is that Jamaica has won the last three, courtesy of world-record holder Usain Bolt.
Bolt’s 2017 retirement leaves a big opportunity for a Team USA bent on reasserting its power. American hopes rest with Trayvon Bromell, who looks to erase the memory of the torn Achilles he suffered in Rio. “He has an advantage because he knows what an Olympics feels like,” says Ato Boldon, NBC sports analyst and four-time Olympic medalist (including a silver and bronze in this event). “No doubt he’s thinking, ‘I have to make the most of this opportunity; it may not come again.’”
Florida sensation Noah Lyles had wished to double in the 100m and 200m but will settle for a spot in the latter field, declaring after his trials win, “I’m tired of stressing” from the expectations. “Whatever he did to calm himself, he’ll have to do again,” Boldon says. “The pressure of being an Olympic favorite will be worse.”
Other U.S. hopefuls seem to be running with ease. The two racers exciting Boldon the most are Athing Mu, who dominated in the women’s 800m, and Rai Benjamin, a near record-breaker in the men’s 400m hurdles. “She hasn’t really been tested yet,” Boldon says of the 19-year-old Mu; same with Benjamin, who will face Norway’s Karsten Warholm, the man who did break the world mark this year.
“When they really get tested, that’s when great performances come out,” Boldon says. Look for this to inspire women’s 400m hurdlers Sydney McLaughlin and Dalilah Muhammad, who keep trading world bests. Off-track tests have already come for six-time gold medalist Allyson Felix, who at 35 qualified to run in her fifth Olympics (400m) after a difficult pregnancy in 2018 and battling for equal pay for women in athletics.
In field events, shot-putter Ryan Crouser longs to repeat Rio gold but must beat teammate Joe Kovacs. And no one deserves more worldwide attention than JuVaughn Harrison, the first athlete to qualify in both the men’s high jump and long jump since Jim Thorpe in 1912. “There’s not enough time to explain the significance of what he’s doing,” says Boldon. “It’s not something you ever thought you’d see in the modern era.”
2020 Tokyo Olympics, Opening Ceremony, Friday, July 23, NBC