Rio 2016: 10 global superstars to watch out for at the Olympics

A selection of the biggest names to grace this summer's Games

Bill McLoughlin
Monday 01 August 2016 19:28
Usain Bolt broke the 100m and 200m world record at the 2008 Beijing Olympics
Usain Bolt broke the 100m and 200m world record at the 2008 Beijing Olympics

Katie Ledecky

Although she might not be well known to many in Europe, in America she is regarded as the best swimmer after Michael Phelps – and has the potential to even surpass him. Ledecky made waves in London when she took gold in the 800 metre freestyle, at only 15 years old. Now 19, she has been winning her races easily and was the first swimmer to sweep the 200m, 400m, 800m and 1500m freestyles in a major international competition. Her ability, also comes with a bit of panache outside the pool, as she once described herself as a better swimmer than anyone else is in their respective sport.

Lededcky’s first heat is 400m freestyle on 7 August, from 5.30pm BST

Usain Bolt

The greatest sprinter of all time – and one of the greatest athletes of all-time. Bolt took the athletics world by storm back in 2008, when he won three gold medals at the Beijing Games. The charismatic figure – who has said that Rio will be his final appearance at the Olympics – has since dominated his field and it would be a brave man to bet against the Jamaican winning three golds for the third consecutive Games.

Catch Bolt in the 100m preliminary round on 13 August, from 1.30pm

Serena Williams

The powerhouse American will be looking to retain the gold medal she won at London 2012. Victory at Wimbledon last month – her seventh at SW19 – means that ­Williams has now won a remarkable 22 Grand Slams moving her to joint second in the all-time ­winners’ list alongside Steffi Graf.

With Maria Sharapova suspended from tennis for two years after testing positive for meldonium, her main threats will be the ­German Angelique Kerber and Spain’s ­Garbine Muguruza.

The tennis starts on 6 August. Schedule TBA

Sonny Bill Williams

Williams is one of the world's leading rugby union players 

One of the most naturally gifted rugby players in recent memory, Kiwi star Sonny Bill Williams has already enjoyed a memorable career. He has won two Rugby Union World Cups, participated in a Rugby League World Cup, won titles in Super Rugby and Australia’s National Rugby League, while also winning all seven of his professional boxing fights. In a rugby sevens competition making its debut in the Games, Williams is the star attraction.

New Zealand kick off their campaign against Japan on 9 August at 4.30pm


Often cited as the greatest female footballer of all-time, who was dubbed “Pele with skirts” by the man himself, Marta is an icon of the sport. Women’s football has grown enormously across the globe and players like Marta are the reason why. She has won the Fifa World Player of the Year award five times and has scored an incredible 100 goals in 101 games for her country. After winning silver medals at the 2004 Athens and 2008 Beijing Olympics, the 30-year-old will be determined to go one better in front of an adoring home crowd.

Brazil start their campaign against China on 3 August at 5pm

Bubba Watson

The highest seeded golfer in the ­Olympics after the likes of Rory McIlroy, Dustin Johnson and Jason Day pulled out due to concerns about the Zika virus. Watson, though, is still a major draw for the sport in its first Olympic outing since 1904. Not only is Watson a top-class golfer, one the longest drivers on the PGA Tour and a two-time major winner, he is also a huge character on the circuit. He is part of the four-man band the Golf Boys, he drives a General Lee car from the television series The Dukes of Hazzard and has promoted the use of a hovercraft instead of the usual golf buggy.

Watson tees off on 11 August

Caster Semenya

Semenya set the fastest 800m of the year last month

The South African runner is hotly tipped to take gold in the 800m and should be a contender in the 400m. After exploding on to the scene at the 2009 World Championships, where she took 800m gold, questions were raised about Semenya’s gender and she was withdrawn from competition. Later cleared to race again by the IAAF, she went on to become a silver medallist at London 2012 and set the fastest 800m of the year at a Diamond League meeting just last month.

The women’s 400m heats are on 13 August, while the first round of the 800m starts on 17 August

Michael Phelps

The American swimming legend has won a staggering 18 gold medals, one more than Jamaica have ever obtained in the entire Olympics. Phelps did briefly retire following the 2012 Olympics but quickly returned and Rio will be his fifth appearance at the Games. After becoming disillusioned with the sport, the 31-year-old has now rediscovered his love of swimming and is looking the add to his 22 ­Olympic medals.

Phelps begins with the 200m ­butterfly on 9 August at 2.28am


The poster boy of Brazilian football, Neymar is currently one of the best footballers on the planet. The 24-year-old did not feature for Brazil in the recent Copa America and will instead lead his team in their home Olympics. A gifted and skilful attacker who is capable of changing a game with one moment of brilliance.

Brazil kick off their ­campaign against South Africa on 4 August at 5pm

Diana Taurasi

The American (left) has a list of accolades that is too long to list and has ­defined the WNBA era. A ferocious competitor, she has been accused of playing two games: one on the court and the other with the referees. The 34-year-old is going into the Olympics looking for her fourth straight gold medal.

America’s first game is against Senegal on 7 August at 4pm

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