Okay, THAT is what I'm talking about at the Olympics!!! An amazing night for both Team USA and just in general a magnificent night for competition, period. I'm reminded each year of how much I like the first week of the Olympics, where swimming, diving, gymnastics, and tennis all are the principle sports, and how much it's lost on me later on in the competition when we go to track, soccer, and basketball (which I can never get into as much). Yesterday was a combination of all of those sports, so let's take a look...
Michael Phelps has been a personal hero for years, and to see him back in the water, and in such peak form (even better, in my opinion, than some of his work in London), was a rare treat. The men's 4x100m relay four years ago was an enormous disappointment for American swim fans, watching as Ryan Lochte couldn't sink the basket as the anchor. This year Nathan Adrian (everyone's imaginary Olympic boyfriend) held it together, though he went into the final leg with such a lead thanks to Phelps and the rest of his teammates that it was a relatively easy task. It'll be tough to match last night's relay in terms of excitement the rest of the games.
For weeks, I've heard nothing but how incredible Simone Biles is (and Tim Daggett, who is the most annoying announcer this side of Scott Hamilton, would not shut up about her) that it felt like it would be hype that would be impossible to live up to, but man did she. She looks to have qualified for three different individual events in addition to the all-around and the team event, putting her in contention to take an astonishing five medals in gymnastics. It was bittersweet to see one-time champion Gabby Douglas fall under Simone's shadow, but Biles is an athlete that few could rival.
The word bromance is disgusting, but if there's one brewing in the swim lanes at Rio that I can get behind, it's adorable Prince Harry-lookalike Adam Peaty and the long-locked Cody Miller both cheering and hugging each other in the pool after Peaty smashed his world record once again to take the gold and Miller exuberantly won the bronze. If they had a reality show, I'd watch it.
At this point in American women's swimming, there are truly great swimmers that represent the best in the world, and then there's Katie Ledecky, in a class by herself. Ledecky smashed her own world record (much like Peaty) in the 400m freestyle, nearly five seconds over even second place Jazmin Carlin. She's set to win multiple races this Olympics-it's likely she'll be at the top of that podium again soon.
Tennis saw some of the greats batted down this weekend. The Williams Sisters and the Murray Brothers both were ousted in doubles. Venus Williams, Agnieszka Radwanska, and Roberta Vinci were all brought down in singles. But nowhere was there a greater shock than Juan Martin del Potro taking down World No. 1 Novak Djokovic in the first round. Admittedly del Potro was a tough first round pick and had beaten Djoker at the Olympics before (in London, actually), but still to see one of the best tennis players of all-time felled in that way was stunning, and Djokovic, who recently finished his Career Grand Slam but lost badly in Wimbledon and is still missing an Olympic gold medal, was clearly heartbroken by the loss, breaking down in tears on the court. A stunning defeat, which busts the men's tournament wide open. No man has ever won two Olympic gold medals in Olympic single's tennis-could Rafael Nadal or Andy Murray try for the honor this year?
It takes a lot to get to the Olympics just once. To make it five times takes a different type of endurance. And for Tania Cagnotto, it clearly was personal at that point, because despite this being her fifth Olympics and hitting a Top 10 finish six times previously, she had never medaled before Rio. And then, yesterday, at the top of the 3m synchronized springboard, she finally achieved that dream, winning a silver medal in a moment that had to be a huge relief for the 31-year-old (now) Olympic medalist.