9 can’t-miss Olympic events to feast your eyes on

·8-min read
Canada's Andre De Grasse and his bid for 100m gold is one of the most fascinating storylines of the Games. (Getty)
Canada's Andre De Grasse and his bid for 100m gold is one of the most fascinating storylines of the Games. (Getty)

The Summer Olympics are finally here after a long, highly anticipated wait, and athletes across the globe are eager to go higher, faster and stronger on the world's biggest sporting stage.

Records are set to be broken as athletes strive for excellence in this international showcase which only comes around every four — or in this case five — years.

And that’s what makes the Olympics so special.

With the stakes so high, the Games never fail to produce moments of greatness.

Who could forget Michael Phelps winning eight gold medals in Beijing? Or Usain Bolt fist-pumping his chest on the way to setting a world record 100-metre sprint?

Within the 33 sports and 339 events, Tokyo is likely to offer plenty more unforgettable moments. These are the can’t miss events at these Summer Games:

Men’s Tennis

Novak Djokovic is on the brink of history.

Fresh off winning his 20th grand slam title at Wimbledon to tie Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer on the all-time leaderboard, Djokovic can move one step closer to completing the “golden slam” with a tournament victory in Tokyo.

The “golden slam” is earned when a player wins all four grand slams (Australian Open, French Open, Wimbledon, U.S. Open) and the Olympics in the same calendar year — a feat only achieved by female player Steffi Graf in 1988.

Djokovic won all three 2021 grand slams played so far and looks impossible to beat. With his top rival Rafael Nadal giving the games a miss, the door is wide open for him to take home the gold.

If Djokovic wins, it sets up a potentially historic U.S. Open. The 34-year-old will have the chance to complete the “golden slam” while simultaneously surpassing Federer and Nadal on the all-time grand slam leaderboard. That kind of double whammy just might make him the undisputed best men’s tennis player ever.

But he needs to win the Olympics first, and that’s why the men’s tournament at this summer’s Games is a can’t-miss event. It’s a crucial part of Djokovic’s path to tennis immortality.

The tournament takes place from July 24 to Aug. 1.

Women’s Soccer

The grand finale for soccer’s all-time leading international scorer?

Canada’s 38-year-old skipper Christine Sinclair enters her fourth Olympics in what could be the final major international tournament of her illustrious career.

Repeating their success at London, where they won bronze, will be a difficult task for the Canadian team currently ranked No. 8 in the world. But don’t count them out yet.

“Sincy” is still capable of finding the back of the net, and it could be her last chance to add to her record-setting 186 goals while leading her teammates to medal contention.

The United States, led by stars Megan Rapinoe and Alex Morgan, among many others, are favoured to win the tournament just two years after dominating the international stage at the 2019 World Cup. They’ll be eager to bounce back after a disappointing quarterfinal exit versus Sweden at Rio 2016.

The tournament begins July 21 and runs through Aug. 6.

Men’s 100m Dash

“The fastest man on the planet” is a sentence synonymous with Usain Bolt since 2008.

Now retired, Bolt’s reign is officially over and it’s time for a new Olympic champion to hold that esteemed title, and that alone makes this a can’t-miss event.

Trayvon Bromell (USA) is the favourite. He’s won six of seven races this season and holds the fastest time set in 2021 — a blistering 9.77 seconds. He should face worthy challenges from Ronnie Baker (USA), Akani Simbine (RSA), though, and don’t count out the pride of Markham, Ont., Andre DeGrasse.

For Canadians, DeGrasse adds a layer of intrigue to the event.

The charismatic sprinter won silver and two bronze medals at Rio 2016 and famously gave Usain Bolt a run for his money in the 200-metre semifinals heat, making him a household name internationally. Coming into Tokyo, DeGrasse has underperformed this season and will have to step up like he has so many times in big moments.

Let's see if he can repeat a podium-worthy performance in Tokyo.

The men’s 100-metre final takes place Aug. 1.

Women’s Gymnastics

Simone Biles can cement her legacy as one of the greatest Olympians ever with another jaw-dropping performance in Tokyo.

You can’t use too many superlatives when describing this dazzling gymnast who is a 19-time world championship gold medallist and electrified Rio 2016 by winning four golds. You’ll be hard-pressed to find a more decorated and captivating athlete at the Summer Games with Usain Bolt and Michael Phelps retired.

At 24 years old, Biles is a veteran in gymnastics, and she’s faced some obstacles this past year.

In a recent Sports Illustrated interview, the American gymnast acknowledged that her athleticism is declining and that the Olympics postponement made her contemplate retirement.

Despite that admission, Biles has reinvented herself and continues to push the boundaries of what’s possible in the sport. On May 22, she became the first woman to land a “Yurchenko double pike” in competition.

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Still, Biles striking gold in Tokyo isn’t a given, watch for fellow American Sunisa Lee to challenge the crown.

Simon Biles is scheduled to compete on July 25, July 27, July 29, and Aug. 1-3.

Opening Ceremony

Though not a classically-defined "event," this year’s opening ceremony is going to be super weird.

Normally, it’s a breathtaking extravaganza — demonstrating the host country’s culture and welcoming a seemingly endless parade of festive flag-waving Olympians.

Covid restrictions have curtailed the pomp and ceremony. With the virus still running rampant in Japan, the country is in a state of emergency and safety protocols will be in full effect.

The stands will be empty of cheering fans, and expect a variety of pre-recorded performances and a limited number of athletes.

It’s going to make for an odd, yet surreal ceremony, and that’s what makes it a can’t-miss event — it’s guaranteed to be one like no other.

United by Emotion is Tokyo 2020’s opening ceremony theme, a reference to the role sport and the Olympics play in uniting nations, particularly as much of the world continues suffering from the pandemic that postponed these Games an entire year.

“In the Opening Ceremony, we will aspire to reaffirm the role of sport and the value of the Olympic Games, to express our gratitude and admiration for the efforts we all made together over the past year, and also to bring a sense of hope for the future,” read a July 14 Tokyo 2020 press release.

Catch the opening ceremony live at 7 a.m. ET on July 23.

New Olympic Sports!

Four events — Surfing, Skateboarding, Sport Climbing, and Karate — will debut at Tokyo 2020, adding extreme sports flair and excitement to the world’s biggest spectacle.

Surfing

The best surfers in the world will hit the waves off the coast of Chiba, Japan, with Australia and the United States set to ride neck and neck as the two dominant modern surfing nations.

Surfers will have 30 minutes to set their two highest scores in each heat, which are judged out of 10 and evaluated by difficulty, variety, innovation, speed, power, and flow.

Watch for world champions John John Florence (USA) and Owen Wright (AUS) to compete for gold on the men’s side, while seven-time world champion Stephanie Gilmore (AUS) and Carissa Moore (USA) battle it out in the women’s competition.

The surfing competition takes place from July 25-27.

Skateboarding

Skateboarding has two disciplines: Street, which depicts street-style skateboarding with railings, benches and stairs used to perform tricks, and Park, with ramps, bowls and curves to assist doing mid-air tricks — think Tony Hawk.

Nyjah Huston (USA), a 12-time X-Games gold medallist, is the heavy favourite to dominate the men’s street competition, but Kamloops, B.C.’s Matt Berger could make some noise. Leticia Bufoni (BRA) will be the skater to beat on the women’s side, but watch out for fellow Brazilians Pamela Rosa and 13-year-old Rayssa Leal. Yes, 13 years old.

Look out for Heimana Reynolds (USA) and Lizzie Armanto (FIN) in men’s and women’s park.

The street event takes place July 25-26, while the park competition is set for Aug. 4-5.

Sport Climbing

Sport Climbing, which is really just a fancier way of saying rock climbing, combines three disciplines — speed, bouldering, and lead — to determine a single set of medallists.

In speed, climbers race up a 15-metre wall to determine the winner. Bouldering revolves around climbing without being attached to a harness or safety rope, and lead is all about getting as high up the wall you can without falling.

Six-time world champion Janja Garnbret (SLO) stars in the women’s field, while five-time world champion Adam Ondra (CZE) heavily favours in the men’s competition.

All events take place between Aug. 3-6.

Karate

Karate debuts at an Olympic Games in the country it originated. The absence of local spectators is sure to be felt as the Japanese crowds are known for genuinely understanding the intricacies of martial arts.

There are two types of Karate in these Games: Kata and Kumite. Kata focuses on form, and judges determine the winner. Kumite is won by accumulating more points than your opponent by landing various attacks.

Spanish fighters Sandra Sánchez (women’s) and Damián Quintero (men’s) are podium favourites in the Kata event. The Kumite competition, which has three different weight categories, is starred by Steve Dacosta (FRA), Ugur Aktas (TUR), Anzhelika Terliuga (UKR), and Jovana Prekovic (SER).

All karate competitions run between Aug. 5-8.

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