The Olympics have always been a stage for a sportsperson to win hearts of millions, and are invariably packed with emotional stories as athletes vie for the coveted gold medal. The Games have returned after a patient wait of 4 years with Rio de Janeiro all in readiness to host the Games of the XXXI Olympiad. This year as well, spectators will have the opportunity to witness some of the best athletes that are still in the circuit, who sweat it out for a period of four years so that they can give their best shot on the biggest stage of their sports. Here’s looking at the top 10 Olympians to watch out for in Rio 2016 as they strive to shine on the Olympic podium.
10. Katie Ledecky (United States of America), Swimming
When Michael Phelps, arguably the finest Olympian in the history of the games, is awe-struck by his USA team mate Katie Ledecky, you really know that this girl has it in her to strike gold. In fact, Ledecky won gold in the London games for the 800m Freestyle clocking a time of 8:14.63, a mere half-second behind the standing world record. And I forgot to mention, the American swimmer was 15 when she participated in the 2012 Summer Olympics – that’s right, 15. It took Ledekcy 3 years to topple the 800m Freestyle record as well. Currently, the American holds the world record in the 400m, 800m and the 1500m Freestyle. Ledecky is all set to defend her crown which she won back in 2012, and you’d definitely not want to miss out on watching this young and extremely gifted swimmer.
9. Neymar (Brazil), Football
Although known for being the undisputed kings of football, with a record 5 world cup trophies awarded to them, the Olympic gold medal is the cherry on the icing that’s been eluding the Brazilians for a while now. In 2012, the country’s hopes were shattered as Brazil were thrashed 7-1 by eventual champions Germany, resulting in the host nation being almost disgracefully eliminated. The Olympics usually doesn’t feature the star studded team when it comes to football. However, Brazil kept Neymar away from the Copa America so that his presence in the Rio Olympics can raise the chances of the Brazilian team grabbing the long awaited gold medal. The Barcelona star is one man you would want to get a glimpse of at any cost!
8. Dipa Karmakar (India), Artistic Gymnastics
India isn’t a name you would normally associate with ‘success’ as far as the Olympics are concerned. However, with Tripura-born artistic gymnast Dipa Karmakar becoming the first female Indian gymnast to secure an Olympic berth, India’s hopes have definitely been raised considerably. Dipa’s forte is vaulting, as she is one of the five women to have successfully landed the exceedingly difficult Produnova, and holds the highest score of 15.100 among all. Her two somersaults have indeed been a giant leap for India. If you’re cheering for India, Karmakar is one figure you’d definitely want to watch.
7. Jessica Ennis-Hill (Great Britain), Athletics
Hailing from Sheffield, she was undoubtedly the face of the London 2012. But the London games were even more special for Jessica Ennis-Hill because the heptathlete was able to top the podium, with a national record of 6,955 points under her belt. The road doesn’t end there for Hill, as she could taste more success in the Rio edition of the games in 2016. She’s been in great shape leading up to the games and goes in as one of the favorites for gold. Keep yourself free to get a glimpse of this legend-in-the-making.
6. Lin Dan (China), Badminton
Badminton came under scrutiny following the London games as several badminton teams were caught cheating, having purposefully lost matches in order to play weaker opponents in the others. The players were subsequently disqualified and charged with abusing and demeaning the sport of badminton. Nevertheless, a name like Lin Dan heals all of badminton’s wounds. Arguably the best singles badminton player of all time, Lin Dan was the first Olympic champion to have defended his title after defeating Lee Chong Wei in a gripping final at the London games. Lin will now be going for a straight third gold in Rio. If you wish to watch the best of badminton, Lin Dan is your man right here.
5. Andy Murray (Great Britain), Tennis
When Britain exited from both the European Union as well as the Euro Cup, all eyes turned to the Brit in the ongoing Wimbledon Championships. With the entire country’s hopes on his shoulders, Andy Murray found his way through to yet another Wimbledon final, and yet again made short work of his opponent, winning the coveted trophy for a second time in straight sets. Murray will also be defending his title at the Olympics in Rio. You might recall his easy and surprising victory over the Swiss master Roger Federer in Centre Court back in the 2012 games. Coming off a Wimbledon victory as well as being the current Olympic champion, the Brit will definitely have his eyes on the gold medal once again. Don’t miss out on watching Murray in action in Rio!
4. Kohei Uchimura (Japan), Artistic Gymnastics
Receiving the title of the greatest male gymnast ever is by no means a walk in the park, and the fact that the Japanese is called so by many in world of gymnastics speaks volumes about his capabilities. The 27 year old Uchimura is a 19-time world championships medalist. Since 2009, he has won the world title every time the all-round event has been contested, and Uchimura will be doing the same this year. If you’re searching for neatness and perfection, all you need to do is tune in to watch Uchimura in action, as he defends his all-round crown in Rio.
3. Ashton Eaton (United States of America), Athletics
This man probably doesn’t have the word ‘defeat’ in his dictionary. Yes, it’s reigning champion in the decathlon Ashton Eaton. The American’s training leading up to the games in Rio promises a repeat of his achievement in London 2012, and the athlete’s performance this year could be a prospective addition to the USA’s tally of gold medals. Eaton is really the definition of power and determination, and he is surely one face to look out for in Rio.
2. Michael Phelps (United States of America), Swimming
This man needs no further introduction to the sporting world. A winner of 22 Olympic medals, 18 of which are gold, fans would love to see Phelps on the podium adding to that staggering tally. Although he had retired from swimming following the London games, the 31 year old is back to the pool and has impressed one and all to win the 100m and 200m butterfly events, as well as the 200m individual medley at the US trials in Omaha. As far as swimming is concerned, Phelps in the pool is the best you’ll get to see.
1. Usain Bolt (Jamaica), Athletics
They say lightning doesn’t strike twice in the same place, but this lightning bolt has struck the Olympic games 6 times now – it’s none other than Usain Bolt we’re talking about. He has been the face of the Olympic games since he cracked the world record in Beijing back in 2008. 8 years down the line and Usain Bolt is still the fastest man on earth. The superstar sprinter will attempt something unprecedented, and quite unimaginable for that matter: he will be looking to defend the 100m, 200m and 4x100m relay titles which he won in Beijing and subsequently retained in London 2012, which is popularly known as the ‘triple-triple’. He will also be the first man aiming for a third successive 100m Olympic title. Although Lightning Bolt has become slower over the years, few would bet against his abilities to clinch gold in Rio. Needless to say, the 100m final with Bolt ready to fire off the blocks is the event you absolutely must watch.
These are your attractions at the Rio games this year, and you’d be fortunate to catch a glimpse of these world class athletes performing on the most prestigious Olympic stage. Their endurance, their passion and of course their success is what makes them the top 10 Olympians to watch out for in Rio.