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Gary and Paul O'Donovan in May 2016 | ©
Gary and Paul O'Donovan in May 2016 | ©

10 Alternative Takeaways From The 2016 Rio Olympics

Picture of Luke Bradshaw
Sports Editor
Updated: 7 December 2016
The 2016 Olympics in Rio saw some incredible achievements. We could talk about Usain Bolt, Michael Phelps and Simone Biles, but this is neither the time nor place. This is about unsung heroes. Whether it be by accident or design, we pay homage to the more unlikely Olympic moments and the people who made them.

In it for the medals … and the ‘craic’

The O’Donovan brothers caught the public’s attention after their first race with their very frank — and very funny — interviews. Their subsequent performances were as impressive as their interviews were funny, managing to win a silver medal in rowing. Were there any complicated tactics during their racing? Not quite. ‘It isn’t too complex really. A to B as fast as you can go and hope for the best. Close the eyes and pull like a dog.’ It wasn’t long before #PullLikeADog was trending.

Dirty protest

There are plenty of ways to protest. The official channels are the most highly recommended, but if you want to you can opt for stripping down to your pants and throwing your shoes at the judges. You don’t have to, but you can if you want. Wrestler Mandakhnaran Ganzorig (Mongola) lost his bronze medal contest with Ikhtiyor Navruzov (Uzbekistan) and his coach didn’t take the news very well. Given the choices he had, he went for the latter.

Phelps Face

Where someone wins an Olympic medal, Michael Phelps wins 28 of them. So maybe it’s no surprise that where others get their ‘game face’ on, Phelps goes further than anyone else. ‘Phelps Face’ became a thing, even enough for someone to get it tattooed on their leg. With Chad Le Clos trying to get in the American’s head with his ‘look-how-relaxed-I-am-about-all-this’ strutting, Phelps’ approach was somewhat different.

Facing the judges

From one face to another, only significantly more sassy. American gymnast Laurie Hernandez initially won a whole load of fans for her ‘I got this’ pep talk seconds before she competed on the beam, and the encouragement obviously worked as she helped USA to team gold. But her self confidence had clearly cranked up a gear the following day when, just before her floor routine, she flashed the judges a wink. So simple, so endearing. The 16-year-old left the Olympics with a gold and silver to her name.

The anti-rain dance

Weightlifter David Katoatau finished sixth in the men’s 105kg Group B final, but it was his samba that caught the eye more than his strength. To many it was merely a silly dance, but Katoatu’s moves actually had a greater meaning attached. Hailing from Kiribati, the tiny collection of islands in the Pacific, he wanted his dance to get airtime so he could attempt to raise awareness about how climate change is threatening his homeland. If we’re being honest, he should have been given a medal for his flag bearing at the opening ceremony anyway.


The official reason that was eventually given by organisers was that ‘an unauthorised dump of 80 litres of hydrogen peroxide’ was responsible for turning Rio’s diving pool bright green. That, combined with ‘the participation of over 120 athletes in the diving pool had added to the “organics” in the water and was responsible for the colour change.’ Perhaps divers entering the pool should have been a consideration beforehand.

How the mighty have fallen … literally

For some, the colour of the diving pool was a blessing in disguise. Ask the average armchair fan about the diving and the colour will be the thing that they recall. And that’s good news for Ilya Zakharov (Russia) because every person who mentions the greenery is another who isn’t talking about his dive that scored 0.0. Zero. Nothing. He was 2012 Olympic champion going into men’s three-metre springboard event. Safe to say he isn’t anymore.

Highs and lows

Olympians come in all shapes and sizes and no image summed this up better than when Ragan Smith and DeAndre Jordan stood together in Rio. So while 4-foot-6 gymnast Smith isn’t allowed on most rollercoasters, 6-11 basketball player Jordan needs leg room upon leg room.

Had a fun time meeting Deandre Jordan yesterday!🇺🇸👌🏻 A photo posted by Ragan Smith (@ragansmith) on

Olympic love

Proposals, well five of them to be precise. Rio definitely had love in the air, by the pool, on the pitch and anywhere else you turned to look. The most public was probably Chinese diver He Zi, who was fresh from receiving her silver medal for the 3m springboard diving event when her boyfriend, Qin Kai (a bronze medalist himself), popped the question. Thankfully all five ended with positive responses and the BBC even managed to host a bachelorette party along the way.  

Cheat day

Becoming an Olympian requires extreme dedication and discipline. A strict diet is essential to aid training and performance, but if there is one time you’re allowed a cheat day, moments after competing in the Olympics is probably permitted. Step forward Australian badminton player Sawan Serasinghe for this heroic abuse of calorie-counting.

Wow what a week it has been in Rio! Have to say I am disappointed about the match today. We definitely had a good chance to stretch the match to three sets toward the end of the second set but couldn’t close it out. We would have loved to end our first Olympic campaign with a win against a much higher ranked pair. Although having said that, there are lots of good things to learn from the matches in the last three days playing against more experienced pairs. Can’t wait to go back home to start training and keep on improving! Just want to say thanks again to everyone back home for the on going support. Definitely motivated me to fight hard on court everyday! ❤️ Now it’s time to eat some junk food after months of eating clean! 😀 A photo posted by Sawan Serasinghe (@sawansera) on