The Top Athletes to Watch in the 6 New Olympic Sports
Read up on who to look out for in this year's newest categories: skateboarding, surfing, karate, sport climbing, softball and baseball
Skateboarding: Sky Brown
Brown, who is turning 13 on July 12, will be Great Britain's youngest Olympian of all time, and most promising athlete. She's currently ranked fourth in the world, and has skateboard legend Tony Hawk singing her praises.
"She could definitely be one of the best female skaters ever, if not one of the best, well-rounded skaters ever, regardless of gender," Hawk told ESPN. "She has such confidence, such force, even at such a young age. The way she's able to learn new tricks and the way she absorbs direction, it's so rare."
The star, who got into skateboarding by learning tricks on YouTube, may be young, but that doesn't mean she hasn't gone through hardships getting to where she is today.
Last year in June, she revealed on Instagram that she experienced her worst fall, which led to skull fractures and a broken wrist and hand.
"It's okay to fall sometimes," she said from a hospital bed in her Instagram clip. "I'm just going to get back up and push even harder."
Brown's father Stu is from Great Britain, whom she's representing; her mother Mieko is from Japan.
You can watch the skating phenom compete on Aug. 4.
Surfing: Caroline Marks
Marks' mission going to the Games as part of Team USA's very first surf team is to "showcase how fun surfing is and how cool of a sport it is and how different and diverse it is."
The 19-year-old, who is currently ranked No. 6 in the world, is "excited to represent my country" but admits she "100 percent still gets nervous" while out in the water.
"That's what makes it exciting though, is exciting nerves," she told PEOPLE in April. "The [morning] report says it's going to be this wave, but it's actually totally different. It's bigger or smaller, or windier, it changes so much. And that's what makes [surfing] so cool and I think that's what makes it forever exciting."
Marks, who initially got into the sport to impress her brothers at 8 years old, made history as the youngest surfer to qualify for the World Surf League Championship Tour at just 15 and won gold at the 2016 ISA World Junior Surfing Championships Girls Under 16 division, according to USA Surfing. She will join Kolohe Andino, Carissa Moore and John John Florence to compete in Tokyo, and you can catch the crew compete, starting Saturday, July 24.
Karate: Sandra Sánchez
Ranked No. 1 in the world and called the "greatest of all time" by the World Karate Federation, Spain's Sánchez will be the one to beat at this year's Games. The 39-year-old five-time European champion has the most medals in the history of the international circuit, according to the Olympics. After 30 years of experience, she'd reached the pinnacle of her career — until it was announced that karate would be included as an Olympic sport.
"The International Karate Federation has been struggling for years to make this (Olympic) dream become a reality," she wrote on her website. "Hence, I think this triumph will imply positive consequences for the future."
She adds, "Karate is practiced by more than 10 million people around the world, organised in 191 national federations which feel proud to be representatives of this discipline around the World, encouraging other people to start practicing karate."
Watch if Sánchez can earn gold in Tokyo from Aug. 4 to 7.
Sport Climbing: Adam Ondra
Born to climber parents in 1993, Czech Republic's Ondra began climbing at 3 years old and has since been called the best climber in the world. He's the only male climber to win world championships in both lead and bouldering and he also won the World Cup series in both categories in 2009, 2015 and 2019.
While mounting pressure and grueling workouts may feel daunting for some athletes ahead of the Games, Ondra isn't phased by any of it. He told the Olympics that "to train hard is not a sacrifice."
"I just climb a lot and train a lot because I love it," he said. "I don't need to convince myself that now I need to train hard because I want to be good at this competition, I just train because I love to train, because in the end, most of the time, training climbing is climbing."
Catch Ondra in his element on Aug. 3 to 6.
Softball: Cat Osterman
Osterman decided to lace up her cleats and come out of retirement when it was announced that softball would be added back to the Olympics lineup again after being voted out of the Games in 2006. The two-time Olympic medalist told PEOPLE in April that "[friend and former teammate] Kelly Kretschman was visiting and just kind of put the bug in my brain to think about possibly playing again."
The 38-year-old also wanted to attend to some "unfinished business" in Tokyo. (Japan ended Team USA's 22-game winning streak at the 2008 Beijing Games, which dropped USA to a silver medal.) Given the delay due to the pandemic, Osterman was afforded an extra year of training to prepare.
As for her history as an Olympian? Osterman has gone from being the youngest person on the 2004 team to the oldest on the 2021 team.
Catch Osterman and Team USA on July 23 to 27.
Baseball: Kim Hyun-soo
Baseball is another sport making its return to the Olympics after being voted out after the 2008 Beijing Games. The former major league outfielder, who played for the Baltimore Orioles and the Philadelphia Phillies from 2016 to 2017, will be hitting the field to represent Korea. The team will be gearing up to win gold again after winning in Beijing against Cuba with a score of 3 to 2.
The 33-year-old veteran, who has played 14 seasons in the Korean Baseball Organization (KBO), will be expected to win gold again alongside his younger teammates and the support of returning manager Kim Kyung-moon.
"It's not going to be an easy tournament, but we'll put our national pride on the line," manager Kim told The Korea Herald in June. "Our people have been going through so much with the pandemic, and we want to give them something to cheer about."
Watch Hyun-soo and team Korea on July 27 to Aug. 7.