Ahead of the delayed Tokyo Olympics, here’s how athletes and organizers are gearing up to show their sports’ best face to the world in 2021:
- Skateboarding will be on the Olympic program in July. So will surfing, and sport climbing too. As unlikely as it may seem, the traditional and staid Olympics will be getting a little more extreme in Tokyo, writes Jason Coskrey. It’s like skateboarding legend Tony Hawk said on CNN: “They need our cool factor.”
- After flirting for decades, surfing and the Olympics will finally tie the knot in July after COVID-19 crashed 2020’s party. And Japanese eyes will be on Kanoa Igarashi, No. 5 in the World Surf League rankings. “I feel a lot of pressure,” he tells Coskrey. “I feel like I’m trying to represent a lot of different things” — not just Japan, he says, but California, where he grew up, and his whole generation.
- What’s the only Olympic sport where men and women compete together as equals in each discipline? Equestrian, and its practitioners — the humans, not the horses — are determined to make the most of the rare exposure the Olympics will offer the sport. They’ve even drafted in idol Yuka Sugai, a member of the popular girl group Sakurazaka 46 and a keen rider, to sell the sport, writes Kaz Nagatsuka.
- Since 2017, the Japan Softball Association has been working to prepare the national team for its date with Olympic destiny — through virtual reality. An underground room fitted with high-tech cameras and artificial turf may seem like an unlikely setting to practice softball, but it could be a key to Japan’s defense of the Olympic title it won 12 years ago, the last time the sport appeared at the Games.
- Had the global health crisis not disrupted her life and the sports calendar, 23-year-old wrestler Mayu Mukaida would have made her Olympic debut at the games this past summer and then married her coach, Shota Shidochi. Instead, the couple have faced testing times as Mukaida has sought to stay sharp throughout the pandemic and remain focused on her delayed date with Olympic destiny.