Spencer Schultz and Aryana Nazem
Editor of Production and Staff Writer
The 2016 Rio Olympics have come to an end, and we’ll have to wait another four years before the torch is lit again in Tokyo 2020.
As usual, the United States dominated, whether it be on the court, in the pool, or on the field. Team USA brought home 121 total medals this year, including 46 gold. The United States nearly doubled the total of the second-place finisher, China, at 70. Gold medals aside, the Rio Games will certainly be one for the history books.
Two of Jamesville-DeWitt High School’s very own students got the opportunity to witness the history made at the Rio Games firsthand. Juniors Jack and Jamie Boeheim attended the last portion of the Olympics this year to watch their father, basketball coach Jim Boeheim, who was invited on to Team USA as an assistant coach.
Jack and Jamie Boeheim made the 15 hour flight down to Rio during the final week of the Olympic Games. While there, the family stayed on the “Getaway,” a large 4,000 passenger luxury ocean liner reserved for the families of the basketball team, docked at Pier Maua along the coast.
The USA basketball men’s and women’s teams also stayed on a smaller cruise ship docked at the same pier as the one Jack and Jamie Boeheim stayed on. “It’s been a tradition for the basketball teams to not stay in the Olympic village,” says Jamie. Jack and Jamie Boeheim were even able to spot a few Olympians, including Carmelo Anthony, Klay Thompson, and Breanna Stewart, as they walked to their ship–which sat just next door to the “Getaway.”
The two also got to visit the Christ the Redeemer Statue, in the hills looking down onto Rio. Jack and Jamie looked past the heavy winds and cold temperatures, and instead focused on the remarkable sights of the city and of Brazil that could be seen from the statue. “It was really amazing. We were in awe,” says Jack.
Olympians and tourist attractions aside, Jamie says the highlight of her trip was getting to see the Olympic Finals for the men’s basketball team. “At the (championship) game, it was really cool to get to see the team take home gold for the third Olympics in a row. We’ve been to Beijing and London, too, so we’ve actually gotten to see all three golds. Not a lot of people can probably say that,” says Jamie.
As for Jack, the best part of his trip was a bit less sentimental. “I loved staying on the cruise ship. It had waterslides, putt putt, a ropes course, and basketball courts. It was really cool,” he says.
Despite the rumors of dead people in the water and poverty on the streets, Jack and Jamie say they didn’t see any babies with Zika-induced microcephaly and the part of Rio they stayed in was very nice. “I mean, there were a few sections of Rio that we drove through that had graffiti and were a little more run down, but it’s like that in any city you go to,” says Jack.
After visiting both Beijing and London in 2008 and 2012, the Olympics has become somewhat of a family tradition for the Boeheims. Even with the thriving culture of Brazil, the Boeheims say nothing will ever be able to top Beijing in 2008. Jack says he remembers the opening ceremonies in Beijing being very unique. “Everything about China was cool. All the stadiums were beautiful, it was cool to see the Great Wall, and the opening ceremonies were something really special,” he says. “There weren’t as many sights to see or Olympic events to attend in Rio. Our entire time there, we only were able to go to the basketball games, since the other venues were so far away,” says Jamie.
Jack and Jamie may have been able to witness the United States’ journey to gold in basketball, but it wasn’t just the basketball team that made history. Simon Manuel made history as the first black women to win an individual medal in an Olympic swimming event, tying for first in the 100-meter freestyle with 16-year-old Penny Oleksiak. At the same time, Manuel broke a 7-year-old American record in the 100-meter freestyle with her time of 52.70 seconds.
Phenomenon Katie Ledecky took home five medals, including three individuals golds in the 200, 400, and 800-meter freestyle. Ledecky became the first swimmer to complete the sweep of these events since Debbie Meyer in 1968. In the 400 and 800 free, the competition wasn’t even close for Ledecky. In Rio, she broke her own world records in those events, and was faster than the second place finisher by 11 seconds in the 800 free. Her four golds and one silver medal made her the most decorated female athlete as well, beating out Missy Franklin’s four golds and one bronze in 2012.
Michael Phelps brought his fair share of records in, too, adding six medals– five gold and a silver– to his name. He broke the record for most Olympic gold medals, at 23. His golds in the 200-meter butterfly and 200-meter individual medley made him the first swimmer to win an individual event 12 years apart.
But those records are nothing compared to the 2,168 year-old one Phelps broke during Rio. Phelps surpassed Leionidas of the Ancient Olympic Games for the most Olympic wins. His two individual gold medals at Rio make him the most accomplished Olympian of all time, bringing his total to13 individual golds, and surpassing Leionidas’s previous record of 12.
Most importantly, Phelps seemed to enjoy what he says will be his last Olympics. Clean and sober from drugs or alcohol, Phelps appeared to be back on track from his most miserable Olympics in 2012. Recently engaged and new father to his young son, Boomer, Phelps could be seen smiling and laughing during Rio. His training and focus leading up to the Games was more intense than ever before, says Phelps. Even with another six medals under his belt at the age of 31, Phelps says he won’t be making a comeback to the sport of swimming.
Junior Nico Modesti still thinks Phelps will make a return to the pool for Tokyo in 2020. “Something tells me that Phelps isn’t done with swimming. I could easily see him taking in a few more golds four years from now,” says Modesti.
Outside of the pool, the “Final Five” gymnasts dominated for the United States as well. Led by breakout star Simone Biles, Team USA easily claimed victory in the team competition. Biles went on to win four other medals–for balance beam, floor, vault, and all-around. Her teammate, Aly Raisman, veteran of the 2012 Games, defied her age by achieving two silvers in the floor and all-around.
On the beach, Kerri Walsh Jennings sought to win her fourth Olympic gold in beach volleyball, as she has taken home the gold every year since 2004. Walsh Jennings fell short of that, placing third after losing to the Brazilian pair.
Jamaica’s Usain Bolt completed the three-peat in the 100, 200, and 4 by 100-meter relay. He’s taken home Olympic golds in those events in each Olympics since 2008. Bolt was even able to make time to smile for the camera during the 100 meter race, comfortably winning the race in style.
Even with the astounding achievements of Team USA, Olympics scandals somehow seemed to steal the limelight this summer.
Before the Olympics were even underway, the media was rampant with concerns over the health and safety of holding the Games in Rio. A hot spot for mosquitoes, Rio de Janeiro’s climate sparked concerns over the growing global threat of Zika virus, which affects pregnancy women and can lead to microcephaly in newborns.
Many big name athletes, including Steph Curry, Lebron James, Jason Day, Dustin Johnson, and Jordan Speith declined to attend the Olympics this year over such concerns. Even NBC anchor Savannah Guthrie skipped out over Zika concerns.
Luckily, no athletes have reported any Zika related issues, but Rio still had a host of other problems.
Raw sewage in the Olympic venues for sailing, open-water swimming, and rowing posed the biggest health concern at Rio. This sewage exposed 1,400 athletes to the threat of contracting diseases. There were even reports of dead bodies and garbage floating in the open water.
Regardless, what stole the most media coverage was Ryan Lochte’s infamous debacle with local security in Rio. While first claiming to the media that he and three other swimmers had been robbed at gunpoint after a night out, information was later released that Lochte had urinated outside of a gas station, and that his account of the story was a cover-up to protect his image. “I think the entire ‘Lochtegate’ scandal was a huge mishap. He shouldn’t have lied about what happened in the first place, but at the same time, the media shouldn’t have spent so much time covering the story. It took away from all the success of the athletes at the Olympics,” says freshman Paige Keeler.
At a time of divisiveness for the United States during this year’s tumultuous presidential election, the Rio Olympics proved to be a unifying force of pride for our country, regardless of the health concerns and controversy.