Pathway to Paris: 8 Athletes Hoping to Return to the Olympics/Paralympics
by Brendan Rourke
Noah Lyles reacts after winning gold in the men's 200-meter final at the 2022 World Athletics Championships on July 21, 2022 in Eugene, Oregon.
As the countdown to the Olympic and Paralympic Games Paris 2024 ticks closer to the one-year mark, it is time to review some of Team USA's top athletes who are battling to add their names to the official roster for their respective Games. Some of these athletes may be very familiar to sports fans, while some are stars of their small sport that deserve more spotlight. The list below will provide a few facts about each athlete, as well as where fans can see them have a chance to qualify to make Team USA.
Katie Ledecky celebrates after breaking the world record in the women's 800-meter freestyle final at the FINA Swimming World Cup 2022 on Nov. 05, 2022 in Indianapolis.
Hometown: Bathesda, Maryland
Fast Stats: 10 Olympic medals (seven golds), 22 World Championships medals (19 golds), current world record holder in the 800- and 1,500-meter freestyle
Five Words or Fewer: Three games, unlimited potential
Barring injury or a surprisingly un-Katie-Ledecky-like performance, Ledecky will most likely make her fourth consecutive Olympic roster when the swimming competitions finally wrap up. The 26-year-old Maryland native is on the hunt for more Olympic hardware, including a return to golden glory in the 400-meters, where legendary Australian swimmer Ariarne Titmus bested her in Tokyo. The current 800-meter world record holder is looking to make it a four-peat in that event, after claiming gold in London, Rio and Tokyo. Consider the upcoming Paris Olympics as another chance to watch one of the greatest swimmers of all time make more history.
Jordan Chiles competes in the woman's floor final during the 2022 Gymnastics World Championships on Nov. 06, 2022 in Liverpool, England.
Hometown: Vancouver, Was.
Fast Stats: 2020 Tokyo silver medalist (team event), three-time medalist (one gold, two silvers) at the 2022 World Championships, three-time medalist (two golds, one silver) at the 2023 NCAA Championships
Five Words or Fewer: The rookie becomes the veteran.
Though the sport of gymnastics is always making changes, one thing remains constant: Jordan Chiles always brings her A-game. Hoping to expand on the team silver she won at the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020, Chiles his hoping to secure some individual medals at the Paris Games. Given her outstanding performances at the 2022 world championships, where she claimed silvers in the vault and floor exercise, and the 2023 NCAA championships (golds in uneven bars and floor exercise), all signs point to her being a top contender in Paris. She'll face fierce competition in all disciplines, including reigning world champion and potential teammate Jade Carey for vault glory. However, the Washington native appears to be seizing her moment. A list of upcoming USA Gymnastics events can be found here.
Noah Lyles reacts after winning the men's 200-meters during the Diamond League Athletics Doha 2022 meeting on May 13, 2022 in Doha, Qatar.
Hometown: Gainesville, FL
Fast Stats: Bronze medalist in the 200-meters at the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020, Gold medalist in the 200-meters at the 2022 World Athletics Championships, holds the third-fastest 200-meter time in the event's history.
Five Words or Fewer: The World Lead is ready.
Noah Lyles has become a new household name for track and field fans. But, if you turn away from the tv screen, you might miss him. The Florida native competes in track's fastest events, the 100-meters and 200-meters, and is looking to make his second Olympics when the season begins. Although this time, Lyles is hoping for a little more than bronze. Two months ago, NBC wrote that Lyles is looking speedy in the 200-meters, and appears to have a chance at breaking Usain Bolt's world record. The 25-year-old is also looking to improve his standings in the 100-meters as well. However, he'll have to fend off current world champion and teammate Fred Kerley. Kerley won the silver medal in the 100-meters in Tokyo. Lyles' next event will most likely be the 2023 Toyota USATF Outdoor Championships, which will be held on July 6-9.
Jagger Eaton poses with his bronze medal at the skateboarding men's street finals medal ceremony during the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020 on July 25, 2021 in Tokyo.
Hometown: Mesa, Arizona
Fast Stats: Olympic bronze medalist in Tokyo (street event), 2023 World Championship gold medalist (park event), one of the youngest ever to compete in the X Games (11 years old)
Five Words or Fewer: The goal is golden.
Although Jagger Eaton is just 22 years old, he has shown a level of maturity that all young athletes should follow. After pouring his heart and soul into skateboarding, the Arizona native discovered that he was struggling with his mental health. Recently, he talked to Team USA about his decision to step away from skateboarding after Tokyo to refocus and reset himself. Now, after a gold medal at the 2023 World Skateboarding Championships in Sharjah, UAE, the youngster looks ready to improve on his bronze medal from four years ago in Street and secure his first ever Olympic medal in the park discipline. This is the second consecutive Games that skateboarding will be an Olympic sport. So, fans who may be new to the skateboarding scene should tune into an event and read up on the qualification process for Paris.
Steve Serio controls the ball during the men's preliminary round Group B match against Germany during the Paralympic Games Tokyo 2020 on Aug. 26, 2021 in Tokyo.
Hometown: Mineola, New York
Fast Stats: Three-time Paralympic and three-time medalist with the USA Men's National Wheelchair Basketball Team. Helped lead Team USA to its first Paralympic gold medal in wheelchair basketball since 1988 at the Paralympic Games Rio 2016. Helped win a second consecutive Paralympic gold medal at the 2020 Tokyo Games. Current co-captain.
Five Words or Fewer: Three-peat is in sight.
The U.S. men's national wheelchair basketball squad has been nothing short of dominant over the last two Paralympic quads. This year, the team should be equally as dominant as they attempt to reach official Paralympic qualification status later this year. One of the veterans leading the way for Team USA is guard Steve Serio. The 35-year-old has been competing internationally with Team USA since 2006, and has made an appearance in the last three Paralympics. In the gold-medal match against Japan at the Tokyo Games, the co-captain poured in a game-high 28 points en route to securing the victory. Serio will be an integral part of the men's group as they attempt to three-peat as Paralympic champions in Paris.
Jesse Grupper competes during the men's lead qualifiers at the IFSC World Cup on May 25, 2022 in Salt Lake City.
Hometown: Fairfax, Va.
Fast Stats: Earned four medals while competing at his first Paralympics in 2020, including three golds. Won gold in the men's 100-meter T37, 200-meter T37 and the 4x100-meter universal relay. Earned a silver medal in the men's 400-meter T37.Holds the world record in the 100-meter T37 event, finishing the race with a time of 10.95 seconds.
Five Words or Fewer: Watch him do it again.
Nick Mayhugh has a message for those who believe the Paralympics are not about winning. He also has the hardware and a world record to back it up. The 27-year-old sprinted into the spotlight at the Paralympic Games Tokyo 2020 after capturing three gold medals and one silver medal. Now, he is back for more. The Virginia native is gearing up for another Para Track & Field season and a chance to qualify for his second consecutive Paralympics this season. Along with his strong performances on the track, the Paralympian, who has Cerebral Palsy, takes time to educate people on social media about the Paralympics and the concept of hidden disabilities. Mayhugh can next be seen at the 2023 world championships on July 8-17, and you can follow him at the username "nickmayhugh" on Instagram and TikTok.
McKenzie Coan poses during the medal ceremony for the women's 400-meter Freestyle S7 final at the Paralympic Games Tokyo 2020 on Aug. 29, 2021 in Tokyo.
Hometown: Toccoa, Ga.
Fast Stats: Three-time Paralympian and six-time Paralympic medalist (four golds, two silvers). Back-to-back gold medalist in the women's 400-meter freestyle S7.
Five Words or Fewer: A chance for more hardware
It's safe to say that three-time Paralympic and six-time Paralympic medalist McKenzie Coan will be in rare company as Para Swimming qualifiers approach. The 26-year-old has the chance to become one of a select number of athletes to make it to four consecutive Paralympic Games. All signs point to the Georgia native making the Paralympic Games Paris 2024 roster, especially for her best event, the women's 400-meter freestyle S7. Coan has a great chance to three-peat in that event if everything goes according to plan. A list of upcoming Para Swimming events can be located here, and you can learn more about Coan on her website.
Madeline Musselman in action during the women's preliminary round group B match against China during the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020 on July 26, 2021 in Tokyo.
Hometown: Newport Beach, Calif.
Fast Stats: Two-time Olympic gold medalist with Team USA water polo, named MVP of the women's water polo tournament at the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020, scored 18 goals in Tokyo
Five Words or Fewer: With Maddie, they can four-peat.
The U.S. women's water polo squad has been nothing short of dominant since the 2000 Sydney Games, the first year a women's tournament was held at the Olympics. The team, made up of mostly veterans with a few spectacular newcomers sprinkled in, has a chance to create even more history as the Paris Games approach. They will be looking for their fourth-straight Olympic gold medal and seventh-straight Olympic podium finish. The group has never finished worse than third place in the Olympics. For two-time Olympian Maddie Musselman, who is gearing up to claim a roster spot for the Paris Games, all she has seen is gold. The California native and UCLA graduate has cemented herself as one of the top goal-scoring threats for the U.S. Additionally, she was named the 2021 Women's Total Player of the Year by Total Waterpolo. Fans interested in watching one of the most dominant American teams in Olympic history can tune into the 2023 World Aquatics Water Polo World Cup, which will take place on June 23-25.
Brendan Rourke is a Digital Media Assistant for the USOPC. Previously, he spent three years writing for the NBA's Indiana Pacers, and is a graduate of UCF and IUPUI's Sports Capital Journalism Master's Program.