by G. Brown
The Games of the XXXI Olympiad will hold opening ceremonies Friday August 5th and is already breaking records with more countries taking part this year than ever before. About 11-thousand athletes will be vying for the gold, silver and bronze medals in sports ranging from swimming to gymnastics and archery.
The location of Rio de Janeiro marks the first time a South American city has ever hosted a Summer Olympics and the first time since 1968 that the competition has been held in Latin America.
While Brazil offers nearly six million tourists annually attractions like Christ the Redeemer, Corcovado Mountain and Iguazu Falls, the country also has problems that come with being the fifth largest country in the world. Before we even light the opening torch, critics are already calling the Rio 2016 games a disaster. Health concerns for swimmers, rowers and sailors have been heavily publicized. Venues around Guanabara Bay are said to be teeming with fecal bacteria and scientist say they’ve found a “super-bacteria” floating in the same waters that swimmers will be competing in. The bacteria is said to be resistant to drugs and causes severe illnesses like bloodstream infections and meningitis.
Still, the games will begin officially tonight with 28 different Olympic Sports in play. The U.S. may be the country to beat in some sports like gymnastics and track and field. Here’s a list of 7 athletes to keep your eye on in Rio.
Everything about Muhammad stands out. She is a Muslim American competing in a sport that few connect to women and people of color. Certain to make her stand out even more is when she takes to the competition floor with not only her saber and face mask, but wearing her Muslim Hijab. The Maplewood, New Jersey native began fencing in middle school and says she was drawn to the sport because of its uniform. At 30 years old, this is Muhammad’s first Olympics competition. Many Olympic athletes have to overcome physical, mental and financial obstacles to reach it to this level, few stories are as riveting as Muhammad who is competing in a traditionally chauvinistic sport. Not only has she learned to deal with sexism, but resentment against her religion. Muhammad says “We’re living in a time where people feel comfortable spewing their hate and harassing the innocent on our streets. We need change.”
Cam Awesome The boxer formerly known as Lenroy Thompson may have changed his name, but his punches are still the same knock out punches that many think could land him the gold. He missed out on the 2012 games because the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency couldn’t find him. The 28 year old New York native is a favorite in the super heavyweight bouts with 10 national titles to his name.
Simone Biles At only 4-feet-8-inches tall, Biles is admittedly tiny. This is one time where size truly doesn’t matter because she is a powerhouse. This Texas native is a two-time world all around champion and was the first Black female gymnast to win a world title along with two gold medals. 19 year old Biles is the heavy favorite to win all-around gold.
Daryl Homer The first time Homer picked up a saber he was only 11 years old and says he thought the mask fencers wore looked “very cool”. Once he picked up the saber, his natural talent for sport was quickly noticed. Homer began training with four-time Olympic coach Yury Gelman and was well on his way to winning the silver medal he earned last year at the World Fencing Championships and the five gold medals he won at the Pan American Fencing Championships. While fencing may not be as well known as most sports, Homer is helping to expose the sport to more inner city kids like in his home NYC where he often speaks at schools.
Allyson Felix The thrill of the Olympic games is nothing new to Felix who is a six-time Olympic medalist. The track and field sprint athlete excels at the 100, 200 and 400 meter races. The California native has been focusing more on the 400m where she currently is the reigning world champion. Going into the event, Felix is already the favorite having clocked in at trials at 49.68 seconds.
Trayvon Bromell Speed and skill helped Bromell become the first high school sprinter to break the 10-second barrier in the 100-meter dash. Bromell was the first teen to make the U.S. Men’s World Championship team when he was 19 years. He earned the bronze medal in the 100 at the 2015 World Championships in Beijing. He came in behind Usain Bolt. Bromell is expected to be the one competitor to give Bolt a run for the gold in Rio.
Gabby Douglas The last time Douglas went to the Olympics in 2012, she entered a virtual unknown and came out a star winning both all-around and team gold. Douglas was only 16 years old then and became the first African American female to win Olympic gold as an individual all-around champion before going on to help Team USA also bring home the gold. Douglas has been handling the balance beam since she was six years. The Virginia Beach native heads off to Rio already an established star with her own Barbie Doll and a reality TV show,”Douglas Family Gold”. Gabby is now 20 years old and a little taller at 5-foot-two…two variables that may affect her performance. Still, the young lady lovingly known as “the flying squirrel” has proven she’s a winner and while she may not be expected to win the gold, she’s not expected to come home from Rio empty handed either.