Published On: Mon, Aug 22nd, 2016

16 unforgettable moments from Rio 2016

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Sixteen days. Sixteen moments we’ll never forget.

Bolt secures the impossible triple-triple

Usain Bolt’s final event at Rio 2016 was more of a coronation than a competitive, world-class race. But it was plenty historic, as Bolt anchored the Jamaican 4x100m relay team to victory and secured the impossible triple-triple. With due apologies to a vibrant, diverse pool of athletes, Bolt rendered all other competitions as background noise during the second week of Rio 2016.

Bolt already etched himself into the history books as the greatest athlete of all time by defending his 100m and 200m titles earlier in the week, defeating fields that included his principal rival in 2004 100m gold medalist Justin Gatlin, and the future of the sport in Canada’s Andre De Grasse. In his final event, Bolt delivered his most visceral performance.

Running the anchor leg for Jamaica, Bolt received a perfect handoff from Nickel Ashmeade, then obliterated the rest of the field. Reaching his unmatched top gear, Bolt’s final run was an optical illusion of sorts as Japan’s Asuka Cambridge and American Trayvon Bromell appeared to be decelerating from the picture. It was another iconic moment in Bolt’s legendary catalog and, just short of his 30th birthday, the Jamaican superstar once again pushed the sport to new heights.

Long live King Bolt. – Arun Srinivasan

What color is the water today?

The enduring color of Rio’s Olympics isn’t gold, silver, or bronze. It’s the shade of murky, toxic green the diving pool took on during the first week of competition, the color it remained for most of the Olympics, and the color it will forever remain in our memories.

We still don’t know how or why the water transformed (it might have had to do with hydrogen peroxide, and algae was almost certainly involved), but organizers’ inability to correct the issue became a daily embarrassment for Brazilians who hoped the first Olympics in South America would represent a proud coming out party for their nation onto the global stage.

Zika didn’t derail these Summer Games, nor inadequate facilities or lax security. But they certainly didn’t go off without a hitch, and their legacy may be a reminder to the IOC that the institution that is the Olympics isn’t as infallible as they may think. – David P. Woods


A relentless quest for glory has never been more evident than when Michael Phelps was preparing to face his rival, Chad le Clos. His menacing glare resulted in the birth of the “Phelps Face,” and the internet lost it. In what looked like a rare glimpse into pre-race routine of the Olympics’ most decorated athlete as he prepared to race the man who upset him in London, Phelps later explained he wasn’t “mean mugging” the South African, instead, insisting he was simply in the zone. A horrifying zone. – Gordon Brunt

Hamblin and D’Agostino show Olympic spirit

The act of kindness and sacrifice shown by Nikki Hamblin and Abbey D’Agostino melted hearts around the world. The pair abandoned their dreams of winning an Olympic medal in an effort to help each other after a nasty collision. Moments after D’Agostino aided the New Zealander during the 5,000m race, the American collapsed to the ground in obvious pain before Hamblin repaid the gesture. Hamblin and D’Agostino finished last, but will always be remembered for epitomizing the very essence of the Olympic spirit. – Brunt

Fast friends

Sprinters associated only previously by the logos stitched to their spandex are now linked through history as Usain Bolt and Andre De Grasse forged friendship inside the white lines on the Olympic track. This bond built on speed.

OK – so that was a touch overdone. But as the plates shift in athletics, those impromptu back-and-forth glances that the outgoing greatest of all time exchanged with the Canadian fireball, their smiles wide, could come to represent the perfect snapshots of generations overlapping in sprint.

Yet, as influential as Bolt has become, his word isn’t powerful enough to make his fellow brand ambassador the next baddest man on the planet. Instead, the four years De Grasse will spend refining those 40-plus strides inside a lane not illuminated by a prodigious pacemaker will determine his future.

But for now, damn was it cool to witness that kid sharing Bolt’s glow. – Justin Cuthbert

The Lochte saga

Ryan Lochte’s Rio rampage was one of those stories that even the most gullible person sniffed out immediately. It went from Lochte taking on the entire Brazilian security forces with a smirking “do your worst” attitude, to the swimmer admitting to vandalizing a gas station, and a rent-a-cop telling him and his fellow swimmers to stop being jerks and pay for the damage they caused. What a jabroni. – Joe Thomson

Rose and Stenson battle to the end

Rory, Jordan, Dustin, and Day weren’t there. Neither were the trappings of a major championship or a chest of cash in the back waiting to be pried open. But at the end of a tournament with a leaderboard likeness to that of an in-between weekend on tour, the roar told you just how little excess mattered.

Under the circumstances, it was the perfect end to the first Olympic golf tournament in 112 years, as Justin Rose and Henrik Stenson, two major champions and men enlightened enough to understand the Olympic consequence, approached the 72nd hole deadlocked.

In the end, it was Great Britain’s Rose who flew in the more accurate wedge, tapped in the birdie, climbed onto the top step of the podium, received his Olympic gold medal, saw the Union Jack ripple in the wind as his national anthem played, and, hopefully, made those nonstarters more than a little bit envious. – Cuthbert

USWNT upstaged by Sweden

With gold medals in the last three Olympics, the question entering Rio 2016 wasn’t if the U.S. would make the finals, it was who would they play? Their former coach, Pia Sundhage, and her Sweden team had different ideas, shocking the world with a shootout victory and sending the Americans packing.

U.S. goalkeeper Hope Solo reacted to the loss by calling the Swedes “a bunch of cowards” for their defensive style, and was suitably roasted for the comments. The Americans’ presence will certainly be remembered at Rio 2016, but it won’t be for the reasons most expected. – Dane Belbeck

Miller’s daring dive

Shaunae Miller of the Bahamas provided one of the defining moments of the Rio Games with the “Dive Heard ‘Round The World.” Miller’s last-ditch effort in the 800m was just enough to edge out American Allyson Felix by 0.07 seconds for the gold medal. The end of the race sparked plenty of debate over whether Miller’s dive should have been legal and provided arguably the greatest photo-finish in Olympic history. Miller said the dive was unintentional, but regardless, it’ll never be forgotten by those that witnessed her give everything she had. – Mike Dickson

Puig, not Serena, conquers the court

Monica Puig wasn’t supposed to be in the women’s tennis final. The spot opposite Angelique Kerber was supposed to go to Serena Williams, or Petra Kvitova, or one of a number of ranked players. But no, there was the unexpected Puig taking on the No. 2 player in the world in the biggest match of her career. Puig didn’t shrink from the moment, instead she thrived, topping Kerber in a three-set classic and not only did she become the first unseeded player to win gold since the reintroduction of tennis, but she also brought home the first gold medal in Olympic history for Puerto Rico. – Dickson

Rio’s hottest beach party

Late into the night throughout the Olympics, 12,000 people showed up at Copacabana Beach for a party and a beach volleyball match broke out. Undoubtedly the wildest atmosphere at Rio 2016, midnight matches in the competition did not disappoint, particularly the men’s gold medal victory by the Brazilian duo of Alison and Bruno. Despite rain pelting the beach, the raucous crowd chanted throughout the contest, including a rendition of the White Stripes’ “Seven Nation Army” during the final point. Upon victory, both players raced into the stands to celebrate with their people, creating a scene that won’t be soon forgotten in Brazil. – Belbeck

Muhammad makes history and helps U.S. claim bronze

Ibtihaj Muhammad became the first U.S. athlete to compete in an Olympic Games wearing a hijab, but the 30-year-old fencer didn’t just make history by participating. She helped the United States earn the bronze medal in the women’s team saber event.

The place of Muhammad’s religion in America is – rightly or wrongly – one of the most contentious election-year issues, but along with 400m hurdles gold medalist Dalilah Muhammad, she proved Muslim-American athletes can make the nation proud, represent it with class and reflect its true spirit on the international stage. – Josh Gold-Smith

Da Silva vaults to stardom

The Olympics have the capacity to turn unknown athletes into national icons overnight, and that’s precisely what happened when unfancied Brazilian pole vaulter Thiago Braz da Silva captured gold, announcing himself to the country, and the world.

For all of Brazil’s deficiencies at Rio 2016, the host nation was relentlessly boisterous in support of its athletes, and Da Silva seemed the greatest beneficiary. Conventional wisdom said everything was against the 22-year-old: Renaud Lavillenie, the world-record holder and defending Olympic champion, was cruising. On a gloomy evening in which Usain Bolt wasn’t in action, Olympic Stadium was half empty. Then the magic happened.

Da Silva set an Olympic record by vaulting 6.03m. Lavillenie, so calm all night, was suddenly ​rattled. The crowd jeered the Frenchman incessantly; those who showed up provided deafening noise. Lavillenie became the villain, and he was slayed by a Sao Paulo kid who instantly became a hero. The true magic of the Olympics. – Gianluca Nesci

Farah recovers from fall to defend gold

Mo Farah’s chances of repeating as the Olympic gold medalist in the men’s 10,000m didn’t seem high when he collided with his training partner – U.S. runner Galen Rupp – and fell to the ground on the 10th lap, but Farah made a memorable push down the stretch to win the race.

The collision knocked the pride of Great Britain into ninth place, but he got up seemingly unscathed and quickly made up ground, capturing his eighth straight gold medal at the Olympics and World Championships combined.

Farah and his determination under the circumstances embodied the Olympic principles and served as a valuable lesson for a generation of aspiring athletes and fans alike. – Gold-Smith

Figueroa delivers ultimate mic drop

In a culture that reveres the mic-drop meme, Colombian weightlifter Oscar Figueroa executed the perfect ending to his career. Upon winning the men’s 62 kg weightlifting competition, Figueroa placed his shoes on the podium in a symbolic gesture indicating his retirement. At 33, Figueroa’s triumph capped an Olympic career that was once rife with equal measures of promise and disappointment.

Figueroa was the subject of infamy in 2008 after failing to complete a single lift during the snatch event. Resolute in the Olympic spirit, Figueroa came back four years later and emerged with the silver medal in the 62 kg. Eight years removed from his professional nadir, Figueroa’s resilient effort catapulted him to gold in Rio and he burst into tears upon winning.

Few things are better than retiring at the pinnacle, and Figueroa did that by dropping the mic on the sport’s grandest stage. – Srinivasan

​Bolt shows triumphant Neymar some love​

Everybody wants to emulate Usain Bolt, including Brazil’s favorite son after leading his country to a first-ever Olympic gold medal in men’s soccer. The Jamaican icon even reached out to Neymar to congratulate the lithe superstar on the historic achievement. Athletes coming together. Perhaps not in the traditional sense, but that’s what the Olympics are all about, right? – ​Nesci

Photos courtesy Action Images

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