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Even though these pared down Summer Games in Tokyo will rob athletes of a true Olympic experience, they will remain special for those competing, especially the ones on the Olympic stage for the first time.
These athletes have risen to the top of their respective sports in recent years and qualified for the right to face the best in their field. And not only that — they might be the best themselves.
Get to know some of the many members of the U.S. delegation making their Olympic debuts who carry the added expectation of earning the top spot on the podium.
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A’ja Wilson, women's basketball
There are a handful of U.S. teams that are basically locks to win gold, and women’s basketball is at the top of that list. The squad has won six gold medals in a row with 49 consecutive victories along the way. Adding Las Vegas Aces guard A’ja Wilson to the mix should only continue the run of dominance.
Wilson is the reigning WNBA MVP and was the 2018 No. 1 overall pick after leading the South Carolina Gamecocks to a national championship in 2017. With Team USA, she’ll be playing for college coach Dawn Staley again.
Internationally, she’s been on Team USA since 2017 and was the youngest member of the team that won the 2018 FIBA World Cup.
Heimana Reynolds, men's skateboarding (park)
With skateboarding making its Olympic debut, any athlete to stand highest on the podium will be a first-time winner.
Heimana Reynolds has the chance to make history with a gold in men’s park. Growing up, his family operated a skatepark in his native Honolulu, Hawaii. He broke out in 2019, winning the Park World Championship a year after finishing second.
Nyjah Huston, men's skateboarding (street)
A four-time world champion, Nyjah Huston clinched his spot in the Olympics with a second-place finish at the 2021 World Street Championships in Rome in early June. Yuto Horigome, the world No. 2 who bested Huston in Rome, will be his primary competition.
Noah Lyles, men's track and field
Barely missing the 2016 Olympic roster coming out of high school, Noah Lyles will enter this year's Games with high expectations. At the 2019 world championships, he won gold in the 200 and ran a leg on the 4x100-relay team that also won gold.
Lyles missed qualifying in the 100, finishing in seventh place at the U.S. track and field trials. However, he should be the favorite to win the 200 in Tokyo, as his world-leading 19.74 will have him squarely in contention.
Torri Huske, women's swimming
Huske, 18, didn't wait until the 100-meter butterfly finals to break the American record that had stood for nine years. She swam a 55.78 in the semifinals and shaved .12 seconds off that time in the final at the Olympic trials to produce the fastest time in the world this year.
Grant Holloway, men's track and field
Grant Holloway is currently the No. 1-ranked men’s 110-meter hurdler in the world. At the track and field trials, Holloway nearly beat the world record – missing the mark by one-hundredth of a second – while setting a personal best of of 12.81 seconds.
Earlier this year, the 21-year-old University of Florida product set the 60-meter world record (7.29 seconds), breaking a mark that had stood for 27 years.
Carissa Moore, women's surfing
Carissa Moore is a four-time world champion and Hawaii native who attended the same high school (Punahou High) as President Barack Obama. A strong 2021 season in the World Surf League has her ranked No. 1, and she was the world champion in 2019.
Brazilian Tatiana Weston-Webb and Australians Sally Fitzgibbons, Tyler Wright and Stephanie Gilmore will challenge Moore for gold.
Taymyra Mensah-Stock, women's wrestling
The U.S. trials champion in 2016, Tamyra Mensah-Stock did not go to the Rio Olympics because the team as a whole failed to qualify for the 150-pound weight class. That’s not an issue for Team USA or Mensah-Stock in these Games.
Fresh off a world championship in 2019 and the reigning Trials winner once again, Mensah-Stock, 28, will be in contention for gold.
Alix Klineman, women's beach volleyball
Alix Klineman has represented the U.S. on the volleyball court for nearly a decade, but this will be her first Olympics. Since leaving the indoor game to focus on beach volleyball full-time in 2017, she’s found success with partner April Ross, who won bronze alongside Kerry Walsh Jennings in Rio five years ago.
Klineman and Ross have combined for four gold and a silver on the FIVB Beach Volleyball World Tour since 2018 and finished second at the World Championships in 2019.
Sunisa Lee, women's gymnastics
The 18-year-old has battled through an ankle injury this year and finished in second place at gymnastics trials, although she did beat Simone Biles in the all-around competition the second day. She's the first Hmong-American on the Olympics roster, and in addition to being a valuable member for the team competition, she'll be a medal contender on bars (Lee is a two-time U.S. champion).
Follow Chris Bumbaca on Twitter @BOOMbaca
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Olympics 2021: 10 Americans who are good bets to win gold in 1st Games