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15 Summer Olympic Sports—and Athletes—to Watch

Watch it: Tennis events will take place from July 23 through August 1.

5. Basketball

Love a sports dynasty? Look no further than the U.S. Women’s basketball team, led by five-time Olympians Sue Bird and Diana Taurasi. Not only will the team be gunning for their seventh consecutive gold, but they’re on a 49-game winning streak. This team hasn’t lost since 1992.

Watch it: The women will play July 27 through August 7.

6. Soccer

The women of the USWNT—reigning world champs, equal-pay warriors, and all-around badasses—just became the surprising underdogs. In their first official Olympic match on July 21 (before the Opening Ceremony), the U.S. lost to long-time rival Sweden (who knocked the USWNT out of the Olympic quarterfinals in 2016).

If Megan Rapinoe, Alex Morgan, and Co. prevail, they’d become the first team to win an Olympic gold medal immediately after winning the World Cup—a feat that feels (fairly or not) so much bigger than just a soccer game. One thing is for sure, this is going to be one hell of a nail biter.

Elsewhere in soccer, keep your eyes on Brazilian soccer legend Formiga, who will be competing in her seventh Olympics this month.

Watch it: The USWNT kicks off on July 21 with the final taking place August 5.

7. Swimming

Katie Ledecky is a world-record-breaking machine, having smashed the 1500-meter world record six times. This year the event will be open to women for the first time in Olympic history, and Ledecky is favored to bring home gold. In Tokyo she could become the first U.S. woman, in any sport, to bring home five gold medals.

Watch it: Dive in July 24 through August 5.

8. Paralympic Cycling

Oksana Masters is practically superhuman—she’s won Paralympic medals in three sports: rowing, biathlon, and cross-country skiing. No biggie. In Tokyo she’ll be looking to bring home a medal in yet another sport—cycling—before she gets right back to training for the 2022 Winter Paralympics in Beijing.

Watch it: The Paralympic Games will run from August 24 to September 5.

9. Surfing

Surfing is one of the four sports making its highly anticipated Olympic debut this year. The action will be led by Carissa Moore—reigning four-time world champion.

Some very exciting context to keep in mind while watching the women shred: In 2019 surfing became one of the few sports to achieve pay equity.

Watch it: The surf competition is subject to change based on the waves, but the action is slated for July 24–28.

10. Skateboarding

Skateboarding will also be making its Olympic debut this year. The field is stacked with impossibly cool women who will be bringing some serious chill and skill to the Games in both street and park events. Keep your eyes peeled for Bryce Wettstein and Brighton Zeuner, 16-year-old childhood best friends from California.

Watch it: The action will go down July 25 and August 3.

11. Weightlifting

There are few things more genuinely badass than watching women lift hundreds of pounds over their heads like, “Oh what’s that? You say women aren’t strong?” This year Laurel Hubbard will become the first openly trans person to compete (in any sport) in Olympic history.

Watch it: See the women lift July 23 through August 2.

12. Wrestling

In a similar show of don’t-underestimate-her dominance, Helen Maroulis, reining Olympic champ, will be competing in her second Olympics for the chance to become the first U.S. wrestler to bring home back-to-back gold medals.

Watch it: July 31 through August 2.

13. Diving

Diving is always an iconic sport to watch. The skill! The grace! The heights! This year keep your eyes on Shi Tingmao, a Chinese diver who has won every single world championship and Olympic title since 2015.

Watch it: See the competition July 25 through August 5.

14. Paralympic Swimming

Jessica Long is a legend. She made her Paralympic debut at age 12 and has since earned 23 medals—13 of which are gold—which makes her the second-most-decorated Paralympian in history. (No wonder she was Michael Phelps’s former training partner.)

The coronavirus restrictions at this year’s Games have proved particularly challenging for Para athletes. Becca Meyers, also a swimming powerhouse, announced she was forced to withdraw from the competition after being denied the right to bring a care assistant (her mom) to help her compete as a deaf blind athlete.

Watch it: The Paralympic Games will run from August 24 to September 5.

15. Softball

Softball is returning to the Olympics after 13 years. The game was last played in 2008, when Team U.S.A. brought home gold. Two of those women, Cat Osterman and Monica Abbott, are returning this year with the 2021 squad to defend their title.

Watch it: The Games run from July 20 to July 27.

See all of Glamour’s Olympics 2021 coverage here.

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