Opinions are divided on the 2016 Rio Olympics, which lasted for two weeks from August 5th through the 21st. One thing that everyone can agree on is that the Olympics certainly weren’t boring. From shows of unity to divisiveness, tears of happiness to tears of sorrow, the latest summer games displayed the complete gamut of human emotion. The United States led the medal count with 121 overall – 46 gold, 77 silver, and 38 bronze followed by Great Britain, China, Russia, and Germany. Host country, Brazil, took home 19 medals in total, 7 of them being gold.
Despite Team USA’s big wins, America’s victories were sometimes overshadowed by scandal. After the U.S. Women’s soccer team was defeated by Sweden, American goalkeeper, Hope Solo, insulted the victors by calling them cowards. The big controversy of the games this year surrounds decorated swimmer Ryan Lochte. He is currently being scrutinized for lying to the media about being held up at gunpoint by thieves posing as Brazilian policeman. Video evidence has now shown that Lochte and two of his teammates not only weren’t robbed, but in fact urinated and vandalized a public restroom in Rio following a late night out. The controversy has ignited discussions about accountability and “bro antics” in the U.S.
Swimming dominated Olympic headlines from the beginning. One of the first big stories to come out of the games was 19-year-old U.S. swimmer, Lilly King’s treatment of Russian swimmer, Yulia Efimova, who was suspected of using performance enhancing drugs earlier in the year. King went on to beat Efimova in a swim semi-final and then reduced the Russian to tears by refusing to acknowledge her in the post-event press conference. However the crowd was with King, they booed Efimova during the race.
However it wasn’t all harsh competitiveness in swimming. Michael Phelps held hands with rivals Chad le Clos and Laszlo Cseh as they all received silver medals for the 100m butterfly final. In a shocking turn of events, Phelps lost first place to 21-year-old swimmer, Joseph Schooling of Singapore. The young athlete, who considers himself a huge fan of Phelps, came out of nowhere to win his country’s first gold medal. Phelps still went home happy, he took home five gold medals in Rio, which he announced would be his last Olympics ever.
Jamaican sports hero, Usain Bold also declared the 2016 games as his final go-around at the Olympics. He kissed the track after winning gold in his final race, the 4×100 meter.
Another success story for the US was women’s gymnastics which claimed gold for team all-around. 19-year old Simon Biles was the effective MVP of the team, winning four gold medals and one bronze. While on the podium to receive gold for the all-around title she shared the spotlight with silver medalist and teammate, Aly Raisman.
Although there were a few moments of bad showmanship in the games there were also redeeming acts of kindness and unity. This was the first year that a Refugee Olympic team competed at the games. Sponsored by the UN, the team included 5 athletes from South Sudan, two from the Democratic Republic of Congo and one from Ethiopia. The team received a standing ovation during the Opening Ceremony. Another symbol of partnership between countries came during the women’s 5000m heats. Abbey D’Agostino of the US and New Zealand’s Nikki Hamblin collided in the race but then helped each other off the ground, forfeiting any chance at a medal but giving the crowd one of the most memorable moments of the Olympics.
The Rio game may have been the most romantic and progressive Olympics in history. More openly LGBT athletes competed than ever before. Married couple, Kate and Helen Richardson-Walsh of Great Britain’s field hockey team became the first same-sex couple to win medals after claiming gold and during the first week of the games, Olympic worker Marjorie Enya proposed to her girlfriend, Isadora Cerullo of the Brazilian rugby team. Another proposal came from Chinese diver, Qin Kai, who proposed to fellow swimmer, He Zi, after she was awarded silver in the women’s 3m springboard competition. However opinions were split on the proposal, with some claiming that the timing of Kai proposal took away from Zi’s achievement. Another couple to make history were GB’s cyclists and fiancés, Jason Kenny and Laura Trott, who took home 10 gold medals collectively.
In other Olympic firsts, Egypt made its debut in women’s volleyball. An image of the team’s match against Germany went viral due to the drastic differences between the full coverage uniforms of the Egyptian team and the more typical tiny bikinis of Germany’s ladies. It was only in 2012 at the London Olympics, that a rule was overturned that stipulated that female volleyball players had to wear bikinis or sleeveless one pieces. Also for the first time ever in Olympic history – an athlete publicly discussed her menstrual cycle. Following her fourth place finish in the women’s 4×100 meter, Chinese swimmer was found doubled over in pain, prompting a reporter to ask her if she was ill. Fu responded, “Actually, my period started last night, so I’m feeling pretty weak and really tired.” Her comment set off a huge conversation about the effects of menstruation on athletic performance and also broke taboos in her native country, where open discussion of the female body is rare and only 2% of women use tampons.