Much of the discussion about the Olympic Games in Rio has been about cupping, green pools, and the athletes’ diets and training regimens. Of course we’re advocates of healthy eating and body image, but we have more reasons to be inspired by our Olympic winners other than what they're eating.
When it comes to this year’s Olympic Games, it's the women who are ruling in Rio. Team USA is currently dominating the sporting event with sixteen gold medals won so far, and the biggest contributing factor to those wins has been the women.
For the first time ever, the 2016 Games have hosted the most diverse group of female athletes. In fact, this is the largest contingent of female athletes any nation has ever sent to the sporting event. The U.S. women’s tennis team boasted the most African-American women (four) to ever play on the court. And while the men are crushing the competition as well, the female domination on the gymnastics, tennis, swimming, track, wrestling, volleyball, and basketball teams have us all excited. From the floor mats and balance beams to the pools and diving boards, quite frankly, girls are running the world and competitive sports it seems.
As the gold medals continue to rack up for Team USA, it’s important to acknowledge the strides and accomplishments these women are making. In a field where female athletes earn less than their male counterparts, are covered less in the media than male athletes, and face far worse criticism of their bodies than males, we want to champion our female athletes and their astounding victories at the Olympics, particularly the U.S. women’s gymnastics dynasty and the historic win for Simone Manuel. But not because they’re the best female athletes, but the greatest athletes period, gender aside.
The U.S. Gymnastics Team
While the inevitability of their win couldn’t be argued, especially with two consecutive Olympic gold medals and world championship titles in 2011, 2014, and 2015, we were still blown away by the depth of skill and athleticism of the five gymnasts. Rounding out the “Final Five” are 2012 team members, Aly Raisman (who won a silver medal in the all-around competition) and Gabby Douglas and, newbies, Simone Biles, Laurie Hernandez, and Madison Kocian.
Every supreme athlete typically has at least one superpower, right? For example, Serena Williams's one-handed backhand and Gabby Douglas’s flawless uneven bar technique come to mind. Well, in this case, Simone Biles leaves her trademark stamp on the floor. And believe us, her signature floor routine is nothing short of breathtaking. Earning the nickname, “Air Biles,” presumably for her ability to twist high in the air, Simone is small in size but big in heart and talent. Having mastered the balance beam, uneven bars, and the vault, it comes as no surprise that she’s the 2016 Rio Olympic all-around champion. In fact when it comes to the U.S. gymnastics team, the only thing they don’t know how to do is lose, as proven with their global dominance and gold wins this week. And if you missed the performances, you can catch the gold medal winners on a box of Kellogg’s Special K cereal. Now, that’s what we call a breakfast of champions!
Another Simone made waves at the Olympics, but this one rose to fame in the pool instead of on the pole vault. Honorable mention goes to swimmer Michael Phelps, who became the first swimmer ever to win four consecutive gold medals in the same event and the most decorated Olympian ever. Another swimmer was making history the same night Phelps beat that record. When Simone Manuel finished the final lap of the 100-meter freestyle race on Thursday, the 20-year-old Texas native became the first African-American woman to win an individual event in Olympic swimming. It should be noted that several African-American swimmers have won Olympic medals for the U.S. teams, but never before has there been an African-American winner for an individual race. In less than one minute, Simone Manuel changed the face of swimming and broke an all-time record.
On her win, Manuel told The New York Times, “I definitely think it raises some awareness and will get them inspired,” she said. “I mean, the gold medal wasn’t just for me. It was for people that came before me and inspired me to stay in the sport. For people who believe that they can’t do it, I hope I’m an inspiration to others to get out there and try swimming. You might be pretty good at it.”
The real unsung heroes at Rio right now are our female champions, which begs this question: Do you know what’s truly inspiring? The determination, strength, and sacrifice of these femininely badass women—not just their exercise tips and diet secrets. And we salute all of our teams and winners for their hard work and pride!