Every four years the glorious Summer Olympics happen and it’s amazing. I mean, we don’t want to play favorites or anything but the Summer Olympics are totally better than the Winter Olympics, right? Sure, the thrill of watching people fly down snowy mountains is cool, but hello, diving! Hello, gymnastics! Hello, Michael Phelps!
Seriously, we live for the Summer Olympics and for good reason – they are awesome. This year was no different. From the comfort of our homes, while munching on snacks, we were able to watch the most physically fit people in the entire world compete for their countries. There were hilarious moments, like the green pool. Have we found out why the pool was green yet, guys? There were heartfelt moments, like every single awards ceremony ever. Whether your country won or not, it’s hard to watch an awards ceremony and not cry all those tears for the winners. This is what they have trained for their entire lives and they won.
This year was the same as most Olympics – there were winners, there were losers, and there were broken records. So, we’ve compiled the best 16 moments of the 2016 Olympics into a list for you. Of course, a list of 16 moments is too small to include all the amazing moments from these games, so we went with some of the more popular sports. Apologies to table tennis for us leaving it off the list. While it may not be the most popular sport, it is seriously mesmerizing to watch. For real, try to look away from a table tennis match. It’s impossible.
All in all, we compiled this list to the best of our abilities but every single athlete at the Olympics, no matter what score or what medal, is the real highlight of these games.
16. Simone Manuel Becomes First African-American To Win Swimming Gold
Before we get into it, can we just point out that the name Simone is really crushin’ it at the Olympics. Simone Biles and Simone Manuel are making us want to name every baby Simone, in hopes that they will all be super-humans too.
Simone Manuel is a swimmer for the US team, who not only broke the Olympic record time for Women’s 100m Freestyle, but in doing so she also became the first African-American woman to ever win a gold medal in a swimming event.
This achievement was echoed on social media, where fans posted about how Manuel truly broke down a barrier with her win. In regards to her gold, Manuel said, “This medal is not just for me, it’s for some of the African-Americans who have been before me and been inspirations.”
15. Katie Ledecky’s Accidentally Breaks World Record
Some people have to try to break world records and others are so talented that they simply break a world record without even trying. The latter was the case for Katie Ledecky. During a preliminary round, the 18-year-old US swimmer broke her own 1,500-meter freestyle world record.
Her coach apparently had told her to take it easy and so, she did. Of the race, she said, “I was barely even focusing on this morning’s swim. I was just so relaxed.”
Oh, no big deal. When I’m barely focusing and so relaxed, I’m usually on the eight episode of a binge-watching session. Meanwhile, Katie Ledecky is breaking world records.
In the finals for the 800-meter freestyle – you know, when Ledecky was actually trying – she finished in first by 11.38 seconds. 11 seconds may not seem like a long time in theory, but in swimming it’s forever, as those races are usually determined by hundredths of a second. When she finished the other competitors were not even on the screen.
14. Santo Condorelli Flipping The Bird
Just one more swimming story, please guys! This one is so good.
The 21-year-old Canadian swimmer Santo Condorelli may have flown under the radar during this Olympics if it weren’t for his middle finger. Yes, Condorelli gives the middle finger before every single race… to his father. Yeah, you read that right. It may seem very odd at first, but the ritual is actually very sweet.
It seems that a young Condorelli was frustrated after always losing his swimming races to older, bigger swimmers. His father told him that he couldn’t care about anyone else he was racing. F**k em. He finished his speech by telling his son, “Every time you’re behind the blocks, give me the finger and I’ll give it back to you.”
So, Condorelli and his father have been exchanging the middle finger for years. Since the Olympics are widely televised, Condorelli switched to itching his head with his middle finger for the races in Rio.
13. The US Gymnastics Team Dominates
There was no stopping the US women’s gymnastics team this year, which had something to do with Simone Biles, who has been called the best gymnast in history, but the other members certainly played their parts.
In the team finals, the US lead by over 8 points. In a sport were hundredths of points can make a difference, that is an impressive lead. The team didn’t stop there. In the individual all-around competition, Simone took home the gold (no shock there) and Aly Raisman took home the silver.
But, wait. It gets even better. In the qualifying round of the all-round competition, three US gymnasts competed: Simone, Aly and defending all-around champ Gabby Douglas. Simone and Aly came in first and second, respectively, as they would in the finals. Gabby Douglas finished in third but because each team could only have two members compete, Gabby had to sit the all-around out. The US could have literary taken home the gold, silver and bronze.
12. The Phelps Meme
Michael Phelps seems to be the guy who is inspiring one meme after another during these Olympics. This particular meme is amazing, but first a little background on it.
We have to go all the way back to the 2004 Olympics in Athens, when Phelps won the gold in the 200 meter butterfly and a ton of other races. In 2008 Beijing, he again won the gold in the 200 meter butterfly and won the gold every single other race he swam in because he is not human. Then, in the 2012 London games, he won the silver in the 200 meter butterfly, with Chad le Clos, a South America swimmer, besting him by five hundredths of a second.
Now, in the 2016 Rio games, Phelps swam against le Clos again in the 200 meter butterfly finals. This photo shows the pair and was snapped when le Clos turned his head to look at Phelps, who was clearly beating him. This is exactly how the pair would finish, with Phelps in first, taking back his title, and le Clos in second.
So, while this photo is an amazing shot of le Clos realizing that Phelps was going to take back the title, it also made its rounds in the meme would with people imposing messages about how winners focus on winning and losers focus on winners.
11. Volleyball Uniform Change
For the record, if I had a body like the women competing in the Olympics for volleyball, I’d wear the tiniest bikini every single day. However, some of the best volleyball players in the world are not allowed to rock a bikini due to cultural or religious beliefs.
After the 2012 Olympics, the rules were finally changed to allow female volleyball players to wear long sleeves and shorts, instead of a tiny bikini. Some players are sticking to the ol’ bikini, like Kerri Walsh, who said, “We need to be wearing bikinis. You don’t want to be wearing baggy clothes and be lost in your clothes… we found something that is functional and sassy at the same time.”
Other women, like Doaa El-Ghobashy and Nada Meawad who competed for Egypt, donned long sleeves, long pants and a hijab. This was the first time Egypt was ever able to participate in women’s volleyball since it became an Olympic sport in 1996.
10. All The Feminist Backlash
Oh, no. Chicago Tribune, what have you done? The publication put out an article entitled “Wife of Bears lineman Mitch Unrein, wins bronze in Rio.” After that, there was a riot… online, at least.
People were angry that a medalist in the Olympics was reduced to being described as the wife of a football player. To be fair to the Chicago Tribune, Chicago is the home of the Bear so they may have thought that going that route was best, but it was still not a good move.
After the article had been under fire for not even mentioning Corey Cogdell’s name in the title and failing to mention which sport she played, the fact that it was her second medal or the fact that it was her third time at the Games. The article has since been adjusted to include these facts, but that didn’t stop the reactions online.
Criticism also extended to the anchors, who said that the US gymnastics team looked like “they were standing around at the mall” after they literally dominated nearly every event.
9. Usain Bolt Is Back
Can we all agree that Usain Bolt may be the closest thing we have to a superhero living in the world? The man is just incredible. I get winded walking up a flight of stairs and he runs faster than the speed of light.
In the 2008 and 2012 Games, he competed in the 100 meter, 200 meter and 100 meter relay. At both games he took home gold medals in all of his events. He’s back at the 2016 Games competing in all three events yet again.
In the above photo of the 100 meter race, you can see Bolt literally smiling back at his competitors, all of whom he is clearly beating. Bolt, of course, came in first. He also won gold in the 200 meter and the 100 relay, defending his title in both races. Let’s face it, he’s a superhero.
8. Support For Robel Kiros Habte
Robel Kiros Habte may not look like he would compete in the Olympics but he totally did. Habte is a 24-year-old swimmer for Ethiopia and he has heard some crude criticism of his physique, including the nickname Robel the Whale.
Despite the mean nickname, Habte had actually gained a rather large fan base. When he swam in the 100 meter freestyle, he came in last with a time of 1:04.95. Considering the fact that it did not take any of the other competitors over a minute to finish the race, he was, err, a little slow. As he left as the lone swimmer completing the race, the crowd went wild cheering for him, and I totally would have joined in with them. I love this dude.
After the race, Habte said, “I am so happy because it is my first competition in the Olympics.”
7. The Refugee Team
There many only be ten athletes on this team, but it is truly amazing to have a Refugee Olympic Team. This was done in response to the worldwide refugee crisis.
On the team is Yusra Mardini, a 17-year-old swimmer who fled Syria shortly after her house was destroyed in the Syrian Civil War. She and her sister reached Turkey, where they boarded a boat heading to Greece with 18 other migrants. Since the boat was only capable of maintaining six people, the motor went and the boat began to take on water. Mardini, her sister and two others got into the water and pushed the boat for three hours until it reached the shore. Although Mardini came in 41st out of the 45 competitors for the 100 meter butterfly, she is a hero with or without a medal.
6. The Green Pool
I would expect a green pool at maybe my friend’s pool party or something. I would certainly not expect a green pool at the internationally televised Olympic Games, but yet, there was totally a green pool at the Olympics.
The pool for the diving events turned green, which was odd since it used to be just as pristine as the swimming pool also displayed in the photograph above. Some divers even commented on the fact that they couldn’t see their partner once they were in the water. But, why was the pool so green?
Well, apparently it was due to human error because duh. Someone mistakenly threw 160 liters of hydrogen peroxide into the pool. The peroxide neutralized the chlorine in the water, which lead to algae growth. Ah, so it’s all been explained.
Of course, this entry doesn’t include someone winning a medal or a new world record or anything, but watching everyone speculate about the green pool was a ton of fun and sometimes that’s what it’s all about.
5. Lilly King vs Yulia Efimova
Lilly King has some super strong opinions about using performance enhancing drugs and she wasn’t quiet about them either. The 19-year-old swimmer is pictured above wagging her finger at Yulia Efimova, a Russian swimmer who tested positive for steroids.
King and Efimova faced off in the 100 meter breaststroke, in which King took home the gold and Efimova the silver. In beating Efimova, King hopes to be an inspiration for others, stating, “It just proves that you can compete clean and still come out on top with all the work you put in.”
4. Aly Raisman’s Comeback
Competing in two Olympic games as a gymnast is a hard feat to pull off, as even at just 22 years old Aly Raisman is considered on the older side of the sport. Despite her age, though, Aly Raisman made quite the comeback at the 2016 games.
In the 2012 London games, Raisman took home a gold for team, gold for floor and a bronze for the balance beam. She was set to win bronze in the all-around as well, as she tied with Aliya Mustafina of Russia, both with scores of 59.566. The tie-breaker takes the three highest apparatus scores, which left Raisman edged out of an all-around medal.
So, in 2016, Raisman returned and is, dare we say it, even better than she was in 2012. She took home a gold in team, silver in floor and silver in the all-around, beating Aliya Mustafina, who finished with bronze. Coming back and beating the gymnast who had edged her out of the all-around medal in 2012 with must have been a pretty sweet payoff for all of Raisman’s training.
3. Fiji’s First Gold Ever
There are the stories about people winning who know they were going to win. Like, I’m sure Michael Phelps knows he has it most of the time. Then, there are the underdog stories, and we all love an underdog.
So, this Summer Olympics when Fiji won its very first gold medal, how could you not be happy even if your own country’s team lost? Even though they were an underdog in the sense that Fiji has never won a gold medal, they were still favored to win and for good reason. They blew Great Britain out of the water with a 43-7 game in Rugby sevens. That, truly, is how you win your first gold, Fiji.
2. Everything Simone Biles
Simone Biles isn’t just the best gymnast of all time, she also smiles the entire time. Seriously, in the above photo, Biles is upside down with her legs in a split. I’ll literally never be able to do that in my life and if I ever end up in said position, I most certainly will not be smiling like some dude I’m into just texted me back.
At these games, Simone took home a gold with her team, a gold for individual all-around, a gold in floor, a gold in vault and a bronze in beam. She’s the first gymnast since 1984 to take home four gold medals during a single Olympic games. Her gold in vault is a particularly big deal because it’s the first gold for the US in that event.
Just how good is Biles? Well, commenting on Biles, teammate Aly Raisman said, “No one goes in thinking they can beat Simone. Most people don’t go in thinking they can beat Usain Bolt either, it’s kind of the same thing.”
When asked about being the best gymnast ever, Bile said, “Someone could say I’m the best but then there’s a whole different side saying I’m not the best. I just stay out of it. I just do my gymnastics.” Spoken like a girl with a good head on her shoulders… who is perhaps the best gymnast ever.
1. Michael Phelps Is The Most Decorated Olympian Of All Time
Guys, Michael Phelps is the most decorated Olympian of all friggin’ time. Let that sink in for just a moment. How amazing is it to be alive during a time in which someone became the most decorated Olympian to ever live? It’s a rare feat and one that we may not likely see again.
In the London 2012 games, he surpassed the previous record holder, Larisa Latynina, a Soviet gymnast. She had won 18 medals, including nine golds. After London, Phelps had 18 gold medals, two silver medals and two bronze medals – beating Latynina’s record by five medals.
In Rio, Phelps added another five gold and one silver to his collection. So, after five Olympics games, Phelps’s grand total is 28 medals – 23 gold, 3 silver and 2 bronze.
By the way, in Phelps’s first Olympic Games (2000 Sydney) he did not win a single medal, which really should inspire us all to continue chasing our dream too. Also, though, Phelps was 15 at the 2000 games, so we’ll let that one slide.