Rio Summer Olympic Games: Week One Highlights

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The Summer Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, are in full swing after week one. Let’s take a look at the many highlights thus far:

Phelps Continues to Dominate

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Michael Phelps receiving a gold medal in Rio

U.S. swimmer Michael Phelps, age 31, returned to Rio to expand his legacy as the best swimmer of all time. He did not disappoint. He won five gold medals and one silver medal in the six events in which he participated. With these wins, he has become the most decorated Olympic athlete of all time, in any sport, with a total of 28 medals.

Few have dominated their sport like Phelps. His Olympic gold total is an astonishing 23 medals in his four Olympic Games appearances. He is also the first swimmer to win gold four Games in a row, in the same event (200m butterfly). It is unlikely anyone will come near his total record any time soon . . . if ever. His legacy includes bringing attention to the sport. Two competitors were influenced to join the sport because of Phelps—James Schooling of Singapore who beat Phelps in the one event he earned silver in and new American phenom Katie Ledecky. Both met Phelps at swimming events as children and have the photos to prove it.

More Swimming Giants and Giant Steps

Speaking of Katie Ledecky, she won three individual event gold medals and a gold medal in a relay for a total of four golds, dominating women’s swimming. She broke the world record by a wide margin in the 800m freestyle—a record she previously had set herself. In the prior Games in London, she had won gold at the age of 15, so her results four years later confirm that she will continue to be a force in women’s swimming.

Ledecky was not the only U.S. woman swimmer to wow and take giant steps in the sport in Rio. Simone Manuel made history to become the first African American woman gold medalist in American history, winning the 100m freestyle event. To understand the importance of her win, one has to know more about Jim Crow laws and segregation, including segregation in public pools, from before the Civil Rights era. Learn more from this article in the Washington Post.

The World’s Fastest Man

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Usain Bolt celebrating after his win in Rio

Phelps is not the only once-in-a-lifetime athlete of the Olympics. Jamaican runner Usain Bolt is arguably the most famous athlete in the world. Bolt’s amazing speed and charisma on the track have made him a household name. His appearance in the Rio Games has been highly anticipated. At nearly 30 years of age, he is back to defend the gold medals in three track and field events that he won in 2008 and in 2012. Sunday night, Bolt achieved what no man has done before: win the 100m sprint and secure gold for three Olympics in a row. The second week will continue to feature Bolt as he attempts to go for two more gold medals in two more events.

If Bolt is successful in his remaining races, that would give him a total of three wins in three events in each of the last three Olympics in a row. He’s on track to earn this unprecedented achievement with his win in the 100m. Keep watching week two to see if he can further his already amazing role in sports history.

U.S. Might in Gymnastics and a New Dynamo

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Simone Biles competing in Rio

U.S. gymnasts Simone Biles, Aly Raisman, Gabby Douglas, Laurie Hernandez, and Madison Kocian came to the games as strong favorites to win the team gold in women’s gymnastics. None of the other competitors came close to their performances, and the team was rewarded with the gold. They called themselves the Final Five, in honor of long-time coach Marta Karolyi’s retirement after the Games.

Douglas won the all-around gold in London in 2012 but stand out dynamo Simone Biles has stolen these Games so far. Biles won the all-around and the vaulting event, for a total of three gold medals thus far. But she may not be done. She has a chance of winning two more golds in individual events in the second week.

Challenges in Rio

Not all has been rosy in Rio, however. Not long after the games began, water in two of the pools used for aquatic events, including diving, began to turn green. The water became cloudy and difficult to see through. Athletes wondered what the problem was, and officials gave several different explanations over the course of days. As time passed, the water quality was still not improving. By the end of the first week, officials determined the wrong chemical was used in the affected pools, voiding the effectiveness of the chlorine. The water was drained and replaced, and improvements, while slow, are finally showing.

Meanwhile, four U.S. swimmers, including Ryan Lochte, were allegedly robbed at gunpoint after taking  a taxi from a party back to the Olympic Village where athletes stay. According to the latest news, the thieves posed as police officers and stopped the taxi. They then demanded everyone’s wallet and took off. Investigations are ongoing. UPDATE: Further investigation calls into doubt the swimmers’ allegations. The local police continue to look into the incident and review footage from security cameras throughout the city. Officials are still trying to piece together what happened.

Other bumps have included allegations and suspicions about athletes’ use of illegal performance-enhancing drugs. Many athletes on the Russian team were banned before the start of the Games because of suspected drug use. At first, many in international sports called for a ban of the entire Russian team, but an agreement was reached that allowed athletes to compete if they met strict testing requirements. Still, the Russian showing at the Games has been greatly reduced, and fans in Rio have taken to booing some athletes suspected of drug use in the past.

The first week alone was event-filled. What will week two bring?

All Images Source: Fernando Frazao/Agencia Brazil
All Images License: Creative Commons 3.0 Brazil