In the mire of controversy surrounding Rio de Janeiro and Brazil, the athletes accomplished historic feats. While competition may have been overshadowed in some cases, especially by the infamous Ryan Lochte ordeal, the most important story of these games remains the athletes and their world class performance.
Perhaps the most popular name during these Olympics was Michael Phelps. The most decorated Olympian ever seemed to sincerely enjoy his last Olympic games while bolstering his record breaking career. He laughed and joked, regularly speaking of his son and his eagerness to spend more time with his new family. Yet his competitive edge remained, winning five gold medals and one silver to bolster his record number of gold medals to 23.
In women’s swimming, young phenom Katie Ledecky shocked the world with her absolute dominance. At 19 years of age, she dominated the pool, winning four gold medals and one silver. Her closest competitor in the water was NBC’s yellow world record line that she repeatedly chased down to break her old records, setting three new world records in the process. She is now preparing to swim at Stanford, and already looks poised for a much anticipated Olympic return in 2020.
Stepping away from the pool, the US gymnastics team dominated the competition. Led by star Simone Biles, they seemed to outclass the other gymnasts, easily winning the gold in the team competition. Individually, Biles wowed everyone with her high flying routines, winning four gold medals: the team all-around, vault, floor exercise and the individual all-around. Teammate Aly Raisman, returned to the Olympics after missing out on an individual medal by finishing fourth due to a tiebreaker in 2012. She improved to win silver medals in the individual all-around and floor exercise this year in Rio.
On the track, Usain Bolt again stole the show. Leading up to Rio, he faced an injury scare, with many predicting that even if he were able to compete, he would not be sharp enough to continue his winning ways. With his trademark easygoing antics, he led Jamaica’s track team to six gold medals, three silver and two bronze. Bolt won three gold medals himself, in the 100m, 200m, and the 4x100m relay. His counterpart, Elaine Thompson, became the fastest woman alive, winning the 100m and 200m in Rio.
United States Beach Volleyball athletes Kerry Walsh Jennings and April Ross set out hunting for the gold in these Olympics. Prior to Rio, Walsh Jennings had never lost a set in Olympic competition. That changed, however, as the US team fell in the semifinals to the Brazilian squad of Ágatha Bednarczuk and Bárbara Seixas. However, they rallied, eventually winning a bronze medal over the other Brazilian team, even after losing the first set in that match. In indoor volleyball, the US men’s and women’s teams both won bronze medals.
These incredible athletic performances highlight just a few of the many competitors and incredible stories that the 2016 Rio games produced. We should not forget to celebrate these athletes and all the Olympic competitors for their incredible feats as we move on past the closing of the games.