Rio Olympics provide much more than gold medals

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Rio Olympics provide much more than gold medals

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Photo credit: publicdomainpictures.net

Photo credit: publicdomainpictures.net

Photo credit: publicdomainpictures.net

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From various health and environmental concerns to record-breaking athletic feats, the Rio Olympics has been a wild ride so far—even before the games officially began.

Zika concerns

The Zika virus outbreak in Rio has been among the top concerns in the months leading up to the event. But according to the World Health Organization (WHO), the risk of contracting the disease is relatively low. It is currently winter in Rio, which keeps the mosquito population in check. However, many athletes say it is better to be safe than sorry.

Athletes have been informed about mosquito-bite prevention and are taking precautions.

For instance, South Korean athletes walked in the opening ceremony wearing long pants and long-sleeved shirts, covering as much skin as possible. The outfits are also infused with insect repellant to ward off mosquitos.

Irish athletes are to return home after their respective games, in order to reduce the risk of becoming infected with the disease.

Water concerns

Water is another concern. Rio treats only half of its sewage, according to The Associated Press (AP). The rest is dumped into waters surrounding the metropolitan area. Even though Rio promised to have the water clean by the opening of the games, tests have confirmed widespread contamination.

As a precaution, rowing athletes bleached their oars, kept their water bottles in plastic bags and gargled anti-bacterial mouthwash.

Boathouse Sports, the U.S. rowing team’s uniform manufacturer, created anti-microbial suits that act as a second skin and prevent any illnesses and diseases from the contaminated waters.

The waters have been described to look relatively clear—save for floating trash. It has also been tested for bacteria and been deemed safe by the WHO. However, a virus test has not been conducted, so the presence of viruses is still very possible, according to WHO.

Safety concerns

In addition to health risks, athletes have also found themselves facing other threats.

One man from The Daily Beast wrote an article about meeting with Olympic athletes through Grindr, a social networking app for the gay community. He listed their names and stats in the article; however, the article has since been removed because it puts the athletes lives at risk, as many athletes could be jailed or executed for their sexual orientation in their home countries.

Another threat to safety included an armed robbery. Four members of the U.S. Olympic Swim Team (Gunnar Bentz, Jack Conger, Jimmy Feigen and Ryan Lochte) were allegedly robbed at gunpoint after their taxi was stopped by men posing as police officers. It has since been found that the robbery was falsely reported and Ryan Lochte fabricated the entire incident.

Olympic achievements

But not all is bad at the games. Many athletes have shot to the top, breaking olympic and world records in their events.

As of Aug. 15, Team USA currently has a total of 69 medals: 26 gold medals, 21 silver medals and 22 bronze medals.

Swimming to the top

With a total of 16 gold medals in swimming alone, as of Aug. 15, swimming appears to be Team USA’s strong suit. Swimmers who won more than one gold medal at the 2016 games include famed Michael Phelps, Katie Ledecky, Ryan Murphy, Simone Manuel, Madeline Dirado, Nathan Adrian, Lilly King, Caeleb Dressel and Anthony Ervin.

Team winnings, such as relays where each member of the winning team receives a gold medal, only count as one win and, therefore, one medal.

With a total of 28 medals, Phelps is the most decorated Olympian of all time. However, he insists his olympic career has come to an end after announcing his retirement from competitive swimming. In the Rio Finals, Phelps won five gold medals and one silver medal.

Katie Ledecky is a five-time Olympic gold medalist, as well as a nine-time world champion. Currently, she is the world record holder for the women’s 400, 800 and 1,500 meter freestyle. In the Rio Finals, Ledecky won four gold medals and one silver medal.

Simone Manuel tied for gold with Canada’s Penny Oleksiak in the 100 meter individual freestyle. Both broke Olympic records, finishing at 52.70 seconds. But Manuel set other new Olympic records as well, as the first black woman in Olympic history to earn an individual swimming gold medal. She is also the first African-American woman to win an individual medal. In the Rio Finals, Manuel won two gold medals and two silver medals.

Gymnasts flip to victory

Team USA’s Gymnastics team is also impressive, with a total of 3 gold medals as of Aug. 14. The gold medalists include Simone Biles, Gabby Douglas, Laurie Hernandez, Madison Kocian and Aly Raisman.

Biles is quickly rising as a star. She is the first female gymnast since 1974 to win four consecutive all-around titles at the U.S. national championships. She is also the first woman to be the all-around world champion three consecutive years. She won 14 total world championships medals, the most ever won by an American woman. In the Rio Finals, Biles won three gold medals and one bronze medal.

Gabby Douglas is the reigning all-around champion. In 2012, she became the first black female gymnast ever to win gold in an Olympic individual all-around competition. She also helped the USA team to a second consecutive all-around championship. In the Rio Finals, Douglas walked away with one gold medal.

Track & Field sprint to gold

Team USA’s Track and Field team won two gold medals. In the process, they set records in addition to time and distance records. The gold medalists were Michelle Carter and Jeff Henderson.

Carter made history by becoming the first American woman, let alone the first black American woman, to ever win gold in women’s shot put. She is also now part of Team USA’s first ever father-daughter Olympic medalist pair. Father Michael Carter won silver in men’s shot put in 1984.

In other news, Ibtihaj Muhammad became a legend at the Rio Games. She is the first woman to compete for a U.S. Olympic team while wearing a hijab. She also helped her team—the women’s fencing squad—to bronze.

To view a schedule of the events, livestreams and replays, visit www.nbcolympics.com.