The Tokyo Olympics will scale new heights, ride the crest of a wave, and hit it out of the park.

You can guarantee the Games will achieve that triple-whammy, because sport climbing, surfing and baseball are all part of Japan's big show.

The Games of the 32nd Olympiad have been hit hard by the pandemic, but the diversity of 'new' sports on offer means a feast of entertainment is beckoning, designed to attract younger audiences.

Skateboarding an Olympic sport? After snowboarding proved a raging success at the Winter Games, it was a banker that kickflips and Caballerials would be coming to the summer programme.

And soon enough we will all have a tight grip on the technicalities of lead climbing, speed climbing and bouldering.

The Olympics are getting a radical facelift, and you'll want to take a close look.


Sport climbing

Given the Olympic motto is 'faster, higher, stronger', perhaps it is a wonder that climbing has not been a part of the Games before now.

Yet this version of the sport is a relatively modern phenomenon, having first become established in the 1980s.

Climbing walls are as prevalent in many parts of the world as ice rinks or bowling alleys, becoming a fashionable leisure activity but a competitive sport for some.

Complicated routes to dizzying heights, seeking the highest controlled hold possible, are the hallmark of lead climbing, while speed climbing is an attack on the senses for competitor and viewer alike, with elite men having been known to hurtle up a 15-metre wall in barely five seconds.

Bouldering is a test of problem-solving expertise as well as skill, a true examination of the climber's wit and athleticism.

At Tokyo's Aomi Urban Sports Park, the climbing competition for men and women will cover all three disciplines, with combined scores deciding the medals.

 

Surfing

Sailing, canoeing and kayaking have been mainstays of the Olympic Games, and now surfing joins as a high-octane addition to the roster of sports.

The daredevil nature of surfing means it should prove one of the outstanding spectacles, assuming Mother Nature brings the Pacific coast waves Games organisers are looking for.

Each of the 20 men and 20 women competing will be allowed to ride up to 25 waves in 30 minutes, with their two highest scopes from the five judges being counted, so choosing the right moment for a high-tariff manoeuvre is all important.

Surf stars will be assessed on their "commitment and degree of difficulty, innovative and progressive manoeuvres, combinations of major manoeuvres, variety of manoeuvres, and speed, power and flow", the International Olympic Committee (IOC) said.

American John John Florence is a man to watch out for, with the 28-year-old two-time former world champion having built up his skills riding the waves of his native Hawaii. He suffered a worrying knee injury in Perth, Australia in May, but has recovered in time for the Games.

Skateboarding

Once largely portrayed as the preserve of weed-smoking punk kids, and certainly still patronised by the disaffected youth, skateboarding now comes with a highly professional element too.

Washington Square Park, Venice Beach and the undercroft of London's Southbank Centre have been epicentres of the growing subculture, but now the focus turns to Tokyo, where separate street and park disciplines will test the elite boarders.

Competitors will be assessed on the difficulty level, the originality and the execution of their displays at the Ariake Urban Sports Park.

This will be skateboarding's coming-out party as a major competitive sport, with the eyes of millions across the world setting their eyes on the stars who put themselves in more danger of injury than most Olympians.

Japan's Yuto Horigome and Aori Nishimura won gold in the men's and women's Street World Championship in Rome just a matter of weeks ago, ramping up the interest at home.

British 12-year-old Sky Brown, poised to become her country's youngest summer Olympian, will also be one to watch after recovering from a horror skateboarding accident last year that saw her suffer skull fractures. They are a tough set in this sport, with surely nobody braver than Brown.

Karate

Of course karate needed to be in any 21st century Olympics hosted by Japan, and it may be a surprise to many that this marks its debut at the Games.

The sport has Japanese roots and there seem sure to be home gold medals, while global exposure to karate is perhaps at an all-time high thanks to the popularity of Karate Kid spin-off Cobra Kai, the Netflix series.

Spain are a mighty force too, with Damian Quintero and Sandra Sanchez prime contenders for gold in the kata discipline, both being ranked number one in the world.

In the combat element, known as kumite, the jargon may take some getting used to for newcomers. One point, known as a Yuko, is awarded for a punch to key areas of an opponent, including the head, back or torso, while a Waza-ari is worth two points and will be given for a kick to the body.

An Ippon, for three points, is achieved by landing a high kick to the head or a punch to a grounded opponent.

Karate will take place at Tokyo's famous Nippon Budokan, which as well as being a famous martial arts venue also famously played host to The Beatles for a series of shows in 1966.

Rock acts including Bob Dylan and Cheap Trick recorded legendary live albums at the Budokan, which was built for the 1964 Tokyo Olympics and has also staged Muhammad Ali fights, one a standard boxing match in 1972 and the other a bizarre hybrid clash in 1976 with wrestler Antonio Inoki.

 

Baseball and softball

Baseball was an Olympic medal-awarding sport from 1992 to 2008 and softball had that status from 1996 to 2008, so you would be forgiven for not feeling any huge rush of enthusiasm about its return to the Games.

Unlike in basketball, the United States do not bring their baseball A-listers to the Games, relying on a group largely formed of minor-leaguers and free agents, and South Korea were the last Olympic champions.

This year the competition will feature the Dominican Republic, Israel, Japan, Mexico, South Korea and the United States, while the women's softball event will be contested by Australia, Canada, Italy, Japan, Mexico and the USA.

Japan's baseball stars are reportedly each in line for bonuses worth 10 million yen (£65,000) if they carry off the gold medal.

They won an exhibition event at the 1984 Olympics in Los Angeles, beating the United States in the final, and have since claimed a silver and two bronze medals.

Luka Doncic posted a triple-double to lead Slovenia to their first Olympics berth in men's basketball as European nations claimed the final four spots in the Tokyo 2020 field. 

Dallas Mavericks star Doncic had 31 points, 13 assists and 11 rebounds as Slovenia defeated hosts Lithuania 96-85 in Kaunas on Sunday. 

In other qualifying tournament finals, Italy stunned Serbia 102-95, Germany defeated Brazil 75-64 and the Czech Republic downed Greece 97-72. 

With those countries headed to Tokyo later this month, the field is now set. 

Group A will consist of defending champions the United States, France, Iran and the Czech Republic, with Australia, Nigeria, Germany and Italy in Group B.

In Group C, hosts Japan will contend with Argentina, Spain and Slovenia. 

Doncic and Slovenia face a difficult group, as Spain won the bronze medal at Rio 2016 after a close loss to the USA in the semi-finals, but the 22-year-old was ecstatic after qualifying. 

"I don't care about the MVP," Doncic said. "We won here. We're going to the Olympics, the first time in our country.

"It's amazing. I think every kid dreams about being in the Olympics. I did too. So, here we are. We fought really, really hard, and I think we deserve to be here."

Italy's defeat of short-handed Serbia, who were missing NBA MVP Nikola Jokic, was the biggest upset of the final qualifying round. 

Serbia were beaten finalists against Team USA in the Rio 2016 gold medal game, while Italy are in the Olympics for the first time since taking silver in Athens in 2004. 

 

Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce leads a strong 61-member Jamaica team headed to the Olympic Games this summer.

The Pocket Rocket leads a strong female contingent that includes 2016 Olympic sprint double champion Elaine Thompson-Herah as well as ‘surprise’ elite sprinter Shericka Jackson. In-form Stephenie-Ann McPherson and rising talent Candice McLeod are also included as well as rising sprint hurdlers Megan Tapper and Britany Anderson.

Briana Williams, the 2018 World U20 sprint double champion makes her first Olympic team as a reserve for the 100m and a member of the 4x100m relay squad.

Yohan Blake, the 2012 double Olympic silver medalist also makes the team along with Demish Gaye and the proven 110m hurdles trio of Ronald Levy, the 2018 Commonwealth Games champion, Damion Thomas and Hansle Parchment.

The full team comprises

 (100m Men): Tyquendo Tracey, Yohan Blake, and Oblique Seville. Julian Forte (r).

100m Women) Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce, Shericka Jackson, Elaine Thompson-Herah. Briana Williams (r).

4x100m relay Men Jevaughn Minzie, Nigel Ellis.

4x100m Women: Remona Burchell, Natasha Morrison.

200m Men: Rasheed Dwyer, Yohan Blake, Julian Forte

200m Women: Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce, Shericka Jackson, Elaine Thompson-Herah. Natasha Morrison (r)

400m Men: Demish Gaye, Christopher Taylor, Sean Bailey. Nathon Allen (r)

400m Women: Stephenie Ann McPherson, Candice McLeod, Roneisha McGregor. Stacey Ann Williams ®

4x400m Men: Nathon Allen, Karayme Bartley, Rusheen McDonald. Nathon Allen ®

4X400M Women: Stacey Ann Williams, Tovea Jenkins, Junelle Bromfield.

4x400 Men: Karayme Bartley, Rusheen McDonald.

800m: Natoya Goule

110m hurdles: Ronald Levy, Damion Thomas, Hansle Parchment. Phillip Lemonious ®

100m hurdles: Megan Tapper, Yanique Thompson, Britany Anderson. Danielle Williams ®

400m hurdles Men: Jaheel Hyde, Kemar Mowatt, Shawn Rowe. Leonardo Ledgister ®

400m hurdles Women: Janieve Russell, Ronda Whyte, Leah Nugent. Shian Salmon ®

1500M Aisha Praught *

Long jump Men: Tajay Gayle, Carey McLeod.

Long jump Women: Tissanna Hickling, Chanice Porter

Triple jump Men: Carey McLeod

Triple jump women: Shanieka Ricketts, Kimberly Williams

Shot Put Women: Danniel Thomas-Dodd, Lloydricka Cameron *

Discus Men: Fedrick Dacres, Chad Wright, Traves Smikle

Discus Women: Shadae Lawrence

4x400m Mixed Relays: Javier Brown, Keeno Burrell, Davonte Burnett, Tiffany James, Charokee Young, Kemba Nelson.

Sha ‘Carri Richardson has apologized for her actions that led to the disqualification of her 100m results from the US Olympic trials last month after traces of Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the principal psychoactive constituent of cannabis, was found in her samples taken after the race in Eugene, Oregon.

The athlete has also accepted a one-month ban from the United States Anti-Doping Agency, which means she will miss the 100m. The ban takes effect on June 28 with the Olympics set to start July 23.

Speaking on NBC this morning, mere hours after news broke yesterday that she had tested positive for a banned substance, a contrite Richardson said: “I want to take responsibility for my actions. I know what I did. I know what I am supposed to do. I know what I am allowed not to do and I still made that decision but not making an excuse or looking for any empathy.

“I’d like to say to my fans and my family and my sponsorship, the haters too, I apologize. As much as I am disappointed, I know that when I step on the track I don’t just represent myself, I represent a community that has shown me great support, great love and I apologize for the fact that I didn’t know how to control my emotions. I am human.”

She explained that her actions were triggered by an interview before her race when a reporter told her that her biological mother had died the week before. Richardson was reportedly abandoned at birth and was raised by her grandmother. The news, she said, caused her to be blinded by emotion and hurt.

“To hear that coming from a complete stranger was definitely triggering, nerve shocking because it was just like how are you to tell me that, that sent me in state of mind of emotional pain and I still had to go out and put on a performance,” she said.

Richardson might have lost her place in the 100m as, according to reports, Jenna Prandini, who was fourth in the 100m finals at the US trials, has been pencilled in to replace her and 200m champion Gabby Thomas entered as the alternate runner.

Asked if she would take that slight chance she has to run in the relays, Richardson responded: “Right now, I am just putting all my time and energy into doing what I need to do to take care of myself. If I am allowed to receive that blessing then I am grateful for it but if not, right now I am just really focused on myself.”

She concluded by saying this was not the end of the road for her as she intends to bring the 100m gold medal back to the USA at the next Olympic Games in Paris in 2024 and vowed the name Sha’carri Richardson would never be associated with performance-enhancing drugs.

 

American sprinter Sha'Carri Richardson has been ruled out of the Olympic Games after the 21-year-old gold medal hopeful tested positive for cannabis.

In a ruling described by US anti-doping chief Travis Tygart as "heartbreaking on many levels", it was confirmed that Richardson failed a test at the US Olympic trials on June 19.

Richardson's ban has been given a start date of June 28, when she was provisionally suspended, meaning she is ineligible to enter the Tokyo Games, which officially begin on July 23.

In a statement, the United States Anti-Doping Agency said: "USADA announced today that Sha'Carri Richardson, of Clermont, Fla., an athlete in the sport of track and field, has accepted a one-month suspension – as permitted under the applicable international rules – for an anti-doping rule violation for testing positive for a substance of abuse."

USADA chief executive Tygart said: "The rules are clear, but this is heartbreaking on many levels; hopefully, her acceptance of responsibility and apology will be an important example to us all that we can successfully overcome our regrettable decisions, despite the costly consequences of this one to her."

Richardson's ban means the second-fastest woman in the world over 100 metres this season will be absent from the Olympics.

She has run under 10.80 seconds three times in 2021, with a career personal best of 10.72secs set in Florida in April.

Only Jamaican veteran Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce has gone quicker this season, with a best of 10.63secs.

 Richardson was found to have THC, described by USADA as "the main psychoactive constituent of cannabis, marijuana, and hashish", above the urinary decision limit when she provided a test sample at the trials.

Given Richardson derived no sporting advantage and used the drug recreationally, she was given just a month-long ban. That was reduced from a possible three months because Richardson has "successfully completed a counselling programme regarding her use of cannabis", USADA said.

USA Track and Field (USATF) responded to news of the ban by describing the situation as a "devastating" blow.

In a statement, USATF said: "Sha'Carri Richardson's situation is incredibly unfortunate and devastating for everyone involved. Athlete health and well-being continue to be one of USATF's most critical priorities and we will work with Sha'Carri to ensure she has ample resources to overcome any mental health challenges now and in the future."

USA Track and Field appears to confirmed that Sha Carri Richardson has returned an Adverse Analytical Finding for cannabis from last month’s US Trials and will likely miss the Olympic Games this summer.

American sprint sensation Sha Carri Richardson has reportedly tested positive for a banned substance and is likely to miss out on her making her Olympic debut, according to multiple reports.

The 21-year-old American, who won the 100m at the US trials last month, returned an adverse analytical finding, following a test administered at the US Olympic Trials and marijuana was classified as a Substance of Abuse by the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) on January 1, 2021.

According to the reports, the use of this substance carries a maximum four-year ban.

However, if she can prove that the use of the drug was used outside of competition and was not intended to enhance performance, she could have the ban reduced to three months. It has also been reported that should she agree to undertake a treatment program, the ban could be reduced further.

As it stands, however, the athlete has been stripped of her performances at the US trials and fourth-place winner Jenna Prandini as well as Gabby Thomas have been notified that they could be potential replacements and have been entered in the 100m.

Richardson, the 2019 NCAA 100m champion, generated much excitement for a potential match up with two-time Olympic 100m champion Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce when she raced to a world-leading 10.72 100m in April. It was the fastest any woman had ever run so early in a season.

She followed it up with four more times under 10.8 seconds during the season.

When Fraser-Pryce, who is vying for an unprecedented third Olympic 100m title, ran a world-leading 10.63 on June 5, the excitement in anticipation of a blockbuster clash in Tokyo intensified.

Now it seems that that match up will not happen.

The best-case scenario for Richardson, should the ban remain in effect, is that she would be available to run on the USA’s 4x100m relay team at the Olympic Games in August if selected by USA Track and Field.

 

 

2011 World 100m gold medallist, Yohan Blake, has promised a return to ‘beast mode’ for the upcoming Tokyo Olympic Games, reviving an association with a moniker he had given up several years ago.

Just a few months before competing in the 2016 Rio Olympics, Blake publicly stated that he wished not to be called 'the beast' anymore, an on-track persona that had seen him become the second fastest man ever over 200m, after clocking a lifetime best of 19.26secs in 2011.

On the back of a few serious injuries, however, Blake has failed to hit those heights since.  At Jamaica’s National Championships, after a disappointing second-place finish in the men's 100m finals, he was motivated to take the top spot in the 200m.

Unfortunately, things did not go as he had planned.  He was second-best yet again in his second final of the meet. 

With legendary sprint sensation Usain Bolt having retired in 2017, many will be fancying their chances of winning a prized gold medal, and among the hopefuls is Blake himself.

And, for the 32nd staging of the Olympic Games, Blake says he is taking back the 'beast mode' this summer.

"It was a transition that I thought that in myself that the beast represents evil but when I look at it, it’s just a fiction and for me, it’s just acting,” Blake said of the decision.

“It is not like I am taking on the beast, but I am drawing back for the beast, so the beast is going to be back at the Olympics,” he added.

 "I am feeling my old self, I am feeling everything and with God all things are possible. I am getting in my finishing touches and going back to my coach.”

Blake said that finishing second in both sprint events will not impact his confidence going into Tokyo because he is confident in his abilities.

"I know what I can do and definitely, I should have won that 100 with ease, but for some reason, God doesn't want the spotlight to be on me as yet. I just want to sneak up because I know I am not leaving that stadium without a medal."

 

 

 

Coco Gauff enjoyed a day to remember on Thursday, as she is set to become the youngest Olympic tennis player since 2000, while the 17-year-old also starred at Wimbledon.

Gauff made her name as a 15-year-old prodigy at Wimbledon in 2019.

Two years on, Gauff returned to Centre Court for the first time since her defeat to eventual champion Simona Halep, and marked the occasion with a 6-4 6-3 victory over Elena Vesnina.

Her Wimbledon campaign is not the only thing Gauff will have on her mind, though, with the teenager having also secured a place in the United States' women's tennis team for the Olympic Games in Tokyo, which start later this month.

Gauff will become the youngest tennis player in a Games since Mario Ancic and Jelena Docki, aged 16 and 17 respectively, competed at Sydney 2000, while she will also be the second-youngest American Olympian on the court, after 16-year-old Jennfier Capriati, who took gold in Barcelona 29 years ago.

She is joined by Jennifer Brady, Jessica Pegula and Alison Riske in the singles – which is ranked based on the top four players from each country who have opted in  – with Sofia Kenin, Madison Keys and Serena Williams having declined the opportunity to feature, while Venus Williams, the most decorated Olympic tennis player in history, did not qualify.

Nicole Melichar and 2016 gold medalist Bethanie Mattek-Sands were the doubles-only picks.

As she proved again on Thursday, Gauff – who has two singles titles to her name on the WTA Tour – has little trouble in dealing with the big stage.

She needed just 70 minutes to defeat Vesnina and progress to round three at the All England Club, though she admitted her memories of her 2019 efforts at Wimbledon are not the best.

"It did feel a lot different. I honestly was more nervous coming into today's match," she said.

"I think the biggest thing is I don't really remember much from my Centre Court experience in 2019. I don't know, I felt like it was all a blur.

"But going in today I feel like a completely different player and person. It wasn't my best tennis today, but I think mentally I gave a good performance considering how nervous I was.

"I try not to put expectations on myself, at least only put the ones that I can control, and I know I can control how I act on the court and how I carry myself.

"What I will say is my goal I guess is more clear right now than it was in 2019. I think just my belief is a lot stronger now, the feeling that I can go far."

The delay to the Tokyo Olympics has been a source of frustration for countless athletes, but perhaps none more so than the Japanese stars so desperate to succeed in their home nation.

Uncertainty and confusion surrounding the Games has sadly reigned for the past year due to the coronavirus pandemic.

And yet, here we are in the month the action is set to begin and the show looks certain to go on.

No international spectators will be in attendance, but limited numbers of domestic fans are due to be allowed to watch the action.

So, who are the biggest names representing Japan the locals will hope to inspire to glory? Stats Perform has taken a look…

NAOMI OSAKA

There is no other place to begin than with one of the biggest names in the whole of sport, let alone tennis right now. Naomi Osaka is a superstar with a huge global following, particularly in Japan and America. Only 23 and with four grand slams to her name, there is seemingly no limit to the level she can reach. Osaka is the defending US and Australian Open champion, but withdrew after the first round of the French Open and opted not to play at Wimbledon after revealing a long-endured battle with depression. The issue came to the fore when Osaka had announced she would not take part in media conferences in Paris to protect her mental health, starting a wider conversation over how athletes are treated. 

 

HIDEKI MATSUYAMA

So often a nearly man, 2021 has already been a breakthrough year for the gifted Hideki Matsuyama. There were seven top-10 finishes in major tournaments before finally the 29-year-old took top billing to win the Masters at Augusta back in April. In doing so he became the first Japanese man to win a major tournament (Hinako Shibuno and Chako Higuchi have both won majors in the women's game). Olympic gold is certainly not out of the question for one of the most gifted players in golf.

KIYUNA RYO

Karate is making its Olympics debut and so is one of its greatest ever competitors in the form of Kiyuna Ryo. In 2019, Ryo won every competition he entered - including a third Asian championship - while the pandemic denied him a shot at a record fourth straight WKF world championship in June 2020. It will take a huge effort to stop Ryo, who will be 31 by the time the Games begin, standing atop the podium.

UTA ABE

The younger sibling of two-time world champion Hifumi Abe – himself off to Tokyo 2020 – judoka Uta Abe represents a serious medal hope for Japan. A two-time world champion herself in the -52kg category, she will aim to become an Olympic champion on July 25 – the same day her brother will aim to wear gold in the men's -66kg category. There is no shortage of judo talent in Japan, with Shohei Ono aiming to defend the -73kg gold he won at Rio 2016.

KENTO MOMOTA 

The past 18 months have been challenging for everyone but especially for Kento Momota. In January 2020, the badminton star was involved in a road accident that claimed the life of his driver, while he required surgery on his eye socket. A combination of the injury, the global pandemic and a positive test for coronavirus kept Momota off the court for 14 months. But the two-time world champion – who won an astounding 11 titles as recently as 2019 – will be desperate to complete a fairytale ending with gold in Tokyo.

 

DAIYA SETO

One of Japan's greatest hopes in the pool, Daiya Seto already has an Olympic medal in the form of a bronze from Rio four years ago in the 400 metre individual medley. With four gold medals in long course world championships and as many at the Asian Games, there are plenty of high hopes for Seto.

LeBron James' days of representing his country in the Olympics likely are finished. 

Jerry Colangelo, long-time USA Basketball managing director, told ESPN he does not expect the Los Angeles Lakers star to compete in the Games again. 

James opted out of the upcoming Tokyo Olympics after skipping Rio five years ago. 

He will be 39-years-old for the next Summer Games in Paris, and Colangelo said he does not expect the NBA legend to return to international duty. 

"You know, Father Time takes its toll," Colangelo told ESPN on Wednesday. "If you're a human being, your body is built to go so long depending on what your sport is, and then it's a downhill situation.

"LeBron made choices these last couple of Olympics not to participate because he's got a lot of things going on in his life.

"So he put in his time, he made a contribution that is appreciated, but I think his time is over."

James previously helped Team USA to gold medals in the London and Beijing Olympics and bronze in Athens. 

With James and numerous other NBA stars skipping the Games this summer, head coach Gregg Popovich's 12-player squad for Tokyo will feature only three returning Olympians: Kevin Durant, Draymond Green and Kevin Love. 

 

Comaneci, Korbut, Biles, Scherbo. Those names are as engrained into Olympic legend as Bolt, Beamon, Griffith-Joyner and Owens.

Gymnastics might pass under many radars outside Games time, but television chiefs have it down as a ratings-winning banker.

There is no other sport that combines quite the same level of athleticism, artistry and acrobatic magnificence, and pairs those factors with a stack of glamour and more than a hint of danger.

Most viewers of the Olympics will know how it feels to casually sprint 100 metres or swim a length or two, but the parallel bars, the pommel horse and the beam were typically last experienced as dreaded apparatus hauled out of school sports equipment vaults.

Anybody who avoided making a muggins of themselves deserved immediate respect, with these implements of humiliation ripe for dishing out a torturing.

On the Olympic stage, we see the human species at its most agile, yet vulnerable too, and that is why gymnastics has been the most viewed sport in the Games on American networks for many years.

Here, Stats Perform looks at three of the great Olympic gymnasts of the last 50 years, and considers who might emerge as a star at the Ariake venue in Tokyo this year.


GAMES GREATS

Nadia Comaneci: The Perfect 10

When Romanian Comaneci scored the first 'Perfect 10' in Olympic history at the Montreal Games of 1976, famously even the scoreboards were unprepared for her fabulous feat. They showed 1.00, with the Omega technology not built to display top marks. Comaneci was 14 years old, and she had made history on the uneven bars in the team competition. It was incredibly just the start of a run of 10s from Comaneci, who produced six more during her heady time in Canada, winning gold medals in the all-around event, the uneven bars and the balance beam.

 

Olga Korbut: Flipping brilliant

The young Comaneci would have watched Korbut dazzle at the 1972 Munich Olympics, where the 17-year-old brought daring new routines to the Games stage. Her backflip to catch on the uneven bars drew gasps from the crowd and media alike. Television footage from the time shows Korbut produce her mesmerising routine, with one commentator questioning: "Has that been done before by a girl?". His colleague responds: "Never, not by any human I know of!"

The Korbut flip was born, a backward somersault on the beam followed, and millions across the globe watched in astonishment at her audacity and execution. The teenager from the Soviet Union won gold medals in the team, floor and balance beam disciplines, pushing gymnastics to new heights.

Vitaly Scherbo: Barcelona bounty

It has often been the case that women gymnasts have attracted more admiration than the men, but in 1992 it was Scherbo who stole the show. The 20-year-old Belarusian was a colossus, winning six gold medals for the Unified Team of former Soviet states with a revelatory exhibition of physical strength, craft and control.

Scherbo became champion at the parallel bars, vault, rings, pommel horse, team event and the all-around event. His haul of golds has only ever been surpassed in a single Olympics by swimmers: Michael Phelps (eight gold medals at Beijing 2008) and Mark Spitz (seven golds at Munich).


TOKYO CALLING

Simone Biles: Great already, and now back for more

What does Biles have in store for a Tokyo encore to her spectacular Rio performance? It was well known before the 2016 Olympics was that Biles was rather special, and the American delivered on the biggest stage, with four gold medals and a solitary bronze, becoming the first quadruple Olympic gymnastic champion since 1984 when the great Romanian Ecaterina Szabo also achieved success on that scale. Biles, a formidable character and sensational competitor, is stretching the limits of athletic achievement every time she competes, taking her beloved sport to new audiences and inspiring generations of youngsters to try the sport.

Now 24 years old, Biles appears to be in great shape for more success in Japan, but watch out for her team-mate Suni Lee too. The 18-year-old outscored Biles on day two of the US Olympic trials

Tang Xijing: China's great hope

Could Chinese teenager Tang be in the picture to deny Biles the all-around title in Tokyo? The 18-year-old took a surprise silver behind Biles at the 2019 World Championship, and it remains to be seen whether that was a one-off or if she can limit the errors that have at times impeded her success and strike again for a medal.

She seems sure to be somewhere in the frame, but the Olympics demands perfection or at least somewhere close to it. Tang has abundant talent, and how she competes against the world's best again, after being limited lately to domestic competition, will be one of many matters of intrigue under the spotlight in the Ariake gymnastics hall.

Pedri and Unai Simon were among a group of six Spain stars at Euro 2020 who received an Olympic Games call-up on Tuesday.

Spain Under-21 head coach Luis de la Fuente, who will take charge of the Olympic team in Tokyo, announced a 22-man list that must be trimmed to 18 for the tournament.

Teenage Barcelona midfielder Pedri has been one of the standout figures in Luis Enrique's Spain team at the European Championship, while Athletic Bilbao goalkeeper Simon got away with a huge mistake in the last-16 game against Croatia, when he conceded an own goal before Spain roared back to earn a 5-3 win.

He carelessly failed to deal with Pedri's back pass and the ball rolled into the net.

They were joined on De la Fuente's squad list by senior Spain colleagues Eric Garcia, Pau Torres, Dani Olmo and Mikel Oyarzabal.

As expected, there was no place for veteran Sergio Ramos, who wanted to represent Spain at both Euro 2020 and the Olympics this year but was called up for neither tournament.

Ramos, who is leaving Real Madrid after 16 years, endured an injury-plagued 2020-21 season.

 

Spain, who were gold medallists in men's football at the 1992 Barcelona Olympics, also included Real Madrid duo Dani Ceballos and Marco Asensio, Valencia's Carlos Soler, Sevilla's Bryan Gil and Mikel Merino of Real Sociedad in a strong line-up.

Monday's victory over Croatia at Euro 2020 has carried Spain through to a quarter-final against Switzerland, to be played in St Petersburg on Friday.

Should Spain go all the way to the final, they will contest the showpiece at Wembley on July 11. 

The Olympic football competition begins before the Games is officially declared open, with Spain due to play Egypt at the Sapporo Dome in their opening Group C game on July 22, a day ahead of the opening ceremony.

De la Fuente said he had no doubts about selecting Simon, despite his error at the Euros.

"I know Unai Simon. I know of his strength and integrity," De la Fuente said. "Yesterday he had an exceptional reaction after a difficult moment."


Provisional Spain squad for Tokyo Olympics: Alvaro Fernandez (Huesca), Unai Simon (Athletic Bilbao)), Alex Domínguez (Las Palmas); Mingueza (Barcelona), Jesus Vallejo (Granada), Eric García (Barcelona), Pau Torres (Villarreal), Oscar Gil (Espanyol), Juan Miranda (Real Betis); Marc Cucurella (Getafe), Jon Moncayola (Osasuna), Martin Zubimendi (Real Sociedad), Dani Ceballos (Real Madrid), Mikel Merino (Real Sociedad), Carlos Soler (Valencia), Pedri (Barcelona); Bryan Gil (Sevilla), Marco Asensio (Real Madrid), Dani Olmo (RB Leipzig), Mikel Oyarzabal (Real Sociedad, Rafa Mir (Wolves), Javi Puado (Espanyol).

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