14 Olympic Records and the Tokyo Olympians Who Might Break Them

Can Simone Biles or Katie Ledecky make American Olympic history this summer in Tokyo?

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One of the most entertaining parts of watching the Olympics is seeing which athletes are able to break and set new records at the Games. Usain Bolt, Michael Phelps, Carl Lewis and Florence Griffith Joyner have set high bars in the world records for their respective events.

That excitement will live on in Tokyo as we look to see which athletes will add that honorable "WR" beside their names. Here are 14 records that can be broken this summer. 



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Swimming records

Women's 400m/800m/1500m freestyle

American Katie Ledecky holds the current world record in the women's 400m, 800m and 1500m freestyle with times of 3:56.46, 08:04.79 and 15:20.48, respectively. 

Ledecky is the greatest female distance swimmer of all time, and this summer she is a favorite to break her own records once again. With five Olympic golds and 15 world championship titles, Ledecky is America’s most decorated female swimmer, and she is looking to tie or break the all-time record for gold medals won by a U.S. woman (8) this summer.

Men’s 100m breaststroke

Britain's Adam Peaty holds the world record for the fastest men's 100m breaststroke with a time of 56.88 seconds, which he set in South Korea in 2019. He also won the gold in 100m breaststroke at the Rio Olympics with a time of 57.13. Peaty looks to top his own record this summer at the Tokyo Games.

Men's 100m butterfly

Caeleb Dressel holds the current world record for the men's 100m butterfly with a time of 49.50 seconds. Dressel set the WR, which was previously held by Phelps for almost 10 years, at the 2019 World Championships. He could end up breaking his own records in 2021.

The U.S. Swim Team has had decades of dominance at the Olympics, and some of the most decorated swimmers in history tell us exactly how it’s done.

Gymnastics records

Simone Biles is the most decorated athlete at the Gymnastics World Championships in history, male or female. She continued to raise the bar by winning the women’s all-around at the U.S. Gymnastics Championships earlier in June, making her the only woman to win seven titles. Biles is now tied with gymnast Alfred Jochim for the most titles by an American. 

Biles seeks to become the first woman in more than 50 years to win back-to-back Olympic all-around gold medals this summer in Tokyo. Biles -- like Ledecky -- has a strong chance to tie or break the all-time record for gold medals won by a U.S. woman. If there’s anyone who can achieve such a feat, it’s safe to say Biles is a favorite. 

Track and field records

Women’s 100m

Florence Griffith Joyner is a name that has been etched into track and field history throughout the years. Joyner, also known as Flo-Jo, is the fastest woman of all time. She holds the women's 100m world record at 10.49 seconds, set in 1988. She also holds two of the fastest times with 10.61 and 10.62, also in 1988. For years, Flo-Jo’s record was seen as unbreakable, but there is one person who is now closing in and could break the women’s 100m WR this summer in Tokyo. 

Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce is now the fastest woman alive after clocking 10.63 seconds at a meet in Kingston, Jamaica, for the 100m.

“I’m at a loss for words because 10.6 has been a dream, a goal,” Fraser-Pryce said.

While Fraser now holds the fourth-fastest 100m time, can she become the fastest woman of all time this summer in Tokyo?

Men’s 100m

The men's 100m world record holder is Bolt with a time of 9.58 seconds, which he set in 2009 at the Berlin World Championships. The only person to come close to Bolt's lightning speed time is the reigning world champion, Christian Coleman (9.76-second personal best). He is the only athlete to break 9.80 in the past five years and was a huge favorite to win the Olympic 100m title in Tokyo this summer. Coleman will miss the Olympics due to a two-year ban, which was recently reduced to 18 months, for recording three whereabouts failures for anti-doping tests over a 12-month period. 

With Coleman out, Noah Lyles is the current favorite to win gold this summer. Lyles is the reigning world 200m champion and holds a personal best of 9.86 in the 100m, behind Coleman. Could he tackle Bolt’s legendary record in Tokyo?

Men’s 5000m/10,000m

Ugandan runner Joshua Cheptegei is the current world record holder for both the 5000m (12:35.36) and 10,000m (26:11.00). Cheptegei says that he is aiming to beat his own record at the Tokyo Olympics after breaking the world records in both distances this year.

"It would be a mountain to climb, but the challenge is up to me," Cheptegei said in 2020. 

Women’s 10,000m

Letesenbet Gidey holds the current women’s 10,000m world record of 29 minutes, 1.03 seconds, which she set at the Ethiopian Olympic trials. Gidey set the mark just two days after Sifan Hassan broke the record with a time of 29 minutes, 6.82 seconds. Gidey shaved off 5.79 seconds from Hassan's time and smashed the world record. The two will meet this summer for the Tokyo Games, and we look forward to seeing if Gidey can best her own time or if Hassan will be able to reclaim her short-lived title.

Men’s marathon 

Eliud Kipchoge is the greatest marathoner in the world. Kipchoge is the current world record holder with a time of 2:01:39, which was set at the 2018 Berlin Marathon, and he won gold at the Rio Games with a time of 2:08:44. After a surprise defeat in London last year, he bounced back and cruised to victory at the NN Mission Marathon at Twente Airport, clocking in at a time of 2:04:30. He is a favorite to win gold in Tokyo, but will he be able to break his own world record?

Pole vault

Armand Duplantis set the world-record height with 6.18 meters at the 2020 Muller Indoor Grand Prix in Glasgow, Scotland, and will look to top Thiago Braz’s Olympic record of 6.03 meters this summer. Braz, the current reigning Olympic gold medalist, is more than capable of beating Duplantis’ world-record height, which makes this two-man competition one of the better storylines in Tokyo. 

Shot put

Men's shot put has continued to ascend into popularity with the emergence of Tom Walsh, Joe Kovacs and Olympic record holder Ryan Crouser, who smashed the Games record with a throw of 22.52 meters (73 feet, 11 inches) at Rio in 2016 to win the gold medal. On Day 1 of the 2021 U.S. Olympic Trials, Crouser demolished a record that is older than he is. 

Crouser is the current world record holder with a throw of 23.37 meters (76 feet, 8.1 inches) and will defend his Olympic title in Tokyo this summer. Even though Crouser has broken a 31-year-old record, he believes he can break his own world record with a throw of 77 feet.

When Crouser broke the record, he said "It felt like it was a huge weight lifted," and we’re sure the pun was intended. 

You can get more info on local TV channels and times for the Olympic Games through NBC Olympics’ full viewing schedule.

Joe Kovacs lives by the mantra “Happy Wife, Happy Life,” which is quite important since he is the reigning world champion in the shot put, and his coach is also his wife.
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