At least for two weeks every four years we can enjoy a global event that promotes the concept of the whole world being something more than pieces of land and water divided by imaginary borders, inhabited by billions of individuals. We can enjoy the entire world being one big whole. And that’s a reason in itself to love the sheer concept of the Olympic Games. All the people there are just that - people, and athletes, first and foremost. Everything else is second to that.
It is a utopia, but it’s nice to fantasize that humans around the world will ever realize we’re all just that - humans, and then tens of places under that we’re white, black, Polish, Sudanese, Chilean, Indonesian, Christian, Jewish or Muslim.
In the Olympics there are always events and individuals that for some reason catch special attention, and here are my five favorite ones so far:
1. Joseph Schooling beat Michael Phelps in 100 meter butterfly.
Let’s get one thing straight right away - Phelps is the most decorated and thus the most successful Olympian of all time, and him winning one gold medal less wouldn’t be such a big story if it didn’t have at least a little twist to it. Singapore’s 21-year-old Joseph Schooling actually met Phelps some 8 years ago. Phelps was already an international superstar at the time, and was his hero. But when they went head to head in the Rio 2016. Olympics there was no awe from Schooling’s side, just the drive to take home that medal he’s been working for all these years. And he did it. Phelps, as the great sportsman he is, took this “defeat” with a smile, and shared the silver medal with two other swimmers.
For this story to be more unbelievable, this is Singapore’s first gold medal ever in the Olympics and on his way of winning it, Schooling also broke the Olympic record. If there ever was the “shoot for the stars” story, this is it. Good job, Joseph!
2. Hong Un-Jong of North Korea and Lee Eun-ju of South Korea taking a photo together.
This is exactly what I meant what I said that people in the Olympics are humans and athletes first and foremost, and everything else after that. The two countries are separated by war and hostilities for more than 70 years, and the tensions seem to be escalating for the last 6 years. Yet, there are, luckily, some things that transcend politics, wars and hostilities. Although the Korean situation is one of the most famous conflicts in the modern times, these two girls decided that divisions of those kinds are stupid and showed the world what it means to be a true Olympian. Rock on and thank you for showing your governments you can be and are better than them.
3. Simone Biles, the United States gymnast.
The absolute rock-star of these Olympic Games is the 19-year-old United States gymnast, Simone Biles, who seems to be making the air itself stop in awe wherever she appears. This, as everybody testifies, wonderful person and a very modest and hardworking girl is possibly one of the most dominant gymnasts of all time. She even has a move named after her “The Bile”, which not even her male colleagues can perform. Beside that, she does the hardest balance beam dismount in the world, and guess what - she’s the only one that does it. Simone took home four gold medals (individual all-round, vault, floor exercises, and team competition) and a bronze in the balance beam. Simone is one of the most wonderful representatives of what it means to be a real champion, and a great person besides that. I’m sure we’re going to see much more of her in the years to come.
4. Usain Bolt's smiling photo in mid-race.
He’s probably one of my most favorite athletes of all time. That kind of absolute dominance on one side, and his relaxed and easygoing personality on the other one, combined with the fact that the guy is breaking a World Record every year or so is enough to adore him. But oh, the faces and the gestures he makes while running... He showed, yet again, his full dominance and the wacky side of his personality in the men’s 100m sprint semifinals. He found, in the midst of the race, enough time to turn around and smile for the camera. This photo has already become an “evergreen” and will continue to be for generations to come. Thank you, Bolt, for making your every racing event for the past decade or so something special to watch.
5. Rafaela Silva of Brazil wins the judo gold medal in 57kg class.
Born and raised in the most infamous part of Rio De Janeiro, Cidade de Deus favela, she not only brought the first gold to the nation in whose country the games are held, but overcame horrible things on her way to the top. After she was disqualified in London in 2012. she was the victim of an ongoing racist campaign in her country that targeted her because of her dark skin. Despite seriously thinking of leaving judo under this kind of pressure, she first became the World Champion in 2013. and now became the Olympic champion. She is the only Brazilian judoka to do so.
But after she won she wasn’t silent; she stood up and condemned those who attacked and bullied her for years, shoving her success in their face, and proving once again that it’s what you carry in your head and in your chest that counts.
Are there any other athletes or moments from the Rio 2016. Olympics you think should be on this list? Share it with me in the comments for the second part of this article.