The Tokyo Olympic Games have officially started! As we watch this year’s Olympic Games from our homes, let’s look at some of the most notable past and present American Olympians.
Past: Laurie Hernandez
Laurie Hernandez was part of the “Final Five” in the 2016 Rio Games. In the 2016 Rio Games, she won a silver medal on the balance beam and the U.S. won gold in the team event. Shortly after the games, Hernandez competed in Dancing with the Stars and won with her partner Val Chmerkovskiy. She has participated in many campaigns including #KeepHerPlaying which encourages girls to continue to play sports while going through puberty. Hernandez will be a commentator at the Tokyo Olympic Games. To read more about Laurie Hernandez, click here.
Present: Simone Biles
At only four feet eight inches tall, Simone Biles is one of the smallest and notable American gymnasts of all time. Biles has a total of 30 Olympic and World Champion medals and is the most decorated American gymnast. She continues to make history as she has four signature skills and she will attempt to add another signature move, the Yurchenko double pike, at the Tokyo Games. Update: Biles recently withdrew from the Tokyo Olympic Games to focus on her mental health. To read more about Simone Biles, click here.
Present: Jordan Chiles
Jordan Chiles started gymnastics at the age of 6 years old. After many years of competing, Chiles couldn’t find happiness in gymnastics anymore. She came close to quitting gymnastics until she met Simone Biles. Biles told her not to be so hard on herself and that Chiles belongs in the gymnastics world. At the 2021 U.S. Classic, Jordan Chiles finished second to Simone Biles. Jordan Chiles recently won a silver medal along with the U.S. Women’s Gymnastics Team in Tokyo.
Past: Michael Phelps
Michael Phelps, a former Olympic swimmer, is the most decorated Olympian of all time, winning 28 Olympic medals. Phelps has competed in five Summer Olympics, with his last being the 2016 Olympics in Rio. Though Phelps is not competing in the Tokyo Olympics, he recently announced that he joined NBC’s broadcasting team to analyze swimming. To read more about Michael Phelps, click here.
Present: Katie Ledecky
Katie Ledecky started her Olympic career in 2012 when she was just 15 years old. Since then, she has won five Olympic gold medals, the most in history for a female swimmer. Michael Phelps has called her “the greatest female swimmer of our time.” Ledecky will be competing in four freestyle events in the Tokyo Olympic Games. So far, Ledecky has won a silver medal in the Women’s 400m freestyle. To learn more about Katie Ledecky, click here.
Present: Phoebe Bacon
At only 18 years old, Phoebe Bacon is going to be one of the swimmers to beat in this year’s summer Olympics. Bacon, a freshman at the University of Wisconsin, became the 2021 NCAA 200-yard backstroke champion. She grew up in Chevy-Chase Maryland and attended the same elementary school as Katie Ledecky. Katie Ledecky was Bacon’s “big buddy” in preschool. Bacon will be competing in the Women’s 200 backstroke on July 29.
Past: Serena and Venus Williams
The Williams sisters are the most successful American women tennis players. The sisters won three Olympic gold medals in women’s doubles playing together. Venus Williams is a seven-time Grand Slam title winner whereas Serena Williams is a 23 time Grand Slam title winner. Growing up, the women learned how to play tennis from their parents. Venus Williams qualified to compete in the Tokyo Games but declined the offer. To read more about Serena and Venus Williams click here.
Present: Bethanie Mattek-Sands
Bethanie Mattek-Sands became an Olympic gold medalist in 2016 at the Summer Olympics in Rio. She has won nine Grand Slam titles and is a former world No. 1 in doubles. Mattek-Sands was one of the only discretionary doubles-only picks for the Tokyo Olympics.
Track & Field
Past: Jesse Owens
Jesse Owens was a four-time gold medalist in the 1936 Olympic Games. The African American sprinter shocked people around the world as he broke Olympic records in Berlin. During World War II, the U.S. Office of Civilian Defense appointed Owens as a director of a national fitness program for African Americans. During the war, he traveled around the U.S. holding fitness clinics and promoting the war. To read more about Jesse Owens, click here.
Past: Carl Lewis
Carl Lewis is a former track and field athlete who won nine Olympic gold medals during his career. He grew up in Alabama and was coached by his mom in the early years of his career. In 1999, Sports Illustrated named him “the Olympian of the Century.” To read more about Carl Lewis, click here.
Now is the perfect time to learn about great Olympic athletes. Discover Books makes it easy and affordable to purchase these books on our website or shopping app discoverbooks.com. Books start at $3.85, and we offer free shipping on orders of $12 or more in 48 states.
To read more about great books on the Olympics, read our Get Ready for the Summer Olympics post here.