John Powers | Olympics

Americans should prosper at 2020 Summer Games

Diana Taurasi (left) and Sue Bird, flanking coach Geno Auriemma after capturing gold in Rio, return in 2020 in search of their fifth gold medals.
Diana Taurasi (left) and Sue Bird, flanking coach Geno Auriemma after capturing gold in Rio, return in 2020 in search of their fifth gold medals.Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images/Getty Images

It’s not as if Uncle Sam needs any help topping the medal table at the 2020 Summer Olympics, which begin in Tokyo a year from Wednesday. The Americans have outpaced the rest of the planet at the last six Games and their 121-medal haul in Rio in 2016 was more than 50 ahead of the runner-up Chinese. But the addition of four sports (karate, skateboarding, sport climbing, and surfing) to the program, plus 3x3 basketball and the restoration of baseball and softball, could add as many as 10 medals to the US collection, which figure to be spread among at least 28 sports. Here is a sport-by-sport look at the US prospects for 2020:

Archery: If Rio medalist Brady Ellison, now world champion, wins the gold, he’ll be the first American to manage it since 1996. Same for the men’s team, which is shooting for an unprecedented third straight podium finish. The women, who haven’t won a medal since 1988, don’t figure to be within range.


Artistic swimming: Since their double bronzes in Athens, the Americans have been treading water in what was formerly called synchronized swimming. They came up dry at the last three Games and likely will again in Tokyo. Anita Alvarez and Ruby Remati were 12th in duet at this month’s world championships and the team probably won’t qualify.

Badminton: A Spanish woman won in Rio, but the shuttlecock sport still belongs to the Asians. The United States hasn’t yet made an Olympic podium and won’t this time although China-born Zhang Beiwen should win a couple of matches.

Baseball: If they could send active major leaguers, the Americans likely would dominate the game they invented, which is back on the program after a dozen years. Their Tokyo team should be good enough to make the podium, as it usually is, but the Japanese, playing on their home diamond, will be a formidable obstacle to gold.


Basketball: The Yanks are odds-on for a fourth straight double as the women are lopsided favorites for their seventh consecutive crown and the men are in line for their fourth in a row. Virtually the entire 2016 team is in the men’s player pool, as well as LeBron James, Stephen Curry, and James Harden. Ageless stars Sue Bird and Diana Taurasi will be up for a fifth gold with the women’s squad, which breezed to the world title last year. The US males also are the team to beat in the 3x3 event, where the women should contend for a medal.

The US men’s basketball team easily won gold at the 2016 Olympics.
The US men’s basketball team easily won gold at the 2016 Olympics.Mark Ralston/AFP/Getty Images/AFP/Getty Images

Beach volleyball: April Ross figures to win her third Olympic medal at 38 with her third partner, this time Alix Klineman. The men, who’ve missed the podium at the last two Games after winning in Beijing, have a good chance with Tri Bourne and Trevor Crabb, who were fourth at this month’s worlds.

Boxing: The sweet science is on the ropes after nearly being knocked out of the Olympics, but the Yanks are improving. The men, who won a couple of medals in Rio after their London wipeout, could be in line for three this time, as could the women. This fall’s world tournaments will provide a clearer form sheet.

Canoeing: Greg Barton and the glory days are so last millennium. The Americans didn’t come close to a medal in Rio and they were all but invisible at the last world championships, where the entire sprint team could have fit into the back seat of an Uber. The best chance sits with Casey Eichfeld, who was seventh in the canoe slalom last time.


Cycling: The US riders collected five medals in Rio and, even with three-time gold medalist Kristen Armstrong and Sarah Hammer retired, they may come close to that tally in Tokyo. Kate Courtney will be favored in mountain bike, Alise Willoughby and Corben Sharrah have won world BMX crowns, and Jennifer Valente is an omnium medalist on the track..

Diving: The Americans picked up three medals in Rio, but that may be a reach this time now that former platform champion David Boudia has switched to springboard. The women, who were blanked last time, should be good for a couple on platform from Delaney Schnell and the synchronized team of Samantha Bromberg and Katrina Young.

Equestrian: After getting unhorsed in London the US riders were back in the saddle in Rio, collecting a trio of medals. They should be good for as many again with two in dressage (Laura Graves plus the team) and another in team jumping.

Fencing: The Beijing breakthrough in 2008 has come full flower for the US swordspeople, who could pick up a half-dozen medals at the current world tournament. Sherborn native Eli Dershwitz will contend for gold in men’s sabre, Race Imboden anchors the ace foil team, and the women should win team epee and make the podium in team foil.


Field hockey: After placing fifth in Rio, their best showing at an overseas Games, the women have spiraled downward, finishing 14th at last year’s World Cup. They’ll have to beat Argentina at the upcoming Pan American Games to qualify as will the men, whose last non-host appearance came in 1956.

Golf: Unless the Zika virus turns up in Tokyo, the United States should be able to send its top men’s foursome this time after Dustin Johnson and Jordan Spieth begged off from Rio. Based on current rankings that would be Brooks Koepka, Johnson, Tiger Woods, and Bryson DeChambeau on the men’s side and Lexi Thompson, Danielle Kang, and Nelly and Jessica Korda on the women’s.

Gymnastics: Nobody could touch the Final Five in Rio and the world hasn’t gotten any closer to the US women, who destroyed the Russians by nearly 9 points at last year’s world meet. The Americans should go 1-3 in the all-around with Simone Biles and Morgan Hurd. Biles, who’ll be favored on vault and floor, should make the medal stand in all four apparatus events. The men again should be in the mix for a team medal and Sam Mikulak will contend in the all-around and medal in high bar and possibly parallel bars and pommel horse. Laura Zeng figures to be among the top 10 on the rhythmic side.

Simone Biles is again favored to win multiple gold medals at the 2020 Olympics.
Simone Biles is again favored to win multiple gold medals at the 2020 Olympics.Tatyana Zenkovich/EPA

Judo: American judokas have made the podium at the last four games, with Kayla Harrison twice winning gold. That streak may well end in Tokyo unless the United States fares better at next month’s world championships than it did last year. Angelica Delgado and Colton Brown are the ones to watch.


Karate: The Americans still are learning the intricacies of the newest Olympic combative sport, which is dominated by the Japanese who created it. A medal might be a stretch, but Tom Scott has a fighting chance in the men’s kumite event as does Sakura Kokumai in women’s kata.

Modern pentathlon: Emily de Riel’s surprise silver in Sydney in 2000 now is a fading memory. The Americans didn’t come close to a medal in Rio or at last year’s world championships in Mexico and don’t figure to be in the chase in Japan. Brendan Anderson has the best chance of cracking the top 10.

Rowing: If the women can match last year’s haul at the upcoming world regatta, they’ll be good for four medals in Tokyo. The eight (a record fourth straight) and four should claim golds and the two doubles figure to make the podium. The men, who returned empty-handed from a Games for the first time in 2016, have a shot at a bronze in the eight but not much elsewhere.

Rugby sevens: Bet your scrum cap on a double podium this time. The US males, ninth in Rio, placed second behind Fiji in this year’s World Series. The women, fifth in 2016, were second to New Zealand. No other US sport has made such a massive leap during the last quadrennium.

Sailing: The Americans, who’ve won only one medal at the last two Games, are hoping for more favorable winds on the far side of the international dateline. Caleb Paine, who won the Finn bronze in Rio, still is their top contender and Newton native Stu McNay and David Hughes should be in the chase again in the 470 class.

Shooting: After winning just three medals in Rio, Uncle Sam’s sharpshooters should double that this time. The men, who were blanked for the first time since 1936, should get skeet gold from two-time champion Vince Hancock and bronze from Michael McPhail in three-position rifle. The women, who swept the skeet event at the world championships behind Caitlin Connor, should own the podium with Kim Rhode winning her seventh medal in seven Games. And there should be something shiny from the new mixed trap team event.

Skateboarding: Jan and Dean go to the Games. The country that invented sidewalk surfing could pick up a pair of golds in the men’s and women’s street events with Nyjah Huston and Lacey Baker, who’ve won multiple world titles. The United States likely will grab a couple of medals in the park events, too.

Soccer: Beware the World Cup jinx. No women’s champion has won at Olympus the following year. The Americans, stunned by Sweden in the 2016 quarters, will be favored, but they’ll face the same European array (minus the DNQ French) that challenged them this summer. The men, who’ve missed three of the last four Games, will be happy just to qualify.

Hope Solo and the US women’s soccer team lost to Sweden in the 2016 quarterfinals.
Hope Solo and the US women’s soccer team lost to Sweden in the 2016 quarterfinals.Daniel Oliveira/EPA

Softball: Nothing has changed since the last Olympic tournament in 2008. It’ll still be the Americans and Japanese for the title as it has been at the last seven world championships. The Americans, primed for redemption after losing in Beijing, come in as favorites after beating their archrivals in extra innings in Chiba last year.

Sport climbing: Scaling Olympus now is an official medal event. Winning one in the combined competition probably will be beyond the Americans’ reach, but Margo Hayes and Drew Ruana figure to be in the mix.

Surfing: Shidashita Beach may not be Waimea Bay, but it’s offering medals. The Americans, who created modern surfing culture around the classic Polynesian pastime, will have a bunch of top riders in Tokyo. John John Florence and Kolohe Andino are the men’s standouts with Courtney Conlogue, Caroline Marks, and Lakey Peterson a formidable female trio.

Swimming: Once again the Yanks will leave the world in their backwash. We’ll know more about the form sheet after this week’s world championships in Korea, but the US swamped everyone two years ago, winning more medals (38) than their next three rivals combined. The big guns in Tokyo will be Katie Ledecky, who’ll win the three distance freestyles plus a couple of relay medals, and Caeleb Dressel, who’ll be favored in the 50 and 100 free and 100 butterfly and will make two relay podiums. Haley Anderson should medal in open swimming, where Jordan Wilimovsky has a shot on the men’s side.

Table tennis: The Chinese, who swept all five events at this year’s world championships, still own the sport, but the Americans are making a bit of noise. They won’t be near the podium, but Jennifer Wu, Lily Zhang, and precocious teenager Kanak Jha all can win a match or two.

Taekwondo: The Koreans invented the sport, but the Americans always manage to grab at least one or two medals at the Games. Jackie Galloway, who won bronze in Rio, still is around and 2012 medalist Paige McPherson will contend. The men, who missed out for the first time in 2016, likely will again.

Team handball: You’d think that a sport involving running and throwing a ball would be Uncle Sam’s specialty, but the men haven’t qualified for the Games since 1988 nor the women since 1992. If they don’t win next month’s Pan American Games in Peru, it’ll be another quadrennium on the sidelines.

Tennis: After three gold medals in London, going 1-2 in mixed doubles in Rio wasn’t much of a consolation prize for the Americans. Unless the Williams sisters can mount a five-ringed renaissance or Bethanie Mattek-Sands gets a bionic knee, the United States could be shut out for the first time since the sport was restored to the program in 1988.

Track and field: The Americans hit the mother lode in Rio with 32 medals, as many as their next three competitors total, and they haven’t gotten slower, lower, or weaker since. They collected 30 medals at the 2017 world championships, a third of them gold, with Kenya a distant second. If this autumn’s global meet were held now the United States would be in line for nearly a dozen individual titles, most of them in the sprints, hurdles, and jumps.

Ashton Eaton won the gold medal in the Decathlon in 2016.
Ashton Eaton won the gold medal in the Decathlon in 2016.Srdjan Suki/EPA

Triathlon: Gwen Jorgensen made the golden breakthrough for the United States in Rio and Katie Zaferes, who leads this year’s world series, is well positioned for a reprise in Tokyo. The men, who’ve never made an Olympic podium, still aren’t in the conversation.

Volleyball: A couple of podiums are in the offing again. The men, who were third in Rio, picked up their first world medal since 1994 last year. While the women ended up fifth after dropping matches to the Chinese and Dutch, they’ve won a medal at the last three Games.

Water polo: The US women, who are crushing it at the world championships, figure to pull off a three-peat in Tokyo. The men, who’ve been sinking ever since they earned silver in 2008, are coming off their worst-ever Olympic finish (10th) in Rio and haven’t gotten much better.

Weightlifting: Sarah Robles’s bronze in Rio, the first US medal since 2000, set the stage for a star-spangled renaissance. The American women, who placed fifth overall at the last world championships, should put four lifters in the top 10 with Robles on the podium again. Harrison Maurus has a medal shot on the men’s side.

Wrestling: After an underwhelming three-medal showing in Rio, the Yanks are out for redemption. They won nine in the Olympic events at last year’s world championships with four freestyle medals from both the men and women, including golds from David Taylor and Adeline Gray, and a greco medal to boot. This fall’s global meet will be a better gauge but it’s looking more like the old days for the US grapplers.

John Powers can be reached at john.powers@globe.com.