Even if all the infrastructure and glitter isn’t quite in place, the 2016 Rio de Janeiro Summer Games are set to go off with a bang. Opening ceremonies for the Games of the XXXI Olympiad are scheduled Friday, Aug. 5.
Organizers of the mega-event in Brazil have taken heat from the International Olympic Committee for just about everything associated with the 2016 Games — from traffic jams to polluted water in nearby aquatic venues, from housing issues in the Athlete’s Village to lack of signage promoting the event.
While Brazil is no longer considered a Third World country (and that label is already considered archaic), outsiders are quickly learning that the sprawling South American nation is also not ready to join the roll call of First World countries.
Brazil remains a paradox with images of retching poverty contrasted with a festive carnival atmosphere that travelers (as well as locals) prefer to embrace.
But the Games of the XXXI Olympiad will go on – and, in fact, have already started.
Women’s soccer unofficially kicked of the 2016 Rio Summer Games on Wednesday as the United States defeated New Zealand, 2-0, in a Group G contest. In other games, Canada shut out Australia, 2-0, while Sweden edged South Africa, 1-0, Brazil trounced China, 3-0, and Germany defeated Zimbabwe, 5-1, and France blanked Colombia 4-0.
Twelve nations are competing in the women’s soccer tournament that will conclude with the medal games on Aug. 20.
Soccer, archery, swimming, and diving, basketball, beach volleyball, boxing, canoe slalom, equestrian, fencing, field hockey, gymnastics, handball, judo, rowing, rugby sevens, sailing, shooting, table tennis, volleyball, water polo and weightlifting are the first sports to command the stage in, aside from the FIFA World Cup, what is likely the most universally watched sporting event.
A record number of countries will participate in a record number of sports during the 2016 Games, which will close Aug. 21.
Among the more than 11,000 participating athletes in the history-making first Olympiad in South America are 48 long-term resident athletes from the Chula Vista Olympic Training Center, including 24 on the men’s and women’s rugby sevens teams and 13 track and field athletes.
Archers from the CV-OTC will be the first to be spotlighted, with competition starting Friday, Aug. 5, and wrapping up with medal rounds one week later on Aug. 12.
Mackenzie Brown, Brady Ellison and Zach Garrett are long-term resident athlete qualifiers on the U.S. team along with short-term athlete Jake Kaminski.
Ellison and Kaminski were members of the silver medalist U.S. men’s team at the 2012 London Summer Games. Ellison is a three-time Pan American Games gold medalist and four-time World Cup champion.
Kaminski is a Pan American Games and world championships gold medalist.
Brown, who is making her Olympic debut, is a two-time Pan American Games medalist. Garrett, another first-time Olympic archer, won a silver medal at the 2015 Worth Archery Youth Championships.
BMX cycling will take place Aug. 17-19. The American team includes five qualifiers, including long-term OTC resident athletes Nic Long and Alise Post along with short-term athletes Corben Sharrah, Connor Fields and Brooke Crain.
Long , Fields, Crain and Post all competed at the 2012 London Olympics. However, none came home with a medal.
Rugby sevens is scheduled Aug. 6-11 while the track and field competition, with 47 events, will close out the Rio Games Aug, 12-21.
“It’s an awesome feeling being one of five in our sport to get to represent the United States and do it on a large platform,” explained Long, who is competing in his second consecutive Olympic Games. “Everyone in the world tunes into it. It’s a huge deal.”
“I’m super excited to represent my country again -- ‘excited’ is the only word I can come up with,” added Crain, a fellow two-time BMX Olympian.
Long and Crain agreed that while the first time around was fun and exciting; now it’s time to get serious.
Crain finished eighth in the women’s competition while Post was 12th; Fields placed seventh in the men’s competition while Long placed 17th.
During the sport’s debut at the 2008 Beijing Games, Team USA riders brought three Olympic medals home.
“All five of us crashed; it just wasn’t our day,” Long lamented about the team’s showing at the London Games.
A lot has changed in four years.
Long, 26, and Post, 25, both earned automatic berths on the U.S. Olympic team after capturing bronze medals in May’s UCI BMX World Championships in Colombia. It was the highest place-finish for Long in world championship competition after previously not finishing higher than fifth.
Post, meanwhile, is the up-and-coming star of women’s racing with three world championship medals since 2010 and four national championships from 2011-14.
“I feel a little more focused, more so than during my first time in the Olympics,” explained Long, a Lakeside resident. “It’s crazy going your first time.”
“I’m more confident in my racing. I’ve been checking all the boxes and pretty much feel I’m ready.”
Still, he admitted BMX finishes are hard to predict.
“It’s an awesome sport with plenty of crashes,” he said. “It’s exciting … It’s a sport where a lot of things need to happen in order for you to have a good outcome. There are a lot of factors involved.”
Crain is looking forward to the Rio Games as a reward after breaking her leg in May. “I missed out on the world championships but luckily it was only a fracture and took about five weeks to heal – it was the best-case scenario,” she noted.
Her goal, like the others on the team, is to bring home a medal.
“I want to take it all in and be able to look back on the experience rather than put too much energy into the experience. The Olympics are crazy. You have to look at it that you have one job to do there.”
Rugby sevens is making its Olympic debut and members of both the men’s and women’s U.S. nationals teams are excited at the prospect of becoming a part of history.
“We’re in it for gold,” Team USA men’s team captain Madison Hughes explained. “We are ranked sixth in the world right now, but we have beaten every team at least once. So we know we can win it. It’s now a matter of doing it (at the Olympic Games).”
The Team USA men and women are both ranked sixth in the world heading to Brazil but have defeated teams ranked ahead of them. That makes the upcoming Olympic tournament particularly for all the competing teams (12 in both the men’s and women’s divisions).
Rugby was last featured at the 1924 Olympics, though in the traditional form.
Hughes has served as captain of the U.S. national rugby sevens teams since 2014. Born in London, Hughes rose to prominence while attending Dartmouth. He has been a member of the U.S. national rugby sevens teams since 2013-14. He finished 2015 as the team’s second-leading scorer.
The United States is the lone qualifier from the North American/Caribbean zone.
Fiji sits at the top of the men’s team world rankings, followed by South Africa, New Zealand, Australia and Argentina. Team USA is ranked ahead of Kenya, England, Samoa, Scotland, France, Wales, Canada, Russia and Japan.
The reduction of rosters to seven players on the pitch creates for a faster game, according to Hughes, who plays at the scrumhalf position.
“There’s a lot more space; the game is a lot more open, free-flowing and visually exciting,” he explained.
Meya Bizer, who was part of the U.S. women’s national team player pool, feels playing seven aside is more demanding that the traditional format of 15 players per side.
“All the technical skills – passing, catching, running, speed – are so much more exposed in sevens,” said Bizer, a native of The Woodlands, Texas, who has been playing rugby six years.
Bizer, a four-year national team member, represented Team USA at the 2014 world championships in rugby-15s and has been a resident athlete at the CV-OTC for the past year.
She said the team’s goal is to bring back a medal.
“We’ve gone through a lot in the last year and knowing we did it together would be the best thing we would be taking into the Olympic tournament,” she said.
The U.S. women have defeated top-ranked Australia and second-ranked New Zealand in competitions leading up to the Summer Games. Canada, England and France all sit ahead of the U.S. women in the world rankings.
“It’s really anyone’s game,” Bizer said. “Since this is the first year for sevens in the Olympics, there’s bound to be some drama, some big upset.”
The Olympic tournament is short. Twelve women’s games are scheduled Aug. 6, with the U.S. women taking on Fiji and Colombia in a pair of Group A battles. The Americans close out group play with a game against Australia on Aug. 7.
The rugby sevens men’s tournament faces off Aug. 9, with Team USA meeting Argentina and Brazil on the pitch, followed by a match-up against Fiji on Aug. 10.
All 12 teams will earn place-finishes in each gender. The top eight teams advance to the quarterfinals while teams seeded 9th through 12th advance to consolation semifinals. Playoff games are scheduled Aug. 7-8 for the women and Aug. 10-11 for the men.
Joining Hughes on the U.S. men’s Olympic team are Parry Baker, Danny Barrett, Garrett Bender, Andrew Durutalo, Nate Ebner, Carlin Isles, Folau Niua, Ben Pinkelman, Zack Test, Maka Unufe and Chris Wyles.
The U.S. women’s Olympic team roster includes the following players: Ryan Carlyle, Victoria Folayan, Kelly Griffin, Kathryn Johnson, Jillion Potter, Lauren Doyle, Joanne (Nana) Fa’avesi, Carmen Farmer, Alev Kelter, Richelle Stephens, Jessica Javelet and Bui Baravilala.
Long-term CV-OTC resident athletes competing on the U.S. track and field team include Andrew Evans (discus throw), Brittney Reese (long jump), Chris Bernard (triple jump), Cyrus Hostetler (javelin), Darrell Hill (shot put), Heather Miller-Koch (heptathlon), Jeff Henderson (long jump), Joe Kovacs (shot put), Ricky Robertson (high jump), Sam Crouser (javelin), Sean Furey (javelin), Whitney Ashley (discus throw) and Will Claye (triple jump).
A two-time Olympian, Reese won the gold medal in the women’s long jump at the 2012 London Games after placing fifth in the event at the 2008 Beijing Games.
Claye captured the silver medal in the men’s triple jump and the bronze medal in the long jump at the 2012 London Games.
Kovacs is coming off a gold medal showing at the 2015 world championships in Beijing; Henderson won the men’s long jump competition at the 2016 U.S. Olympic Trials.
Robertson will make his Olympic debut after clearing the Olympic standard of 7 feet, 6 inches at the CV-OTC in June.
Ashley became the first athlete at San Diego State University to win a NCAA title since 1985 when she won the women’s discus throw in 2012.
This is the second Summer Games for Furey, who has been training at the CV-OTC since 2008. After placing 37th in the javelin throw at the 2012 London Games. He’s determined to upgrade his final standing at the 2016 Rio Games.
“Now the focus is going there and doing better,” he explained. “The thrill of making the Olympics isn’t as great (as the first time). I just want to go there and do my best by the end of the day.”
Furey and Hostetler qualified as one of three Americans to post the Olympic A-qualifying standard in the event. Furey captured the gold medal at the 2010 USA national championships while Hostetler took first place in July’s U.S. Olympic Trials with a throw of 273 feet, 1 inch.
Furey’s lifetime best in the javelin is 83.08 meters (272 feet, 6 inches).
Hostetler also competed at the 2012 London Games, placing 32nd. Furey said the pair is looking for renewed experiences in Brazil.
“We were both at the Olympics in 2012 as teammates,” Furey said. “It’s exciting.”
The United States is sending one of its largest contingents to the 2016 Summer Games -- 554 athletes, 363 of whom are first-time Olympians. Including short-term athletes, some 200 Rio-bound athletes have trained in Chula Vista. Rowing and men's water polo maintain short-term residencies on site while both the U.S. women's soccer and field hockey teams have continued to hold camps on site despite relocating their training headquarters away from Chula Vista.
The Paralympic Games follow the Rio Games at many of the same venues Sept. 7-18.
Baseball and softball will be making a return to the Olympic schedule after both sports were reinstated by the IOC in time for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics. Four new sports were also added: skateboarding, surfing, karate and sport climbing. The mix of traditional and youth-oriented sports is expected to attract younger fans on a global level.
Baseball and softball are already popular sports in Japan.
The addition of the new sports will bring the number of sports offered at the 2020 Summer Games to 33, with about 11,000 athletes participating in those sports.
France and Colombia join the United States in Group G in the 2016 Rio Games women’s soccer tournament.
The men’s Olympic soccer final is also on Aug. 20. The United States did not qualify. Mexico is the defending champion.
Germany and Mexico played to a 2-2 draw in the opener of the men’s group stage on Thursday. In other games in the 16-nation tournament, Colombia and Sweden also played to a 2-2 tie while South Korea routed Fiji, 8-0, Brazil and South Africa played to a scoreless draw, as did Denmark and Iraq, Honduras defeated Algeria, 3-2, Portugal topped Argentina by a score of 2-0 and a late-arriving Nigeria team slipped past and Japan by a score of 5-4.
USS Midway Museum serves as site for opening ceremonies gala
You didn’t have to travel to Rio de Janeiro to take in the grandeur of the opening ceremonies of the Games of the XXXI Olympiad. You just needed a ticket to board the USS Midway Museum.
For the second consecutive Summer Olympic Games, the deck of the World War II-era ship was opened to the public. The live event added a magical feel to NBC-TV’s video feed of the activities from Brazil.
Last Friday’s viewing party raised the standard a notch, with an emphasis on fun and participation … and festive Brazilian costumes.
“This was my second time and I think there were a lot more things to do and get involved in at this one,” explained two-time BMX Olympian Connor Fields, among a handful of U.S. Olympic team members who were on hand for the USS Midway event.
Fields, along with fellow BMX Olympians Nic Long and Alise Post, were among U.S. Olympic team members who were still involved in late training. Instead of marching in the parade of nations in Rio de Janeiro, they helped headline the gala viewing party on the deck of the USS Midway Museum.
In fact, all three took turns carrying a symbolic torch when taking the stage while Paralympic athlete Lex Gillette sand the national anthem.
Athletes from the Chula Vista Olympic Training Center were featured prominently at the event.
“The Chula Vista Olympic Training Center has proven an asset not only to American athletes but to athletes from other countries who have also trained there,” San Diego County Board of Supervisors member Greg Cox noted in an opening speech. “It’s a great community resource.”
Members of the U.S. archery team in residence at the CV-OTC, as well as Paralympians, also attended the USS Midway event.
A highlight for everyone in attendance was watching the large United States team participate in the colorful parade of nations during the Opening Ceremony. Swimmer Michael Phelps, who came out of retirement for the 2016 Rio Summer Games, served as flag bearer.
2016 Rio de Janeiro Summer Games
CV-OTC athletes/team qualifiers
Men's team medals
Gold: South Korea
Silver: United States
Women's team medals
Gold: South Korea
Bronze: Chinese Taipei
Gold medal: Chang Hye-jin (South Korea)
Silver medal: Lisa Unruh (Germany)
Bronze medal: Ki Bo-Bae (South Korea)
Round of 32:
San Yu Htwe (Myanmar) defeated Mackeenzie Brown (USA) 7-3
Round of 64:
Mackenzie Brown (USA) defeated Claudia Mandia (Italy) 6-4
Gold medal: Ku Bon-Chan (South Korea)
Silver medal: Jean-Charles Valladont (France)
Bronze medal: Brady Ellison (USA)
Gold medal match: Ku Bon-chan (South Korea) defeated Jean-Charles Valldont 7-3
Bronze medal match: Brady Ellison (USA) defeated Sjef can den Berg (Netherlands) 6-2
Ku Bon-chan (South Korea) defeated Brady Ellison (USA) 6-5
Jean-Charles Valladon (France) defeated Sjef van den Berge (Netherlands) 7-3
Brady Ellison (USA) defeated Takaharu Furukawa (Japan) 6-2
Round of 16:
Brady Elliison (USA) defeated Zach Garrett (USA) 6-4
Round of 32:
Brady Ellison (USA) defeated Jake Kaminski (USA) 6-2
Zach Garrett (USA) defeated Crispin Duenas (Canada) 7-3
Round of 64:
Brady Ellison (USA) defeated Ali El Ghrari (Libya) 6-0
Zach garrett (USA) defeated Haziq KMruddin (Malaysia) 6-0
Jake Kaminiski (USA) defeated Marcus Vinicius D'Almeida (Brazil) 6-2
1. Kim Woo-jin (South Korea) 700 (wrold record); 2. Brady Ellison (USA) 690; 3. David Pasqualucci (taly) 685; 4. Sjef van den Berg (Netherlands) 684; 5. Atanu Das (India) 683; 6. Ku Bon-chan (South Korea) 681; 7. Takaharu Furukawa (Japan) 680; 8. Jean-Charles Valladont (France) 680
Fiji 12, USA 7
USA 48, Colombia 0
USA 12, Australia 12
Australia 24, Spain 0
Canada 15, France 5
Great Britain 26, Fiji 7
New Zealand 5, USA 0
Australia 17, Canada 5
New Zealand 25, Great Britain 7
France 24, Spain 12
United States 12, Fiji 7
Brazil 24, Colombia 0
Japan 24, Kenya 0
Gold medal: Australia 24, New Zealand 17
Bronze medal: Canada 33, Great Britain 10
Fifth-place match: USA 19, France 5
Seventh-place match: Spain 21, Fiji 0
Ninth-place match: Brazile 33, Japan 5
Eleventh-place match: Kenya 22, Colomiba 10
Argentina 17, USA 14
Fiji 40, Brazil 12
USA 26, Brazil 0
Fiji 21, Argentina 14
Austrailia 26, Spain 12
South Africa 26, France 0
Great Britain 21, Japan 19
New Zealand 28, Kenya 5
France 26, Spain 5
Australia 12, South Africa 5
Japan 31, Kenya 7
Great Britain 21, New Zealand 19
Argentina 31, Brazil 0
Fiji 24, USA 19
Fiji 12, New Zealand 7
Japan 12, France 7
Great Britain 5, Argentina 0
South Africa 22, Australia 5
Semifinals (Places 1-4 )
Fiji 20, Japan 5
Great Britain vs. South Africa
Semifinals (Places 5-8)
New Zealand 24, France 19
Argentina 26, Australia 21
(Places 9-12 )
USA 24, Brazil 12
Spain 14, Kenya 12
First place: Fiji vs. TBA
Third place: Japan vs. TBA
Fifth place: New Zealand vs. Argentina
Seventh place: France vs. Australia
Ninth place: USA vs. Sparin
Eleventh place: Kenya vs. Brazil
Women's Group Stage
USA 2, New Zealand 0
USA 1, France 0
USA 2, Colombia 2
Swededn 4, USA 3 (kicks from the mark tiebreaker)
Women's Group Stage
USA 2, Argentina 1
USA 2, Australia 1
USA 6, Japan 1
USA 3, India 0
Great Britain 2, USA 1
Germany 2, USA 1
Netherlands 3, Argentina 2
New Zealand 4, Australia 2
Great Britain 3, Spain 1
Great Britain 3, New Zealand 0
Netherlands 1, Germany 1
Gold medal match
Netherlands vs. Great Britain
Bronze medal match
Germany vs. New Zealand
Men: Connor Fields (34.64 seconds)
Women: Alise Post (34.43 seconds)
Men: 4. Nic Long (35.52 secondfs)
Women: 4. Brooke Crain (35.52 seconds)
Track & Field
Men's long jump: Jeff Henderson, 8.38m
Men's triple jump: Will Claye, 17.76m
Men's shot put: Joe Kovacs, 21.78m
Women's long jump: Brittney Reese, 7.15m
Men's high jump: 17. Ricky Robertson (N/A)
Men's javelin throw: 20. Cyrus Hostetler (79.76m), 34. Sam Crouser (73.78), 35. Sean Furey (72.61)
Women's heptathlon: 18. Heather Miller-Koch (6213 points)
Women's marathon: 7. Desiree Davila Linden (2:26.08) - Hilltop High School graduate
Gold medal: USA
Croatia 7, USA 5
Spain 10, USA 9
USA 6, France 3
Montenegro 8, USA 5
USA 10, Italy 7
Montenegro 13, Hungary 11
Serbia 10, Spain 7
Croatia 10, Brazil 6
Italy 9, Greece 5
Men's semifinals (5-8 place)
Hungary 13, Brazil 4
Greece 9, Spain 7
Men's semifinals (1-4 place)
Croatia 12, Montenegro 8
Serbia 10, Italy 8
Gold medal game: Serbia 11 Croatia 7
Bronze medal game: Italy 10, Montenegro 8
Fifth place game: Hungary 12, Greece 10
Seventh place game: Spain 9, Brazil 8
Phelps leads by example as Americans continue to dominante the pool
Unretired swimmer Michael Phelps led the massive American contingent in the parade of nations during the opening ceremonies for the 2016 Rio de Janeiro Summer Olympic Games. There he was front and center as the U.S. flag bearer.
But then, Phelps has a history of leading by example.
Phelps is appearing in his fifth Summer Olympic Games. He is the most decorated Olympian of all time with 25 Olympic medals, including 21 gold medals. He made the U.S. Olympic team at the age of 15 in 2000 — the youngest American male to do so in 68 years.
Phelps, who gained celebrity status by winning eight gold medals at the 2008 Beijing Summer Games, initially retired following the 2012 London Games. However, he unretired in 2014 and won three events at the 2016 U.S Olympic Trials.
He is the only American male swimmer to qualify for five Olympics.
He opened the 2016 Rio de Janeiro Summer Games by wining a gold medal in the 4x100-meter freestyle relay (3:09.92). He then added gold medals in the 200-meter butterfly (1:53.36) and 4x200-meter freestyle relay (7:00.66) during the opening week of competition.
Make no mistake, Phelps, 31, is out to go out in style – and go out on top.
After winning the 200 butterfly on Tuesday, he pounded his fists in the water and bobbed up out of the water with single digits on each hand raised in the No. 1 salute. He then motioned with his hands for applause, signaling more was on the way.
If that seemed a bit narcissist, maybe it was. Phelps is four years older than when announcing his retirement following the 2012 London Summer Games. He knows his time in the pool is limited and these will surely his final Olympics. He’s also not quite ready yet to hand the mantle of Olympic champion over to younger rivals.
Let them make their own history once his is completely written.
While Phelps’ persona dominates swimming, there are others on the U.S. swim team who are already basking in the spotlight.
Through Wednesday’s Olympic program, Team USA has collected 21 medals – three times that of runner-up Australia. The U.S. also leads in the medal count with eight gold medals and five silver medals.
Katie Ledecky shocked the world in London by winning the gold medal in the 800m freestyle while just 15. She has opened the Rio Summer Games with a silver medal in the 4x100m freestyle relay before winning the gold medal in the 400m freestyle with a world record time of 3:56.46 and adding two more gold medals – one each in the 200m freestyle (1:53.73) and the 4x200m freestyle relay (7:43.03).
It was Ledecky’s anchor leg performance that led the U.S. women to the gold medal in Wednesday’s 4x200 freestyle relay. Team USA trailed Australia by 0.89 seconds when Ledeck hit the water and won by 1.89 seconds at the touchpad.
She is a three-time World Swimmer of the Year and three-time American Swimmer of the Year and has the potential to match of exceed Phelps' record medal haul if she is able to maintain her success in the pool over upcoming Olympic Games competitions.
Nathan Adrian, a member of the victorious 4x100 freestyle relay team, earned the bronze medal in the 100m freestyle (47.85) to up his medal count to two at the Rio Games.
Josh Prenot captured the silver medal in the men’s 200m breaststroke (2:07.53).
Ryan Lochte, 32, is also likely competing in his final Olympic Games. He has been chasing teammate Phelps for the last four Olympiads and stands as the most decorated Olympian after Phelps with 12 Olympic medals (six gold, three silver, three bronze).
Lochte has been named the World Swimmer of the Year and the American Swimmer of the Year twice. He won five medals four years ago in London: two gold (400m IM and 4x200m freestyle relay), two silver (200m IM and 4x100m freestyle relay) and one bronze (200m backstroke).
Lochte joined Phelps and teammates Conor Dwyer and Townley Haas atop the award standing after swimming a leg on the gold medal-winning 4x100 freestyle relay team. It was the fourth consecutive gold medal for Lochte and Phelps in the event, an all-time record in swimming for any event.
The two competed side by side in Wednesday’s semifinals of 200-meter individual medley. Phelps recorded the top time; Lochte was second. They will compete for the gold medal in Thursday’s event finals.
Both swimmers had the identical response to the question of what drives them in the pool. They said they bring out the best in each other.
Update: Phelps won his fourth gold medal of the 2016 Rio Summer Games by out-touching the field in Thursday's 200 IM finals to become the first Olympian to win four gold medals in the saem event. Phelps closed out his individual events by placing second in the 100m butterfly finals on Friday.
Phelps now has 22 gold medals and 27 medals in five Olympiads.
— Phillip Brents