As the curtains drew on the Rio Olympics, the likes of Usain Bolt, Michael Phelps and Abhinav Bindra ended their association with the Games. However, as they bowed out, a new league of rising stars set Rio alight with their showing. Some won gold, some missed out on a medal, but they left Brazil making sure that they will be headlining Tokyo 2020.
Simone Biles (Gymnastics)
It was a legendary debut for gymnast Simone Biles of the United States, who left Rio with four gold medals and one bronze, becoming one of the greatest Olympic gymnasts in the history of the Games. The 19-year-old became the second African-American after Gabby Douglas in 2012 to win the all-round title, ending her Olympics by carrying the United States flag at the closing ceremony. She was definitely one of the most dazzling Olympic stars to grace Rio.
PV Sindhu (Badminton)
For PV Sindhu, her first Olympics was anything short of being a total blockbuster. Her performance in the women’s singles badminton competition manged to grab the eyeballs of an entire nation. She made cricket look secondary and that is an achievement in itself in India. After world No. 5 Saina Nehwal’s forgettable early ouster, not many would have expected the tenth-ranked Sindhu to rise to the occasion. However, the 21-year-old put up a stellar show and, in the end, walked away with silver, reminding everyone that she is more than capable of bagging gold at the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.
Carolina Marin (Badminton)
Spain’s ace shuttler Carolina Marin made history by becoming the first non-Asian woman to win the Olympic singles gold medal after beating Sindhu in one of the most memorable finals. Marin has now added the Olympic gold to her 2014 and 2015 World Championship titles. The last two years have seen her take the world No. 1 spot and also make sure that she going to stay there for a while.
Almaz Ayana (Track and Field)
Almaz Ayana of Ethiopia destroyed a 23-year-old world record in the women’s 10,000 meters in her Olympic debut. The 24-year-old won her first Olympic gold with an untouchable performance of 29 minutes and 17.45 seconds, shattering the previous record by more than 14 seconds. It was only the second-ever 10,000-metre race for Ayana and she made sure it was historic. She went on to bag bronze in the 5,000 meters event as well.
Wayde van Niekerk (Track and Field)
South African runner Wayde van Niekerk stunned Usain Bolt. No, he did not stop the Jamaican from doing an incredible triple treble – winning gold in the 100 metres, 200 metres and 4x100 relay at three straight Games. However, Niekerk stole some of the spotlight from Bolt after the 24-year-old shattered Michael Johnson's 17-year-old record in the men's 400-metre run by 0.15 seconds with a time of 43.03 run to bag gold. The South African garnered applauds from everyone including Bolt, who backed him to complete the race in less than 43 seconds next time.
Andre De Grasse (Track and Field)
Bolt has ended his Olympic career by completing the triple treble. In an ideal world, the one to take the baton from the Jamaican is Canada’s Andre De Grasse. The 21-year-old won bronze with a personal-best time of 9.91 seconds in the 100-metre sprint and bagged silver in the 200 metres to begin his Olympic run. Then, along with Aaron Brown, Akeem Haynes and Brendon Rodney, he set a Canadian record of 37.64 for the 4x100-metre relay bronze to end the Games with three medals. If not for Bolt, he would have surely run away with two golds.
Dipa Karmakar (Gymnastics)
Dipa Karmakar put Indian gymnastics on the world map. Period. The 23-year-old became the first Indian woman to qualify for the vault final. She missed out on her medal at Olympics by 0.150 points and finished fourth. No one had backed her to win a medal, but the impact of her performance cannot be described. She attempted the most dangerous vault, the Produnova, because that is all she knew and that is the only move she has practiced 1,000 times. Called the vault of death, she put her life on the line, only to finish fourth.
Joseph Schooling (Swimming)
Beating your idol and beating him at his own game is an achievement very few athletes in this world can boast about. And if your idol is Michael Phelps, then you are already a legend. Singapore's Joseph Schooling beat Phelps in the 100-metre butterfly, set a new Olympic record of 50.39 seconds and took home his country’s first Olympic gold. The 21-year-old met his idol Phelps in Singapore when he was 14, who inspired him to take up the sport. After Rio and Phelps’s retirement, Schooling has all the ingredients required to be a multi-time Olympic champion like his idol.
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