CNN  — 

This was supposed to be a week of celebration in Tokyo. Japan would be opening its doors to the world and launching the 32nd Olympiad in the capital.

Instead, the postponement of the Games amid the Covid-19 pandemic means the wait goes on before new Olympic heroes emerge, unfamiliar sports captivate and legendary Olympic moments are made.

There is much to look forward to if and when the Games do begin on July 23, 2021, but it makes us long for what we missed this summer even more.

Biles cementing her legend

Four years ago in Rio, American artistic gymnast Simone Biles won four gold medals and a bronze, becoming one of the stars of the Games.

This was the summer when Biles was to cement her status as one of the greatest, if not the greatest, gymnast of all-time – as some have called her already.

Her dominance in the sport is akin to American Olympic sporting greats like Michael Phelps, Allyson Felix and Jenny Thompson.

At the World Artistic Gymnastics Championships in Stuttgart last year, Biles completed a record-breaking clean sweep of gold medals in all five of her gymnastic disciplines for the first time in her career.

She is unbeaten in the all-around since 2013. Her dominance is unparalleled.

Biles had always maintained she would retire after this summer’s Games and, in April, the 23-year-old was not fully committing to taking part in the delayed Games. She is, however, now back in the gym. A Biles-less Olympics would not quite be the same.

Simone Biles Double Tuck Video
Pandemic can't stop Simone Biles' stunning aerial display
00:59 - Source: CNN

Who will be the next Phelps?

Mark Spitz’s tally of seven gold medals at the 1972 Munich Olympics was an achievement few thought would ever be surpassed.

That was until Michael Phelps splashed onto the scene.

Phelps managed six golds medals and two bronze at Athens in 2004. Spitz could rest easy for a little longer. But four years later, in Beijing, Phelps won a magnificent eight gold medals.

Spitz didn’t mind being bested, saying: “It goes to show you that not only is this guy the greatest swimmer of all time and the greatest Olympian of all time, he’s maybe the greatest athlete of all time.”

Michael Phelps waved goodbye for good after Rio 2016, but who will take over as king of the swimming pool?

Over the next two Olympic Games, in London and Rio, Phelps took his Olympic career total to 23 golds, three silvers and two bronze medals.

Phelps is now retired, and while it seems unthinkable that anyone will ever top his Olympic medal tally, who will fill his shoes as the figurehead of swimming?

The signs point to Caeleb Dressel.

At the 2019 World Aquatics Championships, Dressel won six gold medals and two silvers, breaking Phelps’ 10-year world record in the final of the 100-meter butterfly by 0.32 seconds.

Dressel may not race in the same range of events as Phelps, but he could well be Phelps’ successor as American swimming’s next great.

New and returning sports

With every edition of the Olympic Games, new sports are welcomed to the fray.