More than 11,000 athletes representing more than 200 countries will compete in 42 Olympic sports beginning Friday. In total, there will be 306 events over the course of 19 days between the opening and closing ceremonies.
The number of black athletes from around the globe in the Summer Olympics always dwarfs the number in the Winter Olympics (something about cold weather, snow and ice?), and this year is no exception. When national anthems are played and the winners step onto the medal stand, here are some folks you might see.
Nicola Adams, Great Britain, Boxing
Adams, a flyweight, became the first woman to win an Olympic boxing gold medal when she schooled Chinese great Cancan Ren at the 2012 London Games. Adams is England’s four-time national champ.
Mutaz Barshim, Qatar, High Jump
Barshim won bronze in 2012 but has a taste for gold in Rio. He was dealing with a stress fracture four years ago in London and didn’t receive the green light to compete until 10 days before the Olympics began.
Kevin Durant, U.S., Basketball
The biggest prize on the free-agent market this summer, Durant is getting used to playing with new NBA teammates Klay Thompson and Draymond Green. He won gold at the 2012 Olympics and was named MVP of the 2010 world championship squad.
Ashton Eaton, U.S., Decathlon
The reigning Olympic and world champion broke his world record during the 2015 outdoor season. He’s looking to become the first back-to-back Olympic champion in the decathlon since Britain’s Daley Thompson in 1980 and 1984.
Yasmani Copello Escobar, Turkey, 400-Meter Hurdles
The Cuban-born hurdler recorded a personal-best time in the semifinals at the European Athletics Championship last month, before winning gold in the finals. He has lived in Turkey since 2012.
Allyson Felix, U.S., 400 Meters
An ankle injury last month killed Felix’s dream of winning gold medals in the 200- and 400-meter when she failed to qualify for the former. But the six-time medalist is a favorite to win the latter (and perhaps with the relay teams).
Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce, Jamaica, 100 Meters
Nicknamed “Pocket Rocket” because of her 5-foot height and explosiveness, Fraser-Pryce in 2008 became the first Jamaican woman to win Olympic gold in the 100. In London she became only the third woman to successfully defend the 100-meter title.
Ghirmay Ghebreslassie, Eritrea, Marathon
He was the youngest man, at 19, to win the marathon at the World Championships when he prevailed on a sweltering day in August 2015 as the favored Kenyans struggled with the heat. It was Ghebreslassie’s first career win.
Caterine Ibarguen, Colombia, Triple Jump
Ibarguen won the silver medal at the 2012 Olympics and is a favorite to win gold this year. She also competes in the high jump and long jump and has two World Championships gold medals to her credit.
Kirani James, Grenada, 400 Meters
James stunned the world in London four years ago when he won his country’s first Olympic gold medal. He is unbeaten this year, winning all six of his races and setting meet records in four of them.
Ruth Jebet, Bahrain, 3,000-Meter Steeplechase
At a meet in May, the Kenyan-born athlete became just the second woman to crack the nine-minute mark, running 8:59.97 to miss the world record by 1.16 seconds. She is among a flow of talented Kenyans who have been recruited by oil-rich Bahrain.
Eliud Kipchoge, Kenya, Marathon
Winner of six of the last seven marathons he has run, Kipchoge missed the world record by 8 seconds in the 2016 London Marathon. His time of 2:03:05 was the third-fastest in marathon history and second-fastest on a record-eligible course.
Simone Biles, U.S., Gymnastics
Biles is a favorite to win gold in the all-around, floor exercise, vault. The 4-foot-8 teenager owns the most world medals in U.S. history, with 14, and the most world championship gold medals of any female gymnast, with 10.
Manrique Larduet, Cuba, Gymnastics
The star of his country’s gymnastics team, Larduet is strongest at floor exercise and the horizontal bar. He will be Cuba’s first gymnast at an Olympics since 2004, now that an anti-defection policy has been eased.
Simone Manuel, U.S., Swimming
Manuel prepared for the Rio Games by taking off from Stanford, where she’s the NCAA 50- and 100-yard freestyle champion. The first-time Olympian picked up a prescient nickname as a child: “Swimone.”
LaShawn Merritt, U.S., 200 and 400 Meters
After winning the 400-meter gold at the 2008 Olympics, Merritt was forced to withdraw from the 2012 Olympics because of a hamstring injury. Now the 30-year-old elder statesman is looking for gold in the 200 and 400.
Shaunae Miller, Bahamas, 400 Meters
Miller owns the fastest time of the year, 49.55 seconds, clocked last month in London. She suffered a slight hamstring injury and didn’t complete her heats at the 2012 Olympics, but she won silver at the 2015 World Championships.
Maya Moore, U.S., Basketball
Moore is one of only eight players to win a world championship, Olympic championship, NCAA championship and WNBA championship. She will feel right at home during the Olympics, surrounded by several players and coaches from her Minnesota Lynx and University of Connecticut teams.
Hassan N’Dam, Cameroon, Boxing
One of the few pro boxers to take a stab at the Olympics after a rule change in June opened the door, N’Dam once was an interim world middleweight titlist. The 32-year-old competed in the 2004 Athens Olympics.
Lia Neal, U.S., Swimming
The daughter of a Chinese-American mother and African-American father, Neal is the first black woman to swim an Olympic final for the U.S., helping the team win bronze in the 4-x-100 meter freestyle at the 2012 Olympics. Neal and Simone Manuel are Stanford teammates.
Francine Niyonsaba, Burundi, 800 Meters
Niyonsaba spent nearly two years out of action, but the former African Women’s 800 champ signaled that her comeback was complete when she won gold in May at the 2016 World Indoor Championships.
Yaime Perez, Cuba, Discus
Perez ranks third worldwide in the discus throw. She competed at the 2012 Olympics and won a gold medal at the 2010 World Junior Championships and won her first senior title in 2011.
Long-distance runners Yiech Pur Biel, James Nyang Chiengjiek, Anjelina Nadai Lohalith, Rose Nathike Lokonyen and Paulo Amotun Lokoro will compete as part of the Olympics’ first-ever Refugee Team. Record-breaking Nigerian long-distance runner and peace activist Tegla Loroupe “discovered” these five runners when she organized a foot race two years ago outside a South Sudan camp for nearly 200,000 Africans displaced by violence and famine. These five runners make up half of the Olympics’ Refugee Team.
Usain Bolt, Jamaica, 100 Meters
The most decorated sprinter of all time, Bolt has won the 100-, 200- and 4-x-100 meter relay in each of the last two Summer Olympics. An injury at the Olympic trials may have the “world’s fastest man” missing a step, but either way, Bolt says Rio will be his last Olympics.
Yulimar Rojas, Venezuela, Triple Jump
Rojas won gold at the 2016 World Indoor Championships and the 2015 South American Championships. She holds the Venezuelan records in the triple jump as well as the long jump, and also competes in the high jump.
David Lekuta Rudisha, Kenya, 800 Meters
The current Olympic champion, world champion and world-record holder, Rudisha appears in one of the first scenes of the Katy Perry music video NBC is using as an Olympic anthem. He’s expected to get more exposure on the victory stand.
Caster Semenya, South Africa, 800 Meters
Semenya is one of the Olympics’ most compelling figures, an athlete with intersex conditions—not conforming to standard definitions of male or female—who once was sidelined for 11 months. She won a silver medal at the 2012 Olympics and is a heavy favorite for gold in Rio.
Claressa Shields, U.S., Boxing
Shields’ gold medal at the 2012 Olympics—when women’s boxing made its debut—was the first by a U.S. boxer since 2004. She was a high school junior fighting women nearly twice her age. Now she’s among the biggest favorites on the Team USA delegation.
Shakur Stevenson, U.S., Boxing
Stevenson was 5 when he started boxing and 8 when he had his first bout. His international record stands at 23-0 and he’s the first American man or boy to win junior and youth world titles and a Youth Olympics gold medal.
Yasniel Toledo, Cuba, Boxing
The 2012 Olympics light welterweight bronze medalist is a two-time world runner-up. He is among eight Cuban men who could win a medal in this sport the island takes such pride in.
Wayde Van Niekerk, South Africa, 400 Meters
He’s the first man in history to run faster than 10 seconds for 100 meters, 20 seconds for 200 meters and 44 seconds for 400 meters. He’s the 2015 world champion in the latter event, his sole focus in Rio.
Serena Williams, U.S., Tennis
In between winning Wimbledon last month and trying to win the U.S. Open next month to break Steffi Graf’s record for grand-slam titles, Williams will attempt to add a second consecutive Olympic gold in singles. Along with her sister Venus, they’re the two-time defending doubles champs.
Julius Yego, Kenya, Javelin
Yego wasn’t fast as a child in Kenya, home to some of the world’s best distance runners. So with the help of YouTube videos, he taught himself to throw the javelin and became a world champion. He’s the first Kenyan to win a world title in a field event.
Tony Yoka, France, Boxing
The superheavyweight is described by Sports Illustrated as “fast of hand and foot and moves in the ring more like a heavyweight." Yoka won a gold medal at the World Championships and has every reason to expect the same result in Rio.
Jordan Burroughs, U.S., Wrestling
Burroughs is looking for another gold medal to complement the one he won at the 2012 Olympics. He’s Team United States’ No. 1-ranked wrestler at 163 pounds and the 2015 world champion.
Tori Bowie, U.S., 100 and 200 Meters
The last woman to win gold in the 100- and 200-meter was Florence Griffith Joyner at the 1988 Olympics. Bowie won’t match Flo-Jo for sartorial splendor, but she has a chance to pull off the rare double wins.
Michelle Carter, U.S., Shot Put
Carter’s success at throwing is part of a family tradition. Her father and coach, Michael Carter, won shot put silver at the 1984 Olympics, and her sister D’Andra won a bronze in discus at the 2008 NCAA championships.
Vashti Cunningham, U.S., High Jump
The youngest U.S. track-and-field Olympian since 1980, the 18-year-old Cunningham is the daughter of former NFL quarterback Randall Cunningham. A main competitor is teammate Chaunte Lowe, a 32-year-old mother of three.
Genzebe Dibaba, Ethiopia, 1,500 Meters
Her sister Tirunesh Dibaba is a three-time Olympic gold medalist, but Genzebe Dibaba has held her own, setting a world record in the 1,500-meter last summer. According to authorities, her coach was busted with 60 syringes in a hotel raid this summer, but Dibaba denies doping and has never tested positive.
Crystal Dunn, U.S., Soccer
Dunn, the final cut from the women’s World Cup roster, scored a record-tying five goals in an Olympic qualifier this year. She won a national title at North Carolina in 2012 and is the only player to win ACC Offensive and Defensive Player of the Year awards.