In 1964, Japan was the first Asian country to host the Summer Olympic Games. Japan will host for the second time, the 2020 Summer Olympics—one of the most highly-anticipated Olympics in recent years. According to organisers, this Olympics will be “the most innovative ever organized.” Interestingly, it will see for the first-time extensive use of robots to assist visitors and spectators in the running of the games. There will be five events making their debut or return to the games. Top 10 of Asia takes a look at its list of the top 10 athletes, presented in no particular order, who are expected to make new waves in the coming Olympics.
Naomi Osaka is a Japanese professional tennis player who is the first Asian player to hold the top ranking in singles. She has won five titles on the Women’s Tennis Association (WTA) tour, including two titles at both the Grand Slam and Premier Mandatory levels. She won the US Open in 2018 in a much publicised victory over her childhood idol, Serena Williams. In 2019, she won the Australian Open, defeating Petra Kvitová in a gripping final. Osaka has given up her dual citizenship of U.S. and Japan to fully represent Japan at the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.
Table tennis has long been dominated by China and it is no exception in the Olympics. It has won 53 medals in 32 events, including 28 out of a possible 32 gold medals. For the 2020 Olympics, one of the biggest hopes for a non-Chinese player winning a medal comes in the form of a 19 year old Japanese, Mima Ito. At the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, she won the bronze medal for Japan at just 15 years old, where she won the last and important game against Feng Tianwei. She has improved since the last Olympics and still has a lot of potential. This time, gold is a very real possibility.
Joseph Schooling shocked the world in the 2016 Olympics when he won the 100m butterfly, attaining Singapore’s first-ever Olympic medal in swimming. Even more astounding is the fact that he beat all-time swimming great Michael Phelps and broke the national, Asian and Olympic record. Since then, Schooling has had a dip in fortunes and has struggled to meet the elite standards expected from him. However, many including Michael Phelps and his coaches are confident of him getting back to his previous form for the 2020 Olympics to defend his gold.
Pandelela Rinong is a trail-blazer when it comes to Malaysia’s history in the Olympics. At the 2012 Summer Olympics in London, she won the bronze medal in the 10m platform. She became the first Malaysian female athlete to win an Olympics medal, and the first Malaysian athlete to win an Olympics medal in a sport besides badminton. At the 2016 Olympics, she won the silver medal in the 10m synchronized platform with Cheong Jun Hoong, becoming the first Malaysian women’s team to win a silver medal at the Olympics. Coming in on good form she will be looking to go a step better and aim for gold at the 2020 Olympics.
Fan Zhendong is currently the world No. 1 ranked table tennis player for men’s singles by the International Table Tennis Federation (ITTF). His career has seen a continuous rise to the top which has garnered him a large worldwide fanbase. 2019 was an important comeback year for Fan Zhendong which saw him reclaiming success and the No. 1 spot since March 2018. He looks set to compete in the 2020 Olympics for the first time to further cement his spot as the world’s best.
For a decade ultimately culminating in the 2016 Rio Olympics, badminton has been dominated by Chinese player Lin Dan and Malaysian player Lee Chong Wei with them being a class above the rest of the competition. However, following the retirement of Lee Chong Wei and the decline of Lin Dan due to age, it is time for new shuttlers to take their rightful spots in the limelight. Shi Yuqi from China is only 23 years old and is ensconced in the top 5 of the BWF World Ranking for Men’s Singles. He is also closing in on the number one ranking spot. Having already won gold at the Nanjing 2014 Youth Olympic Games, the young Shu Yuqi is a dark horse for gold at the 2020 Olympics.
Lalu Muhammad Zohri
The 19 year old Lalu Muhammad Zohri is an Indonesia track and field sprinter who is a superstar in his home country. He is the first Indonesian and the only Asian male to win any medal in the IAAF World U20 Championships by taking home a Gold medal in the 100 meters event. The teenager not long ago could not even afford shoes and had to borrow from his older sister to buy shoes to compete in Finland. Now, he has qualified for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics and he is improving very quickly. He went from 10.18 seconds to 10.03 seconds from July 2018 to May 2019 which is very impressive. Zohri is no stranger to defying the odds and he might just do so again in 2020.
Saurabh Chaudhary is a 17 year-old Indian sport shooter who won the gold medal at the 2018 Asian Games in 10m air pistol event. He is the youngest Indian gold medalist at the Asian Games. He had earlier won gold medals and set a new junior world record in the ISSF Junior World Cup in Suhl, Germany. He is the only Indian shooter to win a gold medal in ISSF World Championship, ISSF World Cup, Youth Olympic Games, Asian Games and Asian Air Gun Championship. He broke his own world record with a score of 245.5 and claimed gold in Junior Men 10m air pistol event at the 2018 World Championship in Changwon, Korea. Chaudhary is expected to participate in the mixed team event in the 2020 Olympics alongside Manu Bhaker with both looking unstoppable.
Karate will be making its debut appearance at the 2020 Summer Olympics featuring two events, Kumite and Kata. Dubbed as Japan’s queen of karate, Kiyou Shimizu is on track for an inaugural Karate gold in the Female Kata. At the 2018 Asian Games, she won the gold medal and she also got second place in the WKF Senior World Championship 2018 held in Spain. For 2019, she has continued her consistent and strong showing.
Sarah Lee Wai-sze
Sarah Lee is a Hong Kong professional racing cyclist and arguably Hong Kong’s most successful current athlete. Her greatest achievement was winning bronze in the women’s keirin at the 2012 London Olympics which was Hong Kong’s third ever medal in the Olympics. She won two gold medals at the 2018 Asian Games. She is a cycling veteran who will be 33 years of age next year and she may very well spring a pleasant for her country as an athlete to look out for in the Games. This is because she is currently on a really strong momentum and riding into the Olympic Games as Hong Kong’s best hope for a medal.