U.S. Olympic team for Tokyo features record number of women

Katie Ledecky, Simone Biles, and Allyson Felix will be looking to add to their medal haul at the Tokyo Olympics
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The 2020 U.S. Olympic roster includes a record number of women.

On Tuesday, the U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Committee (USOPC) unveiled the official U.S. roster for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics. A total of 613 athletes – 329 women and 284 men – are set to represent the U.S. in Tokyo.

The Tokyo Olympics will mark the third straight Games in which women outnumber men on the U.S. Olympic team:

  • At the 2016 Rio Olympics, the U.S. team included 291 women (compared to 264 men).
  • At the 2012 London Games, 268 women competed for the U.S. (compared to 262 men).

Don’t miss a moment: On Her Turf’s day-by-day guide to the Tokyo Olympics

The 329-woman U.S. Olympic roster also breaks the record for most women to represent a nation at a single Games. The previous record (291) was set by the U.S. at the 2016 Rio Games.

Note: The official USOPC roster does not count athletes currently registered as alternates, even though soccer, water polo, and rugby will have flexibility to include alternates on game-day rosters in Tokyo. According to the USOPC release, “alternate athletes in these sports are immediately eligible to be called into game day rosters and, in that case, will become Olympians.” Given that, it is possible that more than 329 women will ultimately represent the U.S. at the Tokyo Olympics. 

The eight most decorated members of the 2020 U.S. Olympic team are all women:

  • Allyson Felix (nine Olympic medals)
  • Allison Schmitt (eight Olympic medals)
  • Katie Ledecky (six Olympic medals)
  • Simone Biles (five Olympic medals)
  • Sue Bird (four Olympic medals)
  • Diana Taurasi (four Olympic medals)
  • Simone Manuel (four Olympic medals)
  • Mariel Zagunis (four Olympic medals)

The 2020 U.S. Olympic roster also includes at least 12 moms:

  • Skylar Diggins-Smith (basketball)
  • Diana Taurasi (basketball)
  • Mariel Zagunis (fencing)
  • Alex Morgan (soccer)
  • Gwendolyn Berry (track and field, hammer throw)
  • Allyson Felix (track & field, 400m)
  • Quanera Hayes (track & field, 400m)
  • Sally Kipyego (track & field, marathon)
  • Brittney Reese (track & field, long jump)
  • Aliphine Tuliamuk (track & field, marathon)
  • Cat Osterman (softball)
  • Foluke Gunderson (née Akinradewo) (volleyball)

For three U.S. athletes – Allyson Felix, Diana Taurasi, and Mariel Zagunis – Tokyo will mark their fifth Olympics, but first as moms.

There are three sets of sisters on the 2020 U.S. Olympic team:

  • Jessica and Nelly Korda (golf)
  • Kristie and Sam Mewis (soccer)
  • Aria and Makenzie Fischer (water polo)

Here is a look at just a few of the records that U.S. women can break at the Tokyo Olympics:

In Tokyo, the U.S. women’s basketball team will be aiming for a seventh straight Olympic gold medal, a streak that began in 1996. In addition to the gold medal streak, the U.S. women also haven’t lost an Olympic game since 1992. Two members of the U.S. team – Sue Bird and Diana Taurasi – could become the first basketball players of any gender to win five Olympic gold medals.

With nine Olympic medals, Allyson Felix is already the most decorated American woman in Olympic track and field history. In Tokyo, Felix could tie or break the record for most medals won by an American track & field athlete, male or female. The current record is held by Carl Lewis (10).

Also on the track, the U.S. women’s 4x400m relay team will be looking to claim a seventh straight gold medal. With the exception of the 1980 Moscow Games, which the U.S. boycotted, the American quartet has won either gold or silver in this event at every Games since it was added in 1972.

Simone Biles has the potential to tie or break the record for most individual gold medals in gymnastics. The current record is seven (held by Czech gymnast Vera Caslavska) and Biles will enter Tokyo with three gold medals from individual events.

The U.S. women’s water polo team is one of the most dominant teams in the world in any sport, having won every major tournament it has entered in recent years. The Americans already own the record for most Olympic medals (5) and gold medals (2) in women’s water polo. In Tokyo, the U.S. could become the third nation to win three straight Olympic gold medals in water polo. Only Hungarian men (2000-08) and British men 1900-20) have previously accomplished that feat.

U.S. women own an impressive podium streak in swimming’s 4x100m freestyle relay. The American team has won a medal in the event at nine straight Olympics, dating back to 1984. In fact, excluding the 1980 Moscow Games – which the U.S. boycotted – the American women’s 4x100m free relay team has won a medal at every Olympics since 1920.

After qualifying for one of the toughest swimming doubles in history, Katie Ledecky could become the first athlete to win gold in both the 200m and 1500m at the same Olympics.

For more ways women can make history at the Tokyo Olympics, check out the On Her Turf series “100 ways women can make history at the Tokyo Olympics and Paralympics.” 

READ MORE: U.S. Olympic team for Tokyo its second-largest in history, most women ever

Follow Alex Azzi on Twitter @AlexAzziNBC

Crystal Dunn returns to USWNT roster five months after giving birth

Nigeria v USWNT
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Crystal Dunn was named to the USWNT roster for two upcoming friendlies against England and Spain, marking her first official selection since giving birth to son Marcel in May.

Dunn made her NWSL return with the Portland Thorns earlier this month and also trained with the U.S. team as a non-rostered player ahead of friendlies vs. Nigeria.

In addition to Dunn, the 24-player roster features a veteran core of Alyssa Naeher, Becky Sauerbrunn, Rose Lavelle, Lindsey Horan, Mallory Pugh, and Megan Rapinoe.

Alex Morgan was not named to the USWNT roster due to a knee injury. While U.S. head coach Vlatko Andonovski did not provide details of the injury, he noted that “if this was a World Cup final, Alex was going to be on this trip and was going to play, no question.”

Other roster highlights include 17-year-old Alyssa Thompson, who becomes the first player born in 2004 to receive a USWNT call-up. Thomas, a high senior, plays club soccer for the U-17 Total Futbol Academy boys’ team.

“We are very excited for her, very excited about her potential and qualities and looking forward to seeing how she will turn out in our environment,” Andonovski said of Thompson. “This camp is not make it or break it. It’s a first experience for her, it’s just something that she shouldn’t even worry about.”

The USWNT also includes a handful of players who have made their USWNT breakthrough this season — thanks in part to both strong NWSL play and injuries to more veteran players. That list includes the likes of Naomi Girma (7 caps), Taylor Kornieck (5 caps), Hailie Mace (5 caps), Sam Coffey (1 cap), and Savannah DeMelo (0 caps).

Andonovski on Thursday called Coffey, a midfielder for the Portland Thorns, a candidate for NWSL MVP.


USWNT Roster for October 2022 Friendlies vs. England and Spain

Goalkeepers (3):

  • Aubrey Kingsbury (Washington Spirit)
  • Casey Murphy (North Carolina Courage)
  • Alyssa Naeher (Chicago Red Stars)

Defenders(7):

  • Alana Cook (OL Reign)
  • Crystal Dunn (Portland Thorns FC)
  • Emily Fox (Racing Louisville FC)
  • Naomi Girma (San Diego Wave FC)
  • Sofia Huerta (OL Reign)
  • Hailie Mace (Kansas City Current)
  • Becky Sauerbrunn (Portland Thorns FC)

Midfielders (8):

  • Sam Coffey (Portland Thorns FC)
  • Savannah DeMelo (Racing Louisville FC)
  • Lindsey Horan (Olympique Lyon, FRA)
  • Taylor Kornieck (San Diego Wave FC)
  • Rose Lavelle (OL Reign)
  • Kristie Mewis (NJ/NY Gotham FC)
  • Ashley Sanchez (Washington Spirit)
  • Andi Sullivan (Washington Spirit)

Forwards (6):

  • Ashley Hatch (Washington Spirit)
  • Mallory Pugh (Chicago Red Stars)
  • Megan Rapinoe (OL Reign)
  • Trinity Rodman (Washington Spirit)
  • Sophia Smith (Portland Thorns FC)
  • Alyssa Thompson (Total Futbol Academy)

Follow Alex Azzi on Twitter @AlexAzziNBC

Justine Wong-Orantes’ atypical path to becoming one of the best liberos in the world

Justine Wong-Orantes hits the ball in the women's semi-final volleyball match between USA and Serbia during the Tokyo 2020 Olympics.
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It’s been 20 years since the same nation held both the Olympic and world volleyball titles at the same time, but libero Justine Wong-Orantes is looking to help lead Team USA accomplish that very feat at the 2022 FIVB Volleyball Women’s World Championships in the Netherlands and Poland. Competition began on Friday and the U.S. is currently 2-0 after group play wins against Kazakhstan and Canada.

“We’re trying to win, for sure,” Wong-Orantes told On Her Turf. “I think, especially with the new turn of the program and the new year of the quad, we just have a really nice blend of veterans and also newcomers on the team.”

The 14-woman roster for Team USA, which is ranked No. 1 in the world and won its first Olympic title last summer, features six players from that gold-medal-winning team. And while Wong-Orantes is among the 2021 U.S. Olympic team veterans, she’s still a relative newcomer to international play.

The Southern California native enjoyed a notable junior career – she was 12 when she became the youngest female to ever earn an AAA rating in beach volleyball – and was a standout collegian at Nebraska, where she was a member of the 2015 NCAA championship team. But Wong-Orantes followed a different path upon graduation, initially choosing not to go overseas to play professionally.

While she was first selected for the U.S. national team in 2016 and played a handful of international tournaments in the following years, it wasn’t until she started playing professionally in Germany in 2019 that she saw the potential to elevate her position on the roster. In particular, the pandemic-delayed Tokyo Olympics gave her an additional year of overseas experience, which she calls “a blessing in disguise.”

“I just felt like I was still in that developmental stage,” she said. “And a whole year postponement allowed me to go overseas and really get all the touches, all the repetitions, and just kind of expose myself to international volleyball another year. So I was, in hindsight, pretty thankful for that COVID season because I got an extra year under my belt, and I think that just gave me a ton of confidence.”

Ahead of the Olympics, Wong-Orantes earned “best libero” honors at the 2021 FIVB Volleyball National League in Rimini, Italy, which helped secure her spot on the Olympic roster. In Tokyo, she followed up with another standout performance and was named best libero of the Olympic tournament.

As to how the Wong-Orantes transformed into one of the world’s top liberos, she points to her background as a beach volleyball player. She began competing at age 8, and her first partner was Sara Hughes, a star on the AVP Pro Tour who also won two NCAA titles with USC.

“I think having that background and just the court awareness that beach volleyball forces you to have allowed me to really have a good read on the game,” said Wong-Orantes. “I think that’s what makes a great libero is just reading and always being reactive towards the ball.”

Wong-Orantes also credits the assistance of mental coach Sue Enquist, a former UCLA softball coach and U.S. national team coach, who now helps teams work on their culture and relationships. Enquist began working with the U.S. volleyball team during the pandemic and has continued in her role ever since.

“We just worked on a lot of stuff within ourselves, within our program, how to communicate with each other off the court, and I think that honestly propelled us into such a high, high level with how we worked with each other, and then that transferred onto the court,” explained Wong-Orantes, who noted the team has Enquist on speed dial while at the World Championship. “I really commend Sue. I just really give a lot of praise to her because I think our culture was never bad, but I think [she] just transformed into a different level.”

2022-09-26 - FIVB Volleyball Womens World Championship 2022 - Day 4
ARNHEM, NETHERLANDS – Justine Wong-Orantes (far right) poses for a photo with her U.S. teammates after defeating Canada at the 2022 FIVB Volleyball Women’s World Championship on September 26, 2022. (Photo by Rene Nijhuis/Orange Pictures/BSR Agency/Getty Images)

Wong-Orantes said she and her U.S. teammates are on their toes for the world championships, which features twice as many teams (24) as the Olympics and a “more grueling” format.

“It’s going to be a long tournament, and I think we’re really going to need all 14 of us that are here. I’m pretty certain that, at any given moment, someone’s going to be called on and someone’s going to need to step up in big moments.”