As the top athletes from all over the world fight to compete to be the best of the best, the Olympics illustrate the true test of strength and determination. With the 2016 Summer Games being held in Rio, all eyes looked to Brazil to watch as the greatest moments in athletic history were destined to occur.
With dominant competitors such as Michael Phelps, Usain Bolt, and Rafael Nadal aiming for gold medals, the world was offered a front row view from the comfort of their homes as the Games were broadcasted with prominent networks. Fans watched live as their athletes fought to hear their national anthem play as precious gold medals were placed around their necks. As the Games began, countries watched as athletes either achieved greatness or fell short on medaling. With an array of sports to be played in Rio, the 2016 Games were witness to some of the Olympics’ most powerful and inspiring performances yet.
Whether good, bad, or controversial, the social media world was a catalyst in creating discussion and drawing attention to multiple stories from the Games. In case you missed them, here are 15 of the most fascinating stories from the 2016 Rio Olympic Games.
15. A First Time For Everything
Female athletes from all over the world flocked to Rio to showcase their athletic abilities and prove that women are powerful beings. The 2016 Rio Games saw an array of successful stories from the pool to the track. During the competition, Olympians made history as their accomplishments became record breaking performances. In the pool, American, Simone Manuel, won the women’s 100-meter freestyle race documenting her as the first African-American woman to win an individual Olympic swimming event. Michelle Carter was able to make similar history as she became the first American woman to win gold in shot put. Back on the track, American runner, Jenny Simpson, was able to win the country’s first Olympic medal ever in the women’s 1500-meter race. Simpson’s bronze medal victory was a monumental achievement that finally put an end to the shut out. On the mat, Judoka Majlinda Kelmendi won Kosovo’s first Olympic medal for the country with her gold medal win against Italy’s Odette Giuffrida. The victories illustrated by the women Olympians with their awe-inspiring performances will continue to be everlasting highlights of the Rio Games.
14. Age Won’t Hold Her Back
Despite American gymnast Simone Biles stealing the spotlight in the gym at the 2016 Rio Games, there was another gymnast who turned heads as Oksana Chusovitina became the oldest woman to ever compete in Olympic gymnastics. The veteran athlete headed to Rio to compete in her seventh Summer Games at the age of 41 to represent Uzbekistan. While she competed against gymnasts less than half her age, Chusovitina showed that her age didn’t hinder her from competing against the best in the world. “I am feeling good. On the podium, everyone is the same whether you are 40 or 16. You have to go out and do your routine and your jumps,” she told The Associated Press. Chusovitina may have failed to medal in Rio, but displayed her determination as she performed the Produnova, the world’s most difficult vault. While she didn’t have a successful showing in Rio, Chusovitina has no plans of retiring and hinted at a potential return for the 2020 Tokyo Games.
13. Ashton Eaton Defends Olympic Gold
The United States received yet another gold medal following the Men’s Decathlon 1500m when Ashton Eaton defended his title as decathlon Olympic gold medalist. The University of Oregon alum faced a moment of uncertainty when French rival Kevin Mayer took the lead following the ninth event in the competition. Despite Mayer’s impressive run and competing with a tender throwing shoulder, the Olympian was able to push through and retake the lead with his second attempt in the javelin. With the 1500m race left in the competition, Eaton finished with 8,893 points and another gold medal. Mayer’s threat to Eaton’s performance was put to an end when Eaton was able to pass the French athlete on the last lap after trailing him during most of the race. The victory marked Eaton’s second consecutive win in the Men’s Decathlon. While he was just shy of the 9,045 PR he set last year, he was able to tie the Olympic record set in 2004 by Czech Roman Sebrle.
12. USA’s 1-2-3 Finish
In an Olympic historic event, the United States team of Brianna Rollins, Nia Ali, and Kristi Castlin managed to win all three medals during the 100 meter hurdles event. While there have been 61 prior medal sweeps in Olympic history that occurred in the men’s event, this one marks the first for American track and field women. Furthermore, the win marked the first gold medal for the 2016 U.S. team on the track. Leading the pack, Rollins won the event in 12.48 seconds with Ali following in closely in 12.59, while Castlin had to out-lean Britain’s Cindy Ofili to claim the bronze medal. ‘‘I tried to feed off all the positive energy from Team USA. We were able to come out here and fulfill our dreams. It was an amazing opportunity. I was trying to enjoy each and every moment. I’m just happy to share the moment with Kristi and Nia,’’ Rollins told the Associated Press following the monumental finish. The sweep was a much needed victory after the U.S. men failed to medal in the 110 hurdles for the first time in Olympic history.
11. Diving For The Gold
With the gold medal just seconds from her reach, Shaunae Miller put on a thrilling performance as she dived across the finish line to secure her first place finish. The Bahamas-born runner, plunged over the line which ultimately denied American runner Allyson Felix from receiving her fifth Olympic gold medal in the women’s 400-meter final. Leading up to the final moments, the two runners were neck and neck, but it was Miller’s dive that helped her clutch the win. While her winning performance was congratulated by some, it did receive negative backlash on social media as viewers felt the dive was a cheap way to secure the gold. Former Olympian Michael Johnson took to twitter to defend the runner stating, “Shaunae Miller’s dive was to recover from falling. Sprinters know the quickest way across the line is a well timed lean. Trust me on that.” Whether it was a result of an unbalanced lean or a last ditch effort to clench the title, it will go down in Olympic history as a jaw-dropping finish.
10. Twins Spark Controversy
The ending of the women’s marathon at the Rio Olympics gained rapid attention as two German twins racing in the competition crossed the finish line while holding hands. Rather than receiving positive feedback, Anna and Lisa Hahner were hit with negative backlash for their actions. The twenty-six-year-old sisters finished the race in 81st and 82nd place; which is 15 minutes slower than their personal best times. This information fuelled the fire for the criticism as it illustrated that the runners were looking to receive media attention for their actions despite their low placement. The German Athletics Federation sports director, Thomas Kurschilgen, stated that their slow times and their hand holding made the Olympic competition look more like a recreational race rather than a prominent event. Kurschilgen further explained that the twins were being criticized for their aim to generate media attention for a finish that was fairly unworthy of one. While the German runners deny that the embrace was not planned, it did capture more attention than their fellow teammate, Anja Scherl’s, 44th place finish.
9. When The Student Surpasses The Master
The Rio Olympics marked a first ever win for Singapore as they gained their first official gold medal when Joseph Schooling beat the legendary Michael Phelps in the 100-meter butterfly final. With Phelps winning the gold and setting a record in the race since the 2004 Olympic games, the pattern was finally broken by the twenty-one-year old swimmer as he also managed to set a new Olympic record of 50.39 seconds. While Singapore celebrated their first ever gold, Schooling rejoiced in securing the win against a swimmer who has inspired his swimming career. Back in 2008 while visiting Singapore before the Beijing Olympic games, Phelps met the young Schooling who idolized the decorated swimmer and the two were photographed together. Fast forward eight years later and the once young athlete was not only able to compete against his idol, but put an end to his impressive 100-meter butterfly performances. Schooling wasn’t the only fan of Phelps who found success in the pool in Rio. American Katie Ledecky met Phelps at an autograph signing when she was just eight years old. A decade later, the swimmer was receiving assistance from Phelps on how to display her multiple gold medals around her neck as the two posed side by side for a special edition Sports Illustrated cover.
8. Husband And Coach – A Problem?
Before arriving in Rio for the Olympics, Hungary’s Katinka Hosszu was a top contender and favored to win multiple races in the pool. While the twenty-seven-year old racked up an impressive three gold and one silver medal at the Games, it was her husband’s poolside reactions that had people talking. As Hosszu’s husband and coach, Shane Tusup’s enthusiastic support for his wife became a social media hit as audiences watched him jump and scream throughout her swim. While viewers witnessed his reactions to be ‘adorable’ and ‘relationship goals’, others who know the couple fail to share the same response. There are various instances where Tusup has illustrated aggressive behavior following his wife’s defeats in the pool by throwing things on the ground and even kicking barriers in anger. After meeting at the University of Southern California where both swam for the Trojans, Hosszu asked Tusup to coach her in 2012 when she failed to medal in London. A year later the couple was married and continued both a professional and personal relationship. Despite reports from former training partners that stated Tusup expressed inappropriate and scary coaching behaviors, Hosszu stands by her husband. “He’s pretty hard as a coach, but at home he’s super sweet and loving and really funny. So if we get in a fight, we know why or try to figure out why, so if he says something during practice and I know he’s speaking as a coach, I won’t be offended,” Hosszu told The New York Times.
7. The Fastest Man Alive
While Michael Phelps is the fastest man in the pool, Usain Bolt holds the title as the fastest man on the track. The Jamaican superstar made Olympic history as he won his third consecutive 100-meters gold medal. Not only were these wins consecutive, but his wins officially marked him to be the first runner to secure three 100-meters titles at the Olympics. The 6-foot-five speedster was trailing American Justin Gatlin, but with just 40 meters separating him from obtaining a gold medal, the sprinter was able to pass Gatlin. Crossing the finish line at an impressive 9.1 seconds, Bolt initiated the roar of the crowd as they celebrated his win. While the race didn’t mark Bolt’s fastest or best time, the athlete was able to prove that he would be the Olympian to beat as the Rio games progressed. With the Rio Olympics to be his last before he hangs up his cleats and enters retirement, Bolt only had plans to add three gold medals to his legacy that will further prove that he is truly one of the greats.
6. Olympic Sportsmanship
When it comes to competing in the Olympics, athletes have only one goal: gold. The road to receiving that prestigious medal is paved with the task of running the fastest, swimming the quickest, and flipping the highest. But along the way, the need for success is sometimes overshadowed by the need to do the right thing. While competing in a 5,000-meter race, American runner, Abbey D’Agostino, tripped over New Zealand’s, Nikki Hamblin, and resulted in both competitors to tumble to the ground. Instead of quickly jumping to her feet and continuing her run, D’Agostino displayed a true act of sportsmanship when she reached out to help Hamblin up off the track. The rivals then continued to try and salvage what was left of their race, until D’Agostino fell to the ground once again due to suffering an injury to her knee. Returning the gesture of the Olympic spirit, Hamblin stuck by the American runner as they continued with the final four laps. The runners may have finished with the worst two times due to their mishap, but they both advanced to the finals. One thing is for sure, when they think back on their Olympic memories, their illustration of sportsmanship will be front and center.
5. Katie Ledecky Breaks Records In The Pool
With the goal of winning five Olympic medals prior to diving into the Rio pools, Katie Ledecky achieved that and then some. In addition to attaining new jewelry in the form of four gold and one silver medal, the American swimming sensation broke world records as well. In the 800-meter freestyle, Ledecky pulled away from fellow swimmers to shave almost two seconds off her previous world record she set as she finished in 8 minutes, 4.79 seconds. Watching the race, it looked as if the nineteen-year-old was in the pool all by herself as she beat silver medal winner Jazz Carlin of Britain by just over 11 seconds. With her impressive finish, Ledecky gained the title of holding the 13 fastest times to ever be recorded in the event. With the Rio games in the books, the youngest member of the U.S. Olympic swimming team looks forward to beginning her academic and swimming career at Stanford University.
4. Fiji Wins First Ever Olympic Gold Medal
The Rio Olympics will forever hold a significant place in the hearts of Fijians, as the Fiji rugby sevens team secured the country’s first ever Olympic medal; and it is gold. The monumental achievement arrives just after sixteen years of competing at the games. Fiji’s rugby sevens squad defeated Great Britain 43-7, to win the long awaited Olympic medal. Despite not finding past Olympic success, the 2016 team entered the games as one of the favorites due to being the two-time defending champions of the HSBC Sevens World Series. After obtaining their new gold accessories, the tiny nation erupted in celebration back home. Fans took to the streets to dance and celebrate the triumph. Fiji’s Prime Minister, Frank Bainimarama, even declared August 22nd a national holiday to mark the team’s achievement. Needless to say, it’s a great time to be a Fijian.
3. Lilly King vs. Yulia Efimova
A war was brewing outside of the pool between American swimmer, Lilly King, and her Russian rival, Yulia Efimova, as the two engaged in various verbal attacks. The ill feelings began when King called out Efimova’s eligibility to compete in the Rio games despite testing positive twice in the past two years for prohibited drugs. The 24-year-old Russian swimmer tested positive for ‘meldonium’ in March of this year following her 2014 sixteen-month suspension for using supplements. Despite it being added to the list of prohibited drugs, and Efimova testing positive, she was still able to swim in the Olympics. King didn’t hold back her feelings when she stated that Efimova had no business competing with athletes who respect the rules and swim clean. Following the semi-final heat race, Efimova waved her finger indicating her first place finish. Later in an interview with NBC, King spoke out against Efimova’s flashy celebration, “Ya know, you’re shaking your finger number one and you’ve been caught for drug cheating. I’m just not a fan.” From there, it was hero vs. villain as the two young swimmers anxiously awaited their turn to compete against one another, where King was ultimately crowned the victor with her gold medal.
2. Simone Biles’ Sensational Performances
American gymnast, Simone Biles, quickly became a household name with her impressive skills and competitive spirit. The nineteen-year-old Olympian proved that, despite her 4-foot-8-inches stature, she could flip and jump higher than any other gymnast competing in Rio. With her first Olympic event officially under her belt, Biles will return home as one of the best Olympic gymnasts of all time. After winning four gold and one bronze medal, the young athlete has clearly proved her success with her show-stopping floor exercise and all around skill. As an honorary member of the ‘Final Five’, the five medals she acquired in Rio allowed her to become the first American gymnast to win four gold medals at one Olympic Games. In addition to displaying majestic abilities in the gym, Biles won the hearts of many people, including her celebrity crush Zac Efron. The actor made a special trip out to Rio to personally congratulate Biles and the fellow members of her ‘Final Five’ squad. With an awe-inspiring Olympic debut, the entire world looks forward to seeing what the gymnast will accomplish next.
1. The End Of An Era
The most decorated Olympian of all time competed for the very last time in the pool during the Rio Games. Despite teasing his retirement four years prior, Michael Phelps wanted one last taste of the Olympics– and what an impressive finish it was. Phelps outdid himself by building a career that includes five Olympic Games with record-breaking times. The thirty-one-year-old legend has a total of 28 medals; 23 of which are gold. Out of the six races Phelps competed in, he walked away with five gold and one silver medal. In the final race of his triumphant career, Phelps obtained his final gold medal in the men’s 4×100-meter medley relay as his family cheered him on in the stands. Despite having changed his mind on his last retirement announcement, Phelps confirms that Rio was indeed his last run. With his retirement now in full effect, Phelps is looking forward to focusing his full attention to his newborn son, Boomer, and fiancé, Nicole Johnson.