Athletes to watch at the 2024 Olympic Games

Posted at 2:05 AM, Aug 08, 2021

Tokyo 2020 has given us all the magical moments -- upsets, comeback stories, thrilling finishes, and the occasional tear-jerker (or ten). But as the Games come to a close, it's time to direct our attention to the future.

Paris will play host for the next edition of the summer Olympics, which is just three years away.

As we look ahead, who are some of the biggest names we can expect to see in the French capital in 2024?


What were you doing when you were 15? Katie Grimes was competing in the 800m freestyle final at the Olympics one lane over from Katie Ledecky.

Grimes is the United States' next star in the pool, and we got a glimpse of it in Tokyo this year. She posted the second fastest time in preliminaries and came within two seconds of Ledecky. Grimes then finished fourth in the 800m final, outpaced a group of experienced swimmers, and only missed the podium by 1.03 seconds. We saw the potential, and apparently so did Ledecky, who told her that she's "the now" in American swimming following U.S. Olympic Trials and dubbed the two of them "Katie squared".

Paris 2024 could be a coming out party for the teenager who only got her first cell phone because she was flying halfway across the world to compete in the Olympic Games.


Katie Grimes after the women's 800m final.
Katie Grimes of Team United States looks on after the Women's 800m Freestyle Final at Tokyo Aquatics Centre on July 31, 2021 in Tokyo, Japan.
Getty Images


"That was not my last swim. I'm at least going to '24."

That was Katie Ledecky after winning gold in the 800m freestyle, her last race at Tokyo 2020.

Ledecky is the fastest woman to ever race in a swimming pool, and she fully expects to be back for more in three years. In Tokyo, she won gold in the 800m freestyle and 1500m freestyle, claimed silver in the 400m freestyle and 4x200m freestyle relay, and came within one gold medal of tying the U.S. women's swimming record. She'll have every opportunity to shatter that record in France in three years.


SEE MORE: Ledecky holds off Titmus for 800m freestyle three-peat


The United States is likely to retain both if its swimming superstars for the next edition of the Summer Olympics in Paris, as Caeleb Dressel has gone on record saying he wants to race in 2024.

Dressel went five-for-six in gold medals at Tokyo 2020, claiming the top step on the podium in the 4x100m freestyle relay, the 100m freestyle, the 100m butterfly, the 50m freestyle, and the 4x100m medley. His 100m butterfly pace of 49.45 is a world record, and he set new Olympic records in the 50m and 100m freestyle. 

Dressel currently sits on seven career Olympic gold medals. A trip to Paris 2024 would almost guarantee he reaches the double-digit mark. If not for a man named Michael Phelps, that would be the most all-time for an Olympic swimmer.


SEE MORE: Caeleb Dressel breaks 100m butterfly world record, wins gold


It had been 53 years since an American won gold in the women's 800m. Athing Mu broke that streak by setting a national record and winning by over half a second.

Just 19 years old, Mu leaves Tokyo as a two-time gold medalist -- she won the 800m and she was part of the lightning quick 4x400m relay team that won the final by almost four seconds. On an American track & field team which includes plenty of young stars that will grab the spotlight in Paris three years from now, Mu deserves to be front and center. The only question is whether or not we see her compete in the 400m too.


SEE MORE: Teen phenom Athing Mu wins 800m gold, breaks American record


Big things were expected from Sydney McLaughlin after she made her Olympic debut as a 17-year-old at Rio 2016. Those expectations were met.

McLaughlin sprinted to gold in both events she competed in. She was another leg of that 4x400m relay team that left the field in the dust, and she shattered the world record in 400m hurdles by almost half a second -- a world record that she already held.

The sprinter from New Jersey will undoubtedly be back for Paris in 2024, and she's another that will require the spotlight every single time she steps onto the track.


SEE MORE: 'It's Sydney's time': McLaughlin breaks 400mH world record


A positive drug test for cannabis put Sha'Carri Richardson's Olympic debut on ice, but make no mistake -- she will be wearing the bib of the United States at Paris 2024.

Richardson is already the fastest active American female sprinter. She finished first at Olympic trials in the 100m with a time of 10.86s, and while she didn't get the chance to show it off in Tokyo, that pace isn't going anywhere. The current LSU sprinter, like Mu and McLaughlin, will be must-watch in the French capital.

Oh, and a potential Olympic clash with Jamaica's Elaine Thompson-Herah, who set the Olympic record in the 100m en route to gold at Tokyo 2020, should have every sports fan and Olympics viewer licking their lips.


SEE MORE: U.S. Trials: Sha'Carri Richardson earns 100m Olympic berth


When you're breaking records held by Usain Bolt, you're going to draw attention.

Knighton ran a 19.84 in the 200m at the U.S. Olympic Trials in June, breaking the U-20 record that Jamaica's Bolt held for almost two decades. Then, he hung with Canada's Andre de Grasse in the final and came within two-tenths of a second of the podium. All at just 17 years old.

Knighton will be 20 when the Paris Olympics come around, and if the last three months are any indication, he'll bring plenty of speed. Potentially record-breaking speed.



SEE MORE: Erriyon Knighton, 17, breaks Usain Bolt's 200m junior record


Bobby Finke was not expecting to medal in Tokyo.

He walks away with two golds in his Olympic debut.

Finke became one of the best stories from Team USA in Tokyo, racing to a win in the men's 800m freestyle and making headlines with a thrilling come-from-behind victory in the 1500m freestyle -- the first American male to win the event since Los Angeles 1984.

Where other accoladed swimmers like Ledecky may call it quits after Paris 2024, Finke is in a position where Paris 2024 will be his breakout. Just 21 years old and still swimming collegiately at the University of Florida, Finke will be around for a long time.


SEE MORE: Bobby Finke turns it on late to win men's 1500 free gold


Some thought 2021 was going to be the year that gymnast Konnor McClain would introduce herself to the world on an Olympic stage. As it turned out, we'll have to wait until 2024.

In her first senior competition, McClain posted scores on par with Jordan Chiles, Jade Carey, and Suni Lee. She didn't compete in Olympic Trials -- instead opting to wait for the next Olympic cycle -- but the talent is undeniable. McClain will be the next name on a long list of world-beating gymnasts.

Konnor McClain competes on floor exercise during the Women's Junior competition of the 2019 U.S. Gymnastics Championships at the Sprint Center on August 11, 2019 in Kansas City, Missouri.
Konnor McClain competes on floor exercise during the Women's Junior competition of the 2019 U.S. Gymnastics Championships at the Sprint Center on August 11, 2019 in Kansas City, Missouri.
Getty Images


The young duo of Kelly Claes and Sarah Sponcil made headlines before the Olympics even began when they snatched the last qualifying spot from Kerri Walsh Jennings and Brooke Sweat.

Now, following an Olympic campaign that resulted in a Round of 16 exit after qualifying from the group stage, Claes and Sponcil have every opportunity to write their names in the sand (no pun intended) at Paris 2024.

The two represent the next generation of beach volleyball talent -- the successors to names like Jennings, Misty-May Treanor, Alix Klineman, and April Ross -- and considering both were beach volleyball players in college, the talent is there to control the sport for the upcoming Olympic cycles.


Kelly Claes and Sarah Sponcil of Team USA fall to Canada at the Olympics
Kelly Claes and Sarah Sponcil of Team USA were upset by Canada at the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games at Shiokaze Park.
(Photo by Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images)