Great Britain, Boxing
When they're on TV: August 16 at 10 a.m. EST
When Nicola Adams enters the ring in Rio, she'll not only be competing for a medal in women's boxing, but will be doing so as the first, and only defending Olympic champion in the sport since it was introduced at London's 2012 games. A superstar in her native U.K., Adams "took up boxing by accident," walking into a Leeds boxing gym at age 12, and forging her own path in a sport without a clear trajectory for female competitors. Now 33, Adams is a world champion, and sees herself as a role model for young women, telling Newsweek "If I decide to go professional [after competing in Rio], I hope that I can be a role model for other young females in the U.K. to get involved and prove even more that it is possible for women to champion the sport. I am incredibly excited to see the growth of the sport and the role that women play in the development."
Adams, who is bisexual, is also an icon in the LGBT community. In 2012 she topped The Independent's "Pink list" of the United Kingdom's the most influential lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people. She has also worked with the StreetGames organization, which helps provide athletic and volunteer opportunities to disadvantaged children across the UK.
In 2015, Adams received an honorary doctorate in law from the University of Leeds.
Ethiopia, Track and Field
When they're on TV: August 16 at 9:30 p.m. EST
If there's such thing as Olympic royalty, Ethiopia's Genzebe Dibaba is it. Her sisters Ejegayehu and Tirunesh are both Olympic medalists, and her cousin Derartu Tulu, is a double Olympic champion in the 10,000 meter race. In 2014, Genzebe rocketed to international athletic superstardom after smashing three world records (1500 meter indoor, 3000 meter, and two mile indoor events) in just 15 days, putting her in the rarified company of Jesse Owens and Usain Bolt—the only other track stars to have accomplished the same feat.
In 2015, Genzebe was named "Sportswoman of the year" by the Laureus World Sports Academy, alongside Tennis star Novak Djokovic.
Speaking with NBCSports, Genzebe explained that she would "love for those young athletes [in Ethiopia] to follow in [her] footsteps. And learn that if they never give up they can accomplish their dreams.