Image Credit: Australian Olympic Team / Getty Images / Rob Cianflone
After a year of impossible setbacks, the Tokyo 2020 Summer Olympic Games are finally here!
The Games will take place from July 23rd to August 8th featuring more than 11,000 athletes from 205 countries plus the Refugee Olympic Team.
While the first modern Olympic Games started with 9 sports, 33 will be held in Tokyo 2020 (in total 339 events). Tokyo will host 5 new sports: Baseball/softball, Karate, Skateboarding, Sport Climbing, Surfing, while 15 new events will enrich the existing sports, including mixed-gender competitions.
Competition will begin two days earlier, with women's football and softball beginning on July 21 – and Australian teams are among those playing on the opening day.
There will be 52 VIS scholarship holders competing across 17 different sports in Tokyo. The athletes will arrive in the marvellous city with Olympic glory on their minds. Many will be seeking to win one of the highly sought-after medals on offer whilst other will be hoping to leave Japan with a personal best performance.
Here are some of the Victorian Institute of Sport scholarship holders to watch, and the key events to follow:
Kelland O'Brien & Lucas Plapp - Track Cycling, Team Pursuit
Ironically, the door first opened on the World stage for Lucas Plapp when fellow Victorian Institute of Sport scholarship holder Kelland O’Brien broke his collarbone before the 2020 World Championships. Plapp was called into replace O’Brien in the Team Pursuit, where he finished fourth with the experienced quartet of Sam Welsford, Alexander Porter and VIS graduate, Leigh Howard. Since this opportunity, Plapp has continued to impress on the world stage and will make his Olympic debut at Tokyo 2020.
Rewind to 2018 where Kelland O’Brien had a year to remember. He won dual National and Oceania crowns, plus a World Cup gold. However, the highlight of the season came at the 2018 Gold Coast Commonwealth Games when he won Team Pursuit gold and the team became the first in history to break the three-minute fifty-second barrier, a year later O’Brien and the team broke their own World Record. Although notably absent in 2020 recovering from a broken collarbone, COVID lockdowns has given him the opportunity to get his body fit and firing for when he makes his Olympic debut in Tokyo.
After the Danish team broke the World Record held by Australia at the World Championships in 2020, the Men's Team Pursuit is predicted to be one of the most hotly contested events on the Olympic schedule. There are five teams that on their day could win the gold; including World Champions Denmark, Italy, New Zealand, Great Britain and of course Australia. Plapp insists that this Games is "going to be a real testament to those who stuck through it the last couple of years."
You can watch Lucas Plapp, Kelland O'Brien and their Australian Team Pursuit Team when they take the track on August 3 at 5.20pm.
Catriona Bisset & Linden Hall - Athletics, Middle Distance
Catriona Bisset and Linden Hall are two of Australia’s Track and Field middle distance stars to keep your eye on in Tokyo. They both currently hold Australian records in their respective events and are set to take Tokyo by storm.
Linden Hall made history when she became the first ever Aussie woman to run 1500m in under four minutes and now she has her eyes locked on her second Olympics. She narrowly missed the final in Rio and will be hoping to go one step further in Tokyo.
Catriona Bisset had a breakout year in 2019 when she went to Europe to race the best in the world at the London Grand Prix and came home as the fastest Australian to ever run 800m, clocking 1:58.78. Recently, Bisset wiped another 0.69 off her previous national record, showing that she’s hitting career-best form at the perfect time. Once a junior running star, Bisset admits that she had given up competition running due to the health issues she was suffering. Now she gets ready to take on the world.
You can watch Catriona Bisset in the 800m heats when they commence on July 30 at 10.55am and Linden Hall in the 1500m heats on August 2 at 10.30am.
Lucy Stephan, Jess Morrison, Rosie Popa - Rowing, Women's Coxed Four
The Women’s Four is one of Australia’s key boats to watch at Tokyo, as the reigning World Champions dating back to 2019. VIS scholarship holders Lucy Stephan, Jess Morrison and Rosemary Popa will be joined by WAIS scholarship holder Annabelle McIntyre in the crew of four.
When they get to the start line, the Australians could well be picked as the gold medal favourites, even though Stephan will be the only one that was part of the gold medal winning crew at the World Championships.
You can watch The Women's Four in their heat on July 24 at 12.50pm.
Mack Horton - Swimming, 4x200m Freestyle Relay
Fuelled by the disappointment of not having the opportunity to defend his 400m freestyle gold medal from Rio, Mack Horton will turn his full attention to the Men’s 4 x 200m Freestyle Relay.
In one of the most exciting events on the calendar, Horton and his Australian team will be looking to put Australia back on the podium, with Athens 2004 being the last time our country featured in the medals and Sydney 2000 the last time we won gold.
Horton has already proved that he is a key member of the Aussie relay team. Having swam an impressive anchor leg at the 2019 World Championships, with a team fastest 1:44.85 to bring Australia victory.
You can watch Mack Horton and Men's 4x200m freestyle heats on July 27 at 9.15pm.
Rowie Webster - Water Polo, Aussie Stingers
The Aussie Stingers will hope they're able to replicate their gold medal winning performance from Sydney 2000 when they take the pool in Tokyo.
Rowie Webster will Captain the team for the first time at an Olympic Games and after having to make significant career sacrifices to achieve her goal of getting to a third Games, she was ecstatic to be named the leader. "It's unbelievable to be announced as Captain of an Olympic team. To be able to lead an incredible group of women, it will truly be an honour and a childhood dream come true."
You can catch Rowie Webster lead her Aussie Stingers on the following days:
Jul 24: Australia V Canada - 4.30pm
Jul 26: Australia V Netherlands - 7.20pm
Jul 30: Australia V Spain - 8.50pm
Aug 1: Australia V South Africa - 8.50pm
Jenna O'Hea - Basketball, The Australian Opals
The Opals are aiming to add the missing golden piece of the puzzle; with three silver and two Olympic bronze medals. Led by Jenna O'Hea the team will look to add that elusive gold medal at Tokyo.
It's been a long time between drinks for O'Hea who first made her Olympic debut in London in 2012 but was dropped from the squad for Rio 2016. An "embarrassed" O'Hea admits that she nearly walked away from basketball, but now she's back with a point to prove.
O'Hea was awarded the Victorian Institute of Sport Sarah Tait Spirit Award in 2020 as recognition for her amazing work both on and off the basketball court, so an Olympic gold would be the perfect reward for an already inspiring career.
You can watch Jenna O'Hea lead her Opals on the following days:
Jul 27: Australia V Belgium - 6:20pm
Jul 30: Australia V China - 10pm
Aug ?: Australia V Puerto Rico - 10pm
Rach Lynch & Amy Lawton - Hockey, Hockeyroos
Amy Lawton a great young talent who just keeps getting better will be lining up alongside the most-capped goalkeeper to ever play for the Hockeyroos, Rachael Lynch. Heading to Tokyo as world ranked number 4 having played very minimal games over the last few years, the great unknown could be the element of surprise they're after.
19-year-old Lawton will become the fourth youngest Hockeyroo to compete at an Olympics. Since making her international debut in a 2019 FIH Pro League match, Lawton has not looked back. She's described as “a great young talent”, who could easily become Hockey’s “next biggest star”.
Rachael Lynch on the other hand is a 223-game veteran for the Hockeyroos with over 14 years of experience and 18 years on a VIS scholarship, just oozes with class. Named the 2019 International Hockey Federation goalkeeper of the year, she’s going to make it challenging for the opposition to put one in the back of the net.
Watch Lynch and Lawton line up for the Hockeyroos on the following days:
Jul 25: Australia V Spain - 9am
Jul 26: Australia V China - 11:15am
Jul 28: Australia V Japan - 7:30pm
Jul 29: Australia V New Zealand - 10:15pm
July 31: Australia V Argentina - 10:45am
Josh Simmonds - Hockey, Kookaburras
The Kookaburras enter Tokyo as the world number one ranked team and will be looking to win their second Olympic gold medal. Coming to Tokyo with redemption on their minds after placing 6th in Rio, the Kookaburras are easily one of Australia's best hopes for a gold medal.
Josh Simmonds who has come a long way since making his senior international debut in 2018 against Argentina is set to make his Olympic Games debut in Tokyo.
You can watch Simmonds and the Kookaburras on the following days:
Jul 24: Australia V Japan - 8:30am
Jul 25: Australia V India - 7:30pm
Ju 27: Australia V Argentina - 8:30am
Jul 28: Australia V New Zealand - 10:15pm
Jul 30: Australia V Spain - 9am
NEW KIDS ON THE BLOCK
Oceana Mackenzie - Sport Climbing
19-year-old Oceana Mackenzie will make history at the Tokyo Games as the first ever female to represent Australia in one of the newest Olympic events: Sport Climbing.
Mackenzie first introduced herself on the world stage, when she finished sixth at the 2019 World Cup in Switzerland, a result that only a handful of Australians in history have achieved.
When the Games were postponed in 2020 and COVID restrictions were put on Melbourne, Mackenzie spent time training on a climbing wall that her father had built for her in their family's garage.
Recently, she won the IFSC Oceania Championships and secured her spot on The Australian Team. She is also the current Australian national champion across all three climbing disciplines and will certainly be one to watch when the sport makes its debut in Tokyo.
You will be able to watch Oceana climb on August 4 from 6pm onwards.
Hayley Wilson - Skateboarding, Street
19-year-old Hayley Wilson from Mansfield is a five-time national champion and will head to Tokyo with a world ranking inside the top 10. Wilson will be a part of history when skateboarding makes its Olympic debut, competing in the event: street skating.
Wilson has already etched her name into the history books when she became the first Australian to compete at an Olympic skateboarding qualification event and finished on the podium in 2019.
Recently she has claimed gold at the 2020 Oceania Continentals and has already proved that she knows how to perform on the big stage, so bringing home a medal is certainly not out of the question.
You will be able to watch Hayley on July 26 from 10am onwards.
Brendon Smith - Swimming, 400m Individual Medley
Brendon Smith (Nunawading Swim Club) has burst onto the scene in impressive fashion. At the 2021 Australian Olympic Trials, Smith won the 400m Individual Medley in a time of 4:10.04 seconds - 5 seconds under the qualifying time and 0.10 under the Australian record that was set in 2013. But what was almost more impressive, is that he went nearly 5 seconds under his personal best that he set in 2019. This raises the question; how much quicker can he go?
With a personal best of 4:10.04, Smith has now advanced to the number 4 spot worldwide in the event this season, primed and ready to go for Tokyo.
To top off an impressive Olympic Trials, Smith also booked himself a spot in the Men's 200m Individual Medley, when he placed second behind Mitch Larkin.
You will be able to watch Brendon Smith swim in the 400m IM heats on July 24 at 8pm.
Matthew Temple - Swimming, 100m Butterfly
Another one that could easily become a household name at Tokyo, is Matt Temple (Nunawading Swim Club). Temple qualified himself in three different events at the Australian Olympic Trials: including the 100 & 200m Butterfly events and the 100m Freestyle. But it was his 100m Butterfly swim that impressed the most, touching in a time of 50.45, breaking the Australian record, which has been held since 2009.
It's a similar story for Temple, peaking at the right time and showing that every time he enters the water he gets better and better, a podium is not out of the question.
You can watch Matt Temple swim his favourite event the 100m Butterfly on July 29 at 8:50pm.
DEFYING THE ODDS
Anabelle Smith - Diving, 3m Springboard
It's safe to say that Anabelle Smith's journey to her third Olympic Games has been nothing short of inspiring. Smith has had to overcome lockdowns, hotel quarantine, event cancellations, world cup heartbreaks and moving from State to State just to secure her spot on the team.
Although event cancellations means that she won’t be able to compete alongside Maddison Keeney in the same event they won bronze in at Rio, Smith was still able to secure her ticket the long route. In an impressive performance at the Olympic trials earlier this year, Smith finished second in the 3m springboard and will now compete at an Olympics for the first time as an individual.
On top of her diving commitments, Smith is currently a member of the AIS Athlete Advisory Committee and Olympians Club of Victoria Board, representing athletes and advising for their overall wellbeing. Smith is also recognised by many schools around Victoria as a “class favourite,” part of the VIS' Be Fit Be Well program, inspiring students around the state to keep active.
You will be able to watch Anabelle in the 3m Springboard event on July 30 from 4pm onward.
Tess Lloyd - Sailing, 49erFX
Tess Lloyd is set to make arguably one of the most exciting Olympic Games debuts at Tokyo in the sport of sailing. Her journey hasn’t always been smooth sailing, with a number a setbacks stopping her from reaching the sporting pinnacle.
In early 2012, at the age of 16, Lloyd was competing in a youth regatta in Brisbane together with her crew mate Lewis Duncan when their 29er Skiff was involved in a collision with a windsurfer. She was knocked unconscious, and Duncan found her face down in the water. The injury had fractured Lloyd’s skull and swelling pushed into her brain. The Doctors put her in an induced coma to treat the brain trauma. 14 days later she woke up with no recollection of what had happened and was told she would never sail again. Before she could even think about sailing again, she also had to learn how to talk and walk again.
To everyone’s surprise and with the support of the Victorian Institute of Sport, ten months later she was back in her boat.
With her sights set on the Rio 2016 Olympic Games, Tess faced another hurdle. A decision was made not to send a 49er FX team to the Games, which put her Olympic dream on hold. Last year she was officially selected for Tokyo 2020, and she says that after seven years of campaigning and commitment to sailing, the news of her selection in the Australian Olympic Team, is “relieving and exciting.”
You can watch Tess Lloyd and her sailing partner Jaime Ryan (NSWIS) begin their Sailing on July 27 at 1pm.
Melissa 'Milly' Tapper - Table Tennis, Mixed Team Event
Melissa 'Milly' Tapper was the first Australian athlete to represent Australia at both the Olympics and Paralympics and in Tokyo she will be doing it all again.
Tapper has a physical condition that came about from birth complications, when the doctor had to pull her out by her right arm, tearing the nerves between the neck and shoulder, resulting in a condition called Brachial plexus palsy.
Tapper is regularly described as "inspiring" and "amazing" by school students across all of Victoria when she gives talks as part of the VIS' Be Fit Be Well program, inspiring students to believe that anything is possible.
Already an inspiration to all, we will be watching Tapper with eager eyes as she competes alongside Heming Hu as the first Australian table tennis players to compete in the Mixed Doubles event, which is making its debut in Tokyo.
You will be able to watch Milly Tapper compete when the Mixed Doubles Team Event commenced on July 24 at 12:15pm.
Sinead Diver - Marathon
Sinead Diver is an athlete that is bound to show the world that anything is possible. She only first started running eleven years ago when she was keen to get fit, post-pregnancy. Initially, her success was over shorter distances, but she always knew that she was going to be better over long distances and was always intrigued by the marathon.
After the birth of her second son, Dara, in 2013, Diver decided to make her marathon debut at the Melbourne Marathon, placing second in an impressive time of 2:35.15. Her time was quick enough to qualify her for the Irish team for the 2015 World Championships. Shortly after, Athletics Ireland changed their qualifying standard, pushing her time outside. However, Australia gave her a lifeline and selected her for the World Championships, where she placed 21st.
As well as juggling two children, Diver has managed to compete at three consecutive world championships and has recorded an impressive string of personal best times, which now puts her as one of Australia greatest long-distance running women. Although she doesn't like to be defined by her age, Diver will become the oldest ever Australian Olympian in athletics and believes that "succeeding at any age is all about your mindset."
You will be able to watch Sinead Diver run the Marathon on the second last day of the Olympic Games, August 7, which is set to start at 8am.
James Rook - Rowing, Women's Eight
James Rook has had to overcome many obstacles to put himself in a position to make his Olympic debut in Tokyo. Following his first full season with the Australian Rowing team early in his career, where he guided the Men’s Pair to silver at the World Championships, he was cut.
But he admits that it was his passion for the sport that kept him coming back; "Rowing is something I love, and I stuck with it, and now I get an opportunity to be the best and race with the best," he said.
Following the 2017 World Championships, the World Rowing Federation, held their Congress to vote on Rule 36, a motion, if approved, would ensure gender equality across all rowing events, allowing females coxswains to race with male crews, and male coxswains to race with female crews. This won 96 percent of the vote, granting Rook his opportunity. Following this rule update, he asked the selectors if he could have his chance, and never looked back. Later, he was named in the 2018 Women’s Eight at the World Rowing Cup and World Championship, where they medalled in both.
Now, Rook will etch his name into the history books as the first male coxswain to cox an Australian Women’s Eight at an Olympic Games.
You will be able to watch James Rook lead the Australian Women's Eight on July 25 at 12:20pm.
How can I watch?
The Olympics will be broadcast on free-to-air TV on Channel 7. Coverage will be spread across the network’s three channels: 7, 7TWO and 7mate. Seven will also be live streaming the Games via their website and the Olympics on 7 app.
What does the schedule look like?
The official Tokyo 2020 website is the place to go for a full rundown of what events are taking place when. Click here to check it out.
How do I follow along with Australia?
To follow all Australian athletes, results and schedules, connect with the Australian Olympic Team.
The Olympic Games are more than sport; they represent passion, pride, community, achievement, positivity, and the world coming together. While the Games will look a bit different this year with significant additional safety precautions, no crowds, and more restrictions for athletes to abide by, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) and the nation of Japan are committed to putting on a great sporting spectacle.
There is no bigger or more significant cultural event this decade than the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games.
Congratulations to all VIS, Victorian and Australian athletes selected and good luck! LET THE GAMES BEGIN!
|Kelland O'Brien||Cycling - Track|
|Luke Plapp||Cycling - Track|
|Amy Lawton||Women's Hockey|
|Rachael Lynch||Women's Hockey|
|Joshua Simmonds||Men's Hockey|
|Oceana Mackenzie||Sport Climbing|
|Melissa Tapper||Table Tennis and Para Table Tennis|
|Rowie Webster||Water Polo|