Another quadrennial, another summer Olympics; each Games brings its own unique highlights and lowlights, and Rio 2016 didn’t disappoint. This year held several historic and record-breaking moments, as well as some off-podium success stories. As our athletes are slotting back into training and life at home with a combined total of 29 Olympic medals, now is the time to reflect on some highlights of this year’s Olympic Games.
Women’s rugby 7s make history
One historic moment is Australia’s women’s rugby 7s taking out the first ever Olympic gold for their event. Not only was this rugby 7s Olympic debut, but the gender component is what makes this event groundbreaking. Introducing a female counterpart of a male-dominated sport into the Olympics is a leap forward in eliminating gender stereotypes. And the outstanding achievements don’t stop there.
Another extraordinary factor is that most of the women hadn’t even played rugby before coming together a few years ago. All players came from a sporting background, some from touch football, and most without experience in a contact sport. However, one thing drew them all in: competing at the Olympics. The speed at which the women transformed themselves into elite athletes pleasantly surprised the team’s coach, Tim Walsh. “The more I got to know them, the more I know what they’re capable of, and they’re incredible athletes and incredible people,” said Walsh.
Phelps School(ing)ed in 100m fly
Another take on a fast ascent up the ladder of success is this heart-warming story of a fan challenging and beating his idol. The year, 2008. The place, Singapore, where the US Olympic swim team is attending an intensive pre-Games training camp. Joseph Schooling, a bespectacled boy of just 13, excitedly stands next to his idol, Michael Phelps, who later that year won his eight Olympic gold medal in Beijing.
Fast-forward eight years to Rio 2016. Schooling, 21, is not only the first Singaporean man to qualify for an Olympic swimming final, but he beat his idol. The two posed for another photo after their swim. “As a kid I wanted to be like him,” said Schooling about Phelps. “He’s the reason I wanted to be a better swimmer.”
18th and 19th Pierre de Coubertin medals
From medal ceremonies to off-podium successes, the Olympics allows athletes to let their best qualities shine. Athletes receive the Pierre de Coubertin medal, otherwise known as the True Sportsmanship medal, when they show great sportsmanship. A jury made of members of the Committee for International Fair Play, the International Olympic Committee, fellow athletes, and media representatives selects the recipients. The jury has only awarded this prize 17 times before in Olympic history.
Nikki Hamblin of New Zealand and Abbey D’Agostino of the US were running the second semi-final heat of the women’s 5,000m when Hamblin stumbled and fell. Trailing behind her and with nowhere to go, D’Agostino ran into the back of Hamblin. D’Agostino was in obvious pain and collapsed after trying to run a few metres. Hamblin assisted D’Agostino and waited for her at the finish line. The two embraced when they met.
Although these athletes didn’t make the podium, they represented the true spirit of the Games.
Competing at the Olympic Games is a highlight of any athlete’s sporting career. Winning a medal would be the only thing to top it off. But with only three spots on the podium, many athletes miss out. This was the reality for 100m freestyle favourite Cate Campbell. She finished sixth in the final race, one second slower than her PB. However, in line with true Aussie spirit, the country met Campbell with support and praise.
“The Olympic Games are a bit like a soap opera, there’s high and lows, there’s triumph and heartbreak, and I just provided the heartbreak in that narrative,” said Campbell. In true Aussie spirit, our country stood strong behind Campbell. The next day she thanked Australia for the outpouring of support. “Australia really came through when I needed it.”
Bolt’s “triple triple”
Another historic moment this Games came when Usain Bolt hit his Olympic goal of achieving the first ever “triple triple”. Bolt’s glory started as a 17-year-old at his first Olympic games, where he set a new benchmark for sprinting. He is now the most decorated sprinter of all time. He has a personal tally of nine Olympic medal, all of which are gold. In his final Olympic appearance at Rio, he successfully completed his mission of achieving a triple triple. He won three golds over three Games in three events – the 100m, 200m, and 300m. He knelt and kissed the track goodbye after his last individual event.
“I’m just relieved, I’ve done it,” said Bolt. “It’s unreal. I never knew from the start this would happen to me and it has, it’s just a brilliant feeling. I’m the greatest.” Although the world highlights Bolt as one of the greatest runners of all time, but we will also remember the athletes from Rio 2016 who touched our hearts and made us swell with pride even though they didn’t make the podium.
Header image via: Fox News