by Vincenza Belletti
This past August, the Summer Olympics took place in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. Over 200 countries competed in over 40 sports and the United States led the score boards from the very beginning, finishing the games with 121 total medals; 46 gold, 37 silver, and 38 bronze.
This impressive Olympic medal record was not the only reason the United States was making headlines this summer though. Members of the US team continually found themselves in the news for misconduct and altercations with other athletes.
The biggest scandal of the summer was perhaps Lochtegate, the name given to a scandal involving United States swim team members Ryan Lochte, Jimmy Feigen, Gunnar Bentz, and Jack Conger after they lied about being robbed at gunpoint by robbers posing as police after a night out in Rio. Later details emerged that the “armed robbers posing as police” were actually security guards at a gas station where the swimmers had urinated outside the bathroom and Lochte allegedly vandalized a framed poster, and ended with swimmers providing money to the guards.
After the truth of the incident emerged, Lochte, with no more races to compete in, fled to the United States, leaving his teammates to deal with the blunt of the backlash. This unfavorable lie has caused all the US swim team members involved to lose several endorsements and become largely unpopular with the Brazilian government, the Olympic staff, and the United States general public.
Ryan Lochte was not the only men’s American Swim team member who was mixed up in Olympic drama. Besides being the most decorated olympian in history, Michael Phelps made the news for his rival with South African swimmer Chad le Clos, which came to a head when Phelps blew le Clos out of the water to win his 20th gold medal for the 200-meter butterfly final — the same event that le Clos beat Phelps in for a gold during the 2012 games in London. Since 2012, Phelps and le Clos have been making comments about each other, directly and indirectly, to the press. Spectators across the world eagerly awaited to see the results of this race, a suspense that had been building for four years. Before the race, le Clos was seen shadowboxing and dancing before the preliminary race as Phelps looked determinedly past him, which quickly turned into the meme “#PhelpsFace”.
Women’s swimming had a bit of drama of their own, centered around Russian Yulia Efimova’s 16 month drug suspension that ended in 2015 and American swimmer Lilly King’s glaring criticism for her opponent. After Efimova posted 1:05.72 in the first semifinal, she appeared to mock King by waggling her index finger, a move that King had done earlier that day. The two then made eye contact following Efimova’s race and prior to King’s race. King gave Efimova a fierce glare and another finger shake before beating Efimova’s time to secure the top seed position for the final. Following King’s race, she told reporters, “People probably think I am serving it up a little bit but that is just how I am. That’s just my personality. I’m not this sweet little girl, that’s not who I am. If I do need to stir it up to put a little fire under my butt or anybody else then that’s what I’m going to do.”
In 2012, USA gymnast and team captain, Aly Raisman placed fourth in the individual all around, losing to Aliya Mustafina of Russia off a tie-breaker. In London, Raisman and Mustafina both scored 59.566. In order to break the tie, judges counted the three highest apparatus scores; Mustafina’s totaled 45.933 and Raisman’s totaled 45.366, thus Raisman lost to Mustafina.
This year, Raisman returned to the Olympics to prove herself capable of beating Mustafina. Raisman competed on vault, balance beam, and floor exercise to help secure the gold medal for the U.S. team and Raisman personally finished second in the all-around final with a score of 60.098, earning a silver medal, behind Biles and ahead of Russia’s Aliya Mustafina.
Lastly, US Women’s soccer team goalkeeper Hope Solo made major headlines following their loss to Sweden in the quarterfinals for calling them, “a bunch of cowards” for their reserved style of play once they had secured a lead. These comments, on top of her 2014 domestic assault charges after she allegedly got in a drunken fight with her nephew, led to a six month suspension and for the US team to terminate her contract.
Overall, while the United States took home the most medals, we also created the most drama in Rio this past August. From Lochtegate to Hope Solo’s termination to taking home more than double the number of medals the second place country received, the United States wasn’t short of any newsworthy events this past summer.