Sports

Rising Team USA stars to watch at the Olympics

The names Simone Biles and Kevin Durant are well known among sports fans, but there are plenty of American athletes in Tokyo who you likely have not heard of. From swimmers to sprinters to softball players, The Post breaks down the Team USA stars to keep an eye on during the Olympics:

Baseball, Triston Casas

The 21-year-old slugger is the top prospect in the Red Sox’s farm system and is expected to be the starting first baseman for a USA baseball team that contains a mix of minor leaguers and former major league journeymen. Casas, from Pembroke Pines, Fla., was selected with the No. 26-overall pick in the 2018 MLB draft. Now with Boston’s Double-A Portland affiliate, he has put up 25 home runs and 109 RBIs in his first 166 pro games. — Evan Orris

Triston Casas
Triston Casas is the presumed first baseman for Team USA.
Getty Images

Beach Volleyball, Kelly Claes and Sarah Sponcil

Claes, 25, and Sponcil, 24, are shaking up the veteran-heavy sport of beach volleyball. The first-time Olympians will be the youngest U.S. team to compete at the Summer Games and the first Olympic products of NCAA beach volleyball. Before teaming up on the international circuit, Claes, who is from Placentia, Calif., won consecutive NCAA crowns at USC; Phoenix native Sponcil did the same in her time at UCLA. The duo punched their tickets to Tokyo after unseating beach volleyball legend Kerri Walsh Jennings and partner Brooke Sweat as the No. 2 U.S. pair. — Elizabeth Karpen

Canoeing, Nevin Harrison

The 19-year-old prodigy began her career as a serious canoer just five years ago, when hip dysplasia truncated her budding track-and-field pursuits. A year later, Harrison represented the U.S. competitively for the first time. Her meteoric rise reached new heights at the 2019 ICF Canoe Sprint World Championships, where the Seattle native won gold in the 200m race, becoming the first American to win a world title in a sprint canoe event. — Jared Greenspan

Jessica Springsteen
Jessica Springsteen and her 12-year-old stallion Don Juan Van de Donkhoeve will compete in their first Olympics.
PA Images via Getty Images

Equestrian, Jessica Springsteen

The daughter of “The Boss,” Springsteen is heading to Tokyo alongside her 12-year-old stallion, Don Juan van de Donkhoeve, as a member of the U.S. equestrian jumping team. Springsteen, who grew up on a 300-acre farm, began riding at the age of 4. The 29-year-old earned a spot on the U.S. team as an alternate at the 2012 London Games and missed out on the Rio Games in 2016 due to recurring leg issues. She enters the Tokyo Olympics slotted at 27th in the world rankings. — Jared Greenspan

Golf, Nelly Korda

Korda, 22, is on the brink of stardom, having won three tournaments in 2021 — including her first major at the KPMG Women’s PGA Championship in June — to become the third American to climb to No. 1 in the Rolex World Golf Rankings. The Bradenton, Fla., native is from a family of sports standouts. She’ll be joined on the Olympic golf team by her sister, Jessica, 28. Father Petr won the 1998 Australian Open in tennis, mother Regina Rajchrtova was an Olympian in 1988 in tennis and younger brother Sebastian recently reached the fourth round of Wimbledon. — David Lazar

Sunisa Lee
Sunisa Lee is the first athlete to best Simone Biles in any part of an all-around competition since 2013.
Corbis via Getty Images

Gymnastics, Sunisa Lee

Alongside the otherworldly Simone Biles, Lee headlines what some believe to be the most talented U.S. gymnastics team in history. Lee, 18, earned a trip to Tokyo with a dazzling performance at last month’s U.S. gymnastics trials: She posted the highest all-around score on the second day of the event, the first time any gymnast had bested Biles in any phase of an all-around meet since 2013. At the 2019 world championships, Lee won medals in the floor exercise and the uneven bars. The St. Paul, Minn., native is already making Olympic history, becoming the first Hmong American to make the gymnastics team. — Jared Greenspan

Skateboarding, Mariah Duran

The 24-year-old from Albuquerque, N.M., will compete in Tokyo in the women’s street division — she currently is ranked No. 7 in the world — of the first Olympics skateboarding competition. Duran started her career at the age of 10 and entered her first competition at the age of 13. In 2018, she won her first gold medal at the X Games, after which she quit her job at a local pizzeria to focus on skating. — Evan Orris

Soccer, Christen Press

Press may not be the most recognizable name on a stacked USWNT roster — that’s where Megan Rapinoe and Alex Morgan come in — but she is the World Cup winners’ most in-form player and their leading scorer over the past two years. Press has been directly involved in 37 goals (either scoring or assisting) in her past 38 games with the U.S. squad. Press, 32, from Palos Verdes Estates, Calif., has 63 career international goals. This is her second Olympics: She was part of the U.S. team that suffered a disappointing quarterfinal exit at the Rio Games in 2016. — Jared Greenspan

Softball, Cat Osterman/Monica Abbott

Softball is back in the Olympics — and so are two iconic pitchers. Osterman, a Houston native, was a four-time All-American during a legendary college career at Texas. The 38-year-old won two Olympic medals — gold in 2004 and silver in 2008 — before softball was discontinued as Olympic sport. In the 2008 Olympics, she threw a seven-inning no-hitter in a 3-0 win over the Australian national team. Abbott, a 35-year-old from Salinas, Calif., also pitched for the 2008 squad in Beijing, posting a 0.29 ERA with a 3-0 record while striking out 32 batters. — Evan Orris

Caeleb Dressel
Caeleb Dressel will be competing in his second Summer Games.
LightRocket via Getty Images

Swimming, Caeleb Dressel

There are high hopes for Dressel, the world record holder in the 50-meter freestyle and 100-meter butterfly, in his second Olympics. While still in the middle of a decorated college career at the University of Florida, the Green Cove Springs, Fla., native won gold medals in Rio in the 4×100 meter freestyle and the 4×100 medley relay. In Tokyo, Dressel, 24, will be competing in the 50-meter freestyle, 100-meter freestyle, 100-meter butterfly and as many as four relay races. — Elizabeth Karpen

Swimming, Torri Huske

Huske, the 18-year-old swimming sensation from Arlington, Va., made waves when she broke the U.S. 100-meter butterfly record twice at the Olympic trials in Omaha, Neb., last month. The first-time Olympian previously won five gold medals at the 2019 World Junior Championships in the 50- and 100-meter butterfly, 4x100m freestyle relay, 4x100m mixed medley relay and the 4x100m medley relay. The incoming freshman at Stanford is considered a medal contender in the 100-meter butterfly in Tokyo. — Elizabeth Karpen

Track & Field, Noah Lyles

Lyles has been hailed as the next great American sprinter since he burst onto the scene as a high school phenom. Now the 23-year-old, a native of Gainesville, Fla., finally has a chance to burnish his reputation with gold in Tokyo. After failing to qualify for the 100-meter dash — he finished a disappointing seventh last month at the U.S. trials — he rebounded with a blistering, world-leading time of 19.74 in the 200 meters. Focusing on the 200 only further stamps him as the favorite. — David Lazar

Track & Field, Sydney McLaughlin

McLaughlin, 21, is just getting started. Last month, at the Olympic trials, the Dunellen, N.J., native broke Dalilah Muhammad’s world record in the 400m hurdles while securing her second Olympic berth. McLaughlin has a specific routine — she brings her Minions blanket with her to each competition and eats gummy bears the night before each race. It has worked, and now she will try to replicate her success in Tokyo. — David Lazar

Women’s 3×3 basketball team

Meet the U.S. team of four WNBA players trying to capture the inaugural gold medal in this new Olympic event. Allisha Gray, 26, is the do-everything wing player, a former national champion at South Carolina and the No. 4 draft pick by the Dallas Wings in 2017. Kelsey Plum, 26, is a ball-handler and microwave scorer — she became the NCAA’s all-time leading scorer at Washington and was the No. 1-overall pick by the Las Vegas Aces in 2017; she missed the 2020 season due to a torn Achilles. UConn alum Stefanie Dolson, 29, of Port Jervis, N.Y., is the team’s big, at 6-foot-5, and a capable 3-point shooter. Jackie Young, 23, the No. 1-overall pick in 2019, was a late replacement for sharp-shooter Katie Lou Samuelson, who tested positive this week for COVID-19. — Evan Orris

Adeline Gray
Adeline Gray is poised to take home a gold medal in Tokyo.
Denver Post via Getty Images

Wrestling, Adeline Gray

Gray, 30, is among the favorites to take home a gold medal in the heavyweight category at this year’s Olympics. The Denver native is the only U.S. wrestler, male or female, to have won five world titles, and the first American woman to win back-to-back world titles since 1999. Gray also has been an outspoken advocate in trying to grow the sport of women’s wrestling. — David Lazar

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