By Chris Smith
Mike Trout and Robert Griffin III had monster breakout seasons last year, and they may very well be the future perennial all stars of their respective sports. But those names are already known to the average sports fan, just as the ordinary morning jogger knows all about barefoot running shoes and golf’s weekend warriors are experts on graphite club shafts.
We aren’t interested in that old news.
Rather, we wanted to know about the next big names, the ones poised to burst onto the scene in the coming months and years. We asked you, the readers, to point us in the right direction, and you didn’t disappoint. We picked the best of the bunch and have compiled our list of the athletes, companies, technologies, mobile apps and other sports names that you need to know in 2013:
Among the 20 names are the rising athletes who will soon attract both fans and major corporate sponsorships.
Baseball fans ought to be on the lookout for Reds prospect Billy Hamilton, the 22-year-old speedster who last year broke Vince Coleman’s single-season steals record with 155 swipes. Another American prospect to watch is Seth Jones, a hockey defenseman currently playing for the WHL’s Portland Winterhawks and widely expected to be the first overall selection in June’s NHL draft. If he goes first, Jones would be the seventh American and first black player to ever achieve the feat.
Soccer’s next global star is, perhaps unsurprisingly, a young Brazilian with a wild haircut and who goes by a single name: Neymar. He is already known to serious fans of the sport, but he will soon turn heads around the world when he cashes in with a major European contract. A fellow international superstar in the making is Bernard Tomic, an up-and-coming Australian tennis player who has shown incredible talent on the court and an attitude off it that should keep him in the headlines.
And even niche sports are home to athletes on the verge of breaking into mainstream popularity. Freeskier Gus Kenworthy is one of America’s best bets in the ski halfpipe and slopestyle competitions at 2014′s Sochi Olympics, and MMA fighter Chris Weidman, 9-0 in his combat sports career, takes on Anderson Silva at this summer’s UFC 162 and could instantly become a household name with a victory.
Perhaps more exciting than the budding superstars are the innovative technologies that could revolutionize how sports are played, at both professional and recreational levels.
At the top of that list is Hawk-Eye, the ball tracking system already used in tennis and cricket that may soon stake its place in World Cup soccer. FIFA plans to implement goal line technology at next year’s tournament to prevent the sort of embarrassment that accompanied the goal robbed from England in 2010. Hawk-Eye, owned by World Cup sponsor Sony, is among the approved frontrunners for the commission.
Casual runners will soon be well acquainted with Adidas‘ Energy Boost technology, which the company claims will revolutionize the sport, and recreational skiers can now carve fog-free thanks to Smith Optics’ latest inner lens tech. And if you prefer watching sports to playing them, you’ll still love to learn about Sony’s Football Mode, which offers viewers the chance to mute broadcasters while retaining the game’s ambient sounds.