Tokyo Olympics: Newshub sport roundtable - Who to watch out for at Games

  • 20/07/2021

We're just days out from the start of the Tokyo Games, and what better way to mark that occasion than by recruiting some of Newshub's own to weigh in on a few sports and athletes worth keeping an eye on over the next few weeks.

Non-Kiwi athlete you're most looking forward to seeing in action?

Brad Lewis (Digital sports reporter): Simone Biles. Without doubt the biggest global star heading to the Games and Tokyo will be her crowning moment. As close to a lock in any sport as you'll get.

Grant Chapman (Digital sports editor): American Simone Biles. Possibly the world's greatest athlete at this time, she's likely to dominate gymnastics competition in the tradition of Olga Korbut, Nadia Comaneci and Mary Lou Retton.

Lucy Thomson (Sports reporter/producer): Simone Biles. I have to admit, gymnastics is not my first choice sport but once every four (or in this case five) years I find myself glued to the television for the occasion. Biles continues to amaze, in 2019 she made history.. becoming the first female to successfully land two moves on the beam and floor. 

Michael O'Keeffe (Sports reporter): Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce. The Queen of the 100m sprint is ready to win her third straight gold.

Alex Chapman (Sports reporter): Simone Biles. Without Usain Bolt and Michael Phelps, the American gymnast has become arguably the biggest name at these Games.

OlyWhites star Chris Wood.
OlyWhites star Chris Wood. Photo credit: Getty

Most anticipated Olympic event? 

Brad: Heavyweight boxing. I foresee a coming out party for Kiwi David Nyika, who is a future world champion.

Grant: Always a fan of a good cycling road race and the Tokyo event is billed as the toughest yet - and Rio was pretty damn tough! Kiwi George Bennett abstained from the Tour de France to prepare for this event, but I've also become a big admirer of French world champion Julian Alaphilippe, who has shown his readiness during the current Tour.

Lucy: The men’s 100m final. This will be the first time in three Olympic cycles that the race will be won by someone other than Usain Bolt. 

Michael: Laurel Hubbard in the 87kg + weightlifting. Perhaps NZs most talked about athlete this Games. She is a trail blazer for transgender athletes at the Olympics in the future and, despite people's differing views on the matter, I respect the scrutiny and attention she has had to deal with in the lead up to the event and wish her all the best.

Alex: Laurel Hubbard in the 87kg+ weightlifting, purely for its newsworthiness. How the world reacts, how she performs, and her final medal colour, will create plenty of conversation. The post-lifting interview will be worth a watch too.

Can Dame Valerie Adams add another medal to her collection?
Can Dame Valerie Adams add another medal to her collection? Photo credit: Getty

Olympic fairytale you'd most like to see?

Brad: Nick Willis wins gold in the 1500m. A proud Kiwi and one of the most underrated Olympians in our history. To cap his career off with an unlikely gold would be a moment to savour.

Grant: After back-to-back fourth placings, the Black Sticks women finally make the medal podium, with hockey gold.

Lucy: Dame Valerie Adams wins her third Olympic gold medal, after returning to the circle following the birth of her second child. 

Michael: After Laurel Hubbard wins gold, the New Zealand Olympic Committee selects her to carry the flag at the closing ceremony. What a statement it would be.

Alex: No athlete being robbed of a medal by COVID-19. The idea of someone getting told they're out of the Games as they're about to compete - particularly as a favourite - would be awful.

Kiwi boxer David Nyika.
Kiwi boxer David Nyika. Photo credit: Photosport

Dark horse Kiwi athlete/team to watch out for?

Brad: The OlyWhites. Probably the best team New Zealand has ever sent to the Games, with the world class Chris Wood at the top of the attack.

Grant: Men's rowing eight. The last of our rowing contingent to qualify, they haven't medalled since Montreal 1976, but with Kiwi sporting icon (and two-time Olympic champion) Hamish Bond on board, don't count them out this time.

Lucy: Lewis Clareburt. He’s coming off some red-hot form, having clocked the world’s second-fastest 400m IM time this year at the national championships in Auckland.

Michael: OlyWhites. Not only do I think they have a genuine chance to make it out of their group, but they could even medal. Anything can happen in knockout football and once we're there, the OlyWhites could do something special. 

Alex: Lewis Clareburt. It's hard to call a world champion bronze medalist a 'dark horse', but I'm keen to see how the Wellingtonian goes in the pool. Arguably, not since Danyon Loader have we had such hope and excitement for a swimming Kiwi.

Biggest lock for a Kiwi athlete/team to medal?

Brad: Lisa Carrington: Enough said

Grant: Lisa Carrington, Burling & Tuke and probably three rowing crews all look like strong gold medal contenders, but be sure to watch out for the Black Ferns Sevens, as they try to go one better than their Rio 2016 silver.

When COVID intervened, they were on top of the world and although the world sevens circuit has closed down over the past 18 months, their recent form against archrivals Australia suggests they're still on track for the top of the podium. 

Lucy: Lisa Carrington and the women’s rugby sevens team. 

Michael: Burling and Tuke. They've flown under the radar after the America's Cup but no doubt they'll sail on in and clean up again.

Alex: Peter Burling and Blair Tuke in the 49er. The two-time defending world champions, who also have won every world champs they've entered since 2013, should once again stand atop the podium in Tokyo. Already well stocked with a couple of America's Cups and one Olympic gold medal, the trophy cabinet will need some extending.

Kiwi weightlifter Laurel Hubbard.
Kiwi weightlifter Laurel Hubbard. Photo credit: Getty

Will the Olympics make it through without a COVID breach/cancellation? Yes or no?

Brad: Yes, but not without controversy and several high profile athletes testing positive for COVID-19. The big issue will come if entire teams get infected and have to forfeit and competitions become severely impacted.

Grant: Organisers have tried hard to cover every base, but there's no accounting for the recklessness of over-sexed athletes, who won't resist the urge to use all those free condoms and bonk-proof cardboard beds in the Games village. Yes, a COVID breach, a national team will be sent home, but the Games will go on!

Lucy: No. Given the scale of the Games there's bound to be several positive cases and breaches. In saying that, I don't believe it will derail the entire event. 

Michael: No, but the Olympics will continue to charge ahead. Events over the past six months have shown they're prepared to proceed amid COVID-19 outbreaks. Football's Euro 2020 was an example of how the virus can be managed. I don't think the Olympics will be any different.

Alex: I doubt it'll be called off, we'd need to see a serious outbreak for that to happen. Will athletes get COVID -19 though? Yes. Will it encroach on the village? Most likely. Financially, can they justify cancelling it once the torch is lit? No.

Favourite Olympics memory?

Brad Lewis: The men's 100m final in 1988 - the greatest 100m final in history. Carl Lewis v Ben Johnson v Linford Christie was an epic 10-second sporting moment. Yes,  two days later Johnson became the first true Olympic disgrace, after testing positive for steroids and had his gold medal ripped away, but the race was awesome.

Grant: Ben Johnson's world record 100m and subsequent disqualification at Seoul 1988. This was also the day my mother remarried and I was giving her away in a ceremony at my Aunty's house - but the ceremony was delayed, while I watched the 100m final in a bedroom.

Lucy: Caroline Meyer and Georgina Earl (both formally Evers-Swindell) winning gold in the double sculls at Beijing 2008 to become the first duo to defend a title in the discipline. The 0.01s victory over Germany was the only time the pair were ahead in the race. The replays were thrilling to watch. 

Michael: Watching Usain Bolt win gold in the 100m sprint in 2012 with a new Games Record.

Alex: Nick Willis' silver medal at Beijing 2008. The 1500m - the blue ribbon event, as pure as it comes. It's what we did at school. Yes, he didn't win it, but to podium in a race New Zealand has such a history with, amazing.

Join Newshub for live updates of the Tokyo Games from July 23