10 Important Things We’ve Learned in Rio So Far

We are now a couple days into the Olympics, and there has already been a lot of excitement. As expected, a number of American athletes and teams have been very impressive, and the US has built an impressive lead in the medal count. And despite an issue with the water in the diving pool, the experience in Rio has been unexpectedly smooth so far. I’ve done my best to wade through all the storylines, drama, and competition to sum up the first few days of the Olympics in 10 key takeaways.

1.) The US Swim Team Wants Your Lunch Money

And they’re gonna take it, too. We knew that 19-year old swimming machine Katie Ledecky would come in ready to steamroll her competition, and that Michael Phelps was probably going to put on his usual display of dominance (though in fewer events). Far less expected was the team’s role as purveyors of justice, but they took up the mantle as the heroes this country deserves. Chad Le Clos helped create the most meme-able moment in swimming history, but that was really the pinnacle of his success in Rio, as Michael Phelps took back his crown in the 200-meter butterfly finals. The South African Le Clos talked the talk, but couldn’t swim the swim.

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Maybe even more emotional than Phelps’ butterfly victory was 19-year old Lilly King’s victory over Russian Yulia Efimova in the 100-meter breaststroke final. During the preliminary swims, King very publicly admonished Efimova as a “drug cheat,” complete with a Dikembe Mutombo finger-wag. The media took this and ran with it, turning the finals into a modern day version of Rocky IV. Sure, the Cold War might be over. And sure, the two will swim against each other in a final again tonight. But Lilly King doled out vigilante justice in a display that would make Batman jealous, and it seems like it has set the tone for the Americans in the pool.

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2.) The US Women’s Teams are Dominating the Olympics

There’s always a lot of Olympic hype around the juggernaut that is the US Men’s Basketball team, and for good reason. In Rio, however, teams of American women have been the more dominant force. Staying on the hardwood, the US Women’s Basketball team is steamrolling everyone (as I’m typing this, Diana Taurasi is burying Serbia under a barrage of three-pointers). Away from basketball, the US Women’s Gymnastics team blew away everyone in the Team All-Around yesterday. They won by more than seven points (I learned that, in gymnastics, that margin of victory is unprecedented), and the “Final Five” of Aly Raisman, Simone Biles, Gabby Douglas, Laurie Hernandez, and Madison Kocian might sweep the individual competitions, too. They are putting on a historically great run.

*Honorable Mention to the Women’s Soccer Team, who went 2-0-1 in pool play, and the (surprising) Women’s Field Hockey Team, who is 3-0 so far.

3.) Kerri Walsh Jennings Might Be A Robot

Moving on to the beach, the pairing of Kerri Walsh Jennings and April Ross are blowing out opponents in Beach Volleyball, too. It’s awesome. Walsh Jennings won the last three gold medals with now-retired partner Misty May-Treanor, and has never lost a match in her Olympic career. She hasn’t missed a beat yet with new partner Ross, and based on their performance so far, it doesn’t look like they are losing any time soon. They looked like superheroes against China the other night, and I think I’d probably pee my pants if I saw Kerri Walsh Jennings leaping at the net to block my shot. Oh, and I almost forgot, KWJ is coming off of intense shoulder sugery in 2015.

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Kerri Walsh Jennings is going full Beast Mode

4.) There Are So Many Dope Sports

This sounds dumb. This sounds like something I should have already realized. But every four years, we acknowledge how many unbelievably talented athletes there are in obscure sports, and then we resume watching four or five major sports once the Closing Ceremony is over. I know it’s an economic issue, and that there are a lot of popular sports that don’t get enough TV time already. But sports like handball, fencing, and water polo have been incredibly entertaining the last couple days, even if I don’t really know what’s going on. It’s just sad that a lot of these phenomenal athletes get one game/match/event live-streamed every four years, and then the sport goes back under a rock until the next Olympics. How is it that competitive arm-wrestling and poker are televised weekly, but we can’t get more badminton?

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5.) There Are So Many Sports Experts

Through watching so much Olympic coverage, I also realized that all the commentators have in-depth knowledge of the sports they are announcing. Where do they come from? How do they get hired? What do they do when the Olympics aren’t going on? In primetime, NBC goes out and finds former Olympians/coaches that have faces and voices for television, which makes sense. But seriously, how do they find knowledgeable announcers for archery?

6.) They Should Have a Giant Medley of Olympic Events

After watching a night of super intense swimming and gymnastics events, I realized that there should be an ultimate team competition. I don’t know how it would work, but it needs to happen. Maybe athletes would compete in other events that they aren’t comfortable with– who wouldn’t watch Michael Phelps take on Usain Bolt in a game of one-on-one basketball? Or maybe it would be a giant relay– each country gets to pick five athletes to run, swim, bike, row, and flip against each other. I’m still working out the kinks, but how crazy would that be?

7.) The US Needs Major League Handball

Again, there is definitely an economics problem. But if we can make Arena Football work, we should put some resources towards handball. There is collegiate handball (which apparently is dominated by West Point), and there are a bunch of successful international leagues. Between talented college players and tremendous athletes that couldn’t quite cut it professionally in other sports, I feel like we could make it happen.

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8.) Beach Volleyball Could Use Some Outfit Changes

I’ve read a number of complaints about how the differences in beach volleyball outfits objectify women. That’s probably fair. However, I feel like the changes should be on the men’s side. If you are playing beach volleyballI feel like you should be in beach attire. I don’t mean skimpy bikinis or Speedos, but the men look like they are going to their local gym for a cross-fit class. Don’t tell me you wouldn’t boost the ratings for beach volleyball if the men were dressed like Maverick and Goose.

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9.) DeMar DeRozan Hasn’t Initiated a Major International Conflict– Yet

After DeMar DeRozan almost threw down a 360-dunk on a Chinese defender while up by 50 points (in a preliminary match, mind you), I think a lot of people were worried he might start an international conflict before the Olympics were through. So far, Coach K has kept him under wraps, and all global rivalries have been transferred to the pool. There’s still a lot of basketball to be played, but so far, so good.

10.) Draco Malfoy Ruined Platinum-Blonde Hair

Ryan Lochte went from being the most un-Malfoy-looking dude on the planet…

…to a tan Draco Malfoy look-alike simply by changing his hair color. Not a great look, but I have to wonder if I would’ve felt the same way pre-JK Rowling.


 

Luckily, we’ve still got a long way to go in Rio, and that makes me happy.

gifs: SBNation, Deadspin, Giphy; Images: Hellogiggles, Imgur

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