With Bolt and Phelps Gone, Who Will Fill The Void Of The Olympic Poster Children?

Michael Phelps and Usain Bolt. ©TheScore.com

Many athletes over the past few Summer Olympic games have garnered fame for their performance on the world’s biggest stage. However for many there have really been two that been the face of the past three Olympic games. That would be of course Usain Bolt and Michael Phelps.

The contrasts between the two made for quite unique narrative with both dominating their sport in ways we hadn’t quite seen. One the fastest on land, the other in water. One from the small island nation of Jamaica, the other from one of the most powerful countries in the world, the USA. Now with both of them ending their Olympic career at Rio 2016, we will now see new faces emerge to become the poster children of the Olympic Games. Of course a natural part of the Olympic Games is that we don’t know who will be future stars, but to be the featured face of the games it often takes not only immediate success, but sustained. Many on this list are by no means unknown, most actually regarded as the best in the world. Here’s a list of just some athletes who may be able to fill the void of Bolt and Phelps for Tokyo 2020.

King Kohei Uchimura (Japan) — Men’s Gymnastics

Kohei Performing His Impeccable Ring Routine In Rio. ©Sport Illustrated

For many in Japan and the gymnastics world, one of the most recognizable figures of the last ten years has been Kohei Uchimura. Nicknamed “King Kohei”, he has seen his reign span over the past two Olympic Games. He won the gold medal in the men’s individual portion of the gymnastic event at both London 2012 and Rio 2016. Kohei also helped lead Japan’s men’s team to win the 2016 Olympic team event. The Japanese have always had a strong affinity for gymnastics, having won 98 medals in the sport since the creation of the modern Olympics following only the United States with 114 and Russia with 182. So it’s seems like one of the perfect sports to be featured in Japan.

Kohei Uchimura is getting a little older at twenty nine years of age and will be thirty-one by Tokyo 2020. His past two years have been some of his most difficult times, with an injury ending his streak of six consecutive all around World Championships in 2017, and suffering a loss at the Japanese Championships earlier this year, his first since 2008. He has often been regarded as undoubtedly one of the best gymnasts of all time, and with this most likely being his last Olympics and on home soil, it seems like all the makings to be a spectacle at Tokyo 2020.

Katie Ledecky (USA) — Women’s Swimming

Katie Ledecky Giving The Thumbs Up After A Competition. ©ESPN

The twenty-one year old phenom from America has in many ways taken over as the successor to Michael Phelps in American Swimming. She of course won four gold medals and one silver at the Rio 2016 games at the age of just nineteen, but you can’t forget that London 2012 was actually her first games. When she was just fifteen years old, she won the gold in the 800 meter freestyle.

Her results post 2016 have been nothing but stellar. Obviously still being in college, she has dominated the collegiate level. In her past two NCAA seasons, she has set a mere fifteen NCAA Records and eleven American records in female swimming. Earlier this year, in Tokyo during the Pan Pacific Championships, Ledecky won three golds in the 400m, 800m and 1500m freestyle. She also finished with a bronze in the 200m freestyle and a silver in the 4x200m freestlye relay. Obviously an already huge name in the swimming world, but could this Tokyo 2020 Olympics put her in the same category as household names such as Michael Phelps?

Christian Coleman(USA) — Men’s Track: 100m/200m

Christian Coleman Representing USA In The 100m. ©EuroSport.com

A little different from the others considering he hasn’t competed in an Olympics to date. However Christian Coleman is without a doubt, a force to watch in the track world. This young sprinter claimed second in the 2017 World Championships, behind only fellow USA athlete Justin Gatlin and ahead of Usain Bolt in what would be his final race. Since then Christian Coleman has been in the news for a couple reasons. First he was called out in 2017 by NFL’s Cincanatis Bengal’s first round draft pick John Ross. Ross set the combine record for the 40m with a time of 4.22 and stated he was faster than Coleman. Coleman responded by running a 4.12 on turf to put that claim to rest. In a much more recent note, this year Christian Coleman ran the fastest 100m time in the past three years with a time of 9.79. The time was good enough for the 7th fastest time ever. Coleman didn’t make the Olympic team in 2016, falling short at the Olympic trials, but this time around it seems like a lock. Can Coleman bring back the title of fastest man on the planet to the USA. If he does so in Tokyo 2020, it’s hard to not see him as one of the featured stars.

Almaz Ayana (Ethiopia) — Women’s Track: 5000m/10,000m

Almaz Ayana After Winning The London 2017 10 000m World Championships. ©IAAF.org

Usually the media doesn’t garner much attention to long distance runners, but that needs to change. Distance running can be one of the most grueling and physically taxing events in the entire Olympics. The grind of the sport will be on full display during Tokyo 2020, with Japan having especially hot and humid summers as of late. The distance events, like the women’s 10, 000 meter has been dominated by the country of Ethiopia. Since it’s introduction in 1988, Ethopia has claimed five of eight gold medals. The latest athlete to continue the dominance is Almaz Ayana. She’s not only the gold medal winner at Rio 2016, but also set the world record while doing so with a time of 29:17.45. Almaz also competes in the 5000m where she won the bronze in Rio 2016, and is the distance she first began to have international success at. In recent times she hasn’t been able to claim the spot as the best in the 5000m but is always in contention. Her continuing effort to be the best at 10 000m is unwavering as she sets her sights on the next Olympics. At Tokyo 2020, if Almaz Ayana can win a gold at multiple distances, it would be hard not to make her one of the most featured athletes at the 32nd Olympic Summer Games.

Simone Bile (USA) — Women’s Gymnastics

Simone Bile During Her 2016 Rio Olympic Beam Routine. ©Getty Images

Already a superstar in the athletic world, with millions of social media followers, Simone Bile will possibly be the future face of not only Tokyo 2020, but the games proceeding it as well. She is young at just twenty-one with many accolades to her name already. She has won twenty medals at the World Championships and of course had great success at Rio 2016 with four golds medals and one bronze. Post 2016, Simone has some highs and lows as she has battled with some injuries. Despite these setbacks it hasn’t stopped her from competition or being an ambassador for the sport of gymnastics. At the 2018 Buenos Aires Youth Olympic Games, she served as one of the captains during the team event. A resilient, outgoing person and a tough athlete will give her the tools to be one of the stars of Tokyo 2020.

Ma Long (China) — Men’s Table Tennis

Ma Long Focusing On Nothing But The Ball. ©South China Morning Post

It may seem odd to many westerners to include a table tennis player as a potential face of the Olympics. It tends to get a bad rap in much of the world, but in Asia it is a extremely popular and a serious sporting event. With three consecutive Olympics being in East Asia: Pyeongchang 2018, Tokyo 2020 and Beijing 2022, it seems fitting to include the sport. There is no better candidate to represent the sport than the current reigning Olympic and World Champion Ma Lang.

He has long been regarded as one of the most talented players ever, becoming the youngest world champion at seventeen years of age. Ma is currently ranked 6th in the world, and has dropped recently. He is already thirty years of age and will be competing for one of two spots in the worlds best manufacturer of table tennis talent, China. He is no lock to even make it to the games, but if her does, he has a shot to repeat and be a face of Tokyo 2020.

Charlotte Dujardin (Great Britain) — Women’s Dressage

Charlotte Dujardin at The Royal Windsor Horse Show. ©gettimages.

A stigma against equestrian based sports has seemingly always been present in the Olympics. Many argue the horse is doing all the work, which is really quite nonsense, especially in dressage riding. The control a rider must have of their horse in incredibly demanding, that many just simply cannot master. Likely not a featured star in the media outside of Great Britain, Charlotte Dujardin has a chance to cement herself as the absolute greatest dressage rider of all time. She has already won every major title the sport has to offer, and has four Olympic medals, three being gold. Charlotte has expressed her desire to return to the Tokyo 2020 Olympic stage to compete for a three peat, which would put her in rare company among athletes in any sport.

Usian Giving A Thumbs Up To Fans And Phelps Just Finishing A Race In Rio. ©NBC.

So there is a list of seven possible poster children for the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games. It will be near impossible to replace the faces of Usain Bolt and Michael Phelps considering their immense popularity. However, there is always someone who will step up to represent the next phase of athletic excellence on the Olympic level. Here are some athletes who have already had success but may now have the chance to step out of the massive shadows of Bolt and Phelps. They are rightfully deserving to be the featured faces of the upcoming 2020 Summer Olympic Games.

If you wish to contact me, you can reach me by email at shotarohmoore@hotmail.com

A writer living in Japan. Creating articles about the 2020 Tokyo Games. A regular contributor to Junkture Magazine. https://www.junkturemagazine.com

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