With just three years until the next Summer Olympics, it’s never too soon to think of athletes to watch before they make an impact in Paris. Here are 10 U.S. athletes or teams who did not win gold medals in Tokyo, but could have their golden moments in 2024.
Erriyon Knighton, track & field
With a poor showing in Tokyo, U.S. male sprinters could use a new version of Jesse Owens or Carl Lewis, but would probably settle for Maurice Greene or Justin Gatlin-lite. At 17, Knighton may be just the guy. At the U.S. Trials in Eugene this summer, he set both under-18 and under-20 world records in the 200 meters with a blistering time of 19.84 seconds. His PR in the hundred still has a way to go at 10.16. In Tokyo, Knighton became the youngest male to represent the U.S. Track and Field team since mile legend Jim Ryun in 1964, also at an Olympics in Tokyo. Knighton placed fourth in the Olympic final in 19.93 seconds, but has many world and Olympic podiums in his bright future at a time when his team really needs it.
Gabby Thomas, track and field
It isn’t so much that Thomas is a young pup; she’s in her sprinting prime at 24, but consider the weight Thomas will be able to drop from her shoulders if she makes it to Paris at 27. Thomas won a bronze in the 200 meters here and a silver in the 4 x 100-meter relay. She did it despite the fact that earlier in the year, an MRI discovered a tumor on her liver. The tumor took her away from some training, but was ultimately benign. She’s also a neurobiology major at Harvard, studying for her masters in epidemiology. Isn’t everyone? Imagine how she’ll do when she can trade her books for batons full-time.
Jagger Eaton, skateboarding
Eaton was the future of vert skating back in 2012, when he first competed at the X Games. In 2013, he was featured in Esquire magazine well before he started winning medals at the X Games in a sport that had not yet appeared on the Olympic program. He had half a dozen sponsors by the time he was 15, when he had his own show on Nickelodeon, in which he did tricks on his skateboard with other celebrities from other walks of life. Now, he’s 20, which practically makes him a senior citizen in the X Games/street skateboarding world. In Tokyo, Eaton won the bronze medal in men’s street and plans to make another run at the Olympics in Paris. By then he’ll be a grizzled vet of the stairs, rails, curbs and walls that won official Olympic recognition in 2020.
Brody Malone, gymnastics
Malone’s official website proudly proclaims: “Brody Malone is on the verge of becoming a household name.” Realistically, it’s hard for a male gymnast to reach a lot of households in the U.S. these days, especially when his female counterpart Simone Biles has been flipping around for the past decade, but at 21, Malone will lead a new generation of U.S. men into Paris. After a fine career at Stanford, Malone dominated the domestic scene in 2021 winning the all-around title at the U.S. trials. He finished 10th all-around and fourth on the high bar in Tokyo. In its history, the U.S. men have won only one team gymnastics medal, a silver in 2004, at a non-boycotted Olympics. Malone is fairly versatile, too, having won at least one national junior, senior or NCAA title on five of the six apparatuses. On the one he hasn’t won, he’s been second on the still rings four times.
Women's soccer team
U.S. women’s teams had an outstanding Olympics in Tokyo, as the squads in basketball, volleyball and water polo all won gold medals and the softball team took silver. The U.S. women’s soccer team, often the gold standard for success in national team sports, settled for bronze. This isn’t so much a single player to watch as it is the development of a new generation. While the likes of Carli Lloyd, 39, Alex Morgan, 32, and Megan Rapinoe, 36, have served the team brilliantly over the years, after a bronze-medal result in Tokyo (that included a lackluster 3-0 defeat in the opening game against Sweden) it is time for a new leadership group to emerge on one of the country’s best national teams in any sport. Lindsey Horan can play up front. But is at her best as an attacking midfielder. Horan also played on the Rio squad in 2016. Center back Tierna Davidson made her Olympic debut in Tokyo at 22 and figures to be a fixture for years. Catarina Macario, a midfielder/striker who was left off this roster, is a star-in-waiting, at 21.
Colin Duffy, sport climbing
Sport climbing is coming back for Paris, which should give Colin Duffy three more years to see if he can shave. Duffy certainly looks no older than his 17 years, but with aspirations to become an engineer and an expertise at solving a Rubik’s Cube, Duffy is obviously good with his hands. That should suit him well as the sport gains a toehold in the public consciousness. Duffy placed seventh in the combined final, in which his 24-year-old teammate Nathaniel Coleman won a silver medal. Duffy had been the highest-placing American in qualifying, placing third before the last round.
Kate Nye, weightlifting
The 22-year old from Michigan was the weightlifting team’s second-youngest member, but that didn’t stop her from capturing a silver medal in the 76 kg class, the team’s best result at an Olympics since Tara Nott’s gold medal at 48 kg in 2000. Sarah Robles also won a bronze in 2016. Nye lifted 249 kgs or 549 pounds in Tokyo (111 kg / 245 pounds in the snatch and 138 kg / 304 pounds in the clean & jerk) or roughly three times her body weight. She actually began her athletic career in gymnastics, advancing to Level 9, a short tumble from turning elite. Nye switched coaches back in March, working with Spencer Arnold at the Power and Grace Performance gym in Georgia. Nye was diagnosed with bipolar disorder two years ago, but has that under reasonable control.
Katie Grimes, swimming
Katie Ledecky gave Grimes the nickname Katie Squared after the 15-year old finished second to her in the 800 meters at the Olympic trials in June. Ledecky pondered Grimes as the future of distance swimming in the U.S., but then remarked, “Heck, yeah, I mean you’re the now. You’re the present.” There is clearly something about the name. When Ledecky was just emerging two Olympic cycles ago, she was bypassing Kate Ziegler, who had been the country’s top distance swimmer at the time. Grimes placed fourth in the 800 free in Tokyo, a second off the medal stand, which Ledecky stood atop. “I used to think it was cool that we just had the same names,” Grimes said. Now she may be able to follow in her idol’s slipstream.
Alex Walsh, swimming
The 20-year old finished second in the 200-meter individual medley in Tokyo, swimming a personal best 2:08.65. Walsh is among the team’s most versatile swimmers. Now she needs to decide which events to swim as the Nashville native heads back to the University of Virginia, where she helped the Cavaliers to their first NCAA overall women’s crown in 2021. Walsh won Pan-Am medals in the freestyle relay and backstroke and she has also swum the breaststroke at Nationals. Only a superior race by Japan’s Yui Ohashi kept Walsh off the top of the podium in Tokyo, but she’ll get there soon enough.
Clark Dean, rowing
After a dismal performance that saw the entire U.S. rowing team go home without an Olympic medal for the first time in more than a century, the squad needs some skilled oarsmen and women to oversee a new era. Dean is just 21. The Harvard student was the world junior champion in the single sculls in 2017 and 2018. He also won bronze at the world juniors in the coxless fours in 2016. Dean’s previous coach in Sarasota, Casey Galvanek, calls Dean “the team’s next superstar, someone who is only going to get stronger.” Dean could return to the singles in the years ahead or he could become the long-term stroke of the eights or the fours, a position he held in 2021.
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