US athletes to keep an eye on in Tokyo this summer

Photo of Colin Morikawa
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With long overdue excitement surrounding the Olympics, it can be easy to get lost in the hustle and bustle — especially for those who don’t usually follow sports. If you are feeling a bit more patriotic than usual and are tuning into the Summer Games, here is a list of Team USA athletes projected to shine especially bright in Tokyo. 

Sam Mewis: Women’s soccer

It’s hard to pick just one standout on the U.S. women’s national team, but among stars such as Alex Morgan, Megan Rapinoe and Carli Lloyd, Sam Mewis is a player to get excited about. Since serving as an alternate for the 2016 Olympics, Mewis has made waves. The midfielder was the 2020 USWNT Player of the Year and won an ESPY this year for best international female athlete in women’s soccer.

Mewis has been an integral player for her club teams, the North Carolina Courage and Manchester City, helping them both win league titles. The 6’0’’ midfielder’s vision to create chances going forward will be an important part of the team’s success.

Brighton Zeuner: Skateboarding

At just 17 years old, Brighton Zeuner is one of the youngest Olympians this year, competing for the United States’ inaugural skateboarding team. Age is but a number to Zeuner, who won her first major championship at 13, becoming the youngest ever to take home gold at the X Games. In 2018, Zeuner set another record, becoming the youngest to become a back-to-back X Games champion. In the same year, she was nominated for an ESPY in the best female action sports athlete category. Zeuner’s ability to perform under pressure, from such a young age, is impressive. Her passion for the sport is contagious, and she will definitely be a contender to take home a medal.

Bryce Mefford: Swimming

A three-time U.S. men’s national team member and three-time Pac-12 champion, 2021 Cal graduate Bryce Mefford is no stranger to success in the pool. This summer, Mefford backstroked his way to his first Olympic bid, finishing in second place at the U.S. Olympic trials with a personal best of 1:54.79. An 11-time All-American, Mefford finished in third and eighth place at the 2021 NCAA championships in the 200-yard back and 100-yard back, respectively. The 22-year-old will be the youngest of four former Cal men’s swimmers to represent the United States, with Tom Shields (class of 2013), Ryan Murphy (class of 2017) and Andrew Seliskar (class of 2019) joining him.

Sunisa Lee: Gymnastics 

Leading one of Team USA’s most dynamic teams, Sunisa Lee is set to shine as the first Hmong American Olympic gymnast. In 2019, Lee was the U.S. uneven bars champion and balance beam silver medalist, as well as a member of the U.S. world champion team. While Lee is a star on her own, her accomplishments at the championships were especially courageous given that a day before her flight to the national championships, her dad suffered an accident, leaving him paralyzed. The 18-year-old has continuously overcome adversity throughout her journey to the Olympics, losing loved ones to COVID-19 and suffering a foot injury — Lee’s resilience alone is simply gold-medal-worthy.

Collin Morikawa: Golf 

Now the most awarded alumnus in Cal men’s golf history, 24-year-old Collin Morikawa just achieved another milestone by triumphing in the British Open on July 18. Not only did this victory cement the former Bear as the quickest player in PGA Tour history to achieve two major wins, the Open was additional preparation for the Tokyo Olympics. As the third-best golfer in the world currently, Morikawa will represent the United States alongside Justin Thomas, Xander Schauffele and Bryson DeChambeau this summer. In his time at Cal, the 2019 graduate was the Pac-12 Men’s Golfer of the Year in his senior campaign and nabbed titles such as Golfweek’s Men’s National Player of the Year along the way.

Ethan Waters covers men’s basketball and men’s golf. Contact him at [email protected], and follow him on Twitter @ewate1.
Contact Kaitlin Clapinski at [email protected].