Tokyo Olympics: Biggest players to miss Tokyo Games; Federer, Serena, Mbappe lead list

Tokyo 2020 Olympics: The Summer Games will witness a diminished set of global stars as several celebrated names will be absent at the marquee event due to various concerns.

Tokyo 2020 is set to witness a diminished set of global stars as several celebrated names will be absent due to various concerns.

The Tokyo Olympics is gearing up for its start, a year behind original schedule after the COVID-19 pandemic posed numerous challenges to the host country and sportspersons across the globe.

The Games, however, is set to witness a diminished set of global stars as several celebrated names will be absent due to various concerns.


  • Rafael Nadal (Spain, tennis): The 20-time Grand Slam champion decided to skip Wimbledon and the Tokyo Games after his French Open semifinal defeat. Nadal, who won the Olympics gold medal twice (singles in 2008, doubles in 2016), said successive high-profile tournaments - the Wimbledon and the Olympic following right behind Roland Garros - forced the 34-year-old to “listen to his body” in a bid to “prolong his career.”
  • Serena Williams (USA, tennis): Serena is the joint-most successful Olympic gold medal-winning (four) tennis player, but that meant little to the 39-year-old who opted out of the Games ahead of the 2021 Wimbledon tournament. "There's a lot of reasons that made my Olympic decision. In the past it's (Olympics) been a wonderful place for me, but I really haven't thought about it, so I'm going to keep not thinking about it,” said Serena.
  • Dustin Johnson (USA, golf): The world no.1 golfer decided to skip one of four USA spots for the Olympics after going through a long haul of tournaments. Johnson said: “It's right in the middle of a big stretch of golf for me. A lot of travelling at a time where it's important for me to feel like I'm focused on playing the PGA Tour."

Kylian Mbappe missed out on his maiden Olympics Games appearance after his club, PSG, refused to release their star player for the France squad.   -  GETTY IMAGES


  • Neymar Jr, Kylian Mbappe and Mohamed Salah (Brazil, France, Egypt; football): Superstars Neymar, Mbappe and Salah were withdrawn from their respective national squads. This was after Neymar and Mbappe’s club PSG and Salah’s Liverpool refused to release their star players for the Games despite the three expressing interest in leading their national sides.
  • Nick Kyrgios (Australia, tennis): The Australian powerhouse Kyrgios decided to skip the Games after the Olympics organisers announced a fan-free tournament with Tokyo heading into emergency. "The thought of playing in front of empty stands just doesn't sit right with me." Kyrgios further added that he would take the extra time to recover from an injury that curtailed his Wimbledon campaign in the first week of July.
  • Bianca Andreescu (Canada, tennis): The world no. 5 Canadian star decided to skip the Games, citing COVID-19 concerns. The 21-year-old who lost in the Wimbledon first round recently said: "I have been dreaming of representing Canada at the Olympics. But with all the challenges we are facing as it relates to the pandemic, this is the right decision to make for myself."
  • Johanna Konta (Britain, tennis): Britain's Konta was forced to withdraw from the Wimbledon in June after a close contact tested positive for COVID-19. Konta announced on July 13 that she has tested positive for the virus as well, forcing her out of the Games.
  • Victoria Azarenka (Belarus, tennis): The 2012 Olympic gold medallist decided to skip the Tokyo Games on July 15 citing pandemic-induced challenges.
  • Angelique Kerber (Germany, tennis):  Three-time Grand Slam winner and silver medallist at the Rio Games in 2016, Kerber pulled out of the Tokyo Games on July 15, with an intention to prepare for the year up ahead after a gruelling season. " body needs rest after the intense few weeks that lie behind me and that I have to recover first before returning to competition later this summer," said Kerber.
  • Alex de Minaur (Australia, tennis): The Australian world no.15 tested positive for COVID-19 in Spain, ahead of his flight to Tokyo, putting an end to the 22-year-old's Tokyo dream in jeopardy.
  • Liz Cambage (Australia, basketball): The 29-year-old pulled out of the Olympics citing mental health issues and lack of family, friends and fans in Tokyo.
  • Coco Gauff (USA, tennis): Gauff, who could have become the youngest Olympic tennis player since 2000, fell short of her dream after testing positive for COVID-19.

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  • Roger Federer (Switzerland, tennis): Swiss maestro Roger Federer announced his decision to skip the Tokyo Olympics, days after being inducted into the Swiss squad. Federer who suffered a shock defeat in the Wimbledon quarterfinal said: "During the grass season, I unfortunately experienced a setback with my knee, and have accepted that I must withdraw from the Tokyo Olympic Games." 

  • Dominic Thiem (Austria, tennis): After a poor start to his 2021 season, the world no.5 decided to skip Wimbledon and the Tokyo Games with an aim to defend his US Open title later this year. The decision also coincided with a wrist injury.
  • Matteo Berrettini (Italy, tennis): The 2021 Wimbledon finalist was forced to pull out of the Tokyo Olympics with a muscle strain.
  • Stan Wawrinka (Switzerland, tennis): 2008 doubles Olympics gold medal winner Wawrinka pulled out of the Tokyo Olympics after failing to recuperate in time from a foot surgery that marred his 2021 season.
  • Simona Halep (Romania, tennis): A calf injury during the Italian Open in May has forced the world no.3 to give up on her Wimbledon title defence and a second Olympics participation after 2012.
  • Christian Taylor (USA, triple-jump): Taylor, the two-time Olympic defending champion triple-jumper will not compete at the Games after suffering a ruptured Achilles at the Ostrava Golden Spike in May.


  • Carolina Marin (Spain, badminton): The defending Olympic champion shuttler Marin will not feature this time due to a torn ACL (anterior cruciate ligament) and meniscus on her knee she suffered in early June.
  • Thomas Rohler (Germany, javelin): Defending Olympic javelin champion Rohler failed to make the cut this time after a nagging back injury spoiled his 2021 season.
  • David Rudisha (Kenya, 800m): The 800m world record holder Rudisha will not return to defend his title at the Olympics, having struck gold both in 2012 and 2016. The Kenyan star sprinter has not featured in a competitive race since 2017 with multiple injuries, an accident and personal issues deterring a return to the track.
  • Hima Das (India, athletics): One of the most exciting talents in Indian athletics, Das sustained a hamstring injury while running 100m heats during the National Inter-State Athletics Championships in June.
  • Soslan Ramonov (Russia, wrestling): The 30-year-old Romanov will not return to the Games to retain his freestyle 65-kg category wrestling gold as he continues to recover from a knee surgery. 
  • Michelle Carter (USA, shot put): The 2016 Olympics shot put champion will not feature in Tokyo as she continues her recovery from a tumour that affected her ankle.
  • Derek Drourin (Canada, high jump): The 2016 Rio Olympics and world high-jump champion Drourin will not defend his title in Tokyo later this month. Drourin revealed in June that he is yet to recover from constant injuries involving fatal spinal conditions and multiple Achilles tendon tears.


  • Monica Puig (Puerto Rico, tennis): Puig, the first Puerto Rican Olympic gold medallist will not make a bid to retain her title after undergoing shoulder surgery in June.
  • David Goffin (Belgium, tennis): The Belgian number one and world no.20 Goffin confirmed on July 13 that he will not feature in the Games after failing to recover from an ankle injury. Goffin was injured at the Halle Open in Germany June and also missed out on Wimbledon.

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  • Saina Nehwal and Kidambi Srikanth (India, badminton): India’s badminton stars Saina and Srikanth lost their Olympics spots after COVID-19 swept away multiple qualification tournaments through the year. With Saina - the first Indian to win an Olympic medal in badminton (bronze in 2012) - ranked 22nd and Srikanth 20th - the duo fell short of the qualification mark that selects the top 16 ranked players.
  • Justin Gatlin (USA, 100m): The 39-year-old Gatlin, the 2004 Olympics 100m gold champion, failed to make the cut for a fourth appearance after finishing last in the US trials in June.
  • Dipa Karmakar (India, gymnastics): The first Indian Commonwealth medal-winning gymnast and the first to qualify for the Olympics, Karmakar’s bid to a second Games was, however, hit by constant injuries. The 27-year-old failed to compete consistently through the FIG World Cup Series events which were crucial to her chances of qualification during a pandemic-stricken season.
  • Mo Farah (Great Britain, 5000m and 10,000m): The four-time Olympic champion will not return to defend his 5000 and 10,000m crowns after failing to clock the required qualification time in the event.
  • Simone Manuel (USA, swimming): The defending women’s 100m freestyle champion suffered a shock exit from the Games as she fell short of qualification in the US swimming trials in June.
  • Caster Semenya (South Africa, 800m): The double Olympic gold winner in 800m could not qualify for the Games after being barred from the event by World Athletics due to high testosterone levels. Semenya’s last-ditch effort to Tokyo through the 5000m event (unaffected by hormone regulations) also went in vain as she fell short of the qualification mark.
  • Jeff Henderson (USA, high jump): USA’s first Olympic high jump gold medallist since 2004, Henderson’s bid to retain the gold from 2016 was dealt a blow as he finished sixth in the USA Track & Field Team Trials and fell short of the qualification mark by seven inches.

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  • Christian Coleman (USA, athletics): Reigning 100m world champion Coleman missed out on the Games after suffering a suspension from the Athletics Integrity Unit in June 2020 for two years. Despite the ban being slashed to 18 months, Coleman will only be allowed for a return post the Tokyo Games.
  • Sun Yang (China, swimming): Defending 200m freestyle Olympic champion Sun will not make an appearance at the Games after receiving a four year and three-month ban after failing to comply with anti-doping rules.
  • Dilshod Nazarov (Tajikistan, hammer throw): Tajikistan’s first-ever Olympic gold medallist Nazarov will not return to defend his hammer-throw crown at the Games after being banned for two years in March due to doping charges.

Brownlee, the only athlete to win the Olympics triathlon gold twice (2012, 2016) will not feature in Tokyo after being disqualified for pushing a fellow competitor during a qualifying event for the Games.   -  GETTY IMAGES


  • Alistair Brownlee (Great Britain, triathlon): Brownlee, the only athlete to win the Olympics triathlon gold twice (2012, 2016), will not feature in Tokyo. The 33-year-old was disqualified after pushing a fellow competitor during the swimming event at the Triathlon World Championship Series in England in June.
  • Brianna McNeal (USA, hurdles): McNeal, the reigning 100m hurdles Olympic champion will miss the Tokyo Games after a five-year ban was imposed on her by the Athletics Integrity Unit in April for violation of anti-doping rules.
  • Salwa Eid Naser (Bahrain, 400m): The 23-year-old Salwa, the current 400m world champion, was banned for two years in late June after missing multiple anti-doping tests.
  • Oleg Verniaiev (Uzbekistan, gymnastics): Defending Olympic champion who won gold (parallel bars) and silver (all-around) in Rio, announced on July 13 that he was banned after a failed drug test. In an Instagram post, the gymnast said the GEF “decided that the concentration of meldonium found in my body is sufficient to ban me for four years.” However, the Uzbek star said he will appeal the CAS ruling to prove his innocence.
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