Athletes to Watch at Rio 2016
Dafne Schippers - Sprint
Schippers has gone from strength to strength since giving up on her Heptathlon dream and will be looking to stir up the sprinting scene even by taking down her Jamaican and American rivals.
Despite only taking up sprinting full-time in 2014, the 24 year old set a new Dutch National 100m Record when finishing just one tenth of a second behind the formidable Shelly-Ann Fraser-Price in the 2015 World Championships. The records kept tumbling in the 200m, when Schippers held off a high quality field to claim her first sprinting gold medal, setting a new Championship Record in the process.
Her build-up to Rio has been good and she looks more than ready to take on the worlds best once again. Judging from the incredible progress she has made so far, we wouldn’t be surprised to hear the Dutch national anthem ring around the Olympic Stadium at either of the sprinting medal ceremonies.
Simone Biles - Gymnastics
Biles stepped up the senior ranks in 2013, after enjoying a very successful final junior year and it hasn’t taken long for the 19 year old to become the leader of the American gymnastics team. This will be Simone’s first Olympic appearance and she is sure to relish the opportunity to add some more golds to her already-overflowing medal shelf.
At the 2015 World Championships in Glasgow, Biles became the first female gymnast in history to claim three successive All-Around golds. She is also a two-time World Champion on the Balance Beam and Floor and has won Team golds at the World’s, American Cup and the Pacific Rim Championships.
European Gymnastics is clearly on the up and Biles is likely to be faced with stiff competition in all the individual events she enters. But the Ohio native has overcome every obstacle put in front of her so far in her short, successful career. She could become one of the stars of the 2016 Rio Olympics.
Jazz Carlin - Swimming
After illness ruined her chance to represent her country at the London Olympics, Carlin has gone on to become one of the most feared freestyle swimmers in the world. In 2014, she claimed her maiden European Championship gold medals in both the 400m and 800m and went on to become 400m freestyle Commonwealth Champion in front of a raucous crowd in Glasgow. Despite struggling with a rib injury throughout this years European Championships, the 25 year old managed to finish second in defence of both the titles she won the previous year. She’s been named by bwin as one of Team GB’s best gold medal hopefuls to watch, and if she can put those injury troubles behind her she has every hope of securing the gold and returning to Wales an Olympic Champion.
Lydia Ko - Golf
Lydia Ko’s incredible rise to the top of the women’s golf ranking, at the tender age of 19, has been nothing short of meteoric. When she was 15, the Korean-born New Zealander became the youngest golfer to win an LPGA event. She soon decided to turn professional and since then she has gone on to win 17 senior Championships, including two major championships and she will be hoping to add a few more trophies to her collection before she heads to Rio.
Lydia has been sitting atop the World Rankings for well over two years and has proven time and again that she is the best and most consistent golfer around. An inaugural Olympic gold is a very real possibility, as Ko continues on her path to become the most successful golfer the sport has ever seen.
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By Mike Valverde