Our Fellow Americans
The Olympics are less about sports and more about cheering on whoever is wearing red, white and blue in whatever sport and the occasional random who makes us cry during those tear-jerking athlete profiles they show. Damn you Bob Costas. Here are some American Olympians to keep an eye on:
The US Swim Team - Team USA is stacked with medal contenders from Missy Franklin, the darling of London 2012 Games, to new “it” girl Katie Ledecky. Of course, all eyes will also be on the comeback of 22-medal winning Michael Phelps, who renews his Speedo rivalry with fellow American Ryan Lochte and the world for the final time.
Mikela Mayer - A former model and a 70kg boxer with a killer right-hand, Mayer could be the breakout star the female fight game desperately needs right now.
Ibtihaj Muhammad - The first U.S. athlete to compete in the Games in a hijab is member of the US fencing team who can help stick it to stereotypes and unite us by bringing home a color we all love — gold.
Ashton Eaton - While is not a household name, he should be because this Oregon Duck alum is the defending decathlon champion. The American gold medalist from London 2012 heads to Rio as the prohibitive favorite to achieve the rare feat of earning the two-time title as the “world’s greatest athlete.” If that’s not enough of a storyline, his wife, Brianne Theisen-Eaton, is a Canadian favorite to medal in the women's heptathlon. There’s no doubt their kids will be odds on favorites to lead the human resistance in the war against our future robot overlords.
Women’s Gymnastics - Get over the creep factor because you’re watching some of the world’s finest athletes run, jump and show how flexible they are (okay, possibly creepy). In all seriousness, this is the sport that usually captures the world’s attention and has the most Meme potential (remember McKayla Maroney’s unimpressed face). Yeah, the team is pretty good too.
The World Will be Watching
The Rio Games are going to be the most-watched television event in US history. The networks and digital platforms of NBCUniversal will be broadcasting an unprecedented 6,755 hours of programming across 11 networks (NBC, Bravo, Telemundo, etc) to say nothing of the streaming that you will find on NBCOlympics.com and the NBC Sports App. The biggest reason for increased viewership is also the most simple. Unlike recent Olympics in London, which is five hours ahead of the East Coast and Sochi (nine hours ahead), Rio is just one hour ahead of the Eastern Time Zone, which means a lot of the coverage will be spoiler free!
The Zika Buzzword
This year’s host city has been plagued by bad luck and negative press since they’re were chosen over Chicago, Tokyo and Madrid, and not just because “Olympic Village” appears to be less luxurious than a half-constructed supermax prison. Okay, maybe “plagued” was the wrong word considering that “Zika”, a severe infectious virus associated with birth defects, has spread across Central and South America with increasing severity. Scientists have come out to say that there’s a low risk of catching the disease, which is spread through sex, mosquito bites and other ways, but that hasn’t stopped some top athletes like Steph Curry, golfers Jason Day and Rory McIlroy and Wimbledon tennis finalist Milos Raonic to sit these games out.
Putting The O In Olympics
Blame the rigorous training, sequestered lifestyles, and possibly raging hormones, but The Olympic Village is officially ground zero for true international relations. American javelin thrower Breaux Greer said it best, “even if their face is a seven, their body is a 20.” Even the IOC admitted to that fact by distributing a record-breaking 450,000 condoms to Sex Den/Olympic Village (up a whopping 300% from the 150,000 condoms that were given out in London in 2012) because of Zika scares and the general horniness of athletes, who’re in top shape and need to release some stress. Seriously, do the math on that.
Rivalries For Days
Men’s Basketball: USA vs The World - NBA rivalries can travel. While Team USA is obviously the odds-on favorites to take the gold, they’ll face stiff competition from NBA superstar-packed teams like France, Serbia, and Argentina.
Women’s Judo: Maya Aguiar vs Kayla Harrison - Harrison is the defending gold medalist at 78kg and the #4 ranked Aguiar is her biggest rival and will have the home crowd supporting her.
Women’s Beach Volleyball: USA vs Brazil - In another Americas-set rivalry, the three-time defending gold medalist Team USA will face not one but two potential podium contenders in both teams from the host country, including the 2015 world champs Barbara Seixas and Agatha Bednarczuk.
Men’s 100m Butterfly: Michael Phelps vs Chad le Clos - The first swimmer to truly challenge Phelps’ dominance in the butterfly, the South African le Clos should be in the mix with Phelps after the two traded victories the past few years. With this being Phelps’ final Olympics, the tension should be heavy.
Men’s Soccer: Brazil vs Argentina - In what looks to be a premier event in this year’s games, these two South American powerhouses truly despise each other. Argentina doesn’t have Messi and Brazil has an easy draw, but seeing these two teams meet in the gold medal game could be the stuff of legends.
Men’s 100m: Usain Bolt vs Justin Gatlin - The two have dominated the marquee event in the last three Olympics with two golds for Bolt and 1 for Gatlin. But both are on their literal and figurative last legs in their third Olympics each, and ultimately the health of Bolt’s injured hamstring could be the deciding factor.