The Olympics are filled with incredible narratives of athletes and their struggles climbing to the pinnacle. Converging from every corner of the earth to represent their countries and communities in front of the watching world. This is what makes the event and its myriad of sports so absorbing.
Here is my take of the storylines i’ll be particularly following in Brazil.
Jamaican Sprint Domination!
Usain Bolt will be the athlete in focus of the games. He is on the cusp of achieving the ‘Triple Triple’ (3 Gold Medals at 3 Games). He did it big at Beijing 2008 and entered Greatness at London 2012, winning the 100m, 200m and 4x100m relay in world record time with his speedy team mates. In Rio, he can go to legend status. Bolt’s favourite race is the 200m, he says he runs the 100m for the fans and the 200m for himself. The 100m will however, be his first Gold on offer and he has his biggest challenge in the form of USA’s Justin Gatlin, the Athens 2004 100m Gold Medallist who was later handed a suspension for doping. Bolt v Gatlin will be an epic duel and it will set the tone for the rest of the meet for Bolt. Of course, in these sprint events, one stumble or false start and it is over. Mandatory viewing.
Jamaica also has a dominant athlete in the Women’s sprinting arena. Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce is the pocket rocket Bolt equivalent of the 100m. She is the reigning Beijing and London 100m Gold Medallist.
I look forward to seeing Jamaica bring the personality, exuberance and raw speed to the track.
Diary date/s (Rio time): Men’s 100m Final – Sunday 14 August Night | Women’s 100m Final – Saturday 13 August Night
Fiji is by no means an Olympic powerhouse, but the people of the ‘Smiling Isles’ will be glued to their TV screens because they now have a golden chance to register their first ever Olympic Medal.
Rugby 7’s has become a growing global phenomenon, so much so that the International Olympic Committee approved its inclusion at Rio 2016. Rugby 7’s is an absolute religion in Fiji. The men’s team play a enthralling, high risk game which has led them to the number one world ranking and back to back World Series titles in 2015 and 2016. The team is led by English super coach, Ben Ryan and are hot favourites. Any success would bring great happiness to the country ravaged by Tropical Cyclone Winston earlier in the year.
If this wasn’t enough, Fiji’s team has come from the wilderness to qualify for the Men’s football competition. The side, coached by former Socceroos player and coach Frank Farina will be coming up against none other than Germany in their group.
Diary date/s (Rio time): Men’s Rugby 7’s Final – Friday 12 August
O Jogo Bonito, Futebol!
Nothing is bigger than football in Brazil. I was in the country amongst the euphoria when they were winning their games at the 2014 World Cup. I was also in Rio when they came crashing down to earth after an unspeakable 7-1 loss to Germany in the semi finals. It is still a raw topic of conversation for Brazilians, so be careful who you mention it to!
Despite winning the World Cup 5 times, Brazil has never won the Men’s Football Gold Medal. They will be calling on their best player, Neymar to help change this. It will be fascinating. One could only imagine the tension if they meet Germany or Argentina.
Amid an unprecedented political and economic climate in Brazil, you can bet Brazilians will be a bit happier about the Games if their football team can make them proud.
In the women’s competition, our Aussie Matildas are primed to make a big impression. I definitely will be supporting them loudly. A medal is definitely on the radar! The Matildas defeated Brazil in the knockouts of the 2015 World Cup and downed 2012 World Champion Japan in the qualification series.
Football at Rio 2016 is being distributed around the country, so players will be travelling just like a mini World Cup. Host cities include Sao Paulo, Belo Horizonte, Salvador and Manaus.
Football isn’t usually a huge feature of the Olympics, but the pure fact it is in Brazil this time will change that.
Diary date/s (Rio time): Women’s Football Final – Friday 19 August 17:30 | Men’s Football Final – Saturday 20 August 17:30
Beach Volleyball on Copacabana
Copacabana and Beach Volleyball will be a match made in heaven. A temporary 12,000 capacity arena will be built on the famous sands of Rio’s iconic beach. Tickets are a dime a dozen, it is a hugely popular sport in beachy Brazil and they have some hot hott gold medal contenders. The prime views will look tops on TV too, showcasing Rio’s prime assets! It will be reminiscent of Beach Volleyball at Bondi during Sydney 2000 and the famous Cook/Pottharst Gold.
Diary date/s (Rio time): Women’s Beach Volleyball Final – Wed 17 August | Men’s Beach Volleyball Final – Thursday 20 August
Little Athletics to the Olympics
Declaring an interest here. It will be great to see the many Australian athletes compete who initially made their first steps in the iconic grassroots sport of Little Athletics. I’ll be supporting Sally Pearson, Kim Mickle, Dani Samuels, Eleanor Patterson, Cedric Dubler, Fabrice Lapierre and the list goes on!
Diary date/s (Rio time): Athletics runs from Friday 12 August to closing day on August 21.
Other Honourable mentions
The new Refugee Team – we will look at this more closely as the Games draw closer.
Legendary Swiss pair Roger Federer & Martina Hingus teaming up in the tennis doubles will be a sight for sore eyes.
Who will light that cauldron???