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Paris Olympic storylines, one year out from the Opening Ceremony

Paris Olympic Rings

PARIS, ILE DE FRANCE, FRANCE - 2017/09/14: The Olympic Rings being placed in front of the Eiffel Tower in celebration of the French capital won the hosting right for the 2024 summer Olympic Games. (Photo by Nicolas Briquet/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images)

LightRocket via Getty Images

A look at the biggest storylines in Olympic sports with one year until the Opening Ceremony in Paris ...

Gymnastics: Simone Biles and Suni Lee are back. Gabby Douglas might be, too. Biles, the 2016 Olympic all-around champion, and Lee, the Tokyo Olympic all-around champion, plan to compete on the elite level for the first time since the Tokyo Games at the U.S. Classic on Aug. 5 (8 p.m. ET, CNBC,, NBC Sports app, Peacock).

Douglas, the 2012 Olympic all-around gold medalist who last competed in 2016, also plans a 2024 Olympic run, but as of last week was not expecting to compete at Classic. That likely means a competition among all three stars won’t happen until 2024.

The five-woman Olympic team will be named after next June’s trials. Others in contention include Tokyo Olympic medalists Jade Carey and Jordan Chiles, plus 2022 World all-around silver medalist Shilese Jones.

Swimming: Katie Ledecky keeps rolling as international stars emerge. Ledecky continued her distance domination by winning the 1500m freestyle at the world championships by 17 seconds on Tuesday, her 20th career world title. It appears she will go into the Paris Games as a clear favorite in the 800m and 1500m frees. Ledecky, already a seven-time Olympic champion and 10-time Olympic medalist, can set all sorts of history in Paris. At the top, she is two golds shy of the female record across all sports and two medals shy of the record for female swimmers. Her most anticipated race may be the 400m free, where she took silver in Tokyo and again at worlds on Sunday, both behind Australian Ariarne Titmus.

While Titmus emerged in the last Olympic cycle, this abbreviated three-year run-up has already produced new world record breakers. Frenchman Leon Marchand, an Arizona State student coached by Michael Phelps’ career-long coach, broke Phelps’ last individual world record on Sunday. Romanian David Popovici broke the 100m free world record last year at age 17. Summer McIntosh, a 16-year-old Canadian, broke two worlds records in March.

American Caeleb Dressel, a five-time Tokyo Olympic champion, took an extended break from swimming last year, did not make this year’s world team on a short build-up and eagerly anticipates getting a full offseason of training in for a Paris run.

Track and Field: Sydney McLaughlin-Levrone and Noah Lyles lead U.S. sprint resurgence. In Tokyo, the U.S. won seven track and field golds, matching its fewest since 1976, and one individual sprint gold, also its fewest since 1976. It’s looking more promising for Paris. At last year’s world championships, held in Oregon, the U.S. won 13 golds, one shy of the record, and 33 total medals, a record. The U.S. also has the reigning world champion in five of the 10 sprints, plus a gold-medal contender for this August’s worlds in the other five.

McLaughlin-Levrone, the lone U.S. sprinter to win individual Tokyo Olympic gold, switched from the 400m hurdles to the flat 400m this year and is already the world No. 1 in her new event. The Olympic schedule is as accommodating as ever for a 400m-400m hurdles double in Paris, but her plans aren’t yet decided. Lyles, the two-time world 200m champion who took bronze in Tokyo, wants to race both the 100m and 200m in Paris.

This pre-Olympic year has already produced legendary performances. Faith Kipyegon, a 29-year-old Kenyan mom, broke world records in the 1500m, mile and 5000m. Ryan Crouser, an American shot putter once courted by the Indianapolis Colts, upped his world record by a monster seven inches. Mondo Duplantis, a Louisiana-raised Swede, broke the pole vault world record for a sixth time.

A legendary Olympic club will likely add members. For years, American track and field stars Carl Lewis and Al Oerter and Danish sailor Paul Elvstrøm made up an exclusive club: athletes to win the same individual Olympic event four times. Phelps and Cuban wrestler Mijaín López joined it the last two Games. López is coming back for a Paris Olympic run at age 40. Ledecky, Polish hammer thrower Anita Włodarczyk and Hungarian fencer Áron Szilágyi can win a fourth consecutive gold in Paris. New Zealand sprint kayaker Lisa Carrington can also win individual gold at a fourth Olympics but not all in the same event as her trademark was taken off the program.

For U.S. team sports, changes, a return and a record chase. The Paris Games will be the first since 2008 to not include Megan Rapinoe, the first since 2004 to not include Carli Lloyd and the first since 2000 to not include Sue Bird. But it will be the first with a U.S. men’s soccer team since 2008. The U.S. men’s basketball team may face its biggest challenge in 20 years in host France, especially if NBA MVP Joel Embiid chooses to play for Les Bleus. The U.S. women, coming off a dominating world title last year, will try to become the first program to win eight consecutive titles in an Olympic team sport.

A different Opening Ceremony, a new sport and a venue 9,800 miles away. What’s new for the Paris Olympics? Start with the Opening Ceremony, the first to be held outside of a stadium. The Parade of Nations will take place on boats on the Seine River, snaking its way toward the Eiffel Tower. Breaking makes its Olympic debut at the Place de la Concorde. Surfing, which debuted in Tokyo, returns, but there are no waves in Paris. Instead, it will be held at Tahiti in French Polynesia, at 9,800 miles the farthest away an Olympic medal competition has been held from the host city.

What about Russia? As it stands, some international sports federations are allowing athletes from Russia to take part in Olympic qualifying as individual neutral athletes. But others are not, and so far none are competing in team events. Whether those athletes who qualify will be allowed to compete at the Games is still to be decided.