Black Women You Should Be Watching At The Tokyo Olympics

Simone Biles, Allyson Felix and Jessica Ramsey are just a few athletes to keep an eye on at this summer’s games.

Black women are expected to prevail at the Tokyo Olympics despite the barriers built to disadvantage them.

Whether it’s by land, air or water, there are several stellar Black female athletes from around the world who came to conquer, and they deserve all the attention and praise.

Some of them, including track star Allyson Felix and gymnast Simone Biles, have shattered world records and brought their opponents to their knees with their athleticism. Others, like water polo goalkeeper Ashleigh Johnson, are breaking down barriers for those coming after them, becoming the first Black women to compete on the world stage in their respective sports.

Here are nine Black women competing for the United States to pay attention to at this year’s Olympic games.

Allyson Felix competes in the first round of the women's 200-meter dash on Day 7 of the 2020 U.S. Olympic Track & Field Team Trials at Hayward Field on June 24, 2021, in Eugene, Oregon.
Allyson Felix competes in the first round of the women's 200-meter dash on Day 7 of the 2020 U.S. Olympic Track & Field Team Trials at Hayward Field on June 24, 2021, in Eugene, Oregon.
Andy Lyons via Getty Images

Allyson Felix

The nine-time Olympic medalist is set to make Olympic history in Tokyo this year. This is the track and field star’s fifth Olympic appearance — and her first as a mom. If she wins a medal in just one of the three races she’s competing in, Felix could walk away from the games as the most decorated track and field athlete in history. Additionally, the 35-year-old is paying it forward by partnering with Athleta to give $200,000 to help provide child care for fellow athlete mothers who are traveling to compete.

Simone Manuel reacts after competing in the women's 50-meter freestyle final during Day 8 of the 2021 U.S. Olympic Team Swimming Trials at CHI Health Center in Omaha on June 20.
Simone Manuel reacts after competing in the women's 50-meter freestyle final during Day 8 of the 2021 U.S. Olympic Team Swimming Trials at CHI Health Center in Omaha on June 20.
Maddie Meyer via Getty Images

Simone Manuel

Manuel made history when she became the first Black woman to win gold in an individual swimming event in 2016. Months after being diagnosed with overtraining syndrome, the two-time gold medalist put on a clutch performance at this year’s Olympic trials. Now she’s back to compete in the 50-meter freestyle in Tokyo.

A'ja Wilson of the United States passes against Nigeria during an exhibition game at Michelob ULTRA Arena ahead of the Tokyo Olympic Games on July 18, 2021, in Las Vegas. The United States defeated Nigeria 93-62.
A'ja Wilson of the United States passes against Nigeria during an exhibition game at Michelob ULTRA Arena ahead of the Tokyo Olympic Games on July 18, 2021, in Las Vegas. The United States defeated Nigeria 93-62.
Ethan Miller via Getty Images

A’ja Wilson

Two years after being named the WNBA Rookie of the Year and the Most Valuable Player in 2020, the Las Vegas Aces forward will be competing in her first Olympics this summer. As she prepares for this career milestone, she’s using her platform to speak out against racial and gender inequity in sports. “As Black women, we feel like we always have to be strong and independent, which is tough and wears on us a lot,” she told Insider. “I’m trying to be more vulnerable for the next generation of Black girls who see me on TV.”

Simone Biles competes in the floor exercise during the women's competition of the 2021 U.S. Gymnastics Olympic Trials at America’s Center on June 27, 2021, in St. Louis.
Simone Biles competes in the floor exercise during the women's competition of the 2021 U.S. Gymnastics Olympic Trials at America’s Center on June 27, 2021, in St. Louis.
Carmen Mandato via Getty Images

Simone Biles

She’s considered the G.O.A.T. for a reason. The five-time world champion consistently blows audiences and her competition away as she defies gravity and flies through the air with grace and power. In May, she became the first woman to land the difficult Yurchenko double pike vault, 18 months after her last competition before the pandemic. Tokyo will be her second Olympic appearance. She’s positioned to win as many as five gold medals at this year’s Games, which would make her tied for the most Olympic gold medals held by a female gymnast.

Deja Young poses after taking second in the women's 200-meter dash T45/47 ambulatory final during the 2021 U.S. Paralympic Trials at Breck High School on June 18, 2021, in Minneapolis.
Deja Young poses after taking second in the women's 200-meter dash T45/47 ambulatory final during the 2021 U.S. Paralympic Trials at Breck High School on June 18, 2021, in Minneapolis.
Christian Petersen via Getty Images

Deja Young-Craddock

The 25-year-old sprinter will be defending her two gold medals in this year’s Paralympics. Young, who was born with a brachial plexus injury that caused nerve damage and limited mobility to her right shoulder, will compete in the 100-meter and 200-meter races in Tokyo, which will stretch from Aug. 27 to Sep. 5.

Jessica Ramsey competes in the Women's Shot Put Finals on Day 7 of the 2020 U.S. Olympic Track & Field Team Trials at Hayward Field on June 24, 2021, in Eugene, Oregon.
Jessica Ramsey competes in the Women's Shot Put Finals on Day 7 of the 2020 U.S. Olympic Track & Field Team Trials at Hayward Field on June 24, 2021, in Eugene, Oregon.
Andy Lyons via Getty Images

Jessica Ramsey

Ramsey stunned at the Olympic trials when she made shot put look easy by throwing at a crushing distance of 20.12 meters, a new meet record. The performance earned Ramsey her debut Olympic appearance, great redemption after not making the 2016 Games. Ramsey, 30, said her goal in Tokyo is to “come out with a gold medal and show all the girls, ‘Never give up, never give up, never give up. You’re gonna have those downfalls, but let it make you stronger.’”

Rugby player Naya Tapper poses for a portrait during the Team USA Tokyo 2020 Olympics shoot on Nov. 20, 2019, in West Hollywood, California.
Rugby player Naya Tapper poses for a portrait during the Team USA Tokyo 2020 Olympics shoot on Nov. 20, 2019, in West Hollywood, California.
Harry How via Getty Images

Naya Tapper

Tapper will make her debut Olympic appearance in Tokyo this year on the USA women’s rugby team. The South Carolina native is the second all-time try scorer for the U.S. and often referred to as “the ultimate finisher.”

Water polo player Ashleigh Johnson poses for a portrait during the Team USA Tokyo 2020 Olympic shoot on Nov. 23, 2019, in West Hollywood, California.
Water polo player Ashleigh Johnson poses for a portrait during the Team USA Tokyo 2020 Olympic shoot on Nov. 23, 2019, in West Hollywood, California.
Harry How via Getty Images

Ashleigh Johnson

In 2016, Johnson became the first Black athlete to play for the U.S. Olympic water polo team. As the gold medalist gears up for Tokyo, Johnson will continue to blaze a trail as one of the world’s best goalkeepers. “Having the opportunity to represent as a Black woman in water polo is a very special opportunity,” she told NBC Miami ahead of the games. “Having grown through the sport and having lived the experience as a Black woman in a predominantly white space who is excelling and succeeding in spite of stereotypes and in spite of narratives and in spite of not seeing much representation from people who look like me. It’s really special to welcome that responsibility. I’m always happy to be a mirror for a young Black girl or a young Black boy to see themselves in.”

USA's Gwen Berry competes in the women's hammer throw heats at the 2019 IAAF World Athletics Championships at the Khalifa International Stadium in Doha on Sept. 27, 2019.
USA's Gwen Berry competes in the women's hammer throw heats at the 2019 IAAF World Athletics Championships at the Khalifa International Stadium in Doha on Sept. 27, 2019.
ANDREJ ISAKOVIC via Getty Images

Gwen Berry

Tokyo will be the powerful hammer thrower’s second Olympic appearance. Berry finished third in the trials with a distance of 241 feet, 2 inches, but that isn’t the only reason she grabbed national attention. On June 26, she turned around during the singing of the national anthem, drawing criticism from political leaders, including Rep. Dan Crenshaw (R-Texas) who called for Berry to be removed from the team.

This wasn’t the first time Berry, 31, has used her platform to make a statement, and she isn’t backing down. “I earned my right on that podium, I earned my right on the team,” she told Time. “I’m not saying I’m not proud to represent America. If anything, I am being extremely American by stating my rights. By exercising my constitutional right to say, I believe in freedom and justice for us all. And if I don’t see it, I have a right to peacefully protest until I see what I know America is capable of. I am protesting for America to be good for everybody. And just not for the elite or the white supreme.”