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  Rio 2016: Riveting Rivalries

Rio 2016: Riveting Rivalries

Published : Aug 1, 2016, 6:38 am IST
Updated : Aug 1, 2016, 6:38 am IST

Volleyball (W) Brazil vs USA

Usain Bolt
 Usain Bolt

Volleyball (W) Brazil vs USA

The result of the last two women’s volleyball finals was the same: a win for Brazil over the USA in four sets. Volleyball is the second most popular sport in Brazil and the hosts would be hoping for a hat-trick. It’s not going to be easy. The Americans don’t go down without a fight and losing two finals in a row will only have steeled their resolve. The volleyball final would be a test of Brazil’s mental strength because losing isn’t an option for them. Karch Kiraly, the most decorated player in volleyball’s history, is the coach of the US team and he would be racking his brains to crash the hosts’ party.

Tennis Andy Murray (Great britain) vs Novak Djokovic (Serbia)

 

One is the defending champion and the other could be on his way to becoming one. Murray warmed the cockles of the home crowd with a sensational win over Roger Federer in the final of the 2012 Games. The Scot, who drubbed Canadian Milos Raonic for his second Wimbledon earlier this month, is hungry for more as he has pulled out of the Rogers Cup to focus on the Games. At the start of the year, Djokovic appeared on course for a calendar grand slam in addition to the Games gold. Although a shocking loss at Wimbledon dented his Golden Slam dream, the Serb would be ready to go all the way at Rio. He knows the value of an Olympic gold to Serbia, which is always a cauldron of nationalism.

 

Badminton Lin Dan (China) vs Lee Chong WeI (Malaysia) It would be a classic meeting of the perennial king and the eternal bridesmaid. Dan, the greatest player in the history of badminton as he has won everything there is in the sport, knows a thing or two about rising to the occasion. The Chinese legend grabbed the Olympic title with an easy win over Lee in 2008 but he had to work hard to retain it against the same opponent four years later. Lee, the most recognisable sportsperson in Malaysia, gets another shot at Olympic redemption as he headlines the Rio field as the No. 1 seed. Dan’s career is all about giving his best when the stakes are sky high. The left-hander’s big-stage temperament complements well with his indubitable talent. Lee has vowed to do all he could to end his career on a high but badminton fans wouldn’t be at fault if they already feel a sense of deja vu about the men’s singles final in badminton at Rio.

 

Swimming Michael Phelps (USA) vs Chad de Clos (South Africa) De Clos is hardly a household name but he is one swimmer Phelps would be keen to settle scores with at Rio after losing out to the South African in the 200m butterfly by a hair’s breadth in 2012. Phelps, who has 22 Olympic medals including 18 gold, wants to bow out of the Games on his own terms. At 31, the American is more of a senior citizen than an invincible force of nature that he had once been but ruling him out of gold medal contention would be a folly. Hitting the waters in Rio would be an emotional moment for De Clos who recently revealed that his parents are battling cancer. His father’s exuberant celebration at London captivated the TV audience.

 

Usain Bolt (Jamaica) vs Justin Gatlin (USA) The good vs bad narrative would be inevitable when Bolt and Gatlin face each other in the gladiatorial battle for the title of the world’s fastest man. The reputations of the contestants can’t have been more contrasting. As a record-holder in the event and two-time Olympic champion, Bolt is the rockstar of athletics and the Jamaican is chasing an unprecedented “triple triple” at Rio. Gatlin, the 2004 Olympic champion, is the fall guy after serving two bans for taking performance-enhancing drugs. The American heads to Rio as the fastest man this year (9.80 seconds). At 34, he has a chance to be the oldest Olympic champion in the 100m.