By Ashlee Buhler 

It’s been a long time coming—five years to be exact—but the Tokyo Olympics are finally here! The world’s best gymnasts have come together (socially distanced of course) to compete on the sport’s biggest stage and make their dreams come true. 

It’s been a long journey to get to this point. Plans have been cancelled, daily routines disrupted, and lives turned upside down. As the Olympics kick off, the world is eager for reasons to cheer and feel good once again. So, let the Games begin! 

Here, we take a look at 10 athletes on the men’s side we are excited to cheer on in Tokyo! 

Sam Mikulak 

It’s the final go-around for one of the all-time greats, Sam Mikulak (USA). The six-time national champion has stated his plans to retire after Tokyo, which will be his third Olympics. The one medal Mikulak is missing from his collection is an Olympic one. The U.S. men are focused on a team medal, but Mikulak will also be a contender on high bar. Oh how special would it be for him to get it done in Tokyo!

Brody Malone

Brody Malone (USA) is the new kid on the block for Team USA, but the pressure and expectations haven’t stopped him from having tremendous success this year. With All-Around wins at the U.S. National Championships and Olympic Trials, it’s safe to say Malone is the front runner for an All-Around medal for the U.S. men and could also come away with a medal on the high bar. Will Malone be able to handle the pressure in his first Olympic Games? So far, he’s given us no reason to think otherwise.

Rhys McClenaghan 

Rhys McClenaghan (IRL) made history at the 2018 European Championships when he took home the gold medal on pommel horse—a first for an Irish gymnast. He made history once again at the 2019 World Championships when he became the first Irish gymnast to qualify to a world final and take home a medal (bronze on pommel horse). Now in Tokyo, all eyes will be on McClenaghan to see if he can continue making history by winning the first ever Olympic medal for an Irish gymnast.

Samir Ait Said 

The last time the Olympics were held, Samir Ait Said (FRA) didn’t have the most memorable experience. It was during the qualification round in Rio when he suffered a double compound fracture in his left leg after a bad vault landing. He successfully worked his way back to full strength and even managed to bring home a bronze medal on rings at the 2019 World Championships. If Ait Said could get a medal in Tokyo, it would be the picture-perfect comeback story.

Nikita Nagornyy

Nikita Nagornyy (RUS) has been the “it” guy on the men’s side for the last couple of years and it makes perfect sense considering he’s coming into Tokyo as the reigning World Champion in the All-Around and on vault (as well as with the Russian team). Nagornyy has a silver medal with the Russian team from Rio, but his Olympic medal collection is only expected to grow in Tokyo.

Kohei Uchimura 

Kohei Uchimura (JPN) is often thought of as the greatest male gymnast of all time and it’s a title he’s rightfully earned with eight World and Olympic All-Around titles from 2009 to 2016. Uchimura will not defend his Olympic All-Around title in Tokyo because he is only planning to compete high bar, but a medal on that event at his home games would be a fitting coronation to his legendary career.

Max Whitlock 

One of the most decorated Olympians from Rio competing in Tokyo will be Max Whitlock (GBR), who won gold on floor and pommel horse and bronze in the All-Around. After Rio he stopped competing All-Around but could very well defend his Olympic title on pommel horse in Tokyo. His mental strength and risk-taking set him apart from his competitors, which has led him to become of the most dominant gymnasts of all time on the event.

Epke Zonderland 

Tokyo will be the last hoorah for many gymnasts, including the king of the high bar, Epke Zonderland (NED). Zonderland made history in 2012 by becoming the first Dutch gymnast (male or female) to win an individual Olympic medal. He is also the first man to win three World titles on the event. Although he admitted in a press conference that he isn’t a full strength, we’d love to see Zonderland finish his career with another Olympic medal.

Artur Dalaloyan 

Through shear grit and determination, 2018 World All-Around Champion Artur Dalaloyan (RUS) has made a remarkable comeback to be in Tokyo just three months after tearing his Achilles. Although he may not be at full strength, it’s incredible to see Dalaloyan out on the competition floor so soon. With his help, the Russian men could win the team gold medal for the first time in 25 years.

Arthur Nory 

Arthur Nory (BRA), who is half-Japanese and half Brazilian, has had the rare and unique opportunity to compete in two Olympics with home ties. In Rio, Nory won a bronze medal on floor in front of a home crowd. In Tokyo, although there will be no crowd, we hope Nory can bring home yet another medal!

Photo by Ricardo Bufolin for Inside Gymnastics

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