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Monday, 15 August 2016

#BetweenTheRings: Week One Full of Drama & Intrigue
From tears to jeers to murky waters...the opening week had something for everyone

The XXXI Olympiad is breezing by at a rapid pace my sporting friends.  We are already into Week Two of competition and, before we know it, we will be coming together in less than one week's time to celebrate the Closing Ceremonies of Rio 2016.

Before we get into the full celebration of the upcoming week's celebrations, heartbreaks and dramatic stories, let's look back at the moments that unified the world over the past week.  There were moments of pride, tears of celebration and disappointment and, as expected, plenty of drama!

Here is the #TwineTime #RioReview of Week One:

BLUE: USA is A OK! - As expected the USA dominated the medal podium over the opening week of competition.  This weekend they even celebrated their historical 1,000th overall gold medal!  How awesome is that accomplishment?  Here at Rio 2016, the USA have accumulated 26 Gold, 21 Silver, 23 Bronze for a total of 70 overall medal.  The next closest nation with gold medal victories is Great Britain (16) while the closest for overall is China (46).  There are so many highlights to cover for the US too....where does one begin?  Well how about with the greatest athlete ever, celebrating his 23rd gold medal (28 overall) and final Olympics: Michael Phelps.  Phelps leaves Rio with 5 more gold and 1 silver, further cementing his historical accomplishments as #GOAT status!  But he wasn't the only one moving towards #GOAT status.  What about artistic gymnast Simone Biles?  Biles, 19 years old, has looked flawless in competition, leading the US to gold in the team competition while also winning the Individual All-Around and Vault apparatus gold medals.  Biles is undefeated in competition since 2013 and still has two more apparatus finals to go this week.  Expect her to finish the games with 5 gold and become the #GOAT of artistic gymnastics.  There is something about the number 5 with this US team.  How about Katie Ledecky taking home 5 gold medals of her own in the pool (plus 1 silver) and showing she is the present and future of the sport (and also only 19 years old!!).  Other successes include: Lilly King (swimming, 2 gold), Jack Sock (tennis, 1 gold 1 bronze), Nathan Adrian (swimming, 2 gold 2 bronze) and Ryan Murphy (swimming 3 gold).  Team USA is not close to being done either with women's indoor volleyball, women's beach volleyball (including the undefeated at the Olympics star & three-time champ Kerri Walsh-Jennings), women's water polo, men's volleyball, men's and women's basketball and numerous athletics events still on the program as huge medal threats.  In the #BetweenTheRings Rio Preview, I mentioned the US would collect their 2,500 overall Summer Olympics medal in Rio...who will it be?  They started at 2,399.  They now sit at 2,469.  I'm guessing it will come on the track on Friday August 19.

YELLOW: #Lightning Bolt Steals the Show - In speaking about #GOAT status, how can #TwineTime not devout an entire section to Jamaica's Usain Bolt?  He is the #GOAT of athletics!  Bolt came into Rio with a few question marks over his preparation, coming back from injury and lack of competitive racing.  Well, from his opening 100m heat, we all knew the answer to those questions.  Bolt looked amazing in his "walk" across the line winning his heat.  He glided across the line winning his SF and turned up the heat in the final 50m to take home another gold medal.  Bolt has now pulled off the incredible Olympic #3peat in the 100m.  And he isn't done yet!  With the 200m coming up this week and the 4x100m relay, he has more work to do in his final Olympics.  Make note, Rio is Bolt's third and final Olympics...and he has yet to lose!  7 races overall dating back to the 100m in Beijing and 7 gold medals.  Can he go a perfect 9 for 9 in his Olympic career?  I wouldn't bet against it!

BLACK: Can't escape the Controversy - Going into the games there was heavy scrutiny over the Zika virus, security, venue question marks and doping.  After one week of competition, all of these concerns seem to still be top of the mind of many.  The Russian doping situation has been on the minds of many fans...and athletes!  The #BoooBirds rained down at the pool on Russia's Yuliya Yefimova.  The boo's were the loudest when she was introduced before the 100m breaststroke final.  This was further enhanced when competitor USA's Lilly King came out and gave her the #GlareOfTheGames.  King has been very vocal about competing against known doping athletes, including specifically Yefimova.  King would win the gold with Yefimova claiming silver, neither athlete really talking or approaching one another post-race.  Yefimova did leave Rio with 2 silver medals though and seemed to be able to shake off the negative reaction from competitors/fans.  King wasn't done there though as she also went after men's 100m competitor, fellow USA athlete and eventual silver medal winner Justin Gaitlin (also previously banned for doping issues).  And of course we can't forget about China's Sun Yang.  Previously banned in 2014, back competing and making controversy in the pool when he splashed water in main competitor Australian Mack Horton's face during practice.  Horton would beat Yang for gold in the 400m freestyle (Yang took silver).  Yang would win gold in the 200m freestyle though.  But doping wasn't the only hot topic.  How about security?  The Sunday morning headlines were full of the Ryan Lochte story, being robbed at gunpoint with 3 fellow USA athletes by men disguised as police raising numerous questions on athlete safety.  How could something like this happen?  The story was more convoluted when the IOC and USOC originally denied the story.  Finally the story was validated as true but the damage had already been done.  Let's just be thankful nobody was seriously hurt, physically at least, from this situation.  We can only hope Lochte and the other athletes do not suffer any short-term or long-term mental health concerns from their ordeal!  And finally the venues!  The theme around Rio is green for the environment.  While the diving pool sure took that to new heights when the water turned from a crystal blue one day to a murky toxic-looking green the next.  Did competition stop though?  Nope, the athletes continued competing and diving into the dark green ooze pool.  Officials declared the pool posed no health threat to athletes but it still left a very dark green cloud over the competition and venue.  A few days later and the pool is back to looking crystal blue, thankfully!

GREEN: The Records Are Falling - One of the best parts of watching the Olympics every two years (Winter and Summer) is to see the establishment of new World Records!  Rio has not disappointed with the record falling.  Overall we have seen 22 new world records over the opening week.  In the same time frame we have also seen 36 Olympic Records.  Swimming leads the way with a combined 23 World and/or Olympic records being set.  The #GirlPower dominated the records in the pool though with the women setting 16 of the 23 new records.  Interesting to note though, the 100m freestyle accounted for 4 of those records as Australian Cate Campbell set an Olympic record in the heat and beat her own record in the semifinal.  The record would only last 24hrs though as co-gold medal winners Canadian Penny Oleksiak and American Simone Manuel would break the record in the final.  Records also continued to fall on the fast cycling track.  In men's team sprint, Great Britain would break the Olympic Record in qualifying only to see New Zealand beat their record in the first round.  Great Britain would regain their Olympic Record standing in the final though, winning gold as well.  The men's team pursuit would see Great Britain set a World Record in the first round only to beat it in the gold medal final.  The women's Great Britain team pursuit would do the same.  In the span of 3 days, 6 World Records and 6 Olympic Records would be set on the cycling track!  Other events seeing new World Records set include: Archery, Athletics and Weightlifting.  Olympic Records would also be set in: Rowing, Shooting and Weightlifting.  To this date, August 12th appears to be Rio Record Day as a combined 6 new records (in 4 different sports) were set.  With Athletics gearing up, expect more records to fall before the Closing Ceremonies...but I doubt we see 6 records fall in one day again.

RED: #GoCANADAGo - It's all about the streak.  The #PodiumPush.  Canada is not known to be a Summer Olympics power nation by any means but what a start to Rio 2016 by Team Canada!  Canada has found the podium every day since the XXXI Olympiad kicked off.  Yup, that is 9 straight days of competition and 9 straight days of winning, at least, 1 medal.  Canada currently sits with 12 overall medals (2 gold, 2 silver, 9 bronze).  The team is well on its way to beating the mark they set in London four years ago when they won 18 medals (1 gold, 5 silver, 12 bronze).  We already have doubled our gold medal total!  We cannot talk about Team Canada without mentioning the star of the team: Penny Oleksiak.  The 16 year old broke the Canadian Olympic record for most medals (4 - 1G, 1S, 2B) won be a single Canadian athlete in any Summer Olympic Games and is the youngest ever Canadian Olympic gold medalist.  She truly got the nation excited about the games over the opening week!  But she wasn't the only one...the theme of the opening week was also #GirlPower for Team Canada.  The first 12 medals won by Canada were all won by female athletes!  Penny in the pool, Rosie MacLennan defending her London gold in trampoline plus the rugby sevens women (bronze), women's lightweight double sculls rowing silver), swimming relays (bronze, 4x100m and 4x200m), synchro 10m platform diving (bronze) all highlighted podium victories for Team Canada!  As the competition left the pool and hit the track, the medal winning continued with Brianne Theisen-Eaton taking bronze in heptathlon.  And then the big moment of the games...the 100m men's final!  With Usain Bolt being the headliner of the event (and the Rio games), Canada's Andre De Grasse took home a bronze medal and celebrated his #bromance with the champ Bolt.  Bolt even commented after the race De Grasse was the future of the sport!  With more medal opportunities coming in athletics, plus the possibilities from women's golf, women's basketball and women's soccer, Canada should find the podium a few more times before the games wrap up.  In the #TwineTime Rio Preview, I stated Canada would win 19 medals overall, including 2 gold.  So far, I would say this prediction looks VERY accurate!  #GirlPower contines as well?

There have also been a few Honourable Mention moments of #Rio2016 that maybe didn't make the major headlines above but are still worth a quick mention.  These moments included:

  • Welcome to the Olympic Sport Family - Rugby Sevens made their Olympics debut in the opening week of competition and received rave reviews from fans, spectators and fellow athletes.  The women's and men's rugby competition was a hot topic of discussion for anyone following along with the Olympics and was easily deemed a success!  Congrats to the women's podium finishers (G - Australia, S - New Zealand, B - Canada) and the men's podium finishers (G - Fiji, S - Great Britain, B - South Africa). 
  • Welcome back to the Olympiad - After 112 years, golf returned to the Olympics and was met with great praise.  The men competed over the weekend and the interest in the sport was peaked by a suspense-filled final round with Great Britain's Justin Rose edging Sweden's Henrik Stenson on the final hole.  After 17 holes (and three previous rounds) the two entered the final hole tied for gold!  Also, USA's Matt Kuchar shot a record 63 in the final round to move from middle of the pack and onto the podium, winning bronze.  The women take the course later this week.
  • Happy Debut - Kosovo and South Sudan are competing at their first ever Olympic games.  And what a debut for Kosovo! On August 7, the second full day of competition, history would be made as Kosovo athlete Majlinda Kelmendi would win the gold medal in the judo women's 52kg event.  South Sudan has three athletes all competing in athletics events this week.
  • Always remember your first - Opening week action saw the first Olympic gold medals awarded to a few countries.  Vietnam (Shooting - Men's 10m air pistol), Kosovo (Judo - Women's 52kg), Fiji (Men's Rugby), Singapore (Swimming - Men's 100m butterfly), Puerto Rice (Tennis - Women's Singles) and Bahrain (Athletics - Women's 3000m steeplechase).  These would also be the first-ever Olympic medals for Kosovo and Fiji.  The first independent athlete would also win a gold when Kuwaiti shooter Fehaid Al-Deehani won he double trap event.
  • Not all about the podium - One of the loudest cheers during the Opening Ceremonies was the introduction of the Refugee Olympic Team.  While none of the athletes are expected to find the podium, watching each of the compete and cheering them on seems more exciting than watching a gold medal final.  The highlight of ROT belongs to 17 year old Yusra Mardini and her story.  Mardini and her sister fled Syria during the Civil War and were to be smuggled into Greece via boat but the boat capsized due to over capacity and Mardini, her sister and two others swam and pushed the boat to safety in Lesbos...an over 3 hour swim!  Wow!!
  • She said YES! -  We have not one but TWO marriage proposals at the Rio games.  The first came on the rugby field and was a monumental history maker for the Olympics and the sport.  Brazil's women may have finished in 9th place at the games but player Isadora Cerullo received something even better after the Olympic final.  Cerullo's girlfriend, Marjorie Enya, took the pitch after the gold medal final with a microphone in hand and heart-shaped balloons to pop the question to her girlfriend of two years.  What. A. Moment!  What a Sunday for Chinese diver He Zi.  After competing in the 3m springboard final and winning a silver medal, her amazing day would be far from complete.  As Zi was on the podium accepting her medal, out came boyfriend and fellow Chinese diver Qin Kai.  Kai would drop to his knee, open up the little box displaying a beautiful ring and ask his girlfriend of 6 years to marry him.  The moment was captured for the world to see and social media blew up with excitement as Zi said YES!  Kai won a bronze in Rio on the 3m Synchro event.    

Follow along with the #TwineTime blog and on twitter for up to date #Rio2016 information.  Check out the previous preview posts as well and see how my podium predictions pan out against the actual results.  Agree or disagree with my predictions or have some of your own you want to share?  Feel free to comment on the blog posts or hit me up on twitter.

Check out the previous posts below:

Welcome to Rio 2016
Women's Football Preview
Men's Football Preview
Tennis Preview
Rugby Sevens Preview
Men's Basketball Preview
Men's Indoor Volleyball Preview
Women's Basketball Preview
Beach Volleyball Preview
Women's Indoor Volleyball
Golf Preview

Also, don't forget to have YOUR voice heard on what sport(s) you are most excited about watching during the XXXI Olympiad by voting on the #TwineTime homepage.

Enjoy the last week of competition everyone....

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