It’s been an exciting two weeks with some definite notable and very impressive records. More than 204 countries and over 11,000 athletes PLUS their coaches and entourage spent time in Rio engaged in friendly competition and sportsmanship. While there were a few not-so-nice incidents (some political and some just poor behavior) it was proof that so many different nationalities, religions, political beliefs, and languages could actually co-exist in a basically small common area sharing a mutual interest.
Wouldn’t it be incredible if the whole world could exist like this 52-weeks a year?
We witnessed some remarkable firsts and wonderful achievements. Personally I was totally enthralled with the women’s gymnastics thinking how there are times I can’t seem to run across my living room without tripping over one of my cats. The swimmers seemed to literally torpedo through the water and divers leapt from three stories high to show their grace, discipline and strength. Sprints, hurdles, and relay races rivaled the speed of super-hero legends.
There were approximately 87 countries that went home with medals, many in multiples, each one of them representing the best efforts of some terrific athletes, each one of them earning a well-deserved pride.
Among some of the very significant milestones during this world-watched event include New Jersey native Ibtihaj Muhammad who was the first American Muslim woman to wear her hijab (head covering) while competing in the Olympics — a significant sight considering the negatives and suspicions caused by a minority of extremists; Ibtihaj, who won a bronze medal for her fencing skills, wanted to challenge misconceptions and break through cultural norms as a Muslim woman and a proud American.
Another incredible record was set by USA’s Michael Phelps who began swimming at the Olympics in the year 2000 and winning his first Olympic medal in 2004. Already a highly decorated Olympic athlete, Michael earned even more medals in Rio (five gold and one silver) to a total of 27 Olympic medals and more World Championships. He says that this Olympics was his retirement plunge.
Other feats that will long be talked about from the 2016 Olympics include: USA’s Brianna Rollins, Nia Ali and Kristi Castlin finished gold, silver and bronze in the women’s 100-meter hurdles, it’s the first time all three positions were held in this event by the same country; USA Track and Field Abbey D'Agostino stopped during her race to help a fallen runner, Nikki Hamblin of New Zealand, and together they finished the race in the true spirit of compassion; Jamaica’s sprinter Usain Bolt repeated, for the third consecutive time, winning the 100, 200 and 4x100 relays; and American Simone Biles, just 19 years old, won five medals and is the 2016 Olympic individual all-around, vault and floor gold medalist.
It would be impossible to list all of the impressive performances and the incredible accomplishments earned by so many talented and truly focused athletes in just this one blog. A quick shout out and thanks to Rio for hosting this monumental event, the next summer Olympics will be held in Tokyo, Japan in 2020.
Note added 8/22: "New Zealand 5,000m runner Nikki Hamblin and American Abbey D'Agostino have been awarded a special Olympic medal for sportsmanship.