The recently concluded Rio Olympics not only paved the way for veteran and tested athletes. Michael Phelps, the most decorated Olympian, added 5 gold medals and a silver to his wares. Meanwhile, Bolt’s sprinting dominance had been evident despite a suspected injury.
But what spiced up the event even more?
Athletes who bagged the first ever Olympic gold medal for their respective countries. Nothing compares to the euphoric feeling that athletes –and their countrymen –receive when hoisting in the podium the medal that was once elusive.
Here are five underdog athletes who conquered the odds to bring pride and honor to their respective nations, as per Rio2016.com.
- Joseph Schooling (Singapore) – “Work until your idols become your rivals” –that’s what the 21-year-old Schooling did when he outlasted Phelps in the men’s 100m butterfly event.
- Monica Puig (Puerto Rico) – There’s no better way to win gold by also being the first of your gender to win any medal in the tourney. Puig is the first Puerto Rican female to win an Olympic medal by defeating highly-touted Kerber of Germany.
- Hoang Xuan Vinh (Vietnam) –Hoang ended his country’s gold medal drought by not thinking of a podium finish when he was about to fire the near bullseye he eventually nailed.
- Majlinda Kelmendi (Kosovo) –Kosovo’s gold medal search as an independent country did not last long as Kelmendi thumped Italy’s Odette Giuffrida in the 52kg final of the women’s judo.
- Hidilyn Diaz (Philippines) – What Diaz brought to the medal-starved country is often termed as the ‘golden silver.’ It took 20 years before the Philippines could replicate Mansueto Velasco’s silver medal in boxing, thanks to Diaz’s courageous lift that wowed the crowd.
On the other hand, it is highly expected that teams of the host nation came out swinging. Rafaela Silva was the solution to the starved Brazilian nation looking for a gold by defeating Sumiya Dorjsuren of Mongolia in the finale.
Indeed, that win boosted ticket sales. What the Cariocas cheered for next? It’s their football national team that was yet to win a gold medal in the Olympics. The finale had a scintillating finish that ended up 1-1 on the scoreboard. Thanks to Neymar’s booming penalty kick, Brazil finally avenged its devastating loss to Germany in FIFA 2014.
But what does that last thrust really mean for Brazil, its football national team, and its people?
It’s the Cherry on Top of Brazil’s Fruitful Achievements
Brazil is currently ranked as world’s number 9 on the FIFA/Coca-Cola World Ranking. Having won the FIFA World Cup title five times, an Olympic gold medal seemed to be the only missing piece to Brazil’s football team prior to the event. The Brazilian team had its own share of debacles and frustrations through the years past. The most recent one was their downfall against Germany at the expense of their cheering home fans. Now that they have finally avenged their loss on the same opponent, they are ready to surge forward.
It Gives Brazilians Something to Cheer For
To host the Olympics at a time of political and economic crisis does not sit well with the Cariocas. There were parties along the road and fine wines were toasted all over the place, but now what? Debts, debts, and debts.
They expect to carry the burden after athletes and officials across the globe partied with them for a good month. But remembering how that penalty kick made them on top on the football stage once again surely makes the sting less painful.
It Silences All the Haters
When the Brazilian NT was held to nil-nil draws in both of their preliminary matches against South Africa and Iraq, Brazilians, as passionate as they are, doubted their own men. Boos and murmurs are at the loudest in the Maracanã Soccer Stadium. When you’re in home soil and trying to defend your ground, what’s worse than seeing your own people turn their backs on your team?
The Brazilian players and their coach understood that they need extra doses of enthusiasm and guts to surpass their accomplishments in the past Olympics. After reaching the quarter-finals on top their group stage, Brazil blasted Colombia and Honduras to regain the confidence of their people. Finally, that Neymar penalty kick vanquished any uncertainty left on that Germany match.
It Takes off the Pressure from Everybody
When the losses and frustrations set in, it’s easy for teammates to point fingers at each other. When you finally broke that curse and capped it off with a championship, love and endless embraces are the result of that magic. Coach Tite has little breathing room after Neymar stepped down as captain of the team knowing that all his men are inspired for the upcoming FIFA World Cup Qualifiers.