Cover Meet the female Asian athletes looking to make waves at the Tokyo 2020 Olympics (Photo: Alexander Hassenstein/Getty Images)

Meet the inspiring female athletes at the forefront of swimming, gymnastics, skateboarding and more events at the Tokyo 2020 Olympics

The Tokyo 2020 Olympics will be quite different from all the other games in the past—there will no spectators and it will take place while the host city Tokyo is under a state of emergency due to the pandemic. After delay and drawn-out discussions, the Olympics will kick off July 23 and organisers hope that it will be a "light at the end of the tunnel." 

Ahead of the Olympics, we're spotlighting female athletes who are at the top of their game and inspiring the next generation. From the first Filipino to win a major golf tournament to the first Malaysian woman to win an Olympic medal, here are 15 contenders we'll be cheering for in Tokyo and beyond. 

See also: Tokyo Olympics 2021: How To Watch The Games In Hong Kong, The Schedule And Streaming Details

1. Margie Didal

Region: Philippines

Sport: Skateboarding

Margielyn "Margie" Didal is the first Filipino athlete to qualify for the Olympics in skateboarding, a sport making its debut at the Tokyo 2020 Olympics. She rose to prominence after the X Games Minneapolis in 2018, where she was the first competitor to represent the Philippines. She was also the first Filipino skateboarder to compete in the Street League Skateboarding event. But her biggest achievement so far is winning the gold medal at the 2018 Asian Games where she nabbed the most points in the whole women's street park event.

Didal was the only girl among a crew of skateboarders in Cebu where she grew up and her parents were initially skeptical. To encourage other young women to take up skateboarding, she had her a custom skate park built in her hometown. It has since become the training venue for the national skateboarding team. 

See also: Hong Kong's Roller Derby Community Is Inclusive, Positive—And Not Afraid Of Taking On Challenges

2. Yuka Saso

Region: Philippines

Sport: Golf

Yuka Saso is revolutionising golf in the Philippines. The Filipino golfer clinched the first-ever gold medal for the country in both women's individual and team events in the 2018 Asian Games.

She also made headlines for winning the 76th US Women's Open, making her the first Filipino player to ever win a major golf tournament. At 19 years old, Sasao ties with Park In-bee as the youngest golfer to win the tournament.

See also: Hong Kong Professional Golfer Tiffany Chan Dares To Dream Big

3. Hidilyn Diaz

Region: Philippines

Sport: Weightlifting

Hidilyn Diaz ended the Philippines' Olympic medal drought when she took home the silver medal at the Rio Olympics in 2016—the first Olympic medal for the country in 20 years and the first Olympic medal won by a Filipino woman.

Diaz is no stranger to competing: she's a veteran medal winner in both the Asian and Southeast Asian Games as well as the Asian and World Competitions. Diaz is trying her hand at another medal at the Tokyo 2020 Olympics, which will be her fourth Olympics event.

See also: Girls Who Lift: 3 Myths Debunked By Personal Trainers

4. Latisha Chan

Region: Taiwan

Sport: Tennis

Taiwanese tennis player Latisha Chan is known for her success in doubles competitions, having won a total of 33 including one in the 2017 US Open for women's doubles, three mixed-couples in the 2018 and 2019 French Open and 2019 Wimbledon Championships.

She became the second Taiwanese world number one doubles player in 2017 when she reached a career-high ranking of 50th place. At this year's Tokyo Games, she is teaming up with her sister Angel Chan for women's doubles in tennis.

See also: What To Wear While Watching Wimbledon From Hong Kong

5. Pandelela Rinong

Region: Malaysia

Sport: Diving

This multilingual, two-time Olympic medalist is one to watch. She made history in the London 2012 Games when she took home a bronze medal in the 10-metre diving platform, making her the first Malaysian woman to ever win an Olympic medal and the first woman in any sport other than badminton to win.

But she didn't stop there. At the Rio Olympics, she got a silver medal in the synchronised 10-metre platform with Cheong Jun Hoong.

See also: The Best Snorkelling And Diving Spots In Hong Kong

6. Farah Ann Abdul Hadi

Region: Malaysia

Sport: Gymnastics

In her 20-year career as a gymnast, Farah Ann Abdul Hadi has racked up a stunning collection of medals at the Southeast Asian Games: seven gold, two silver and three bronze. While she was going to compete at the Rio Olympics, she had to miss the games due to a foot injury.

She will be making her Olympic debut at Tokyo 2020 Games, being only the third Malaysian gymnast to qualify—and the first in 14 years.

See also: Tokyo Olympics: Films From 1964 Summer Games In Japan Shown In Hong Kong

7. Stephanie Au

Region: Hong Kong

Sport: Swimming

Stephanie Au has represented Hong Kong at the last three Olympics. The swimmer also holds multiple Hong Kong long course records including 400, 800 and 1500 metres freestyle as well as the 4x100 medley relay.

But her records don't stop there. She holds short course records in the 400, 800 and 1500 metres freestyle, 4x100 medley relay and 4x100 freestyle relay. With a 16-year career, Au is considered Hong Kong's most successful female swimmer. While she considered retiring after the Rio Games, Au will continue pursuing Olympic dreams in Tokyo. 

See also: Open-Water Swimmer Edie Hu Shares Her Beauty Routine

8. Vivian Kong

Region: Hong Kong

Sport: Fencing

Vivian Kong is Hong Kong's leading female fencer, competing in the épée category—the largest of the three weapons used in fencing. Kong made history as the first Hong Kong fencer to win a World Cup title at the FIE Women's Épée World Cup.

She made her Olympic debut in Rio 2016 and will be vying for an Olympic medal for the second time at the Tokyo 2020 Games.

See also: First Look: Inside The Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games Athletes' Village

9. Naomi Osaka

Region: Japan

Sport: Tennis

Naomi Osaka is the first Asian tennis player, male or female, to reach the top ranking in singles. The four-time Grand Slam singles champion is also the reigning champion of the US and Australian Open and the first Japanese-born player to win a grand slam. Currently the number-two women's player, Osaka has become one of the world's most recognisable athletes. 

Beyond her impressive tennis career, Osaka has opened up the conversation about being biracial in homogenous Japan and advocated for mental health awareness. 

See also: Naomi Osaka Withdraws From French Open With An Empowering Statement About Mental Health

10. Rikako Ikee

Region: Japan

Sport: Swimming

Japanese swimmer Rikako Ikee is the national record holder in the 50-metre freestyle and 100-metre butterfly. At 21 years old, she also holds the junior world record in the 50-metre freestyle and 50-metre butterfly long courses in addition to the 50- and 100-metre butterfly and 100-metre individual medley in the short course.

When she competed at the 2018 Asian Games, she won six gold and two silver medals and was the first female athlete to win the Most Valuable Player award at the games. She is also the first Japanese to win five titles in the national championship. The swimmer overcame leukaemia in 2019 and is now ready to compete on her home turf at the Olympic Games. 

See also: Joseph Schooling On The Tokyo Olympics And Life After Swimming

11. Yukiko Ueno

Region: Japan

Sport: Softball

The female equivalent of baseball, softball is making a return for the Tokyo Olympics after it was dropped from the 2012 and 2016 Games. No stranger to the Olympic scene herself, veteran softball pitcher Yukiko Ueno is coming back for a chance at another win.

The national team player, who has a bronze and gold model from the 2004 and 2008 Summer Olympics, is the first pitcher to ever produce a perfect game at the Olympics. She's also widely recognised as the fastest pitcher in softball, owning an impressive record of 128 km/h or 80 mph.

See also: Tokyo Olympics 2021: Japan Bans Spectators Under Covid-19 Emergency

12. Hend Zaza

Region: Syria

Sport: Table Tennis

At just 12 years old, Hend Zaza from Syria is set to be the youngest athlete to compete in the Tokyo Olympics and one of the youngest to ever quality in the history of the Games. The table tennis prodigy is the youngest Olympian in 52 years since 11-year-old Beatrice Hustiu competed in the 1986 Olympics for figure skating.

She's also the first Syrian to compete in table tennis via qualifications instead of an invitation. She was ranked 155 in the world when she won the women's singles title at the Western Asia Olympic Qualification Tournament in Jordan which earned her a spot at the Games.

See also: Laurel Hubbard To Become The First Transgender Athlete To Compete At Olympics

13. Shi Tingmao

Region: China

Sport: Diving

When Shi Tingmao won a gold medal at the 2011 World Aquatics Championships, she became the first Chinese diver from a provincial team (Chongqing diving team) to participate in the World Championships. Other awards under her belt include two gold medals at the Rio Olympic games.

From 2015 to 2019, she was named Best Female Diver of the Year by FINA, the international federation for administering international competitions in water sports.

See also: The Woman And The Sea: Female Free Divers Take Conservation To New Depths

14. Kang Chae-young

Country: South Korea

Sport: Archery

Tokyo Olympics will see the newly created mixed team event in archery which seems effortless for South Korea—having won every gold medal in women's team archery since the Seoul Olympics in 1988.

Kang Chae-young, currently the number one player, wants to continue the winning streak. Kang boasts 13 gold medals, three silver medals and two bronze medals. In 2020, she was given the World Archery Athlete of the Year award in the recurve women's category.

15. Park In-bee

Region: South Korea

Sport: Golf

South Korean golfer Park In-bee has ranked number one in the Women's World Golf Rankings in four separate runs and has won seven major championships through her career, including three consecutive major wins in the 2013 season.

Park is the youngest player to win the US Women's Open and the second player to win the Women's PGA Championship three years in a row. If that's not enough, she won the first Olympic gold medal in 1900 in the women's individual tournament.

See also: How Lily Muni He Became One Of The World's Top Female Golfers By Age 20

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