Rio de Janeiro 2016: Great Olympic Moments

Team USA leads the medal count for the sixth consecutive Olympic Games

The Final FIve proudly display their gold medals.
Photo by Julio Cortez/Associated Press

The Final Five women’s gymnastics team of, from left to right, Aly Raisman, Madison Kocian, Lauren Hernandez, Gabby Douglas and Simone Biles delivered sensational performances.

By Josh Barr

Team USA enjoyed one of its most successful Olympic Games, winning 121 medals, 46 of them gold. It was the sixth consecutive Games that the U.S. led the medal count and the third-most medals ever for Team USA. The victories included the 1,000th gold medal all-time for Team USA, won by the women’s swimming 4×100-meter medley relay team of Kathleen Baker, Lilly King, Dana Vollmer and Simone Manuel. The swimming team and track and field team were dominant, combining to win 65 medals, 29 of them gold, including one final golden spree by Michael Phelps. The Final Five women’s gymnastics team was sensational, winning nine medals, its most ever, including the team all-around gold medal and Simone Biles’ individual all-around gold medal.  

Simone Biles is simply golden

Simone Biles is focused on her jump on the balance beam.
Photo courtesy International Olympic Committee

Simone Biles was in a league of her own, leaving teammates in awe of her dominant performance.

Simone Biles entered Rio 2016 with the highest of expectations and the three-time defending all-around world champion was up to the challenge. Biles led Team USA’s Final Five to the team all-around gold medal, then won the individual all-around gold and brought home individual gold in the vault and floor exercise and bronze in the balance beam.

It was a string of sensational performances by Biles, who was unfazed by the spotlight – real or perceived – of being a heavy favorite. She became the first American female gymnast to win four gold medals in a single Olympics.

I deal with pressure very well,” she said.

Biles was selected by her Team USA teammates to be the flag bearer at the Rio Closing Ceremony.

Sam Kendricks comes to a patriotic stop

Sam Kendricks holds an American flag taut behind his back
Photo courtesy International Olympic Committee

When the national anthem played for shotputter Michelle Carter’s victory, Sam Kendricks dropped everything.

As soon as U.S. Army Reserve Second Lieutenant Sam Kendricks heard the first notes of The Star-Spangled Banner, he immediately decelerated and stopped his approach to the pole vault, set down his pole, turned and stood at attention.

It was a remarkable change of focus, but Kendricks was certain he was doing the right thing. He went on to win the bronze medal in the men’s pole vault.

“As a military man and as a U.S. athlete, I keep my haircut in order to put the best foot forward for all the soldiers who are watching,” he said. “Those guys are really proud of me and have given me every chance to continue as a civilian … [proud] to represent the Americans on two fronts, as a military man and as a U.S. athlete.”

Katie Ledecky just keeps breaking records

Katie Ledecky is in the clear as she touches the wall well ahead of the field
Photo courtesy International Olympic Committee

Katie Ledecky set lofty aspirations for Rio and met them, winning five medals, four of them gold.

One of the most dominant athletes of her generation, Katie Ledecky’s victory in the women’s 800-meter freestyle was incredible even by her own lofty standards. Ledecky took nearly two seconds off her own world record and finished more than 11 seconds ahead of the field.

It was Ledecky’s fourth gold medal in Rio and fifth overall, culminating a week in which she won gold in the 200 freestyle and took nearly two seconds off her own world record in winning gold in the 400 freestyle. She became the first woman since Debbie Meyer in 1968 to win gold in the 200-, 400- and 800-meter freestyle.

“I hit all my goals right on the nose this week, and I couldn’t be happier with how this whole week has gone,” Ledecky said.

Abbey D'Agostino shows there is more to the Olympics than just winning

Nikki Hamlin and Abbey D'Agostino (in a wheelchair) share a moment after their race.
Photo by Martin Meissner/Associated Press

Abbey D’Agostino showed the spirit of the Olympics and completed her race despite a serious knee injury.

Abbey D’Agostino was not sure what happened as she lifted herself off the track and back to her feet in a preliminary heat of the women’s 5,000-meter race. But as she looked down and saw New Zealand’s Nikki Hamblin – whom she had never met previously — laying on the track, D’Agostino acted instinctually. Instead of immediately trying to continue the race, D’Agostino wanted to help her fellow competitor.

Come on, get up,” D’Agostino said.

It was a wonderful display of Olympic spirit as the two runners encouraged each other to complete the race. D’Agostino was in obvious pain; she later was diagnosed with torn knee ligaments that required reconstructive surgery.

D’Agostino and Hamblin were awarded the International Olympic Committee’s Fair Play Award</