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USA TODAY

We were supposed to be gathered around our TVs Friday night, watching as athletes marched into the stadium and the Olympic flame was lit in Tokyo.

The coronavirus, of course, had other ideas.

Instead, we’re left reminiscing on what could have been and who might have made history. 

Although the majority of athletes had not yet qualified when the Games were postponed on March 24, there were several safe bets for the U.S. team.  

Here are some of the athletes and teams we’ll miss watching the most in our summer without the Olympics.

Now, we’ll just have to wait until 2021 … hopefully.

Simone Biles

Duh.

We all remember how Biles took the world by storm during Rio 2016, leading the U.S. women’s gymnastics team to gold while also winning three individual golds and a bronze.

But in the leadup to 2020, she took her gymnastics — already at the highest difficulty level in the world — up a notch. Biles has had three skills named for her — meaning no other woman has done them in international competition — in the past three years alone. Among those are a signature vault, a triple-twisting double somersault on floor exercise and a double-double dismount off the beam.

We don’t know which of those Biles might have competed in Tokyo or if she would have pulled out even more surprises, but we do know she would’ve wowed us.

BILES: Can now see upside to Tokyo postponement

VOGUE: Simone Biles graces magazine cover, opens up in interview

Katie Ledecky

The 23-year-old distance swimmer has already been to two Olympics (London and Rio) and won five gold medals and a silver. But what she’s most known for is leaving her competitors in the dust.

As if that weren’t enough, the women’s 1500-meter freestyle — an event in which Ledecky has three world titles — was set to be added to the program in 2020.

LEDECKY: Focuses on Stanford studies with Tokyo Games on hold

Kerri Walsh Jennings

Beach volleyball legend Kerri Walsh Jennings competed in her first Olympics in 2000 — when she was a member of the U.S. indoor volleyball team. There were athletes who competed in the 2016 Rio Games who were born in 2000.

But even after five Olympics, four total medals (including three consecutive gold), three children and the retirement of her longtime partner Misty May-Treanor in 2012, Walsh Jennings was still training for Tokyo.

She isn’t the top-ranked beach volleyball player in the world anymore. She’s not even the top player in the USA. But at this point, how could you count the 41-year-old out for a sixth Olympics?

The U.S. Women’s National Team

The 2016 Olympics ended in a shock for the U.S. women’s team when it lost in the quarterfinals to Sweden and finished an astonishing fifth. The team rebounded by winning the 2019 World Cup in France and looked to carry that momentum into Tokyo for a chance at an unprecedented fifth gold medal.

The new kids in town

Among the sports being added to Tokyo were skateboarding and surfing, which would have given the games a fun, more extreme flavor.

The top American skateboarder is Nyjah Huston, who has been on the pro scene since 2008 and has medalled in every X Games since 2009. He has also won three consecutive golds in the street event at the World Skateboarding Championships. In Tokyo, he would’ve had his first shot at an Olympic gold.

Meanwhile, Carissa Moore has won four World Tour titles in surfing, including one in 2019. At just 27, Moore is already a member of the Surfers’ Hall of Fame. 

One of the few athletes who had already qualified for Tokyo when the Games were postponed, Moore seems set to go in 2021.

One last ride

Baseball and softball were taken out of the Olympics after the 2008 Games, but both were set to return for Tokyo given the sports’ popularity in Japan. But they won’t be on the program for the 2024 Games in Paris.

The U.S. has traditionally dominated in softball, winning the gold every year the event was on the program except 2008, when it won silver. That’s less true in baseball, where Major League players can’t compete, but the U.S. did medal in 1996, 2000 and 2008.

In the baseball tournament, we were likely to see some top college and Minor League prospects — among 2008’s squad were future Major Leaguers Dexter Fowler, Stephen Strasburg and Jake Arrieta — as well as some former big leaguers playing both for the U.S. and for international squads.

Meanwhile the U.S. softball team had welcomed back two of the star pitchers from the 2008 silver-medal winning team, Monica Abbott and Cat Osterman to an impressive young squad.

SHUT DOWN: COVID concerns force out Olympic softball stars in Florida

Sports video of the day

Perhaps the best opening ceremony moment ever, Muhammad Ali lighting the torch at the 1996 Olympics while suffering from Parkinson’s disease is hard to forget.

What we’re reading

SIMONE MANUEL: Gold medalist swimmer wants to do more than talk about racisim.

SANDI MORRIS: Pole vaulter clears top height of 2020 on homeade runway.

MLB OPENING DAY: Dr. Fauci throws wild first pitch before Nationals host Yankees.

MLB OPENING DAY II: Dodgers star, Giants manager kneel during national anthem

SEATTLE KRACKEN: The expansion NHL team revealed its new name and logo.

WASHINGTON FT?: In 2020, Washington’s football team will be called…the Washington Football Team.

NFL:Owners, players at impasse over over pandemic’s financial blow.

MIKE TYSON: The boxer announced his comeback Thursday.

Sports on TV

Baseball (live): It’s opening day for the other 26 teams! Nationally televised games include Braves vs. Mets at 4:10 p.m. ET on ESPN, Tigers vs. Reds at 6:10 on MLB Network, Brewers vs. Cubs at 7:10 on ESPN and Angels vs. A’s at 10:10 on ESPN.

Golf (live): Coverage of the 3M Open continues at 2:30 p.m. ET on the Golf Channel.

Olympics (classic): Several past Opening Ceremonies will be aired on the Olympic Channel, including 1992 at 1:31 p.m. ET, 2004 at 6:01 p.m. and 2008 at 9:02 a.m.

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