11 iconic U.S. athletes not going to Tokyo Olympics in 2021

Top American athletes like Laurie Hernandez, Serena Williams, Ryan Lochte and more won’t be part of Team USA for the Tokyo Olympics in 2021.
USA Today Sports

The 2020 Tokyo Olympics are around the corner, after being delayed for a year due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

While many Team USA athletes pack their bags to head overseas for the Games, there are a few American athletes who will not be making the trip as planned. Whether it be due to injury or not qualifying, some familiar names’ journeys have ended before the mainstage event.

Here is a look at some former Olympians who will not be participating in the Tokyo Games come July 23.

Nathan Adrian, swimming

Nathan Adrian, a five-time Olympic gold medalist, did not qualify for the Tokyo Games. Adrian finished third in the men’s 50m freestyle final during the U.S. Olympic swimming trials.

This will be the first time since 2004 that Adrian is not a member of the U.S. Olympic team. Adrian announced in January of 2019 that he had been diagnosed with testicular cancer, underwent two surgeries, and was able to return to competition in May of that year.


Molly Huddle, track and field

Molly Huddle was supposed to compete in the 10,000m at the U.S. Olympic track and field trials, but withdrew and will not compete at the Tokyo Games.

“I’ve been carrying the hip and ankle injury all year,” Huddle, a two-time Olympian, said. “It’s going in the wrong direction and gotten worse every race.”

Huddle competed in the 5,000m at the 2012 London Olympics and in the 10,000m at the 2016 Rio Olympics, where she set the American record time of 30:13.17.

Chris Paul, basketball

Phoenix Suns’ Chris Paul is just one NBA star to decline an invitation to join Team USA in Tokyo this month. Paul and the Suns have advanced to the 2021 NBA Finals, where they will meet the winner of the Eastern Conference finals in a series that could last until mid-July.

Several other NBA players declined USA Basketball’s invitation to play in Tokyo. LeBron James, Anthony Davis, Steph Curry, Donovan Mitchell and Kyle Lowry will instead use this summer to rehab and rest ahead of the 2021-22 NBA season.

Ryan Lochte, swimming

Ryan Lochte, a 12-time Olympic medalist and the world record holder in the 200m individual medley event, will not make an appearance at his fifth Games this summer.

The 36-year-old swimmer finished in seventh place in the 200m individual medley at the U.S. swimming trials in June, meaning he did not earn a spot on Team USA. Lochte last appeared in the 2016 Rio Olympics, where he took home a gold medal in the 4×200m freestyle relay.

Shelby Houlihan, track and field

Just a week before the U.S. track and field trials, American distance runner Shelby Houlihan was given a four-year ban after a drug test administered by the World Anti-Doping Agency.


Houlihan tested positive for nandrogen -- an androgen and anabolic steroid known to increase muscle mass, which has been banned by the International Olympic Committee since 1974 -- on Dec. 15, 2020. Houlihan claims the positive test was caused by eating a pork burrito from a food truck near her house in Beaverton, Ore., but was unable to prove it in a hearing before the Court of Arbitration for Sport.

The American record holder in both the 1500m and 5000m will now miss the 2020 Tokyo Games and 2024 Paris Olympics.

Laurie Hernandez, gymnastics

Former Olympic champion Laurie Hernandez won’t be a member of the U.S. women’s gymnastics team at the 2020 Tokyo Olympics. After hyperextending her left knee in balance beam warm-ups, Hernandez withdrew from the U.S. Gymnastics Championship in early June and did not compete at the Olympic trials.

Hernandez won a team gold medal in the 2016 Rio Olympics as part of the “Final Five” team, alongside Simone Biles, Gabby Douglas, Madison Kocian and Aly Raisman. Hernandez also took home a silver medal on the balance beam.

Serena Williams, tennis

Ahead of Wimbledon 2021, Serena Williams announced her decision to not compete at the Tokyo Olympics.

A four-time Olympian, Williams has won four gold medals -- three in women’s doubles and one in women’s singles.

Williams’ decision to skip the trip to Japan came ahead of her attempt to collect a 24th Grand Slam singles title. That quest was cut short as Williams was injured during the opening round of Wimbledon, forcing her to withdraw.


Kerri Walsh Jennings, beach volleyball

Three-time Olympic champion Kerri Walsh Jennings will not get a chance to compete in Tokyo. Walsh Jennings and her partner, Brooke Sweat, were eliminated in early June during a qualifying round of the final qualifier in Ostrava, Czech Republic.

Walsh Jennings and Sweat were aiming to finish third or better in Ostrava to have a chance at passing Kelly Claes and Sarah Sponcil for the final U.S. Olympic beach volleyball spot in Tokyo.

After five Games, three gold medals and one bronze medal, 42-year-old Walsh Jennings’ Olympic career may be over.

David Boudia, diving

American diver David Boudia will not get to attend a fourth Olympics. Boudia finished third in springboard during the U.S. Olympic diving trials, falling 5.5 points short of making it to Tokyo.

Boudia has won four Olympic medals, including a gold at the 2012 London Olympics on platform.

After the defeat, Boudia posted on social media saying, “You have two choices in those moments, stay in defeat or move forward. I choose to move forward with joy and contentment!”

Nneka Ogwumike, basketball

Los Angeles Sparks forward Nneka Ogwumike missed the cut for the United States’ women's basketball roster … yet again. 

Ogwumike, a six-time WNBA All-Star and the 2016 league MVP, has never appeared in the Olympics. She has played in 59 international games for Team USA -- including gold medal runs during the 2014 and 2018 FIBA World Cups. But Ogwumike was not named to the roster for the 2016 Rio Olympics despite being named WNBA MVP in the same year.

Head coach Dawn Staley cited Ogwumike's health as a concern when talking about her omission from Team USA’s roster. Ogwumike suffered a knee sprain on June 1, but is expected to be healthy by the time the U.S. takes the court for the first time in Tokyo on July 27.


Ogwumike, along with her sisters, Chiney and Erica, are on Nigeria’s provisional list, so she could still take the court in Tokyo. Adding to the storyline, Nigeria will take on Team USA in an exhibition on July 18 and in the first group stage game at the Olympics on July 27.

Donavan Brazier, track and field

Despite being the American record holder and reigning world champion, Donavan Brazier will not be competing in the 2020 Tokyo Olympics. Brazier finished last in the men’s 800m final during the the U.S. Olympic track and field trials, failing him to qualify for the Tokyo Games.

Brazier finished the race more than four seconds behind winner Clayton Murphy, who took home a bronze medal at the 2016 Rio Olympics.