Rio de Janeiro’s Olympic Games were the perfect stage to say goodbye to such legends as Usain Bolt, Michael Phelps and Carmelo Anthony; but the event hosted by the South American city was also a great opportunity to meet young stars that delivered outstanding performances and will undoubtedly make headlines through Tokyo, 2020.
PENNY OLESIAK (Canada, Swimming)
This tremendous 16-year-old swimmer was Canada’s best athlete in Rio 2016, by winning four medals (one golden medal, a silver one and two bronzes).
Penny Olesiak won the 100 m free style and established an Olympic record, with 52.70 sec. In 100 m butterfly, the other seven finalists were at least seven years older than her, but talent prevailed over experience and the Canadian athlete got the silver medal, with 56.46 sec, a junior world record.
Moreover, Olesiak was a member of Canada’s teams in 4×100 – 4×200 m relay, free style, which finished third.
Olesiak made headlines in the Canadian media and many people already label her as the likely swimming queen in Tokyo 2020, but her coach thinks that the athlete will have her best moment in 2024.
KATIE LEDECKY (Unites States, Swimming)
Four years ago, in London, Katie Ledecky amazed everybody by winning the Olympic title in 800 m freestyle, at the age of 15 and 4 months. In Rio, the US swimmer became the goddess of pools, with four crowns and one silver medal.
Ledecky stands out, among other aspects, due to her versatility. The 19-year-old athlete is capable of breaking records in long-distance tests and, at the same time, she competes against the fastest swimmers and leaves them behind.
In this edition of the Olympic Games, Ledecky won in 200, 400 (with world record of 3:56.46) and 800 m free style (with another world record of 8:04.79). Her fourth golden medal came in 4×200 m relay, also free style.
Out of these wins, 200 m was the most striking one, since she has barely spent a year competing in this distance… and she’s already a world and Olympic champion. On the other hand, the control showed in her favorite test, 800 meters, was so overwhelming that she finished 12 seconds before the second swimmer.
SIMONE BILES (Artistic Gymnastics, United States)
19-year-old Simone Biles was one of the best athletes in Rio and she undoubtedly prevailed over her rivals in that sports. Biles’ life could be the inspiration for a Hollywood production, because the girl suffered a traumatic childhood, with a drug addict mother, and she has already conquered 10 world crowns. This impressive list of achievements is complemented by her performance at the South American city, where she got four gold medals and a bronze one.
This gymnast won the top scorer competition, with significant advantage over her compatriot Alexandra Raisman, and she was also victorious in pommel horse, floor exercises and the team event. The bronze came in the balance beam.
She’ll be 23 years old in Tokyo, so she can still rule the gymnastics realms.
ELAINE THOMPSON (Jamaica, Athletics)
Usain Bolt and Shelly Ann-Fraser Pryce ran their last Olympic Game, but Jamaica found the best relief ever to keep on mastering speed events: 24-year-old Elaine Thompson won 100 and 200 m dash and she was second in the 4×100 m relay.
Thompson had shown the first signs of her talent back in Beijing 2015, where she finished with silver in 200 meters, right behind Dutch Dafne Schippers. The story was different in Rio, since the Jamaican athlete stood out in 100 meters, with 10.71 seconds, before US Tori Bowie (10.83) and Fraser-Pryce (10.86).
Afterwards, in 200 meters, everybody was thinking that Schippers was the favorite, but Thompson did it better and left the Dutch sprinter 10 hundredth behind. When the race was over, the images were quite contrasting: Thompson was celebrating her unexpected victory, while Schippers, lying on the track, couldn’t believe she had been defeated.
In Tokyo 2020, Thompson will be 28 years old, so she can master the Olympic speed once again. She’s got the talent to do it.
REN QIAN (China, Diving)
Chinese diver Ren Qian, who is only 15 years old, was another sensational young athlete in Rio, since she won in the 10 m platform event.
Qian was the youngest medalist in this edition of the Games and the second one in age to win a diving title. In Barcelona Games, back in 1992, one of her compatriots, Fu Mingxia, was also a winner on the platform at the age of 13.
“Since I was a little girl, I always dreamed about diving,” Qian said and announced that she looks forward to defending her title in Tokyo.
RYAN CROUSER (United States, Athletics)
As for shot put, most of experts pointed at US Joe Kovacs, world champion in Beijing 2015, as the favorite man; however, another North American athlete, 23-year-old Ryan Crouser, climbed to the highest spot of the podium, with 22.52 meters, a new Olympic record that went five centimeters beyond the previous record, held by German Ulf Timmerman since Seoul Olympic Games, in 1988.
In Rio, the US athlete had a great day, with three shots above 22.20 meters. We’ll see if Crouser keeps this pace in upcoming competitions. If he does, Randy Barnes’ record world (23.12 meters) would be in danger.