Photos: The 2016 Rio Olympics Comes to a Close
The Summer Olympics came to a colorful close on Sunday night– some are even calling it carnivalesque– following a week of record-breaking performances, heroic moments and controversy.
In total, the U.S. led the games, taking home 121 medals, followed by China with 70, Britain with 67 and Russia with 56. The games ended on a high note for hosting country Brazil, after the men’s football team beat out Germany for the gold medal on Saturday night.
Helen Louise Maroulis made history on Thursday night when she became the first U.S. woman athlete to win an Olympic gold medal for wrestling. Maroulis, a 24-year old Maryland native, took out Japan’s 13-time world champion Saori Yoshida in the 53kg elimination round.
“In the semifinals, I remember thinking, it is an honor to wrestle Yoshiday,” Maroulis said on Twitter. “For someone to win three gold medals and come back and to risk that and accept that challenge, that is another four years of work and dedication and giving your life to the sport. Yoshida is an incredible, incredible athlete. The more I studied her, the more it was like, she is not my enemy, no one here is really my enemy. God taught me that these are women who want the same thing that you do and are sacrificing the same things that you are. It is not about hating that person you are going against, but it is about respecting that person so much that you are going to give it your all.”
As the world said goodbye to Michael Phelps, the events in track & field were just getting started with another sports icon set out to perform his craft. In a short 9.81 seconds, Jamaican superstar sprinter Usain Bolt cemented his status as the world’s fastest man, winning the 100m for the third time. Out of the blocks Bolt’s main rival, American Justin Gatlin, got off to a quick start and just as those watching held their breath thinking he could perhaps dethrone the springing king, Bolt kicked it into a higher gear. With the finish line nearing Bolt passed Gatlin, gliding across the track, making it look easy and even appearing to smile as he passed the competitors and cameras. Bolt is now the only man or woman to win that race three times, which he was able to do in three consecutive Olympics. On Thursday night, the Jamaican runner sprinted toward his eighth Olympic gold medal after winning the 200m race, coming in ahead of Canada’s Andre de Grasse and France’s Christophe Lemaitre in just 19.78 seconds. He will run in the 4x100-meter relay final on Friday.
Also on the track, the women’s 400-meter race ended in a dramatic fashion as Shaunae Miller of the Bahamas lunged her body forward across the finishing line just as American sprinting legend Allyson Felix was closing in on the inside. At first it was hard to determine who had taken first in the photo finish, but it quickly became apparent that the desperation dive had provided Miller with the gold, defeating Felix by a mere 0.07 seconds. Miller’s time, 49.44, was a new personal best, and the silver made Felix, medals-wise, the most accomplished American female in the history of track and field.
On Wednesday the U.S trio of Brianna Rollins, Nia Ali, and Kristi Castlin swept the 100m hurdles. It marked the first time a nation has swept the podium in the event.
American sensation Simone Biles continued to prove her dominance over the women’s gymnastics field, finishing her first Olympics with five medals- four of them gold. With tremendously high expectations surrounding her, Biles was nearly flawless in all her events, but for an uncharacteristically sub par performance on the balance beam. As she worked through her routine, the most difficult of the group, Biles slipped, impressively saving herself from falling off the beam entirely, but still putting her hands down to catch her balance. Even with that error Biles still was able to medal, snagging the Bronze while teammate Laurie Hernandez took Silver. Biles now joins the elite group of Mary Lou Retton, Shannon Miller, and Natia Liukin as the only four American female gymnasts to win five medals in a single Olympics and is the most decorated American gymnast, male or female, with her 17 medals in Olympic and world-championship competition.
In a stunning upset, second-seeded Brazilians Agatha and Barabara defeated three-time Olympic gold medalist Kerri Walsh-Jennings and 2012 silver medalist April Ross in women’s beach volleyball semifinals. This was the first loss of Walsh-Jennings’s Olympic career, but she and Ross rebounded quickly and went on to take the bronze. Germany’s Laura Ludwig and Kira Walkenhorst eventually defeated Agatha and Barbara in the gold medal match.
The Swedish women’s soccer team became the Cinderella story of the tournament, defeating the heavily favored American and Brazilian teams both in penalty kicks to reach the finals. They now face German in the gold medal match. On the men’s side, home country Brazil was off to a quick start in the semi-finals against Honduras with crowd favorite Neymar wasting no time and scoring 15 seconds into the game. Brazil went on to win 6-0 and will also face Germany in the finals.
Amidst all the competition, the true Olympic spirit was on display this week as runners Nikki Hamblin, from New Zealand, and American Abbey D’Agostino showed the true meaning of sportsmanship. It started during the women’s 5000-meter race when Hamblin and D’Agostino appeared to have contact while running causing them to both take a hard fall on the track. First D’Agostino got up as Hamlbin stayed lying, but rather than continue running she offered to help Hamblin and telling her, “Get up. We have to finish this.” With D’Agostino’s help Hamblin picked herself up and they both continued to run but it soon became apparent D’Agostino was the one who needed more help with a severe knee injury. Even with the crash, both were able to finish the race and at the end Hamblin waited for D’Agostino to finish to embrace each other. It was the kind of Olympics moment and act of kindness between competitors that will be remembered in the years to come.