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5 great athletes you should keep your eye on this summer

The 2016 Summer Olympic Games are to be held in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil and the opening ceremony is just around the corner. Taking place between the 5th and 21st of August, a record number of countries will be participating in the largest variety of different sports in the history of the games.

These Summer Olympic Games will be the first to take place in a Portuguese-speaking country and just the third games to be taking place in the Southern Hemisphere. Brazil will be in the midst of its winter season during the games, but temperatures are still likely to reach up to 26°C.

Christ Rio de Janeiro Brazil

Participating in 28 different Olympic sports, over 10,000 athletes are expected to take part in the games and they will be competing at 38 venues in Brazil. As you are about to start hearing a lot more about the athletes competing, we’ve put together a list of five athletes that will be well worth keeping your eye on over the coming weeks.

Usain Bolt

When you think of prominent athletes, it is quite likely that Usain Bolt is one of the first names that you think of. In 2009 the Jamaican ran the 100m in 9.58 seconds and has held the world record ever since, earning him the title of the world’s fastest man.

Bolt is a six-time Olympic champion and eleven-time world champion, making him the most decorated sprinter, by far, to date. He achieved what’s known as the ‘double double’ by winning the 100m and 200m titles at both the 2008 and 2012 Olympic games. He then surpassed himself by adding the 4x100m relay into the mix, making it ‘double triple’. In Rio, he will be looking to achieve the ‘triple triple’.

Image showing the handover of the baton on a relay race

There’s no doubt that all eyes will be on him on the track. In February 2015, Bolt stated publicly that it is his intention to retire from athletics in 2017, after the World Championships in London. He has talked about wanting to run the 200m in under 19 seconds and if Rio is the place he achieves that, the atmosphere will be electric.

As he will be turning 30 on the day of the official closing ceremony, he, and all his fans, will be hoping that he will be able to celebrate having won some more medals, in addition to heading into his thirties.

Mo Farah

Another athlete to look out for on the track, this time for long distance running, is Mo Farah. Mo was born in Somalia and moved to the UK when he was a child, running for an athletics club in London. He is well known for running distance races tactically, but he is also able to sustain a quick pace and often finishes races with a sprint.

Farah won the world titles in the 5,000m and the 10,000m in 2013 and 2015, as well as winning gold medals in both events at the 2012 Summer Olympics in London. Those successes made him just the second man to ever achieve the ‘double double’ in long-distance running events at successive Olympics, and the first to achieve the ‘triple double’.

Partial view of an all weather running track

All those wins mean that we’ve come to know his celebratory dance move, known as the ‘Mobot’, very well. Now 33 years old, he has said that he believes that winning Olympic gold in the 5,000m and 10,000m in Rio will be much tougher than in London. Acknowledging the strong competitors he will be up against, he believes a time under 26.40 in the 10,000m will be what he needs to achieve the win.

Serena Williams

The Women’s Tennis Association has ranked Serena Williams as the singles world number 1 six times. She has won 21 grand slam titles, which is more than Martina Navratilova and Chris Evert and only just behind Steffi Graf who won 22, and Margaret Court with 24. Serena has won 36 major titles, a combination of singles, doubles and mixed doubles, which is more than any other currently active male or female tennis player has achieved. It is clear to see why many refer to her as one of the greatest players of all time.

Her sister Venus has been affected by Sjogren’s syndrome, which is an autoimmune condition and has led Serena to begin studying medicine. As she approaches her mid-thirties, perhaps she is already lining up some post-retirement plans.

Image showing a section of a clay tennis court

Tennis hasn’t always been an Olympic sport, but Serena embraces every part of being an Olympic athlete. She won her first gold medal in the doubles, alongside her sister Venus, at the Sydney games in 2000. They retained their Olympic title in 2008 and 2012, with Serena also winning the singles at the London games. Although the Zika virus is a concern, Serena intends to defend her titles in Rio this year. If her recent form is anything to go by, she will be the one to beat.

Katarina Johnson-Thompson

If you’re looking for someone to watch closely at the Rio Olympics, Katarina Johnson-Thompson should be firmly on your radar when it comes to track and field. The 23-year-old British athlete will be competing in the heptathlon alongside Jessica Ennis-Hill, who will be retiring next year.

When she was in her last year of primary school, Katarina broke the school’s 25-year high jump record. She was the world junior long jump champion in 2012, before going on to become the silver medallist at the world indoor event in 2014. In 2015, she broke the British high jump record. In the same year, she also won the European Indoor pentathlon with a score of 5000 points, which is another British record.

Men running the hurdles event

Having suffered with a reoccurring knee injury, she has been training hard after recovering from surgery and, a few months ago, qualified comfortably for the Rio Olympics.

With seven different events to compete in, there is always a chance that something could go awry, but Katarina has her eyes very firmly on the top prize. At the World Athletics Championship in 2015, three foul jumps in the long jump meant she was immediately out of contention for a medal. Using that disappointment as fuel going forwards, there is every chance that she will be the golden girl of the heptathlon this year.

Nicola Adams

Nicola Adams made history when she became the first female boxing champion at the Commonwealth Games. She made history again when she repeated her achievement at the London 2012 Summer Olympic Games. She had a shoulder injury in 2014, which kept her from competing in the world championships, and has since recovered from a second injury. Her career has gone from strength to strength and she currently sits firmly at the top of her game, having won gold in every major championship.

Yellow boxing gloves hanging from a hook

Despite some early success, she found it difficult to maintain her boxing career, because of a lack of funding. In order to support herself she worked as an extra, appearing in soap operas including EastEnders and Emmerdale, and as a builder. In 2009 the International Olympic Committee began funding women’s boxing and Adams was able to dedicate herself to her boxing career. The results of this dedication speak for themselves.

In Rio she is hoping to successfully defend her title and if she does, she will be the first British boxer to do so since Harry Mallin back in 1924. Seeing every win as an opportunity to make more history, Adams is certainly the one to watch in the flyweight category.