The Rio Recap #1 For 8/22/16: The Top 11 Endearing Figures of The 2016 Olympics
Here are from me, the eleven top figures of the hundreds of remarkable athletes that we had the pleasure to see in Rio, helping make a corrupt IOC and slimy process of the games going to Rio be pushed to the side for some.
11. Four years ago, Michael Phelps said that he would be done. He was already by far the most decorated Olympian ever and didn't need another games to further cement that mantle. But something in him made him want to comeback and exhibit why he is the greatest swimmer ever. And he did just that, with the fierce determination and drive to overcome a new rival in Chad Le Clos pretending that he could psyche him out and provide the latest iconic image of Phelps attitude in an extraordinary career filled with them. Four years later, he is this time, truly done.
10. Along with soccer and golf, the tennis competition at the Olympics isn't the biggest competition in its sport (for Rio 2016, no ranking points were given to ATP or WTA players). But it is still optically and emotionally important for many once the competition begins, and it indeed meant everything to Monica Puig. To become Puerto Rico's first gold medalist in any Olympic games, the 22-year-old displayed the tennis of her life in winning just her second career title (and just a whee, whee bit bigger than her first title in Strasbourg in 2014). To defeat world number two Angelique Kerber in the final after conquering Petra Kvitova and crushing Garbine Muguruza to get there (all three Grand Slam champions still either early in their prime or in the middle of it) encapsulated how special a moment it was for Boricua nation.
9. Whenever something is a foregone conclusion for someone who has never been at an Olympic games, the mental strength to still live up to those massive expectations enlarges their specialness. For Simone Biles, Rio 2016 had all the potential to make her America's newest sweetheart for all races. Instead, it made her the world's sweetheart. From the moment her historic, dominate victory in the women's all-around gymnastics was official, Biles exhibited inner fortitude that matched her staggering dexterity. Winning three straight world championships should have already confirmed Biles as the best ever, as many had done. But something could always go easily wrong in an event held once every four years, and for Biles to be able to bring her elite form on the biggest stage in front of the largest audience made the 19-year-old an eternal figure. The treacherous, capricious balance beam, always an issue for anyone, may have been the only thing to deny her five Olympic gold medals. But no one will ever have any question as to how much a superstar Biles will forever be.
8. Wayde van Niekerk 400 meter run was arguably the individual performance of these entire Olympics, especially for the track meet where Almaz Ayana's extraordinary 10,000 meter world record run could only rival it. In an athletic competition dominated by the legend of Usain Bolt, the 24-year-old South African temporarily made the mercurial Jamaican share the track spotlight by doing something that would only allow for that to occur: shattering Michael Johnson's seemingly invisible 400 meter world record. It would have been an extraordinary accomplishment if van Niekerk ran in the always preferred middle lanes of the track. But for him to break one of sport's most remarkable records in a lane that no person has ever won a 400 meter Olympic or world championship in augments the already extraordinary feat. It was a real shame, as well as a relief from Bolt, that van Niekerk did not run in the 200 meters.
7. Both Abbey D’Agostino and Nikki Hamblin provided the sportsmanship moment of the Rio Olympics with the two helping each other to finish their 5,000 meter race. Their benevolence in the wave of their fall was certainly extraordinary, and it was more than deserving for them to win the Fair Play Award. You can certainly guarantee their moment will be played in Olympic commercials for many years to come.
6. Simone Manuel wasn’t a name that received big commercials and massive medal attention before these games. The past two and a half weeks have changed that, as the Houston, Texas native became a viral sensation for becoming the first black woman of any country to take individual gold at an Olympic swimming meet. Manuel’s remarkable and unexpected gold medalist tie with Canada’s 16-yr-old sensation Penny Oleksiak in the 100 meter freestyle race is already an extraordinary thing in itself. But for her to make that history and become a second Simone-named American darling to not only the black community, but to the rest of the world, was a moment everyone will savor forever.
5. Marta, the greatest women's soccer player ever, still is a star figure in the collage of these games, despite the dejection of not winning her first major women’s soccer title on her home soil. For the amount of pressure on her shoulders, Marta and her teammates stormed out the gate brilliantly. Unlike their men's counterparts who couldn't find the back of the net in the first two matches, Marta was the playmaking catalyst in reducing negative vibes felt in the Samba nation on their beloved sport with sensational routs of China and Sweden. Her impact was so great that you saw some people place a cross on Neymar's name on his #10 jersey and write in Marta's as the replacement. Cruelly in the end however, the 30-year-old was unlucky for another major tournament and received the biggest heartbreak of her career. As Sweden found an impervious defense out of nowhere in the rematch semifinal, Brazil's soccer women completed the eerily reversal they had in comparison to their men's team from the third group stage game on. There was no gold medal for their remarkable talent and organization to be rewarded, but instead a dejected fourth place finish coming a day prior to their countrymen's emotional title. It served as the men once again outshining the women in a country that has the most skilled women's players on the planet get a percentage of attention the men always get. But nevertheless, in the face of the biggest pressure in her career, Marta gave even more reasons as to why she is beloved, not only in Brazil but throughout the world.
4. Triple-triple is all you need to say about Usain Bolt and the historic aura he has created for himself. Just six weeks after major doubt was being thrown into whether he would participate in Rio with his hamstring injury, Bolt may not have ran faster than he did in Beijing and London but was arguably more impressive than his world record form. It was "Greatest Olympian" form he instead displayed to his endless array of admirers, as he overcame all of those pre-Olympic injury fears by looking as dominate as always. The endless "Bolt vs Phelps" debate for greatest modern Olympian will forever go on long past their final Olympiad. But Bolt's perfect 9 for 9 in Olympic finals is something we are unlikely to see ever again. It's hard to sustain that level of greatness for three Olympics. But for everything to go your way, including Jamaica being flawless in their 4 x 100 meter relay three straight times, is the staggering accomplishment that only he may ever have.
3. No other person at these Rio Olympic games has felt the type of pressure that Neymar da Silva Jr has felt. Because unlike any other athlete in these entire games, it was the second time that the former Santos prodigy has felt the nation on his shoulders. Other athletes from recent host countries China and Great Britain, along with next host country Japan, will face the home country pressure on them. But Neymar has now had to endure that twice in the last three years that no one else will ever endure, and has simply handled them in a way that makes him a developing legend in our time. He captained the Brazilian men in the face of major criticism after the first two games, hearing calls from some to have his armband taken away. Instead of succumbing to the negativity, the jovial star once again exceeded the massive expectations he faces by leading his country to that elusive first gold medal in the cherished Maracana. It was just destiny for him to be the one to make the final penalty and make it a perfect spot kicks session for his team against the country he couldn't play against in their infamous 2014 World Cup semifinal thrashing. And it was just fitting for the lachrymose moments to follow once his penalty beat Timo Horn, ensuring that the 31st Summer Olympiad in Rio had its biggest moment.
2. He may have done it in front of a camera, but Taoufik Makloufi's gesture to give one of his two track silver medals in Rio up to his countryman and teammate Larbi Bourrada was a class moment that would be all over NBC's airwaves had the middle distance star been American. Choosing to offer up one of his prized assets on the final day of the games serves as a move that will make the already benevolent Makloufi even more beloved (and so what if it wasn't his gold medal from the 2012 Olympics).
1. In a move that took true coverage to do, Ethiopia's Feyisa Lilesa protested his government's killing of the Oromo people, as he crossed the finish line for second place in the men's marathon. He later revealed that he, his wife and their children were going to be in danger because of his temerity. Lilesa could have simply focused on his event like his fellow Ethiopian running stars and not bring up anything as contentious as that issue. Instead, the 32-year-old made the political move of these entire games and will have global support for the potential trouble he and his family may face back home.