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  A to Z of Rio Olympics

A to Z of Rio Olympics

Published : Aug 24, 2016, 6:55 am IST
Updated : Aug 24, 2016, 6:55 am IST

Brazil has pulled it off. Rio de Janeiro silenced those who doubted its Olympic credentials by staging the 31st edition of the Games without major problems.

Brazil has pulled it off. Rio de Janeiro silenced those who doubted its Olympic credentials by staging the 31st edition of the Games without major problems. All of South America can be proud of its first Olympic Games. As usual, the Games provided a platform for a string of unforgettable moments. Immortals Michael Phelps and Usain Bolt bowed out of the Olympic arena in a blaze of glory, even as new stars such as Simone Biles and Katie Ledecky emerged to rewrite the boundaries of excellence. Although it's not easy to capture the essence of 17 days of high quality action and plenty of riveting back stories in the 26 alphabets of English,

T.N. Raghu

makes an attempt. Bolt and Phelps are excluded from the list because we all know these two guys aren’t normal.


Almaz Ayana provided a cracking start to athletics by smashing the 23-year-old world record in the 10,000m by more than 14 seconds, which is equivalent to almost 90 metres in distance. The Ethiopian achieved the Beamonesque feat of securing gold in 29:17.45 seconds to set off tongues wagging about doping. Ayana’s reply was classic: “My doping is hard work. My hard work is Jesus.”

Black swimmer Simone Manuel’s gold in the women’s 100m free style was important not because she won it jointly with a Canadian after a dead heat. Manuel became the first Afro-American female to win a swimming gold at the Olympics. With entrenched racism denying access to scores of blacks to swimming pools in the US even today, the ebullient champion stood out as an eloquent testament to perseverance.


Chinese athletes didn’t win as many medals as they were expected to but they charmed audiences worldwide with their stereotype-smashing attitude. Swimmer Fu Yuanhui celebrated her 100m breaststroke bronze with infectious enthusiasm before speaking publicly about the way menstruation affected her performance in another event. Two Chinese divers even had the temerity to get engaged on the medal stage! Qin Kai melted the heart of his girlfriend, He Zi, with a lovely proposal by the poolside.

Diving isn’t part of any track event but Shaunae Miller of the Bahamas demonstrated her acrobatic abilities to clinch gold in the 400m. Miller dived to the finish line to edge out USA’s Allyson Felix by 0.07 seconds in a tight race. The Bahamas athlete would probably have won the gold even with a conventional torso-to-the-tape finish, but she wouldn’t have become the subject of countless memes and grabbed headlines across the globe. Elaine Thompson of Jamaica bagged the sprint double in her first Olympics, dashing compatriot Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce’s dream of becoming the first athlete to win three straight 100m golds in the process. Although Thompson’s success didn’t attract as much attention as her countryman Bolt’s, she was quite happy to come of age on the grandest stage in sports.


Fiji’s sevens rugby team won their country’s first Olympic medal, a gold at that, with such a dashing performance that simply brooked no resistance. Talking about firsts, Majlinda Kelmendi became an instant celebrity in Kosovo after the judoka won the Balkan nation maiden gold in its Olympic debut. Swimmer Joseph Schooling won Singapore’s first gold by pushing his idol, Michael Phelps, to second place in the 100m butterfly. Taekwondo player Kimia Alizadeh Zenoorin, with a bronze, became Iran’s first female medallist at the Olympics.

Great Britain surprised many by finishing second ahead of China with 27 gold medals. Cyclist Jason Kenny led the gold rush with three in Rio to take his overall Olympic tally to six while his girlfriend, Laura Trott, bagged two in the same sport. The cycling couple are planning to tie the knot soon.


Hope Solo was the sorest loser at the 2016 Games as the US goalkeeper made disparaging remarks about Sweden. After USA’s quarter-final loss at the hands of Sweden on penalties, Solo said: “We played a bunch of cowards. The best team did not win today. I strongly believe that.”

India’s blushes were saved by three intrepid women — P.V. Sindhu, Sakshi Malik and Dipa Karmakar. Japanese wrestler Kaori Icho achieved something in Rio no woman had done in the history of the Olympics: win an individual gold in four Games on the trot. After blazing a trail with gold in the 58kg, the emotional Icho held the photo of her late mother, who continues to inspire the judoka, aloft. Wrestler Saori Yoshida could have matched her compatriot Icho’s record later in the Games if not for her unexpected loss at the hands of USA’s Helen Maroulis in the 53kg final.


Katie Ledecky laid down the marker in free style swimming with three individual gold medals with two world records. That Michael Phelps, who has 23 gold medals across four Games, is a big fan of the 19-year-old says something about her potential. You will keep hearing about Ledecky in the next three Olympics.

Lee Eun-ju of South Korea shot the best selfie of the Olympics with a fellow gymnast from North Korea, Hong Un-jong. Even though the two Koreas are still technically at war, sporting events come in handy for athletes to profess their love for each other. The unalloyed joy on Lee’s face said how much the moment mattered to her.

Mo Farah of Great Britain is fast becoming the Usain Bolt of the Olympic track as he defended both his 5,000m and 10,000m gold medals with consummate ease. One more double at 2020 will take him closer to athletic divinity. Farah, who settled in London as a child after fleeing strife-torn Somalia, may not be as charismatic as Bolt but his achievements are no less significant.


Neymar had to carry the weight of his country’s expectations as Brazil sought their maiden gold in football. Although the start of the mission was inauspicious as the hosts were held by unheralded South Africa and Iraq, the end was picture perfect: a shootout win over Germany with the winning penalty coming from the boots of the talismanic Neymar. The Barcelona star shed copious tears and we know why.

Oldies did have their moments under the Rio sun or moon as 43-year-old Kristin Armstrong nailed her third straight time trial gold in cycling with her adorable son in tow. Kim Rhode, also from the US, won a record sixth medal in six straight Games with a bronze in skeet shooting. The honour of the oldest champion in Rio, however, went to Great Britain’s Nick Skelton after the 58-year-old won the individual show jumping gold.


Produnova is probably the most famous gymnastics routine in the world’s second most populous country because of a brave 23-year-old from Tripura, Dipa Karmakar. Even Olympic all-around champion Simone Biles is scared to try out the dangerous vault. Dipa pulled off a fine Produnova in the vault final but a butt grazer on landing ended her hopes.

Questions must be raised on how India managed to send 40 athletes to the Olympics. With the exception of Lalita Babar, who finished a creditable 10th in the 3,000m steeplechase, none of the Indians managed to compete well. Why should tax payers money be lavished on a bunch of no hopers More importantly, an investigation must be launched on the eleventh-hour qualification of many Indian athletes to the Rio Olympics.


Rio 2016’s most agonising image was the horrific leg break suffered by French gymnast Samir Ait Said. He melted the hearts of spectators at the venue by waving to them while being taken away on a stretcher. Samir isn’t ready to quit the sport as he spoke of his desire to compete at the Tokyo Games in 2020. Well Said! Another contender for ‘R’ was Ryan Lochte as the swimmer tarnished his image with a fabricated robbery story in Rio.

Simone Biles had the crowd at the artistic gymnastics hall eating out of her hands as the ever-smiling American scooped four gold medals and a bronze. The three-time world champion was in a league of her own in the floor exercise and vault. A rare slip on the beam cost Biles a fifth gold medal but she had already proved her class with a superlative performance to nail the all-around gold.


Tongan flag-bearer Pita Taufatofua became an online sensation after he showcased his body, bathed in oil, to millions of TV viewers around the world during the opening ceremony. Men and women swooned over the handsome man’s beautiful, granite body, which was on show during the closing ceremony as well. Let’s come to the sport proper: Taufatofua bowed out in the round of 16 after suffering a 16-1 mauling at the hands of an Iranian in taekwondo.

Upsets make sports a fascinating spectacle and they were plenty of them in Rio. Novak Djokovic bit the dust in the first round while Serena Williams’ hopes of defending her London gold lived a little longer but ultimately died an untimely death. A third hockey gold medal on the trot didn’t materialise for the German men and the Dutch women. Norway’s defeat of the US in the quarter-final of women’s football was the most shocking of all upsets.


Virginia Thrasher shot the Rio Games first gold medal — and with it a place in pub quizzes — with an upset win in the 10m air rifle event. The American teenager wasn’t expected to reach the podium because she was ranked outside the top 20 but Olympic shooting was all about holding nerve and nobody did it better than Thrasher, who also loves hunting. After Thrasher, 306 gold medals were awarded but hers was special as IOC president Thomas Bach was at hand to present it.

Wayde van Niekerk obliterated the 400m field that included the past two Olympic champions with a whirlwind run in 43.03 seconds. What’s more, the South African shaved 0.15 seconds off Michael Johnson’s world record, set in 1999, running on the outside lane. Not being able to pay attention to other runners proved to be a blessing in disguise for van Niekerk as he ran his own blind race.


X— rated protests don’t have a place in any event but the pinnacle of sports witnessed an unsavoury incident on the last day. After Mongolian wrestler Ganzorigiin Mandakhnaran lost the bronze medal following a penalty against an Uzbek, his two coaches lost it completely as they resorted to stripping on the mat to argue their case. One of them removed everything except his underwear. It wasn’t a pretty sight!

Yusra Mardini became the face of the 10-member refugee team in Rio. For the bubbly Syrian, taking part at the Olympics was an achievement in itself because she endured untold miseries while fleeing her war-torn country including a near-death experience when the boat carrying her family from Turkey to Greece capsized. A heart-wrenching photo of a Syrian boy, covered in blood and debris, pulled from a bombed building in Aleppo during the second Olympics week fired a dire warning that crisis in the West Asian country is far from over.


Zika virus threatened to wreak havoc with the Olympics according to the Western press but few athletes had time for the pesky little thing during the Games. The virus faded into oblivion as everyone was fixated on the athletic endeavours of the world’s best for a little over two weeks.