After the postponement of the 2020 Olympics due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the torch was lit once again this year as the rescheduled Summer Games are currently underway in Tokyo, Japan. The Olympic Games started Friday, July 23, and will run through this upcoming Sunday, Aug. 8.

This marks the 29th Summer Olympic Games, held since 1896, featuring over 11,000 athletes competing in 46 sporting events including archery, basketball, BMX freestyle and racing, boxing, cycling, fencing, gymnastics, judo, rowing, rugby, skateboarding, softball, swimming, tennis, track and field, volleyball, weightlifting and wrestling. Southern California is once again a hotbed for Olympic gold hopefuls and in our area we a have a handful competing in the following sports:

Kayla Canett

Daughter of Heather Canett, Kayla is a first-time Olympian who competed this year for the U.S. women’s rugby sevens team. A 2016 graduate of Fallbrook High School, Kayla has been competing in the sport of Rugby since the age of 14. She plays collegiately at Penn State University where she is majoring in Exercise Science. According to the USA Olympic website Canett loves acai bows and her hobbies include surfing, hiking, making music videos with her friends and playing with her dog. Favorite movies include Southpaw, The Choice, and the Fast and Furious franchise and Thanksgiving is her favorite holiday.

The U.S. women’s sevens team wrapped up Olympic play Saturday, July 31, with a 17-7 loss to Australia in the tournament’s fifth-place game at Tokyo Stadium. The placement was actually one spot lower than in 2016, when the sport was making its Olympic debut and the U.S. had a relatively green program.

Kayla Canett (middle), a first-time Olympian and 2016 graduate from Fallbrook High School, competed this year for the U.S. women’s rugby sevens team. Valley News/WCF Courtesy photo

Michael Norman

Son of Michael and Nobue Norman, he has one sister, Michelle and is a first-time Olympian who competed this year for the U.S. track and field team. Norman graduated from Vista Murrieta High School in 2016 and led his team to the California state title his junior and senior seasons. After graduating he went to attend the University of Southern California and his World Championship experience includes a Top Finish: 22nd – 2019 (400-meter). According to the USA Olympic website Noman’s sports hero is Trayvon Bromell, lists his favorite food as chicken, one day would like to travel to the Caribbean, enjoys playing basketball in his free time, his favorite musical artists are Tory Lanez, Meek Mill, Lil Uzi, and Kanye West and he hopes to run professionally and become a sports broadcaster. His hobbies include cooking and “chilling.”

Along with American teammate, Michael Cherry, Norman cruised into the finals of the 400-meter this past Monday night at a muggy National Olympic Stadium, finishing first and second in their respective semifinals. Norman, a medal contender, finished second in his semifinal in 44.52, behind a season’s-best from Bahamas’ Steven Gardiner (44.14). The 400m finals will take place Thursday Aug. 5 at 5 a.m.

First-time Olympian and former Vista Murrieta standout, Michael Norman, a medal contender, is competing in the 400m track and field finals of the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Summer Games. Valley News/File photo

Sydney Romero

Romero is a 2015 graduate of Vista Murrieta High School, and comes from a very athletically talented family, which includes older sister, Sierra. Both played for Team USA at one time and were the first sister duo to ever play at the same time in the history of USA Softball. In 2015, Sierra played on the National team and Sydney played on the Junior National team. Sydney actually passed up her high school graduation to play for Team USA. The sisters also played one year of high school softball together at Vista Murrieta High School.

For the 2020 Olympics, Sydney played for Mexico, who qualified for its first Olympic softball tournament by stacking its 15-player roster with 15 current or former NCAA players who have Mexican heritage. Romero, who is also a former Oklahoma Sooner, hit her first ever Olympic home run this past Sunday to power the Mexican team to a 5-0 victory over Italy. That win put Team Mexico one win away from playing for their first ever medal. Batting leadoff, Romero was 2-for-3 on the day with the homer, a double and a walk.

With a roster of 14 American players and one born in Mexico, Romero and her teammates finished fourth with a 3-2 loss to Canada in the bronze-medal game. The Tokyo Olympics were Mexico’s first foray into Olympic softball.

Murrieta native, and Team Mexico player, Sydney Romero (2), singles against Japan during the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Summer Games at Fukushima Azuma Stadium. Valley News/Yukihito Taguchi photo

Sarah Robles

Sarah Robles, who is originally from San Jacinto, currently living in Desert Hot Springs, became the first U.S. woman to win multiple weightlifting medals, taking home the bronze earlier this week in the 87+kg class at the Tokyo Olympics.

First place was never in doubt, as China’s Li Wenwen didn’t even bother to attempt lifts at her competitors’ declared weights, waiting until they were done to make her lifts. In the snatch, Li waited until Robles had finished her third successful lift, this one at 128kg, and entered the fray at 130kg. She lifted that, then 135kg, then an Olympic record 140kg.

Robles, the three-time Olympian was in second place after the snatch, where she completed all three of her attempts, the last at 128kg. In the clean and jerk phase, she lifted 150kg and then 154kg. Great Britain’s Emily Jade Campbell lifted 156kg with her second effort in clean and jerk, taking her total to 278kg. Robles, then standing on 282kg, tried to pad her lead with an attempt at 157kg but couldn’t complete it. Campbell set the bar at 161kg and was successful, taking her to 283kg to edge the American for silver.

Sarah Robles, who is originally from San Jacinto, became the first U.S. woman to win multiple weightlifting medals, taking home the bronze earlier this week. Valley News/Team USA courtesy photo

Taylor Edwards

Edwards is the daughter of Brian and Denise Edwards and her sister, Tatum, played with her professionally in the NPF. She was also a graduate of Vista Murrieta High School (2010) and went on to play college softball at Nebraska, where she graduated in 2014. In 2011 she was a USA Softball Collegiate Player of the Year Top 25 Finalist, and her World Championship experience includes: 2018 WBSC World Championship Gold Medalist and 2018 USA Softball International Cup Gold Medalist.

In October 2019 Edwards found out she made the Tokyo 2020 Olympic team as a replacement player. The final roster was 15 players and USA carried 3 extra making the team 18. Her role was to train with the team and fill in for any teammates if they got injured before the games.

In a recent social media post Edwards said, “In reality, I never trained that way. I trained thinking I was one of 18 women competing for my country to win the gold medal.”
In mid-July Edwards and the two other replacement players, Keilani and Hannah, found out that they would not be allowed at the games anymore to cheer USA on from the stands.

“My stomach dropped,” she said. “I didn’t want to believe that it was real, and I wasn’t allowed to watch in person. I couldn’t finish my job as a replacement player and cheer my heart and soul out for my sisters.”

The three players flew back to the United States shortly thereafter, but their hearts were with those 15 women.

“We all committed to 18 strong from the beginning,” Edwards added. “I don’t think I could ever express to them how much it meant to me. The program never made me feel like an outcast or like I wasn’t a part of the team. I love each one of them more than they will ever know, and my heart is exploding for them.”

Thirteen years after the Japanese women’s softball national team achieved their biggest victory when they took down Team USA in the gold medal game at the 2008 Olympics, they returned to the 2020 Tokyo Olympics and won the gold medal again. Japan defeated USA Softball in the gold medal game last week, 2-0. The Americans entered the game with a perfect 5-0 record in group play, and Monday handed Japan its only loss, 2-1, on Kelsey Stewart’s seventh inning, walk-off home run. The Tokyo 2020 softball tournament concluded with Team USA walking away with the silver medal and Canada getting the bronze medal (the country’s first in softball) after defeating Mexico, 3-2.

Taylor Edwards, a 2010 graduate from Vista Murrieta High School, made the Tokyo 2020 Olympic USA softball team as a replacement player. Valley News/Team USA courtesy photo

Fans can watch the Olympics on NBC during prime-time coverage nightly, starting at 8 p.m. EDT and can also watch the games on the streaming service Peacock, website, and NBC Sports for live coverage, event replays and curated highlights.

JP Raineri can be reached by email at