A few weeks ago, I broke down the 7 Olympic Events You Don’t Know About (but Probably Should).
This time, I’m here to break down the more obvious storylines, but of course there are a couple of twists. After all, how many Olympics can you remember where an athlete you never heard of stole your heart and made you proud to be an American?
You’re right — every Olympics.
This year, there are some clear candidates that are already the main headlines of Rio. Michael Phelps, who will carry the U.S. Flag, will be fascinating. Obviously.
Usain Bolt is another one, but he’s not American, I know. Still. This will be awesome and you’ll undoubtedly see it on Twitter, Facebook, and every other social media feed (Snapgram?) before it actually airs on TV. — Seriously, what’s up with the tape delay, NBC? This isn’t 1992.
— Olympics (@Olympics) July 7, 2016
Anyway, here are a few more U.S. Olympic heroes you won’t be able to escape this month… and may just be getting to know during tonight’s Opening Ceremony.
Starting with one who may become the talk of the Olympics… even more than Michael Phelps.
1. Simone Biles
The name is probably known by many, but for those of you who only pay attention to gymnastics every four years, Simone Biles is the one to watch. She is joining up with an America’s Sweetheart from last Olympics, Gabby Douglas, to lead the U.S. Women’s Gymnastics team as the overwhelming favorite for Rio 2016.
At 4’-8”, she’s the shortest gymnast on the Olympic team.
Clearly, that number doesn’t matter. Except to hopefully inspire.
Now, the one that does matter: TEN. As in the amount of World Championships Simone Biles has already won.
Those in the know are predicting more gold ahead in the vault, floor, and overall competitions. (One of those in-the-know people happens to be a friend of mine who coaches women’s gymnastics. She lives and breathes the gymnastics circuit and said it would be “shocking” if Biles won anything other than gold.)
That’s right, I got sources. That’s what I’m here for.
Research any expert article though and you’ll read more of the same. Watch below and you can also see why.
Biles, 19, missed the age cut for London 2012, and unfortunately, may be too old to compete in 2020 (in gymnastics standards) so this may be the only time we see her compete on this stage. I’ll be tuning in once gymnastics events start on Sunday.
2. Michael Phelps (obviously)
There’s not much to really add here that you don’t already know, but here is a quick breakdown of what’s at stake:
Nothing too much, really.
I mean, the obvious gold medal and competitive pride, but Phelps already set the all-time records for Most Individual Gold Medals (8) in a single Olympics and the all-time record by anyone for total Gold Medals, and Medals overall, with 18 and 22 respectively.
That said, if his retirement after last Olympics was any clue, this is likely the last we see of the 31-year old swimmer. Let’s enjoy it while we can.
3. Carli Lloyd
Did you see that Carli Lloyd scored a goal in the first game of the Olympics? .On Wednesday??
Wait, am I missing something or was there an actual event in Rio, before tonight’s Opening Ceremony?
I did a number of takes, two or three at least, of the U.S. Women’s Soccer team trending on Twitter, confused that their Olympic play has already started.
It did. They won 2-0 over Australia. U.S.A.!
Lloyd, whose star shone bright in the 2015 World Cup Final, netted a hat trick including this breathtaking goal from midfield.
I bring this up because, a) it’s seriously one of the most incredible highlights of the past year, and b) I can’t see it being topped in Rio.
That said, I can see the continued glory of winning in consecutive years bolstering the star of Carli Lloyd and her U.S. teammates to another level. Lloyd, a co-captain, is probably the new face of the team in lieu of the retirement of Abby Wambach — and if Wednesday’s game is any indicator, she’s primed to enter an even bigger spotlight.
4. DeMar DeRozan (or Klay Thompson, or Kevin Durant, or Carmelo Anthony)
The casual sports fan probably doesn’t know who DeMar DeRozan is.
You will if he actually lands something like this in Rio.
This is a 360° dunk over a defender that LeBron James would have ranked as a top 5 dunk ever had he landed it. I was watching this live, on my phone, in a public place, where it was definitely inappropriate to audibly gasp and damn near walk out onto the sidewalk in disbelief (and I did both of those things). Something like this has never been attempted!
And it turns out, the Olympic stage is actually the proper platform to see a remarkable individual performance. I went to the Team USA exhibition in Los Angeles last week (not the one where this near dunk happened) and one of my main takeaways was that the U.S. team was trying, balls out, for the entire game… even though they won handily by 49.
The reason for this? The culture created by the U.S.A. coaching staff throughout the past ten years, which reestablished what an honor it is to represent our country.
Translation: We’re going to get maximum effort from 11 of the world’s best players (and Harrison Barnes) for 40 minutes a game, against inferior competition.
We may see co-captains Carmelo Anthony or Kevin Durant set an Olympic scoring record (they’re NBA scoring champs.) We may see Klay Thompson drain even more than the 11 threes he made in a do-or-die game in this year’s playoffs. We may even see DeMar DeRozan, the team’s best dunker, land that 360 and spark an international incident. (Or it could be Draymond Green if he hits someone in the nuts again.)
(Disclaimer: Basketball is my favorite sport and I know you may not care about it as much as I do, but it’s performances like these that make Olympic ball worth watching. I’ve seriously watched this video once every two weeks out of pure awe.)
BONUS: The One Who Doesn’t Necessarily Win
There is one more U.S. Olympic hero I am forgetting. And it’s one that’s impossible to predict.
It may not even happen. It doesn’t happen every Olympics, but at least every two or three, there is a U.S. Olympic hero who overcomes some sort of unforeseen odds or injury to win, perhaps, but at least just compete with the type of heart that stirs the pride within every American.
The hero that comes to mind for most is probably Kerri Strug. She completed two vaults after having torn ligaments in her ankle in 1996 to ensure a gold medal for the U.S. Women’s Gymnastics team.
In that case, America won. But you don’t have to win the gold, silver, or bronze to be remembered as an American hero. It’s how an athlete represents the spirit of competition and perseveres as an inspiring example for anyone watching.
Flashback to 1992. Derek Redmond.
(If he isn’t familiar to you, that’s fine. Just be sure to watch this.)
— Olympics (@Olympics) August 3, 2016
Is someone chopping onions?
Seriously though, it’s moments like these that will make this August a memorable time for months, years, and generations to come.
Given the climate of the country right now, the Olympics couldn’t come at a better time.
I don’t know who or how exactly, but I hope that on this international stage, we see our country’s top athletes use this platform to also inspire some positive change.
America needs a win right now.