Wonder women: 17 ones to watch in the Rio Olympics

All the women you need to be watching at the Olympics this year

It feels like we’ve been waiting years to relive the highs and lows of the London 2012 games (well four to be precise), but the Olympics are finally here.

Amongst the athletes in Rio are countless brilliant women flying the flag for their countries. Here are our inside tips on the 17 ones to watch…

1. Katie Ledecky
American swimmer Katie Ledecky was only 15 when she won gold in the 800m freestyle at London 2012, beating the then world-record holder Rebecca Adlington and sending her into retirement. Over the course of her career she’s broken eleven world records and now, incredibly, swims the 800m eight seconds faster than she did back in 2012. If any victory is a dead cert, it’s this one.

2. Ibtihaj Muhammad
American fencer Ibtihaj will be the first muslim woman to represent the USA while wearing a hijab, meaning that she’s already making history. Hopefully it’ll be in the medal stakes too – Ibtihaj is a five-time Senior World medallist meaning that she’s definitely one to watch.

3. Simone Biles
Despite being just 4ft 9in tall, US athlete Simone really is a giant in the world of gymnastics. In October she was the only person in the history of gymnastics to win her third all-round world title in a row. At Rio, she’s favourite to five out of the six ‘artistic’ gymnastic disciplines, so she’s a safe bet if you fancy a flutter.

4. Genzebe Dibaba
Ethiopian runner Genzebe is already the world record holder for the 1500m so she’s a pretty strong contender for a gold medal in this discipline. World records seem to run in the famil – Genzebe’s older sister, Tirunesh, currently holds the world record for the outdoor 5000m and is favourite to win the 10000m in the games.

5. Claressa Shields
Sheild’s life is like something out of a movie. Despite a tough upbringing in Michigan, USA – her father was constantly in and out of prison, her mother was a drug addict – at just 17 years old Shields defied the odds to win a gold medal in boxing in the London 2012 Olympics. No surprises then that Universal Pictures are making her story into a film.

6. Yusra Mardini
One of the most inspirational comptitors this year, Syrian swimmer Yusra is part of the small team of Refugee Olympic Athletes who will be competing under the Olympic flag at Rio. Now based in Berlin, Yusra fled the Syrian Civil War in 2015, travelling to Greece with her family. When the dinghy she was crossing in started taking water, she and her sister got into the water and pushed the boat, swimming for over three hours until they reached land.

7. Allyson Felix
Nine world titles across four different disciplines – that’s how successful Allyson Felix’s sporting career has been over the last twelve years. This will be the last Olympic games for the 30-year-old American, but there’s a good chance she’ll win both the 200m and 400m that she’s competing in.

8. Jessica Ennis-Hill
The undeniable queen of multi-tasking, Jessica bossed seven different disciplines to win gold in the women’s heptathlon back in 2012. Since then she’s been juggling training with motherhood and has said that she doesn’t think she’s favourite for gold in Rio, but we reckon she’s just being modest.

9. Nicola Adams
Known as much for her mega-watt smile as she is for her speed, Nicola became the first British boxing champion to hold an Olympic title since 1924. The Leeds-born boxer is currently reigning world, Olympic, European and commonwealth champion at flyweight, putting her in a strong position to defend her London 2012 gold. 

10. Jessica Fox
Canoeing runs in the blood for Jessica, whose father Richard, competed in the sport for Great Britian in the 1992 Olympics. Competing for Australia, Jessica already has a silver medal in canoe slalom from London 2012 under her belt, so expect to see her go one better at Rio.

11. Pauline Ferrand-Prevot
Competing in not only cross-country but also the time trial and road race, Pauline is one of the most formidable cyclists in the games this year. Expect her to do well too – the French champion has won world titles in mountain, road and cyclocross competitions over the last two years.

12. Si Yajie
Diving for China, Si is one of the country’s rising stars, having won the 2013 10m world championship at just 14 years of age. She’ll face still competition from her team mate Ren Qian at Rio, but Si is definitely one to watch.

13. Charlotte Dujardin
Known as the woman who can make horses dance, British equestrian Charlotte and her horse Valegro are back this year defending the double gold they won at London 2012. Make sure you don’t miss it – Charlotte has confirmed that Valegro will be retiring after Rio so this will be your last chance to watch the dressage dream team.

14. Rossella Fiamingo
Women’s épée champion Rossella has won the last two world titles, making her the first woman to win consecutive golds in 15 years. Now gunning for gold in Rio, the 24-year-old Italian is also a talented pianist.

15. Lydia Ko
Kiwi golfer Lydia is something of a prodigy. The Korean-born player was the youngest ever golfer of either sex to win two major championships in 147 years and she scored the lowest final round in the history of women’s golf in the Evian Championship in France last year. Oh, and she’s only 19. Sure.

16. Liu Shiwen
Chinese table tennis player Liu has never ranked lower than #3 in the world in the whole of her career, having won the World Cup three times and the table tennis Pro Tour eight times. Currently rated world #1, she’s now got her sights on an Olympic gold.

17. Jade Jones
Known as ‘the headhunter’ because of her fondness for kicking people in the head, Jade became the first ever Briton to win an Olympic gold in taekwondo in 2012 at just 19 years old. She’s now favourite to retain her title at Rio.  

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