Hey, sports fans.  Have you been as wrapped up in the Rio Olympics as I have over the last 2-1/2 weeks?  I love everything about the Olympics, from the pageantry of the opening ceremonies and the medal presentations, to the open display of emotions on the faces of the so many of the athletes.

I am fortunate enough to work for myself, and at home, so I was able to watch a lot of this year’s events through live streaming on the NBC Olympic website.  While I did miss some of the build-up and commentary of the evening broadcasts, I really enjoyed the ability to see it as it happened, with no commercial interruptions.  And for me, the tape delayed version just wouldn’t be the same when you’ve already seen the results through the steady stream of social media updates all day long!

I had great expectations for these games, and I was not disappointed.  There were many moments that made me smile, and just as many that had me in tears.  And there were moments I was glued to my computer screen, saying out loud “you can do this … you got this” as if the athletes could hear me or sense me pulling for them.  All sports fans do that, right?

I know we were all left with moments we’ll never forget, and I thought I’d share the ones that made the biggest impact on me.   Here are my top 10:

#1. The Refugee Olympic Team

The first-ever Refugee Olympic Team competed at the Rio summer games.  They are 10 athletes who fled their countries, but never gave up their dreams.   They won’t leave Rio with any medals, but they won the hearts of many as they competed as equals in swimming, judo, the marathoner and medium-distance running events.

This picture of the team is from the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees site:

Refugee Olympic Team
Refugee Olympic Team with staff in the Rio Olympic Village – Photo Credit UNHCR

If you would like a little background on this team, you can read my previous post Get Inspired by 10 Athletes on the Team You Never Heard Of.

#2. The Final Five and the Legacy of Martha Karolyi

As if the performance of the women’s gymnastics team wasn’t spectacular enough (the 9 medals won by this group broke the record of 8 shared by the 1984 and 2008 teams), they took it a step further in the choice of their team name.

Many assumed the name referred to a change in team size that will take place at the Tokyo Olympics, when a country will be able to field a team of just 4 gymnasts in the final.    But the team revealed that the meaning was much more personal. The nickname referred to the imminent retirement of Martha Karolyi, the legendary Romanian coach who has been the national team coordinator of the U.S. women’s gymnastics program for the last 15 years.

This picture is the from the NBC Olympics website:

Final Five
The “Final Five” Women’s Gymnastics Team celebrate GOLD

#3. Kerri Walsh Jennings’ and April Ross Bronze in Beach Volleyball

It’s not always the gold medals that leave a lasting impression.   When the pair were beaten in their semi—final match, it was the first time Kerri had ever lost an Olympic match, and she had to give up her dream of playing for her 4th Beach Volleyball Gold medal in as many Olympics.

A pep talk from their coach, Mario Sicoli, helped them put things into perspective when he told them that they were playing for more than themselves. They had to go out and make their families and their country proud.

After a slow start, they rallied in the second set, and did make their country (and themselves) proud!

This picture is from the official Team USA website:

Kerri Walsh Jennings and April Ross
Bronze medalists Kerri Walsh Jennings and April Ross pose on the podium during the medal ceremony (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)

#4. Records in Medal Counts

Team USA led all of the participating countries not only in total medals (121) but also in golds (46), silvers (37) and bronzes (38).

A record 87 countries won a medal in Rio, including first timers Fiji (which took gold in rugby to win its first ever Olympic medal); Kosovo (which took a women’s judo silver in its first ever Olympic appearance); and Puerto Rico (which won its first gold with Monica Puig’s victory in women’s tennis).

There was also a new record in the number of different national anthems played in Rio, with 59 countries winning gold!

Rio Medal Count

#5. Micheal Phelps – the GOAT

I think we can safely call Michael Phelps the greatest Olympian of all time.  In Rio, he won five golds and one silver, bring his totals to 23 gold medals and 28 overall.

It is mindboggling to me to think that over the last four Olympics, dating back to 2004, Phelps has won the most medals of any athlete in every single Summer Games – Athens, Beijing, London and Rio.

Pic from Team USA website:

Michael Phelps
Phelps swims in the Men’s 100m Butterfly (Photo by Dean Mouhtaropoulos/Getty Images)

#6. Kim Rhode and Olympic Longevity

This is one you may have missed, but Kim Rhode medaled in her sixth straight Olympics with a bronze in women’s skeet shooting.   Yes, you read that right, 6 straight Olympics, dating back 20 years.

In doing so, she became the first female Olympian to win a medal in six straight Olympic Games and is tied with Italian luger Armin Zoeggeler, who accomplished the same feat from 1994 to 2014.

Pic from Team USA website:

Kim Rhode
Kim Rhode holds her son Carter after winning the bronze medal in skeet (Photo by Sam Greenwood/Getty Images)

#7. Abbey D’Agostino and Nikki Hamblin’s Sportsmanship

In the second heat of the women’s 5,000 meters, Abby and Nikki collided on the track.  Abbey stopped to help Nikki to her feet.  Later in the race, Nikki stopped to help Abbey after she fell to the track in agony, sacrificing any chance at an Olympic medal.  Abbey urged Nikki to continue racing, but Nikki refused to leave her side until a wheelchair arrived to take her away.

The IOC has awarded them both the prestigious  Pierre de Coubertin medal, also known as the  International Fair Play Committee Award.  The medal has only been awarded 17 times in Olympic history.

This picture is from the Enews

Abbey D'Agostino and Nikki Hamblin's Sportsmanship
Ian Walton / Getty Images

#8. Helen Maroulis – first US female wrestler to win gold

Helen not only became the first U.S. female wrestler to win an Olympic gold medal, but she defeated the winningest wrestler of all time, 3-time Olympic and 13-time world champion Saori Yoshida of Japan, by a score of 4-1 to do so!

It couldn’t have been easy, coming from the United States where wrestling is pretty much an all-boy sport. But she endured because she loved the sport, and we couldn’t be prouder of her!

This picture is the from the NBC Olympics website:

Helen Maroulis

#9. Ashton Eaton – The “world’s greatest athlete”?

Eaton won the grueling 10-event decathlon at the Rio Games, becoming the first U.S. athlete to repeat as champion in the event since the Bob Mathias did it in 1948 and 1952, and the first athlete from any country to repeat as Olympic champion since Daley Thompson of Great Britain did so in 1980 and 1984.

Eaton scored 8,893 points to give Team USA its 14th decathlon gold medal, tying the Olympic record posted by Roman Sebrle of Czech Republic at the Athens 2004 Olympic Games.

Pic from Team USA website:

Eaton Ashton
Ashton Eaton celebrates winning gold overall after the Men’s Decathlon 1500m at the Rio 2016 Olympic Games  (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)

#10. Team USA Sweep of the 100M Hurdles

Team USA became the first nation in Olympic history to win all three medals in the women’s 100-meter hurdles.   Brianna Rollins won the gold, Nia Ali the silver and Kristi Castlin took the bronze.

This podium sweep contributed to the record 32 track and field medals earned by the U.S. (13 of them golds).   Another highlight was Allyson Felix taking home three medals to become the all-time winningest woman in Olympic track and field with six golds and nine overall.

Pic from Team USA website:

Ali_Castlin_Rollins - 100M hurdles sweep
(L-R) Bronze medalist Kristi Castlin, gold medalist Brianna Rollins and silver medalist Nia Ali celebrate with American flags after sweeping the Women’s 100m Hurdles Final at the Rio 2016 Olympic Games (Photo by Cameron Spencer/Getty Images)

As a side note, just think what the women’s gymnastics team might have accomplished if there wasn’t a rule limiting participation in the finals of events to 2 per country!  Maybe a sweep in the individual all-around (where Gabby Douglas finished 3rd overall in the preliminaries, but because of the rule, couldn’t join teammates Simone Biles and Aly Raisman in the finals)?

So those are my top 10 moments from Rio.  Are there are other moments that you will remember from these games?  Comment below and let me know!

Next week, its back to getting ready for the start of football season … tailgating, team spirit ideas, and more!

Until then,