Olympic Powerhouse Female Athletes
5 Women to Watch in the Tokyo Olympics
If you’re anything like me, the gymnastics will be on the top of your Olympics watch-list. Sure, it’s not a sport where New Zealand dominates, but I always find the mixture of grace, strength and technicality so impressive to watch, no matter which country it is picking up the medals.
Even if you’re not a gymnastics fan, it’s more than worth making an exception for Simone Biles. She’s the most decorated medallist in gymnastics history, with four Olympic gold medals already hanging around her neck from the 2016 games, and the word-on-the-street suggests that she’ll be picking up plenty more in Tokyo. Her recent vault, known as the Yurchenko double pike vault, is so challenging (not to mention dangerous!) that no other woman has ever attempted in in a competition before. The power and precision needed to pull this vault off highlights just how impressive Simone Biles is.
What’s more, Simone Biles spoke out against Larry Nassar and the sexual abuse scandal that rocked USA Gymnastics, advocating for her teammates and demanding accountability from USA Gymnastics. As a young Black woman in a sport that historically has very few Black women at the highest level, speaking out publicly could have been damaging to her reputation, but Simone showed us that speaking up and doing what’s right doesn’t mean you can’t also absolutely dominate in your chosen field. If anyone deserves to be cheered on as they defy gravity, it’s Simone Biles for sure.
If you’ve been reading any worldwide Olympic coverage, it’s likely you would have seen Laurel Hubbard’s name come up. She’s been featured in headlines around the world for making history as the first openly transgender woman to compete in the Olympic games.
But as important as it is to support this historic feat, Laurel Hubbard is one to watch for more reasons than her gender. As one of the top-ranked athletes in her weight category, Laurel has a good chance of winning a medal for New Zealand. And after suffering an elbow injury at the 2018 Commonwealth Games which some believed would end her career, it’s exciting to see Laurel recovered and thriving, and she’ll likely be determined to prove herself in Tokyo. If she’s not already on there, add Laurel to your Olympic watch-list immediately.
At only 13, Sky Brown will be Britain’s youngest-ever summer Olympian. Currently ranked third in the world in park skateboarding, it’s entirely possible that Sky Brown will skate home with an Olympic medal after competing in Tokyo.
(Side note: Who else is excited that skateboarding is making its debut at the Olympics this year? Whilst the inclusion of skateboarding may have been controversial for some, I for one can’t wait to watch the athletes in what I consider to be one of the coolest sports out there.)
Despite her young age, Sky Brown has had to overcome a number of hurdles in her sporting career already. At age 10, right before her first Olympic qualifier, Sky broke her arm, an accident that easily could have prevented her from competing. Instead, she competed in the event with her arm in a cast and still came first – how badass is that? Then, in May last year, Sky fell whilst skating, which resulted in a number of injuries to her skull, left arm, heart and lungs. Despite that, Sky was back up skating within two months of the accident. It’s no wonder she had to talk her parents into letting her compete at Tokyo!
The Black Ferns
Okay, okay, so it might be cheating a little to include a whole team of women in this list, but it didn’t seem possible to write a Top 5 Olympians to Watch list without including the Black Ferns. Ranked first in the world, the Black Ferns are sure to put on a show and dominate in Tokyo. After coming second in 2016 and picking up silver medals, they’ll be hungry to upgrade to gold in Tokyo, making them definite favourites to add to your watch-list.
Dame Valerie Adams
No Olympics list would be complete without including Dame Valerie Adams. As one of our most successful Olympic athletes, Dame Valerie always makes me feel that little swell of pride as she steps up to compete; there’s something about her that just exudes all the things that make Aotearoa great.
With two Olympic golds already under her belt (and one silver), Dame Valerie is chasing another gold in Tokyo. It’ll also be a history-making Olympics for her; she’ll be one of only two New Zealand women to compete at five Olympic games. As someone who has a long and impressive career absolutely dominating in shot-put, Dame Valerie Adams is not one to miss in the Tokyo games.
Written by Shardae Grenfell, AWWA Guest Blogger.