By: Paul Fritschner ~Staff Writer~
One of the most universally viewed athletic competitions concluded this past weekend, with the U.S. dominating the competition.
The United States entered the Rio Olympics having won the most medals at the previous five summer games, and they were looking to make it six. Not only did they achieve this goal, they did it emphatically.
Swimming produced the biggest medal-haul for the U.S. As NBC commentator Rowdy Gaines noted on Twitter, USA Swimming won 33 of the 62 medals awarded in the sport, good for 53 percent. World renowned Olympian Michael Phelps had declared his retirement following the 2012 London Olympics, but, after he revealed that he had not trained as hard as he should have for London, Phelps returned for Rio. Phelps won five gold medals and one silver, bringing his career gold count to 23 and his total to 28. In winning his 13th individual gold, he broke a 2,168-year old Olympic record for the most gold medals won, previously held by Leonidas of Rhodes.
Katie Ledecky extended her Olympic dominance, winning four golds and a silver, as she continued to pave the way for distance swimming. She won the 800m race by more than 11 seconds, an eternity in swimming. Barring injury, Ledecky appears to be the cornerstone for U.S. Swimming post-Rio after the retirement of Phelps.
The United States men’s and women’s basketball teams entered Rio as the heavy favorites, and they did not disappoint. The men’s team gave fans some scares but never lost and cruised to a 96-66 victory in the gold-medal game. The women’s team also went undefeated and hit the century mark in its 101-72 throttling of Spain to claim the championship.
In gymnastics, Simone Biles, Aly Raisman, Gabby Douglas, Laurie Hernandez and Madison Kocian, known as the Final Five, dominated the sport. Biles, considered one of, if not the best, gymnasts of all time, won four gold medals and a bronze. She won gold in the individual allaround, vault and floor exercise as well as with her team in the all-around.
The track and field team was second to swimming, winning 32 medals, 13 of which were gold. Ashton Eaton stood out, winning the men’s decathalon, but Jamaican sprinter Usain Bolt stole the show in the short-distance events. Bolt won the 100m and 200m dashes, ending his Olympic career in style.
The Olympics gives the world a chance to put aside political and ideological differences and compete through a universally accepted medium. This year, Rio de Janeiro hosted the 31st modern Olympic Summer Games amid much concern about the level of preparation and ability the troubled city had to pull off the event. Despite some sub-par crowds, a diving pool that turned green and the antics of swimmer Ryan Lochte, the Olympics ended up being successful.
Overall, it was once again an incredible Olympics for the United States. In four years, they’ll have the chance to make it seven straight Olympics leading the medal count, this time in Tokyo.