Image: Oksana - Thomas Coex/AFP/Getty, Olympic logo - Olympics, others credited respectively below.
Today marks the beginning of the world’s biggest sporting event, The Olympic Games. The prestigious sporting event will witness a total of 206 countries and one Refugee Olympic Athlete team battle it out to earn a spot on the podium. It is said that this year’s Olympic Games will be the most-watched television event in history after 219 million people in the US alone tuned in during the 2012 London Olympics.
As some of you may know, Brazil was hit with a wave of controversies building up to the Olympics. From improbable living conditions and disease-ridden water to safety concerns, none of these problems seem to dampen the spirits of the athletes that’ll be competing. So, who are you rooting for? Of course, we’d be #TeamMalaysia all the way, but there’s a few compelling athletes that we’ll be watching throughout the Olympics. Here’s who we think you should look out for during the games:
Oksana Chusovitina (UZB) - Gymnastics
Oksana Chusovitina isn’t some newbie who’s making her debut in this year’s Olympics; she’s a seasoned gymnast representing Uzbekistan for the seventh consecutive Olympic. She’s also one out of two female gymnasts that has competed in the Olympic with three different national teams – the Unified Team, Uzbekistan, and Germany. Don’t let her looks and impressive skills deceive you, Chusovitina has set a new world record for being the world’s oldest female Olympic gymnast at this year’s games at the age of 41. Apart from that, she’s also the first gymnast in history to compete in seven consecutive Olympics.
This decorated gymnast had previously announced her retirement after placing 5th
in the 2012 London Olympics but came out of retirement the following year. She secured her spot in this year’s games after qualifying in April. Chusovitina has previously won a gold medal in the 1992 Olympic Games and a silver medal in the 2008 games. Will she bring home her third Olympic medal this year? Guess we’d have to wait and see. But what we do know is Chusovitina is living-proof that age is just a number and shouldn’t be seen as an obstacle in chasing your dreams and passion. Such an inspirational role model!
Ibtihaj Muhammad (USA) – Fencing
Image: The Muslim Vibe
Despite the increasing racism cases and Islamophobia that’s currently widespread in the US, Ibtihaj Muhammad managed to break the American athlete stereotype by being the first American Muslim hijab-wearing Olympian at this year’s games. Although she herself has experienced
the discrimination back at home, she was a great contender to Michael Phelps in being the American flag bearer during the opening ceremony. Now, if that were to happen, wouldn’t it be really interesting to watch? We bet people would be buzzing about it for days!
The Duke University graduate has a pretty impressive resume; she’s a 3-time All-American and 2005 Junior Olympic Champion and is also currently ranked #2 in the US and #8 in the world. When she’s not busy preparing to be an Olympic medalist, she’s focused on her clothing business, Louella, a brand that caters to modest fashionable clothing in the states.
Although Ibtihaj have previously expressed her concerns on how she will be treated when she returns from the Olympics, it seems that a lot of prominent figures have acknowledged her contribution to their country. The fencer has previously appeared on the Ellen DeGeneres Show
, hung out at the White House, and also gave Michelle Obama some fencing lessons. Pretty cool, huh? We wish her all the best!
Mohd Hafifi Mansor (MAS) – Weightlifting
Image: The Malay Mail Online
Image: Richard Heathcote/Getty Images Europe
Image: Richard Heathcote/Getty Images Europe
Mohd Haififi Mansor is definitely one of the many Malaysian athletes to watch at the Olympics. The Terengganu native attracted a lot of attention through his antics during the 2014 Commonwealth Games. He shouted for his mom while flapping his arm before lifting the weights which consequently earned him the gold medal. He said that it felt “comforting” and helped calm his nerves. He has also previously won the bronze medal during the 2010 Commonwealth Games. Based on his performance, we’ve got a gut feeling that Hafifi may have what it takes to bring home Malaysia’s first Olympic gold medal. Although everyone has high hopes on Dato Lee Chong Wei and Azizulhasni Awang to bring home our first gold, we certainly believe that there’s hope for him.
He even broke the national record which was previously held by him during the training sessions prior to the Olympic Games. “I’m currently at my best level and will do my very best,” Hafifi told Bernama
. Hafifi has undergone a five-month training stint at a sports school in Guangzhou, China and is set to take part in the event this 9th of August. Look out world, we’re coming to get our first gold medal!
Genzebe Dibaba (ETH) – Track & field
Genezebe Dibaba is Ethiopia’s next hope for the Olympic gold. If you think that her last name is pretty familiar, that’s because the Olympic blood runs in her family. She’s the sister of three-time Olympic champion, Tirunesh Dibaba and Olympic silver medallist Ejegayehu Dibaba, as well as the cousin of former Olympic champion Derartu Tulu.
Dibaba made headlines when she was forced to leave the 2012 London Olympics after a hamstring injury. For the next following years, she made a strong comeback and won a string of titles and awards - the reigning World Indoor Champion since 2012, the current World Indoor Record Holder in the 3000m category, 2014 Laureus Sportswoman of the Year, and 2015 IAAF World Athlete of the Year. Most recently, she broke a 26-year-old record after running the indoor mile in the Stockholm Global Galan which she timed four minutes and 13.31 seconds. Dibaba will definitely be back with a vengance and we can’t wait to see this record breaker lash it out on the tracks soon.
Ooi Tze Liang (MAS) – Diving
Image: The Star
Image: Quinn Rooney/Getty Images Europe
Image: The Star
Ooi Tze Liang has an excellent track record in diving for the past few years, and has notably excelled at the Southeast Asian Games since 2011. The Penangite made Malaysia proud when he became the first Malaysian male to win a Commonwealth gold medal in diving after competing in the men's 3m springboard event during the 2014 Glasgow Commonwealth Games.
He was awarded the Olympic Council of Malaysia (OCM)-Sports Toto Award thanks to his outstanding performance at the 2015 Singapore Sea Games. Tze Liang brought home four gold medals during that event. We hope he’ll continue to successfully splash his way to the podium this year. Who knows, our very own Malaysian diver will defy all odds and stun the judges with his performance at this year’s Olympics.
The Olympic Refugee Team (ROT)
This year marks another historical year for the Olympic Games. For the first time ever, an Olympic Refugee Team will be introduced to compete at the Rio Olympics. In March 2016, International Olympic Committee (IOC) President Thomas Bach announced that they will be selecting five to 10 athletes to compete at this year’s games in light of the “worldwide refugee crisis.” A total of 10 athletes originating from South Sudan, Ethiopia, Congo, and Syria have been selected to compete in athletics, judo, and swimming.
The news was received well from everyone around the world and everyone applauded the IOC for their efforts in bringing a new light to the subject of refugees. According to the IOC, this team will serve as a "symbol of hope for refugees worldwide."Sesame Street even produced a video to explain about the refugee team which was uploaded to their Twitter account.
One of the notable athletes that make up the team is Yusra Mardini who fled war-stricken Syria to Germany. While she was making her way from Turkey with 20 other refugees via boat, their motor suddenly stopped and was on the brink of capsizing. Yusra then decided to jump in the water with her sister and other two men and swam across the ocean while pushing the boat for three exhausting hours until they reached the Greek island of Lesbos. Their brave act saved the lives of everyone on board.
Image: Daily Mail
Each refugees have their own backstory that will tug your heartstrings and inspire you. We commend their bravery after all the hardships they’ve been through and wish them all the best. We can’t wait to see who will win the first medal for their team!