In this special article, we will look at five surprise heroes from Rio Olympics 2016.
One of the greatest things about Olympic Games is that they have made many heroes out of nowhere. Although the last fortnight at Rio de Janeiro will be remembered more for the legacies of the Bolts, the Phelps and the Farahs or for that of a Brazilian soccer side creating history, here we are to talk about those comparatively smaller heroes who beat all obstacles to make a name for themselves in the folklore of the historic event, if not just made the beginning in the formation their own legacies in the years to come.
As the spectacle at Rio Olympics comes to an end and long wait begins for another four years, I write this piece on some selected FIVE from quite a long list of winners who have achieved something that few expected them to – or more specifically, achieved them in a manner that few ever put their money on to.
#5 Cheick Sallah Cissé is a taekwondo player from Cote d’Ivoire – the land of the famous former Chelsea footballer Didier Drogba. The 22-year old African champion qualified for Rio after winning gold in the men’s 80 kg category in the African Games – held last year at Brazzaville. At the Olympics, he played good enough to reach the finals where he was to face the London Games bronze medalist Lutalo Muhammad of Great Britain. The Ivory Coast national was trailing by a point at 5-6 and looked to be settling with the silver with just seconds remaining in the clock. However in the final second, he connected a successful head-kick on Lutalo that made him win 8-6. And with that Cissé won the gold – the first ever for the African nation.
#4 Mónica Puig represented Puerto Rico in the quadrennial event and to everyone’s surprise won the women’s singles championship in tennis. The world no. 35 thus became the first unseeded female player to win gold – since tennis returned to the Olympics fold in 1988 – after she defeated the second seeded German and Australian Open winner Angelique Kerber in the final. Prior to that, Puig – who never progressed beyond fourth round at a Grand Slam – defeated the third seed Garbiñe Muguruza in a one-sided affair in the round of 16 and also saw off another Grand Slam winner – Petra Kvitová – in the semi final. The 22-year old, Miami based racqueteer won the first Olympic gold for her Latin American nation.
#3 Wayde van Niekerk was the flagbearer for South Africa in the opening ceremony at Rio. Later he stunned the world by winning the 400 metres in a world record time of 43.03 seconds – breaking a 17-year old record of Michael Johnson. What made his run more stunning is that nobody other than him has won the sprint from lane number eight – with Scotland’s Eric Liddell the last person to win from an outside lane at the Paris Games in 1924 from track number six. Niekerk beat his nearest rival and London winner Kirani James by a good five metres.
#2 Almaz Ayana is an Ethiopian female long-distance runner had never run the 10000 metre long distance running at a major competition prior to the Rio Games. The 5000 metre world champion just breezed away herself in the final – not only winning the race but also set up a world record. Her timing of 29 minutes 17.45 seconds was 14 seconds better than the standing world record of China’s Wang Junxia – and adding to that the fact that nobody even came close to within 22 seconds of the record in the last 23 years, simply resonates her achievement. Later the 24-year old came up with a bronze at the 5000 m.
#1 Joseph Schooling was simply the wonder story of the Games. The 21-year old swimmer won the first-ever Olympic gold for Singapore when he prevailed in the 100 m butterfly event. The pool romance for the South-east Asian champion got more enthralling when he beat his idol and 23-gold wonder Michael Phelps (whom he met as a teenager in Beijing for a photograph) – also setting a new Olympic record in the process. Not just the “Baltimore Bullet”, Schooling also overcame the South African Chad le Clos and Hungary’s László Cseh (all three finished tied second) by a good 0.75 seconds – the largest winning margin for the 100 m butterfly in the Olympics since the time of Mark Spitz at Munich 1972. Earlier, this Chelsea fan also recorded the fastest qualifying time in the heats.
Which athlete of Rio Olympics surprised you the most? Share your thoughts in the comments below!