Athletes to Watch: Part I Fresh Faces You Should Know

It’s every young athletes dream to make it to the top. This talented group from all over the world is on the fast track straight there. Get to know some of the first time competitors who are soon to be house hold names. These fresh faces may be new to you now but they won’t be for long!

United States David Verburg, center, reacts after they won gold in the men's 4x400-meter relay final at the World Athletics Championships in the Luzhniki stadium in Moscow, Russia, Friday, Aug. 16, 2013. (AP Photo/Anja Niedringhaus)

David Verburg  – Track & Field (USA)

Specializing in the 400 meter and 4×400 relay, 25 year old Verburg is one you are going to want to keep your eye on. Hailing from Lynchburg, VA, helped set two world leading times in the 4×400 relay (in the 2013 and 2015 World Championships) and he’s setting his sights to do the same this August!

Vashti Cunningham – Track & Field (USA)

At just 18 years old, Cunningham, who specializes in High Jump is a fresh face to watch. Born into athletic royalty (her father is NFL quarterback Randal Cunningham), she was destined for greatness. Earlier this year she set a new World Junior record with a 1.99 m jump and went on to win the World Indoor Championship. Catch her soaring to even greater heights during the competition.

Ibtihaj Muhammad Fencing (USA)

Born and raised in New Jersey, Muhammad began Fencing when she was 13 years old and is a five time World team medalist and 2014 World Team Champion. In addition to her athleticism, she is breaking barriers and making history by being the first U.S. woman athlete to wear a hijab during an event.


Simone Biles – Gymnastics (USA)

At only 19 years old, this pint size powerhouse is one of the biggest threats in the gymnastics competition. At her young age, she is the most decorated American female gymnast in World Championship history and the first African-American woman to be all around world champion. She even has a signature move called the “Biles” that only she has been able to execute flawlessly. As she steadily breaks records and barriers, Simone is definitely one to keep your eye on this August.

Mallory Pugh Soccer (USA)

At 17 she was the youngest player to debut for the National team, and she’s been making waves ever since. Now 18, she is the youngest female player to play for the National team during the qualifying tournament.

Lilly King Swimming (USA)

At only 19, King is more than ready to take on her first run at the big games. At trials she won in the both 100 meter and 200 meter breaststroke (her specialty). Watch as she competes to become number one.

Kassidy Cook Diving (USA)

Though she was a part of the national diving team in 2012 Cook was unable to compete in London four years ago due to a shoulder injury, but nothing is stopping her this year. You won’t want to miss this newcomer make up for lost time.

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Nick Lucena Beach Volleyball (USA)

Lucena is making his debut at the 2016 Beach Volleyball event with partner, veteran competitor, Phil Dalhausser. As a multiple AVP Open champion, Lucena is sure to put on an awesome game and bring home some wins for the US.

Adeline Gray Wrestling (USA)

The three time world champion is the heavy favorite to win it all. Which would make her the first woman to do so for the U.S. in freestyle wrestling. Her success and advocacy for women in wrestling has made her a role model for young girls looking to follow in her footsteps.

Kanak Jha  Table Tennis (USA)

This year Jha will make history as the youngest member of the national team and the first American born in the 2000’s to qualify for the games. At only 16 years old, he has been playing table tennis since the age of 5. Though he may still be in high school, this young athlete is ready to prove age is but a number.

Yolande MabikaJudo (Refugee)

A member of the first ever Refugee team to compete in the games, Mabika was born in Bukavu, a war torn area of the Democratic Republic of Congo. She was separated from her parents at a young age and grew up in a children’s home where she took up judo. After many hardships and suffering abuse from her judo coaches, she was  finally granted refugee status in Brazil in 2014. Her love for judo has not subsided and she will compete in the women’s 70 kg event.

Yusra Mardini – Swimming (Refugee)

At only 18 years old, Mardini has lived through more than most will in many lifetimes. She grew up swimming competitively in Syria but when her home was destroyed in the civil war, she and her family fled to safety. Her and her sister swam and pushed their boat through dangerous waters to safety. Now living in Germany, Mardini is ready to represent her fellow Refugee teammates in the freestyle and butterfly events.

ART-ECh Sofia/BUL - 2014: detail hand and magnesia

Logan DooleyGymnastics (USA)

As a trampoline athlete, Dooley is definitely a fun one to watch. He is the reigning American champion in the male individual trampoline at the Pan American Championships. His consistent electrifying performances on the trampoline make him a fresh face you aren’t going to want to miss.

Nia AliTrack & Field (USA)

Specializing in 100 meter hurdles, the reigning World Indoor Champion, is ready to run her heart out in the upcoming weeks. After taking a year off to give birth to her son in 2015, she is ready to make her comeback as a first time competitor for the national team.

Kate Grace Track & Field (USA)

Hailing from Sacramento, California the Yale alumni specializes in the 800 meter. With her fellow teammates she helped set a record for the women’s 4 x 1500 meter relay in 16:55:33. Taking the win in the 800 meter at the trials, this will be her first go at the big games and she’s in it to win it.

A general view of the Olympic Stadium during the Ibero American Athletics Championship, test event for Rio 2016 Olympic Games, in Rio de Janeiro on May 15, 2016. / AFP PHOTO / YASUYOSHI CHIBAYASUYOSHI CHIBA/AFP/Getty Images

Joe Maloy Triathlon (USA)

The lifeguard turned triathlete has plenty of competitions under his belt but it will be his first appearance at the big games. Born in sunny San Diego, California, Maloy has been seriously competing since 2010. We’re excited to see what he has in store for us in the coming weeks.

Jenny ArthurWeightlifting (USA)

At only 22 years old, she is making news as the first American weightlifter to qualify this year. She started lifting as a high school senior as a means to improve in other sports and never looked back. Arthur will prove her strength in the 75kg event this year.


These up-and-coming athletes are sure to make quite the splash (yes, swimming pun intended) this year. We’re sure you’ll be seeing them all over your TV again in another four short years. But if you need help picking and choosing what and when to watch this year, check out our weekly watch guide. We’ve sifted through and perfectly organized the must-watch events with these rising stars and can’t miss moments from seasoned vets in mind.