As the nation's top athletes qualified for and competed at the Rio 2016 Olympic Games this year, it was all anyone wanted to read about. From some of the first qualifiers in early 2016 to the final Team USA Games recap, fans could not get enough Rio-related news. To see which stories had people talking the most, check out the top 16 most-read TeamUSA.org stories of 2016.
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16. Michael Phelps Ends Individual Olympic Career With 100 Butterfly Silver
Having been in the sport for 24 years, it’s easy to say that Michael Phelps inspired a lot of swimmers in his Olympic career. Three of the athletes he inspired were South Africa’s Chad le Clos, Hungary’s Laszlo Cseh of Hungary and Singapore’s Joseph Schooling. So it was only fitting that in the last individual Olympic race of his career — 100-meter butterfly — he tied for second place with le Clos and Cseh, and was beat by Schooling (who earned Singapore’s first-ever Olympic gold medal, in any sport!). Phelps did go on to win gold the next night with his relay team in the 4x100 medley, but called his silver-medal tie “a wild ending to the story.”
15. Fencer Ibtihaj Muhammad Qualifies For Olympics, Will Become First U.S. Athlete To Compete In A Hijab
Ibtihaj Muhammad made headlines for becoming the first-ever U.S. athlete to compete in an Olympics while wearing a hijab, the headscarf worn by Muslim women – news that was broken on TeamUSA.org in February. Being covered up is the reason why Muhammad got into fencing in the first place; her mother noticed the high school fencing team was fully covered in practice, a necessity for Muslim women. After failing to qualify for the 2012 Olympics when she tore a ligament in her hand just months before the Games, Muhammad went on to medal in Rio, taking bronze in the team saber event.
14. U.S. Men's Soccer Team Fails To Qualify For Rio Olympics
Soccer is always a popular topic on TeamUSA.org, but it became even bigger news when the U.S. men’s team failed to qualify for the Olympics for the second time in a row. Colombia became the 16th and final team to qualify for Rio after the U.S. lost to them 2-1. This was the first time the U.S. missed playing in back-to-back Olympics since the 1960s, when the team failed to qualify for Rome 1960, Tokyo 1964 and Mexico City 1968.
13. Aly Raisman Commits To Pursuing Tokyo 2020 Olympics
For many professional athletes, getting to just one Olympics is the ultimate goal. For many gymnasts, competing in their 20s is considered “old” and past their prime. But Aly Raisman has already competed in two Olympics by the age of 22 and isn’t content to stop there. Shortly after bringing home three medals from Rio, Raisman announced that she was going to take time off but then would be back in the gym training to make the Tokyo 2020 team. If she succeeds, she would be the first U.S. women’s gymnast to compete in three consecutive Olympic Games since Dominique Dawes did it in 1992, 1996 and 2000.
12. U.S. Olympic Committee Announces 558-Member 2016 U.S. Olympic Team
Making an Olympic team is big news, so it’s not surprising that the announcement of the names of the Team USA athletes that would be attending the Rio Games was equally exciting. It was also a much-talked about story because this was the most women who have competed for any nation in Olympic Games history — China previously held the record in 2008 with 289 female athletes. Of the 294 women and 264 men, 52 of them were parents, and 12 of the athletes were born to Olympic parents. In addition to notable names like swimmer Michael Phelps, shooter Kim Rhode and Aly Raisman, the team — which represented 46 states in total — also contained a large number of first-timers (368, to be exact).
11. Simone Biles, Aly Raisman Go 1-2 In Historic Olympic All-Around For Team USA
Gymnastics was a topic everyone wanted to talk about, and read about, this year — understandable as the “Final Five” dominated in Rio. But halfway through the all-around final, pint-sized phenom Simone Biles was not dominating, but was actually in second. But even though the three-time reigning world champion said, “it didn’t really bother me,” she rallied to come back and take gold, with her teammate Aly Raisman right behind with the silver. This was only the second time Team USA had gone 1-2 in Olympic history (Nastia Liukin and Shawn Johnson took 1-2 at the Beijing 2008 Olympic Games). The U.S. has now won an unprecedented four women’s all-around titles in a row.
10. Kim Rhode Becomes First Woman To Medal At Six Straight Olympic Games
Shooter Kim Rhode has been competing in the Olympics longer than some of her competitors have been alive. The 37-year-old competed in her first Games in Atlanta in 1996, where she became the youngest shooting gold medalist at only 17 years old. So when she tied Italian luger Armin Zoeggeler as the only Olympians to win medals in six straight Olympics – with Rhode being the first woman – after taking bronze in Rio, the only person surprised was Rhode, who told TeamUSA.org, “I’m just blown away myself.”
9. Team USA Concludes Record-Breaking Rio 2016 Olympic Games With 121 Medals, 46 Golds
It’s pretty common practice to hear about Team USA athletes winning medals at the Olympics, but a record 121 medals — 46 of which were gold — was a story everyone wanted to read about. Taking home the most medals in swimming and track and field, Team USA topped the medal chart in every category, making it only the seventh time ever achieved in Olympic history and the first since 1948. Another first was the location — a new continent was crossed off when South America hosted its first Games. And a successful one it was; out of the 558 Team USA athletes that went to Rio, 210 came home with medals.
8. 6 Things You Didn't Know About Synchronized Swimming That Will Shock You
Why would anyone wear contacts if they had perfect vision? Or swim with nose clips tucked into their swimsuits? These were just some of the topics we touched on in our story about the shocking facts about synchronized swimming. While the athletes work really hard to make the sport look easy, it is in fact really hard. Holding your breath and treading water for long periods of time are just a couple of the things that make this sport so difficult — but also fascinating to watch.
7. Michael Phelps Wins 200 IM, Breaks Record From Ancient Olympic Games
You would think after winning 28 medals over the span of four Olympics, people would get tired of hearing about the most decorated swimmer of all time, Michael Phelps. But during his last Olympic Games, the 31-year-old broke another record — this time in the 200 IM, winning gold for the fourth straight Games and earning him his 13th individual Olympic title, breaking a first-place tie with Leonidas of Rhodes who achieved the record more than two millennia ago during the Ancient Olympic Games. It was also a monumental race because it was the last time Phelps would swim against his longtime teammate and rival, Ryan Lochte.
6. Kanak Jha Becomes The First Athlete Born In 2000s To Qualify For The U.S. Olympic Team
While most 16-year-olds were thinking about homework and their high school prom, Kanak Jha was thinking about what it would be like to compete as a teenager in his first Olympic Games. After a qualification tournament in April, table tennis sensation Jha became the first athlete born in the 2000s to qualify for the Rio Games. Though he was not the only 16-year-old — gymnasts Laurie Hernandez and Laura Zeng, plus hurdler Sydney McLaughlin, also qualified — he was the youngest member on Team USA.
5. 16-Year-Old Sydney McLaughlin To Become Youngest U.S. Track Olympian Since 1972
People always want to know what goes through the mind of an Olympic athlete when they’re competing. Well, after talking to the youngest U.S. track Olympian to compete in the Games since 1972, it turned out all she could think about during her 400-meter hurdles race at Olympic Trials was cheeseburgers. Sydney McLaughlin — who turned 17 during the Rio Olympics — has had food on the brain as far back as the age of 6 when her dad used to bribe her with the idea of chocolate bars if she won her races. She might not have gotten her chocolate bar in Rio, but she ended up with something better — the experience of a lifetime.
4. 14 Olympic Couples You Probably Didn't Know About
Everyone knows about love in tennis, but not everyone knew about these 14 Olympic couples that we honored on Valentine’s Day. From longtime loves like former figure skater Kristi Yamaguchi and her ex-NHL player husband Bret Hedican to new relationships like snowboarders Jamie Anderson and Tyler Nicholson, who are now coming up on two years together. It was easy to see why love was in the air once you read their stories, from how they met to their Olympic experiences.
3. The “Final Five” Qualifies On Top And Wins Gold
Of course one of the most read stories of 2016 had to do with Simone Biles, Gabby Douglas, Laurie Hernandez, Madison Kocian and Aly Raisman. When the “Final Five” made its way onto the Olympic stage for the preliminary round, the fans — and readers — couldn’t get enough, making the story about the gymnasts taking the top spot in all four events the third-most read story on the site. Not far behind in page views was the piece announcing the line-up for the qualification round and the declaration of the women’s first medal, team gold. After that, readers couldn’t wait to relive all the highlights in a photo gallery that recapped the historic day.
2. 20 Years Later, Magnificent Seven Still Inspires
Twenty years might have passed since the Magnificent Seven competed together at the Atlanta 1996 Olympic Games, but the team was still given a gold-medal welcome at USA Gymnastics’ parade of Olympians held in California earlier this summer. Readers learned what the Magnificent Seven — which comprised of Amanda Borden, Amy Chow, Dominique Dawes, Shannon Miller, Dominique Moceanu, Jaycie Phelps and Kerri Strug — had been up to since winning America’s hearts on home soil, including how often the group sees one another and what they think of Games today versus the ones of the past.
1. Simone Biles, Gabby Douglas, Aly Raisman Lead Olympic Women’s Gymnastics Team
In the biggest story of the year — by a landslide — came the news of which five women’s gymnasts had made the 2016 U.S. Olympic Team after two days of intense competition at the U.S. Olympic Team Trials. Readers were so anxious to find out who would make up the team that results from the first day of trials was also a widely shared story. Despite Gabby Douglas losing her footing on the balance beam and her placement dropping to seventh, the defending Olympic all-around champion rebounded to make the “Final Five,” one of the most decorated and competitive women’s gymnastics teams to compete on behalf of Team USA. The team was highlighted by Simone Biles, the three-time reigning world champion; Douglas, the defending Olympic all-around champion; and three-time Olympic medalist Aly Raisman.