Olympics-U.S. to send second biggest team ever to Tokyo Games

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Track & Field: USA Olympic Team Trials
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(Reuters) - The United States will send a team of 613 athletes to the Tokyo Summer Games, its second largest delegation ever for an Olympics, said the United States Olympic Paralympic Committee (USOPC) on Tuesday.

Only once before has the U.S. had more athletes competing at an Olympics and that was in 1996 when Atlanta hosted the Games and 648 were named to the team.

Delayed a year by COVID-19 qualifying for the Tokyo Games proved an immense challenge for many U.S. athletes with global sport brought to standstill by the COVID-19 pandemic, wiping out opportunities to earn Olympic spots.

"Team USA is ready," said USOPC CEO Sarah Hirshland in a statement. "Our roster includes 613 remarkable athletes, one of our biggest teams ever, all who qualified to participate in these Games.

"In these extraordinary times -- these athletes have shown perseverance, dedication and focus and have inspired us all."

For the third consecutive Olympics there will be more women (329) then men (284) on the U.S team that will feature 193 returning Olympians and 104 medalists, including 56 Olympic champions.

The youngest member of the squad will be 15-year-old swimmer Katie Grimes while equestrian Phillip Dutton will be the oldest competing at age 57.

Dutton will be taking part in his seventh Olympics, having contested three Olympics for Australia in 1996, 2000 and 2004 and now four for the U.S. after becoming a U.S. citizen.

The U.S. squad will also include eight five-time Olympians; equestrians Steffen Peters and McLain Ward, basketball players Sue Bird and Diana Taurasi, track athletes Abdi Abdirahman and Allyson Felix, fencer Mariel Zagunis and water polo player Jesse Smith.

Bird and Taurasi will be bidding for a fifth straight Olympic gold medal.

The U.S. has consistently topped the Olympic medal table including the Rio Summer Games where they claimed 121 medals, including 46 gold.

The Tokyo Olympics begin on July 23 and run through to Aug. 8.

(Reporting by Steve Keating in Toronto. Editing by Christian Radnedge)