Against a backdrop of economic recession, the impeachment of Brazil’s president Dilma Rousseff, a Zika epidemic, resurgent crime and water pollution, the 2016 Summer Olympics are set to start in Rio de Janeiro Brazil on Aug 3 and concludes on Aug. 21.
Between television and online coverage, the Rio Olympics are expected to be the most watched and the most accessible Olympics in history. If you’re looking to enjoy the games, here are a few athletes to watch in unexpected sports.
Lia Neal is a 21-year-old Brooklyn, New York native and Simone Manuel, 19, from Sugar Land, Texas, will both compete on the USA Ladies Swim team in the 4×100 freestyle. This is the first time two Black women will compete on the U.S. Swim Team at the same time. In addition to the relay, Manuel will also compete in the 40-meter freestyle.
The two ladies are good friends and teammates on the Stanford University swim team. This is the second Olympics for Neal. She won a bronze medal in the 4×100 freestyle relay at the 2012 Olympics in London.
On the men’s team, former Olympian medalists Cullen Jones just missed making this year’s team. Jones, the winner of four Olympic medals, used his position as a platform to create awareness for inner-city swimming. This may be the end for competitive swimming for the 32-year-old.
From that meager beginning in a Miami community pool, Johnson has earned a spot as the goalkeeper on the USA water polo team. Both Asleigh and her sister Chelsea play for the Princeton team. At 6’-she covers so much goal with her long wingspan.
Daryl Homer, 26, read about fencing in a dictionary when he was 5-years-old and says he begged his mother to let him take up the sport. A two-time Junior World medalist, Homer finished sixth at the 2012 Olympic Games and made history in 2015 when he won a silver medal at the Senior World Championships — becoming the first U.S. man ever to win a medal in saber at the event.
Four years ago a petite, timid Gabby Douglas was the star of the summer Olympics, capturing the all-around gold medal in London. Douglas, 20, would like to be the first gymnast to successfully defend the gymnastics all-around title at the Olympic Games, but standing her way is her teammate Simone Biles.
Biles, 19 and just 4’, 8”, is the most decorated elite gymnast in American history. She has amassed three world gymnastics all-around titles and 14 world-championship medals in just three years. Biles finished 1st in the Olympic Trials. After falling off the beam on two occasions, Douglas finished 7th and only a decision by the team coaches secured her a place on the five-woman team.
Look for both to light up the stadium. However, barring any major fumbles, Biles will take home the Gold overall, ending Douglas’ dream of a repeat.
On the men’s team, Donnell John Orozco made the team but withdrew days later after injuring his left knee on a horizontal bar dismount at the men’s training camp. He was diagnosed with a torn ACL and meniscus, the repeat of an October 2012 injury. This would have been Orozco’s second Olympics.
After finishing fifth in the Olympic trials Donnell Whittenburg,21, was not selected for the five-man team. Instead, he was picked as one of three “replacement athletes” or alternates. Alternate Dannell Leyva was been named to replace Orozco.
“I’m planning to keep training for 2020, so I’m not going to stay out of it yet,” Whittenburg said. “Just going to keep going and see what happens.”
Meet Carlin Isles, a.k.a. the Fastest Man in Rugby, is going to Rio to play rugby as the sport returns to the Games after 92 years. Isles, 26, has been making his mark in the sport since transitioning from track and field to rugby in 2012. Isles continued to train in track leading up to the Olympic Trials and competed in the U.S. Indoor Track & Field Championships, finishing in 5th place in the 60-meter dash with a time of 6.67. His top season mark of 10.15 in the men’s 100-meter dash would have allowed him to take part in the U.S. Olympic Track & Field Trials, but he chose instead to focus on Rugby Sevens.
Rugby Sevens is described by organizers as a faster version of the traditional sport, with fewer athletes on the field at a time — seven for each side instead of 15.
Claressa Shields is by far the star of the U.S. Women’s Boxing Team. At age 17, Shields was the first woman to win a gold medal in boxing at the 2012 London games. The Middleweight returns to the Olympics, as the reigning AIBA 2015 Women’s Boxing World Champion. If she wins gold again at this Olympics, she will become the first U.S. boxer to earn three combined world or Olympic titles.
Her 74-1 career record has earned her endorsements from Powerade and Dicks Sporting Goods, among others. Her documentary is premiering next month. Universal Studios already has the rights to her story.
She’s joined on the nine-member women’s team by Naomi Graham, Melissa Parker and Shadasia Green, the heavyweight.
After leading the U.S. senior team with seven assists in 13 games, Mallory Pugh, 18, was selected to the 2016 Olympic team in Brazil. Her selection makes her the second-youngest player in history to compete at the Games for the national team since 1904. The U.S will begin group play Aug. 3 — two days before the Opening Ceremony — against New Zealand at Mineirão Stadium in Belo Horizonte, some 270 miles north of Rio de Janeiro.
The U.S. Men’s Soccer team did not qualify to make it to the Olympics.
Jordan Burroughs is one of the USA’s best chances for taking home a gold this year. With a poor performance heading into the Olympics, the U.S. failed to qualify wrestlers in four classes for Rio, making this the smallest wrestling team the U.S. has sent to the Olympics since 1952.
Burroughs won Gold in the men’s freestyle in the 2012 Olympics and took world titles in 2011, 2013 and 2015. From 2011-2014, he won a U.S. consecutive record of 69 matches.
The U.S. qualified in 13 of 18 classes across men’s and women’s freestyle and Greco-Roman. The U.S. has not sent fewer than 16 wrestlers to the Olympics since 1952, when it didn’t send a Greco-Roman team to the Helsinki Games.
Track and Field
There are too many names to mention in this area, but hats off to Sydney McLaughlin. She hasn’t even graduated high school yet – she’ll be a senior next year – bus she’s already broken world junior records in track and field, and show no signs of stopping. When the 16-year-old phenom placed third in the 400-meter hurdles at the Olympic Trials, she cemented her place in history as the youngest member of the U.S. Olympic track team since 1972.
After domination professional tennis for almost two decades, no one is surprised that sisters Serena and Venus Williams are America’s best prospect for an Olympic medal. However, reflecting the influence of on the sport, the four member U.S.A. Women’s single’s tennis team is composed completely of African-American women. Joining the sisters playing singles are Madison Keys, 21, and Sloane Stephens, 23.
The Williams sisters will also play doubles in an effort to repeat their 2012 Gold medal win. Serena, the number one player in the world, also took home singles Gold in the 2012