This week marks one year until the Summer Olympic Games in Tokyo. They’re already off to a better start than Rio (although that’s probably no surprise to anyone) and there are new athletes and events in the spotlight.
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1. Baseball and softball are on the dance card for the first time in 12 years. A women’s softball game will be the first event of the 2020 Olympics. It’s being held two days before the Opening Ceremony and will be played in Fukushima, the site of the 2011 nuclear plant meltdowns. YOU GLOW GIRL HAS A WHOLE NEW MEANING
2. Karate, skateboarding, sport climbing and surfing will make their Olympic debuts. Hopes are that by adding these sports, more millennials fall in love with the Olympics but here’s one for the “old” guys. There’s talk that 47-year-old surfing icon Kelly Slater might make a run at the inaugural event in Tokyo. NOT YOUR GRANDMA’S GAMES
3. Some of your favorite Americans are expected to return to Tokyo. The U.S. women soccer team is eyeing their first World Cup-Olympic back-to-back championships, Simone Biles will be the veteran on the gymnastics team, the “Flying Tomato” Shaun White could swap a snowboard for a skateboard and the queen of track Allyson Felix, is on her journey back after an emergency C-section in November sidelined her. HI OLD FRIEND
4. Sponsors are clearly excited about the games with $3 billion already spent on domestic sponsorships, a record three times more than any other Summer Olympics. Mother Earth is excited too because the medals will all be made out of recycled gadgets, i.e. that old cell phone. SPIRIT FINGERS
5. A storyline that has continued to surface in sports is inequality and it’s not bound to slow down with the Olympic games. The International Association of Athletic Federations (IAAF) limits the ability of certain athletes with high levels of testosterone to compete as women. Enter South African runner Caster Semenya who claims the IAAF used her as a guinea pig to see how regulating her testosterone levels via medication affected her performance on the track. Then there’s New Zealand’s Laurel Hubbard, who could become the first openly transgender athlete to compete in the Olympics. Hubbard, who formerly competed as Gavin Hubbard, began transitioning six years ago and has been taking the weightlifting world by storm. THE CENTER OF DISCUSSION