Home » Rio Olympics 2016 » The mammoth Rio listicle: 38 heroes, fails and highlights from the Games

The mammoth Rio listicle: 38 heroes, fails and highlights from the Games

Sahil Bhalla | Updated on: 10 February 2017, 1:48 IST

The 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro have brought out the best in the competitors, some heartbreaking injuries, the worst in the athletes and officials (looking at you, Ryan Lochte and Vijay Goel) and the rebirth of otherwise forgotten sports.

Every four years, the world stops for two to three weeks and watches athletes from around the world compete for the three spots on the podium and to hear their national anthem play across the stadium.

From the heroes of the Game - Simone Biles and Mo Farah - to the villains - Brazilian crowd and Jeffrey Julmis - to the moments of the Games - Fiji, Neymar and more - these Games had it all. It even had a Refugee Olympic Team and athletes competing under the Olympic flag.

Here\'s the mammoth listicle on all the highs and lows. Look no further.

The heroes:

Simone Biles (gymnastics)
Simone Biles of the United States performs her routine in the Women's Balance Beam Final which won her the bronze medal during the Artistic Gymnastics competition at the Rio Olympic Arena on 15 August, 2016 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. (Tim Clayton/Corbis via Getty Images)

Simone Biles was the most decorated American athlete of the Games, beating out crowd-favourite Michael Phelps. She won four gold medals and a bronze - narrowly slipping up and failing to win the five golds she dreamt of. She was the second African-American after Gabby Douglas in 2012 to win the women's all-round title. She also carried the United States flag at the closing ceremony.

Usain Bolt (sprinter)
Canada's Andre De Grasse of Canada challenged Usain Bolt of Jamaica in the 200m semifinal 2016 Rio summer Olympic Games. Bolt was amused by the young Canadian's push. (Lucas Oleniuk/Toronto Star via Getty Images)

He did it. He got his triple-triple. He may not have broken any world records but he finished his final Olympic Games in style. He won gold medals in the 100m, 200m and 4x100m relay races. Nothing more needs to be said about the Jamaican sprinter. Except that his mom wants him married.

Sakshi Malik (wrestling)

She fought. She fought hard. She came back from the brink of defeat in all but one bout. That's Sakshi Malik, the wrestler from Haryana for you. She ended India's medal drought in the final few days with a bronze medal and she celebrated like no one else.

PV Sindhu (badminton)

Long under Saina's shadow, Sindhu emerged to become the poster girl of the Olympics for India. On the third last day of the Games, she narrowly lost out to world no. 1 from Spain Carolina Marin, pushing her to three games and settled for silver, a first for an Indian woman in badminton.

Dipa Karmakar (gymnastics)

Finishing fourth in the Vault finals - an event which Simone Biles dominated - is no mean feat. She's the first Indian gymnast in way too long, and the first Indian female gymnast ever and she deserves every accolade and all the support going forward.

Katie Ledecky (swimming)
USA's Katie Ledecky celebrates after she broke the world record to win the Women's 800m Freestyle Final during the swimming event at the Rio 2016 Olympic Games at the Olympic Aquatics Stadium in Rio de Janeiro on 12 August, 2016. (Odd Andersen/AFP)

How does one sum up the Olympics that American Katie Ledecky just had?

She was the standout racer of the Rio Olympics. She won three individual golds. Along with that, she also won a gold and a silver in the relay races. It wasn't just the medals that people were talking about. It was the world records in the 400m and 800m freestyle finals. In fact, she won the 800m freestyle race by more than 11 seconds.

Michael Phelps (swimming)
USA's Michael Phelps competes in a Men's 200m Butterfly heat during the swimming event at the Rio 2016 Olympic Games at the Olympic Aquatics Stadium in Rio de Janeiro on 8 August, 2016. (Gabriel Bouys/AFP)

Michael Phelps won five golds and one silver at the Rio Olympics. Phelps has won 23 gold medals and 28 medals in total and says he's finally done with the Olympics.

At the age of 15, at the Sydney Olympics in 2020, Phelps won a resounding zero medals.


, as he retires, he's done everything he could and more. Except for the fact that he got schooled by Singaporean Joseph Schooling.

Katinka Hosszu (swimming)
Hungary's Katinka Hosszu poses with her gold medal on the podium after she won the Women's 200m Individual Medley Final during the swimming event at the Rio 2016 Olympic Games at the Olympic Aquatics Stadium in Rio de Janeiro on 9 August, 2016. (Odd Anderson/AFP)

Three golds and one silver. That's not by an American but by Hungarian Katinka Hosszu. This for an Olympian that won no medals back in 2012. Hosszu had nearly thrown in the towel after the 2012 Games. Of course for some, the success lies only with her husband. While he did encourage and help turn around her career, he shouldn't solely be getting all the laurels.

Mo Farah (runner)
Britain's Mo Farah poses with his gold medal on the podium of the Men's 10,000m during the athletics event at the Rio 2016 Olympic Games at the Olympic Stadium in Rio de Janeiro on 13 August, 2016. (Damien Meyer/AFP)

The runner from Great Britain, fell, not once, but twice. Each time, he got up, ran his way to the front and grabbed the 'double-double'. He was tripped, once in the 5,000m and once more in the 10,000m. Yet, he won both to become only the second runner ever to do the 'double-double' - that is to successfully defend the title from the previous Olympics.

Adam Peaty (swimming)

Adam Peaty has changed the face of the 100m breaststroke at the Rio Olympics with a blistering world record time of 57.13 seconds. He followed that up with silver in the 4x100m medley relay. All of this at 21 years of age. Some even compared his time to Usain Bolt's below 10-second runs at the various Games.

The fails:

Vijay Goel (India's sports minister)

What more can be said about the man who has done no right in his short tenure as sports minister? Vijay Goel has proven that he knows nothing about the art of the Olympics and less so about sports in general. And let's not even start about how little he knows of our sportspersons.

Brazilian crowd and French pole-vaulter Renaud Lavillenie
Silver medallist France's Renaud Lavillenie looks on during the medal ceremony for the men's pole vault during the athletics event at the Rio 2016 Olympic Games at the Olympic Stadium in Rio de Janeiro on 16 August, 2016. (Fabrice Coffrini/AFP)

Being booed once is horrible. Being booed twice in twenty-four hours is a whole new level. French pole vaulter Renaud Lavillenie was left in tears. He was consoled by other athletes even though he was the silver medallist at the Rio Olympics in the pole-vault competition. He was booed the first time during his duel with hometown hero Thiago da Silva and the second time during the prize ceremony.

Ryan Lochte (swimmer)
USA's Ryan Lochte competes in a Men's 200m Individual Medley heat during the swimming event at the Rio 2016 Olympic Games at the Olympic Aquatics Stadium in Rio de Janeiro on 10 August, 2016. (Martin Bureau/AFP)

Again, what more can be said about American swimmer Ryan Lochte? The swimmer covered up the altercation at a gas station in Rio with the story of his "alleged robbery". He sent out a long apology but it didn't cut much slack in the end.

Jeffrey Julmis (110m hurdles)
Haiti's Jefrey Julmis competes in the Men's 110m Hurdles Semifinal during the athletics event at the Rio 2016 Olympic Games at the Olympic Stadium in Rio de Janeiro on 16 August, 2016. (Jewel Samad/AFP)

Jeffery Julmis was all about the Usain Bolt style pre-race build-up and it all came crashing down at the first hurdle in the semifinals of the men's 110m hurdles race. He ended up doing a somersault. In the Olympic spirit, he got up, dusted himself off and finished the race.

Moments of the Game:

Neymar (football)

Neymar was the hero for Brazil as the host nation finally won the last remaining international trophy that eluded them. Neymar was in tears after he delivered the winning penalty in the shootout. Brazil defeated Germany 5-4 on penalties after it finished 1-1 at the end of regulation time. It was a thrilling final played out at the Maracana stadium on Saturday.

Fiji (Rugby Sevens)

This deserves a mention for two reasons. Firstly, it was the first time ever that rugby sevens was played at the Olympics. Secondly, there was an upset winner for gold. Fiji trampled all over Great Britain, winning the final 43-7 and claiming their first ever gold medal at an Olympics. In fact, this was Fiji's first medal of any colour.

A holiday was declared in the players' honour with a homecoming that was for the ages.

Joseph Schooling beating Phelps (swimming)

Joseph Schooling provided the upset in the pool. The Singaporean beat Michael Phelps in the 100m butterfly final, winning his country's first ever gold medal. Schooling also set a new Olympic record with his timing of 50.39 seconds. What's even more amazing is that Phelps tied with Chad le Clos and Laszlo Cseh for the silver.

David Katoatau (weightlifting)
Kiribati's David Katoatau reacts while competing during the Men's 105kg weightlifting competition at the Rio 2016 Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro on 15 August, 2016. (Goh Chai Hin/AFP)

David Katoatau may not have been on the podium but nonetheless he danced. The weightlifter from the Pacific island nation of Kiribati finished sixth. He competed in the men's 105-kilogram Group B final.

If you want to know why Katoatau dances at all his competitions, just listen to what he told Reuters, "Most people don't know where Kiribati is. I want people to know more about us so I use weightlifting, and my dancing, to show the world. I wrote an open letter to the world last year to tell people about all the homes lost to rising sea levels. I don't know how many years it will be before it sinks."

The Brownlee brothers

The Brownlee brothers, Alistair and Jonny, produced a moment worthy of any Olympic roundup. They took gold and silver respectively in the Rio 2016 triathlon. The two dominated the race like no other. Alistair, the older of the two, took off near the end, leaving brother Jonny several seconds behind. At the finish line though, Alistair waited before celebrating the gold. Alistair collapsed at the finish line and Jonny joined him in what was a touching celebration.

Rafaela Silva (judo)

Rafaela Silva became a household name after she bested Mongolia's Sumiya Dorjsuren in a gripping finale to the women's 57 kg contest to win Brazil's first gold medal of the Games. Silva had been disqualified at the London 2012 Olympics for an illegal pinning down of her opponent but none of that mattered in Rio.

Wayde van Niekerk (400m)

No one thought that Michael Johnson's 17-year-old record would be broken at the Rio Olympics. Wayde van Niekerk did just that with a blistering timing of 43.03 seconds. Enough said.

Shaunae Miller (runner)
Bahamas' Shaunae Miller dives to cross the finish line ahead of USA's Chase Kalisz during the Women's 400m Final during the athletics event at the Rio 2016 Olympic Games at the Olympic Stadium in Rio de Janeiro on 15 August, 2016. (Antonin Thuillier/AFP)

A dive in athletics? You think you were watching a footballer dive to get a penalty, but no. This was Rio and it was legal. Shaunae Miller dived to the line to get her torso in front and win the gold in the women's 400m event.

Feyisa Lilesa (runner)

Ethiopian Feyisa Lilesa is not returning home. "If I go back to Ethiopia, the government will kill me." Lilesa won silver in the marathon but as he crossed the finish line, he raised his arms over his head and crossed his wrists. He repeated the same gesture in the post-race presser.

Simone Manuel (swimming)

An African-American woman has finally won an individual gold medal in swimming. Simone Manuel, a 20-year-old junior at Stanford University, finished in tied-first with Canadian Penny Oleksiak in the 100m freestyle race. She not only broke the world record but she also broke many barriers.

Kimia Alizadeh (taekwondo)
Iran's Kimia Alizadeh Zenoorin celebrates after winning against Sweden's Nikita Glasnovic in their womenís taekwondo bronze medal bout in the -57kg category as part of the Rio 2016 Olympic Games, on 18 August, 2016, at the Carioca Arena 3, in Rio de Janeiro. (Kirill Kudryavtsev/AFP)

Yes. Kimia Alizadeh is the first Iranian women to ever win an Olympic medal. She took the bronze in the taekwondo event. The 18-year-old beat Sweden's Nikita Glasnovic 5 - 1. "I am so happy for Iranian girls because it is the first medal and I hope at the next Olympics we will get a gold," she told the BBC.

When tragedy struck:

Samir Ait Said (gymnast)
2016 Summer Olympics: View of France Samir Ait Said (130) after breaking leg on landing during Men's Vault Qualification at Rio Olympic Arena. (Robert Beck/Sports Illustrated/Getty Images)

During the Vault, French gymnast Samir Ait Said, snapped his leg and was immediately rushed to the hospital. The sharp crack audible accross the arena.

Andranik Karapetyan (weightlifting)
Armenia's Andranik Karapetyan sustains an injury while competing during the Men's 77kg weightlifting competition at the Rio 2016 Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro on 10 August, 2016. (Goh Chai Hin/AFP)

Andranik Karapetyan, competing in the men's 169-pound category, broke his arm during his second attempt to lift 195kg.

Talgat Ilyasov (wrestling)
Talgat Ilyasov is attended to during his men's 74kg freestyle qualification match against Japan's Sohsuke Takatani on 19 August, 2016, during the wrestling event of the Rio 2016 Olympic Games at the Carioca Arena 2 in Rio de Janeiro. (Jack Guez/AFP)

Australian wrestler Talgat Ilyasov's dream came crashing after suffering a horrific injury in a first-round bout in the 74kg of the men's freestyle competition. He retired with a dislocated elbow.

Annemiek van Vleuten (cycling)
Netherlands' Annemiek Van Vleuten (L) leads USA's Mara Abbott during the Women's road cycling race at the Rio 2016 Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro on 7 August, 2016. (Brun Lennon/AFP)

Annemiek van Vleuten had a horror crash with just 10km to go in the women's Olympic road race. She was the clear leader at the time. She had a concussion and suffered three cracks to her spine.

Other memorable athletes:

Refugee Olympic Athletes

"The unequivocal breakout stars of the 2016 Olympics games were the 10 athletes that made up the Refugee Olympic Team (ROT)," Linda Ge writes in The Wrap. That was the embodiment of the Games. The International Olympic Committee along with the UN Refugee Agency, UNHCR, worked together to make a refugee team possible. These athletes, originally from four different countries, will never ever forget the Games.

Hsu Shu-ching (Chinese Taipei)

Hsu Shu-ching won Chinese Taipei its first ever Olympic gold medal as she lifted a total of 212kg in the women's 53kg group of Chinese Taipei (weightlifting).

Unsung Indian heroes

While all of you are gushing over silver medallist PV Sindhu and bronze medallist Sakshi Malik, let's take a moment and remember the other Indians that are equally deserving of all the support.

A) Dattu Baban Bhokanal (rower)

Dattu Baban Bhokanal brought home his canoe in 13th position, the best an Indian rower has been able to do at the mega-event.

B) Vinesh Phogat (wrestling)

Vinesh Phogat looked set to win her quarterfinal bout but a freak knee injury saw her campaign end in tears and pain. Phogat's opponent from China, Sun Yanan fought back with a single-leg take down to gain the upper hand. The move also injured Phogat who had to leave in a stretcher.

C) Saina Nehwal (badminton)

If Saina Nehwal didn't have a knee injury, the world number 5 would have definitely brought home a medal for India. The ace shuttler was limited in her movements and wasn't able to fully extend her gameplay and suffered a shock first round exit.

D) Atanu Das (archery)

Atanu Das lost in a nail-bitingly close match against Korean archer and world number five Seengy-un Lee. Das produced a tremendous effort to finish fifth in the tanking rounds.

E) Women's archery team

India's Archery trio of Deepika Kumari, Laxmirani Majhi and Bombayla Devi lost 4-5 to Russia in women's team quarters. The match went in to a shootout and the Indians came up agonisingly short.

Sports worth remembering:


Such a simple sport, as far as equipment goes. Take a bow and arrow and a target. If only it were so simple for the archer. It's a back and forth contest and a lot of the matches go down to the wire.


Look no further than Simone Biles and Dipa Karmakar. Or just the women's all-round event. No matter what gymnastic event was on, it's hard not to turn your attention toward the gymnast.


Ronda Rousey, a former Judoka now-turned MMA wrestler is a household name. It's an intense sport which can go either way.

Water polo

The sport that literally no one cares about comes alive once every four years. All you need is a pool and a ball and you get full on entertainment.


Yes, fencing. It's a sport where people fully cover themselves, duelling it out till the end. It's a riveting affair, one in which a competitor's phone once fell out of his pocket.


The sport that no one thought was a sport turns out to be the most exciting every four years. That sport is Handball. A cross between basketball, football, water polo and god knows what. It's enthralling and at Rio 2016, you just couldn't take your eyes off of it.

That folks, is your 2016 Rio Olympics roundup of roundups. It's going to be a long wait until 2020 when the Olympics happen in Tokyo but until then, it's time to say goodbye to Rio 2016.

First published: 27 August 2016, 6:19 IST