10 Women to Watch this Olympics Season

Olympic Athletes

With hundreds of talented athletes competing for team USA, here are 10 women whose events you won’t want to miss.

In a world where the coverage of women’s sports is practically negligible, the Olympics provide the perfect opportunity to see the most talented female athletes competing in one place. In fact, nearly 54 percent of the American athletes competing this year are women. That’s why we decided to highlight some of the American women you won’t want to miss this summer. Some of them are names you may recognize (*cough* Simone Biles *cough*) and others are brand new on the scene, but all of them will blow you away with their talent. We spoke to Hannah Withiam, managing editor for Just Women’s Sports, about who we should keep an eye out for, in events ranging from old favorites like gymnastics and swimming to new additions like surfing and skateboarding. 

Best Female Athletes at the 2021 Olympics

Simone Biles (Gymnastics)

Simone Biles

Simone Biles is probably the best gymnast we’ve ever seen in the U.S., or really even in the world. She’s certainly one of the best athletes competing at the Olympics. She set a record this year by winning her seventh U.S. title, and she’s going to be a big draw on TV. Apparently, she’s dealing with a slight injury right now, but considering what a great athlete she is I wouldn’t be surprised if it didn’t affect her.” 

Sunisa Lee (Gymnastics)

Suni Lee

“Suni Lee is only 18 years old, and in the qualifiers, she came in second behind Simone Biles on the first day, and on the second day actually scored higher than her. She seems to have similar talent, she’s still young, and this is her first games, but she could be competing in many to come.”

Athing Mu (Track and Field: Middle Distance Running) 

Athing Mu

“I was really blown away during the U.S. trials by Athing Mu. She’s only 19 years old, and she just went pro in June a week before trials after completing her first year at Texas A&M. Right away, she set a record in the U.S. trials in the 800-meter, and beat another American who holds the U.S. record in the same race. So she’s made a statement right away and is heading into her first Olympics at 19. She’s going to be up against some real legends, but she has a real chance to win gold.”

Sydney McLaughlin (Track and Field: 400-Meter Hurdles)

Sydney McLaughlin

“She’s really a track prodigy — she competes in the 400-meter hurdles. She qualified for the Rio Olympics when she was just 16 and was one of the youngest athletes to compete for the U.S. that year. Both of her parents were athletes, so she’s from an incredibly athletic family, and she’s still only 21 years old. She’s a name that people will likely already know because she’s already been at this for six years.”

April Ross (Beach Volleyball)

April Ross

“I love her story because this is her third Olympics. She won bronze in 2016, and silver in 2012, and now this is her chance to win gold. Every Olympics she’s competed in, she’s had a new partner. That ability to switch partners is really crucial — you think of Kerri Walsh Jennings and Misty May-Treanor and how they competed so many times together and built up such chemistry together, and April Ross has had to recreate that chemistry with a new partner each time. So hopefully this is the magic year for her when she finally gets that gold.”

Cat Osterman (Softball)

Cat Osterman

“It’s been 13 years since softball was played in the Olympics in Beijing in 2008. The U.S. had absolutely dominated in softball for so long, but they only won silver in Beijing, which was incredibly disappointing for them. Cat Osterman was the pitcher on that team, and she and one other woman are the only two players who are back after that 13-year gap. It’s not guaranteed that softball will return in 2024 and by then Osterman, who is 38, will likely be too old to compete again. So it’s really her one chance to leave it on the line. I’m sure she’s feeling that pressure.”

Carissa Moore and Caroline Marks (Surfing)

Carissa Moore
Caroline Marks

“This is the first year that surfing will be an Olympic sport, and only two surfers can qualify per country. Carissa Moore (pictured above) is 28 and from Hawaii, and Caroline Marks (pictured below) is from Florida and is only 19 years old. She was the youngest surfer to ever qualify for a world surf league championship tour event. I think it’s really a toss-up for who’s going to win between the two of them — they’re both so talented despite their age difference.”

Mariah Duran (Skateboarding)

Mariah Duran

‘This is also the first year that skateboarding will be an Olympic event. Mariah Duran is 24 years old, but that’s actually pretty old for the sport — she’ll be competing against athletes who are as young as 13. Her parents were initially hesitant about her pursuing a career in skateboarding at a young age because they weren’t sure it was going to lead to any sort of financial security or real career, but she kept doing it. Now that it’s become an Olympic sport and she can compete on a world stage, I think she’s a real inspiration for other young women who want to get into skateboarding.”

Katie Ledecky (Freestyle Swimming)

Katie Ledecky

“Katie Ledecky is already a bonafide Olympic star. At just 24 years old, she already has five Olympic gold medals and 15 world championship gold medals under her belt — the most in history for a female swimmer.  She holds the world record for women’s 400-, 800-, and 1500-meter freestyle. This year, Ledecky’s biggest competition is an up-and-coming 20-year-old Australian swimmer named Ariarne Titmus, whose times rival Ledecky’s and will mean that the women’s 400-meter freestyle will be a must-watch event.”