Cover Lin Ye of Singapore in action at the women's singles match compete with Sato Hitomi of Japan. (Photo: 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.

Related: Meet 23 Singapore Athletes Who are Competing at the Tokyo Olympics 2020

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. 

Related: Tokyo Olympics to be Held Without Spectators Amid New Covid Emergency

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Tan Sze En

Tan Sze En is arguably one of Singapore's most accomplished and decorated gymnasts. She participated in the 2018 Asian Games and then moved to the United States at the Legacy Elite Gymnastics to train. 

Following her participation in the 2019 World Gymnastics Championships in Stuttgart in Germany, the International Gymnastics Federation (FIG) released the list of Artistic Gymnastics 2020 Olympic Qualifiers and Tan Sze En found herself on the prestigious list. 

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Shanti Pereira

Veronica Shanti Pereira will be Singapore's only representative at the track and field event during the Tokyo Olympics after she qualified for the prestigious sporting event early this month. 

Pereira currently holds national records in the women's 100m and 200m and will compete in the women's 200m in Tokyo.

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Caroline Chew

It was a last-minute withdrawal by New Zealand that allowed for Caroline Chew to slip into the line-up of athletes that will be competing for Singapore at the Olympics. 

In fact, Chew has just become the first Singaporean to compete in equestrian at the Olympics after she and her house, Tribiani, registered a personal best of 69.674. Her score surpassed the minimum requirement of 66 needed to qualify for the Olympics and scored her a place in the games. 

Chew has, in the past, won silver in the dressage individual and team events at the 2015 SEA Games. She also won the bronze individual and team medals in the 2017 edition of the games.

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Adele Tan

It was a brutal selection process that took over a year and a half but finally, the Singapore Shooting Association nominated Adele Tan as its women's 10m air rifle representative for the Olympics this year. 

Tan was put through a selection process that comprised of four dedicated meets, the H&N Cup 2020 Munich and three internal shoots.

After winning gold at the H&N Cup and setting a new national record of 632.5 points while she was at it, Tan was a clear frontrunner to represent the nation at the Olympics.

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Quah Ting Wen

Quah Ting Wen, who is the elder sister of Quah Zheng Wen, is living proof that talent really does run in the family. This year, she qualified for the upcoming Tokyo Olympics by being the "highest-ranked athlete based upon the FINA Points Table", according to the Singapore Swimming Association (SSA).

This will be the third time that Quah will be competing in the Olympics after participating in the 2008 Beijing Olympics, the 2016 Rio one and now the Tokyo games.

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Amita Berthier

Amita Berthier was the first Singaporean to win a National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) fencing title earlier this year.

She then proceeded to beat Yana Alborova in the women's foil final at the Asia-Oceania Olympic Qualification Tournament in Tashkent, Uzbekistan which qualified her to play at the upcoming Tokyo Olympics. 

Amita was Singapore's first female fencer to compete at the Olympics until she was joined by Kiria Tikanah. Together, the two young women are set to make history.

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Kiria Tikanah Abdul Rahman

Kiria Tikanah Abdul Rahman may only be 20 years old but she has already taken the fencing world by storm.

Early this year, Kiria participated in the Asia-Oceania Olympic Qualification Tournament in Tashkent, Uzbekistan and managed to beat her opponents to qualify for the Tokyo games alongside her teammate, Amita Berthier.

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Joan Poh

Joan Poh is certainly a force to behold. Not only is she a nurse and front-line worker but she also managed to qualify for the Olympics this year after working incredibly hard.

In 2018, Poh competed in the 2018 Asian Games in Palembang, Indonesia. She finished ninth in the women's 2,000m single sculls and decided to set her sights on the Olympics next. 

To do this, she went on unpaid leave from the start of 2019 in order to train in Hong Kong, China, Greece, Canada and Australia.

Poh returned to her work in the hospital when she realised that the Olympics would be postponed. In May this year though, Poh managed to earn a spot on Team Singapore for the rowing women's single sculls event in Tokyo where she intends to achieve her Olympic dreams.

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Chantal Liew

In June this year, Chantal Liew, an open water swimmer, secured her place for the Tokyo Olympics after finishing 29th in the 10km race at the FINA Olympic Marathon Swim Qualifier in Setubal, Portugal. She clocked a time of 2:12:19.5 and qualified by being the best Asian finisher.

Liew was also the first Singaporean woman to win an open water swimming medal at the SEA Games after she managed to score a silver medal. 

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Freida Lim

Freida Lim is the first female Singaporean diver and the second diver in Singapore’s history to qualify for the games.

The diver placed 15th in the women’s 10m platform semi-final at the Fina Diving World Cup earlier this year but it was not confirmed if she was going to the Olympics or not. However, in June, Lim received the happy news that she will be joining Johnathan Tan in the games where her training will hopefully pay off. 

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Kimberly Lim and Cecilia Low

Kimberly Lim and Cecilia Low, award-winning sailors, will be representing the country in the women's 49erFX sailing event at the Tokyo Olympics this year.

The pair, who were also Asian Games champions together, earned their spot after a spectacular performance at the Hyundai 49er, 49erFX and Nacra 17 World Championships in Auckland back in 2019. 

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Amanda Ng

Amanda Ng earned her spot at the Tokyo Olympics during the Mussanah Open Championship which took place earlier this year. 

The 2018 Asian Games bronze medalist and sailor won seven out of 12 races to come out tops in her medal race. 

This will be Ng's second Olympics after she participated in the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro.

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Feng Tianwei

Feng Tianwei first made headlines during the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games. The table tennis star won a silver medal which was Singapore’s second-ever Olympic medal.

She then went on to the next games where she won a bronze medal of her own. She became the second Singaporean to win an individual Olympic medal.

She ended up bowing out of the quarter-finals at the 2016 Rio Olympics but is back this year to fight for her title at the Tokyo Olympics. 

Related: Tokyo Olympics 2021: Inside the Olympic Games Athletes’ Village

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Yu Mengyu

At 31, the Tokyo Olympics looks set to be Yu Mengyu's last one. However, she is determined to go out with a bang. 

After finishing fourth with the women's team and making the women's singles quarter-finals at the last Olympics, Yu is determined to improve her standings despite the recent flare-up of her chronic back injury.

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Yeo Jia Min

Yeo Jia Min will be making her Olympic debut this year after placing 17th in the Race to Tokyo women's ranking.

Her position was confirmed by the Badminton World Federation earlier this month and she will be leaving with Loh Kean Yew to Tokyo this month.

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Lin Ye

This year, Lin Ye will be making her Olympic debut and will be representing Singapore in the women's team event.

Lin will be leaving with her local teammates soon for acclimatisation training until July 17. She is one to watch and looks set to prove her talent in the upcoming games. 

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Margie Didal

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. 

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Yuka Saso

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.

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Hidilyn Diaz

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.

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Latisha Chan

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.

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Pandelela Rinong

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.

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Farah Ann Abdul Hadi

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.

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Stephanie Au

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. 

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Vivian Kong

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.

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Naomi Osaka

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. 

Related: Naomi Osaka Withdraws From French Open Citing Mental Health Reasons

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Rikako Ikee

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. 

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Yukiko Ueno

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.

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Hend Zaza

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.

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Shi Tingmao

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.

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Kang Chae-young

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.

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Park In-bee

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.

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