It’s that time of the decade again. Yup, it’s been 4 years since the 2012 London Summer Olympic Games, and we’re due for another one! This time around, we get to see athletes compete in Rio De Janeiro, Brazil.
Some of the fittest, most dedicated, and hard working athletes will gather in Rio to battle it out to claim glory for their country. As with every Olympic games, there will moments of of ups and downs, excitement and disappointment.
And also like the rest of the Olympic games, this one is special in its own right. There are athletes that everyone expects to bring a lot of excitement to the games. Here’s a list of the most exciting athletes to watch for in the upcoming Olympics, in no particular order.
Top Athletes to Watch
1. Simone Biles
Alongside four other starting members of the Women’s Artistic Gymnastics team, Simone Biles will be representing the United States in this years Olympics. Simone started gymnastics at the age of six and has since continued training throughout her schooling.
What separates her from the rest of her teammates is that she’s been on a hot streak since 2015. She has done very well on almost all of her events and have been taking home medals every time she competed since then.
She has 14 World Championship medals so far, which is the most out of any American athlete. Out of the 14 medals are 10 gold medals, which is the most out of any woman in World Championships history.
Looking at her medal record, every time she wins a medal, it’s most likely a gold.
Simone has compete in 86 events so far, including her junior competitions and the Olympic Trials. She medaled 64 of those events with 50 golds, with 11 silvers and 3 bronzes.
Besides her medal achievements and other awards that she’s won, her performance is really something else. Take a look for yourself.
And she’s only 19 years old. If she keeps improving and performing the way she has been, there will be a high chance to see her again and again in future Olympic games.
2. Usain Bolt
Lightning’s about to strike for a third time, and the Jamaican native is aiming for Rio. Usain Bolt has become a household name over the last 8 years, and rightfully so. Given his dominant performances in the 2008 Beijing Olympics and the 2012 London Olympics, Bolt is set to complete a trifecta of gold medals in the men’s two major sprinting events, the 100 meters and 200 meters.
Bolt also currently holds world record times in those two events as well. Both the scorching 9.58 second in the 100 meters and 19.19 seconds in the 200 meters were set at the 2009 World Championships in Berlin, Germany. He also had a part in setting the world record in the 4×100 meter relay along with his teammates at the 2012 London Olympics.
Starting with the 2008 Beijing Olympic games until World Championships in Beijing last year, Bolt has won gold in these three events each year except for the 100 meters in the 2011 World Championships and the 4×100 meter relay in the 2015 World Relay Championships.
To put into perspective his achievements so far, he is the only modern Olympic athlete to win 6 gold medals in sprinting events. He is also an 11-time world champion.
Along side him is a very special teammate, one that Bolt himself calls “The Beast”. Yohan Blake certainly fits that description on the track. He will be another competitor to watch for in the games along with Bolt.
Although Bolt had suffered a hamstring injury earlier in the year, he has been on track (pun intended) to get back into peak shape for the games.
Out of the 3 Olympic games he has and will participate in, Bolt has the most reason to win this one in Rio. He has verbally confirmed that he will retire after the 2017 World Championships, meaning this is his last Olympic games.
On top of that, he’s set a standard for himself in everyone’s eyes. When he broke his own world record in the 100 meters, the bar was set extremely high after that.
This was on top of the fact that he broke the original world record in the 100 meters in the 2008 Beijing Olympics while slowing down towards the very end of the race.
Yes, feats of this nature are what’s been expected of Bolt, and although we can’t realistically expect him to break a world record every time he sets foot on the track, he has been delivering sensational performances as you can tell from the video above.
I think we can expect this years Olympic games to be no different, especially since he’s closing out his Olympic career. What better way for the Lightning Bolt to go out than with a bang?
3. Lu Xiaojun
Here’s an athlete that has been dominating in his weight class in a sport not as well known as the ones we’ve mentioned so far.
The 3 time world champion in the 77 kg class, Lu is an Olympic Weightlifter that will be representing China at Rio. This will be his second Olympic games appearance.
There isn’t much info about Lu, and weightlifting may not be the most exciting sport to a lot of us. But his dominance of the sport will definitely make him one of the most exciting names at the games.
He currently holds the world record for the snatch and total, both of which he broke his own previous records to achieve. The original snatch and total world record are also Olympic records set at the 2012 London Olympic games.
Lu is known for his textbook form during the lifts. It’s evident that the way of coaching in China is the mastery of the form and technique of the lift. Strength is something that’s constantly being worked on. But form and technique is where the hard work and time are spent.
Those of us not familiar with Olympic Weightlifting may not have ever heard of Lu. In that case, I’ll let his training and lifts take care of the introduction.
4. Michael Phelps
Another household name that have been heard around the world, the most decorated Olympian of all time is back to take a shot at the Rio Olympics.
It can arguably be said that the excitement with Michael Phelps truly started at the 2008 Beijing Olympics. Phelps was expected to make a splash (again, pun intended) at the 2008 Beijing Olympic games with his performance in the prior year’s Olympics and World Championships.
Phelps started his Olympic journey in the 2000 Sydney Olympic games. He was 15 at the time and did not win any medals that year. But the came back with a vengeance the following years.
After winning a combined total of 7 gold medals and 4 silver medals in the 2002 Pan Pacific and 2003 World Championships (also setting 4 world records along the way), he went on to the 2004 Athens Olympics.
There, Phelps won 6 gold and 3 bronze medals, putting himself right behind Mark Spitz’s record of 7 gold medals in a single Olympics. But that was going to change soon.
Phelps further solidified his status as a top dog between 2004 and 2008 by winning a combined total of 17 gold medals and 2 silver medals in 3 different competitions.
In the 2008 Olympics, Phelps won 8 gold medals from the games that year, officially breaking Spitz record. He also broke 7 world records and 1 Olympic record, most of the which were his own from the previous year’s World Championships.
It was the Olympic champion status that got Phelps to the top of the swimming world. Matter of fact, regardless of sport, there wasn’t an athlete in the world that haven’t heard of Michael Phelps since the 2008 Olympics. The 2 biggest names of the 2008 Olympic games were Usain Bolt and Michael Phelps, bar none.
Here’s one of Phelp’s most exciting performances from the Beijing Olympics.
Between the 2008 Olympics and the 2012 Olympics in London, Phelps went on to set a few more world records and win a whole lot more medals, most of which were gold.
But Phelps wasn’t done yet.
In the 2012 London Olympics, Phelps went on to win 4 gold medals and 2 silver medals, officially branding himself as the most decorated Olympian of all time.
Now having passed the US Olympic Trials, Phelps is heading to his fifth Olympics.
And similar to Bolt’s case, this may be the last Olympics for this great athlete.
This leads me to believe than it will be one of his best showings out of all the world championships and Olympics that he’s been in before. It’s hard to imagine how he can outdo his performance in the 2008 Beijing Olympics, but come August, everyone will be watching this man attempt to do just that.
5. Neymar da Silva Santos Jr.
One of the most exciting athletes in this year’s Olympics has one of the top names in the most popular sport in the world. Neymar is a footballer (soccer player for those in the US) that plays as a forward for the Brazil National Team.
Besides the fact that he’s one of the best players in the world right now, he will be representing his home country of Brazil in the Olympics.
Neymar has been praised by many of his peers, including a few of the all-time best players such as Ronaldo, Ronaldinho, and Lionel Messi. They all have said that Neymar will be the best player in the world.
Even the Brazilian legend Pele have said that Neymar is an excellent player and that Lionel Messi must surpass Neymar if he wants to be the best player in the world.
Neymar’s achievements speak for themselves. Having scored a total of 267 goals in his career so far, 46 of which while on the national team, Neymar has separated himself from the rest.
But it’s his on-field performance that really dazzles the crowd. See for yourself.
There’s another big reason why Neymar will be putting on a show.
As dominant as Brazil is, the country has never took home an Olympic gold medal in this sport. Adding fuel to this already burning fire to win it all, Neymar was injured in the 2014 World Cup. During the quarter-finals against Colombia, Neymar suffered a fractured vertebrae from a knee to the back.
Brazil won that match but lost to Germany in the next round, who went on to win the World Cup. Without Neymar, Brazil also lost in the match against the Netherlands for third place.
That was the first World Cup for Neymar and he expressed his sorrow at not being able to play for the team after his injury. From the way he’s been playing however, it seems the young Brazilian will be coming back with a vengeance.
Recently, we have saw quite a few athletes penalized with suspensions and revoked medals by the International Olympic Committee (IOC).
Samples from athletes that participated in the past 2 Olympic games were re-tested, using more advanced methods that didn’t exist during the competition. The athletes that were re-tested to positive will be disqualified from the upcoming Rio Olympics at the very least.
This was a sad day for the world of sports as it shows the level of dishonesty and the “win by any means necessary” attitude that’s still so prevalent. Some of the athletes that were re-tested to be positive were some of my favorite. They would have been on this list.
In addition to the level of crime in Rio, this is another factor that will hurt the Olympics this year. It’s hard to believe that a champion is a true champion if there’s a chance he/she may be doping.
How can we cheer on such ones when no one is sure if they’re clean or not?
Personally, I give all the athletes the benefit of the doubt when they break a world record or win the gold medal. Ilya Ilin was one of the athletes that I was disappointed to see re-tested positive. He was a dominant weightlifter in his weight class, breaking his own records over and over.
But all those achievements may have not been possible without the support of the substances he was tested positive for.
This is not to take anything away from the athletes. They all work extremely hard to get to where they are, drugs or not. But PEDs and other drugs have no place in the sports world if we’re talking about sportsmanship and having respect for your fellow competitors.
Lessons For Us
There are many lessons for us when considering the Olympics games. It’s a reminder for us of how hard some of us work to achieve what we really desire in life.
The level of dedication and focus is truly to be admired. Spending your best years training and working on your craft, just to show the world that you’re the best at what you do, once every 4 years. Some events like weightlifting or track sprinting events last only seconds.
Years, sometimes decades of dedication and hard work; all of it for those few seconds of glory.
To some of us, that may not make much sense. Best years of my life just for a few measly seconds? I rather live an enjoyable life!
But if you’re anything like me, that exemplifies the amount of focus and dedication we must have for our goals in order to achieve success. These athletes are the prime example of “hard work pays off”.
All the athletes that make it to the Olympic games in representation of their country has already achieve success on a great level. They all have shown they are the best at what they do in their respective countries, which is more than what most of us can say.
But to them, the goal is the gold medal. There is no satisfaction with being the national champ.
For us, it sometime may feel easier to give up, thinking that we’ve done enough. Even if we fell short of our original goals, there may be an inner voice telling us that it’s okay to stop or let up because we’ve accomplished a lot already.
During those times, will you give in to that voice? Or will you follow the examples of Olympic athletes?