My friend Danny always says that the Olympics is a great opportunity to reflect upon how we have grown or regressed during the past four years. Four years ago I was working for NBC during the Olympics. I was getting paid thousands of dollars to watch television. My office was the Saturday Night Live writer’s room. If I swiveled my chair around, I had a clear view of the SNL stage. If I was feeling tired, I could walk downstairs and get free coffee on the eighth floor of 30 Rock, from the Starbucks NBC had built just for the Olympics so we wouldn’t have to leave the building.
Four years later, in 2016, I am writing this, hoping you will skim your way through a 20,000 word article about literally every Olympic sport. I will probably be watching the Rio Olympics from my mother-in-law’s basement, assuming my two-year-old doesn’t force me to change the channel to Peppa Pig. Enjoy!
1. Gymnastics – Women’s Individual All-Around
I wish I could buy stock in how famous Simone Biles will be in a few weeks. Between Michael Phelps, Usain Bolt, and Simone Biles, we could very realistically be watching the greatest swimmer, runner, and gymnast of all-time compete in the same Olympic Games. Sadly, this is almost certainly the final Games for Phelps (his 5th), Bolt (his 4th) and Biles (likely her only Olympics, as she would be 23 in Tokyo).
2. Track and Field – Men’s 100m
If Usain Bolt makes it to the starting line, he is winning this race. If he is not healthy enough to compete, Justin Gatlin and Yohan Blake will battle for gold. American Trayvon Bromell could sneak in for a bronze.
3. Gymnastics – Women’s Team All-Around
The American women look to repeat as gold medal winners, following up on the Fierce Five’s victory in 2012. Perennial contenders Romania shockingly did not qualify a team for the all-around. Russia and China appear to be the top threats to the U.S.
Chinese gymnast Shang Chunsong is one of the best stories in Rio. Growing up malnourished, Shang’s mostly blind brother would carry her to school on his back through the mountains. Her dream in life was to use her gymnastics earnings to buy her brother a house, which she has done.
4. Swimming – Men’s 4x100m Medley Relay
This is the final race of Michael Phelps’ career.
The U.S. is 13-0 all-time in this race, and should continue that streak. A finals team of Michael Phelps, Kevin Cordes, David Plummer, and Nathan Adrian might feature four medalists in their respective events, something no country can match.
5. Basketball – Men’s
The seventh edition of the Dream Team is young (only Carmelo Anthony is over 30) and the weakest on paper. Kevin Durant, the only top-5 NBA player on the roster, will have to carry the team to gold. Heading into the Olympic tune-ups, Coach K is 75-1 as national team coach, but I’m predicting the U.S. men lose a game, though not necessarily the gold medal game. The hypothetical team of Steph Curry, James Harden, Kawhi Leonard, LeBron James, and Anthony Davis sitting at home will be looking pretty good when the U.S. struggles to get past France.
There is no obvious contender to upset the Americans, who have rolled through their exhibition games. Spain has made then sweat in the last two Olympic finals, but they are missing their two best NBA players, Marc Gasol and Serge Ibaka. France has the most NBA experience but will be asking a lot from Rudy Gobert to combat the enormous size of the U.S.
6. Soccer – Women’s
If you are wondering why women’s soccer is ranked above men’s soccer, ask yourself why Marta and Hope Solo are here but Messi and Ronaldo are not.
Frankly, the Americans could bring two teams and they would be favorites for gold and silver. But with tiny, 18-person Olympic rosters, anything can happen over a truncated tournament, even for a team hoping to win its 4th straight gold medal. Carli Lloyd was the star of the World Cup, but watch for a breakout turn by Crystal Dunn in Rio.
7. Soccer – Men’s
A gold medal for the host Brazilians could erase (one percent of) the pain from the 2014 World Cup. Brazil has won silver three times, but never Olympic gold. Other contenders include reigning gold medal winners Mexico, World Cup holders Germany, and Euro 2016 champs Portugal.
8. Beach Volleyball – Women’s
Kerri Walsh Jennings won three straight golds with Misty May-Treanor, but with new partner April Ross things haven’t gone as smoothly. Brazilian pairs Talita/Larissa and Agatha/Barbara could delight the home nation by taking gold. German pair Ludwig/Walkenhorst will contend as well.
9. Wrestling – Men’s Freestyle 74 kg
Jordan Burroughs is already on the Mount Rushmore of American international wrestlers, but he can probably become the consensus greatest of all time with gold in Rio. Burroughs has lost once since London, in the semis of 2014 Worlds, but he responded by winning the world title in 2015, with a 10-0 destruction in the gold medal match. Burroughs’ conqueror from 2014, Denis Tsargush, is not here, but his toughest rival should be Tsargush’s fellow Russian, Aniuar Geduev, who gave Burroughs all he could handle the last time they faced each other.
10. Swimming – Men’s 200m Individual Medley
This race has been a two-man show for years between Michael Phelps and Ryan Lochte, but there are some gate crashers looking to ruin the two American legends’ retirement parties. Japan’s Kosuke Hagino finished 5th in London as a teenager, but this year, at 21, he has emerged as the world’s fastest. Thiago Pereira would blow the roof off the Olympic Aquatics Stadium if he were to stun Phelps, Lochte, and Hagino in front of his hometown crowd.
11. Gymnastics – Men’s Team All-Around
In London, Team Great Britain won their first men’s team gymnastics medal in 100 years. They are back to battle 2008 and 2012 champions China, plus a loaded Japanese squad, Russia, and an American group returning three gymnasts from London.
12. Tennis – Women’s Singles
It’s Serena vs. the field in what has to be her 4th and final Olympic Games. If Serena is not 100 percent after an exhausting Wimbledon, Spain’s Garbine Muguruza is the top challenger.
13. Tennis – Men’s Singles
Unlike men’s golf, this is a regular tour event, and the top players, save for Roger Federer who is out for the season, are all committed. Andy Murray is the defending champ, Rafael Nadal won in 2008, but Novak Djokovic is the favorite.
14. Shooting – Men’s 50m Rifle Three Positions
Matthew Emmons (USA) has lived an incredible life. He has gold, silver, and bronze medals. So does his wife Katarina, a retired shooter from the Czech Republic. He’s beaten thyroid cancer and had a child. But on the 10th shot of every Olympic final, something strange happens to Emmons.
Emmons won a gold medal in 2004 (with a teammate’s gun after he found his own rifle sabotaged) and looked set to win his second gold in Beijing. On his tenth and final shot, Emmons needed to score just a 6.7 for gold. Of the other 79 shots in the final, none had been less than 7.7. Emmons scored a 4.4 and missed the podium entirely. He has claimed he accidentally pulled the trigger too early. In 2012, a similar thing happened: Needing an 8.8 for silver, something 78 of 79 other shots accomplished, he scored a 7.6, knocking him from silver to bronze. In Rio, watch Emmons at your own peril.
15. Gymnastics – Men’s Individual All-Around
After winning silver in 2008, Japan’s Kohei Uchimura has won Olympics or world gold seven consecutive years. His top rivals include Max Whitlock (Great Britain), Manrique Larduet (Cuba), and Deng Shudi (China)
16. Beach Volleyball – Men’s
Brazilians Alison Cerutti and Bruno Schmidt are the world’s top team and heavy favorites. American Phil Dalhausser won gold in 2008 and returns with a new partner, Nicholas Lucena. Canadian duo Josh Binstock and Sam Schachter might not take gold in Rio, but they are a lock to win the next Maccabiah Games.
17. Track and Field – Women’s 400m
Sanya Richards-Ross—who won this race for the U.S. in 2008 and 201—is here as an announcer for NBC, but this is still the best bet for America to win a sprint gold. The Olympic schedule was changed for Allyson Felix to be able to attempt the 200-400 double, but since she failed to qualify for the 200m, she can focus all her energies on winning this race. Felix ran away with the world title last year ,and only Bahamian Shaunae Miller looks capable of catching her.
18. Track and Field – Men’s 200m
The three American entrants, Justin Gatlin, LaShawn Merritt, and Ameer Webb, have combined for the world’s five fastest times this year, which sounds great until you realize that Usain Bolt hasn’t formally attempted the distance yet in 2016. It’s too bad there isn’t a relay for 200 meters—the United States, which has two high schoolers who would have made any other country’s Olympic team, would have a free gold medal there.
19. Swimming – Women’s 200m Freestyle
Katie Ledecky and Missy Franklin are two swimmers going in opposite directions. Ledecky is expected to win this race, her weakest of the three individual races she is swimming in Rio. Franklin, who won five medals in London, was thrilled just to make it. She will have a difficult time making the final of this event.
20. Swimming – Men’s 200m Butterfly
This could be the race of the swim meet, or it could be a coronation for Hungary’s Laszlo Cseh. Cseh has gone substantially faster than anyone else this year. South African Chad le Clos shocked Michael Phelps to win gold in London, preventing Phelps’s threepeat. Le Clos also hates Phelps and trash talks him constantly. Phelps generally ignores le Clos, but the man with 18 gold medals needs to go much faster in Rio than he did at Olympic Trials, or he will become the man with three silvers or bronzes in 2016.
21. Water Polo – Women’s
Women’s water polo became an Olympic event in 2000, and the American women have medaled each time, finally taking gold in 2012. Led by Maggie Steffens, the Americans are favored again in this field, which features only eight teams.
22. Gymnastics – Women’s Balance Beam
This is Simone Biles’s best event. She could probably fall off the balance beam and still win gold. She won beam at last year’s Worlds by over a point, which is comparable to leading a basketball game by so many points that the other team quits in the third quarter.
23. Track and Field – Men’s 4x100 Relay
This will almost certainly be the final race of Usain Bolt’s Olympic career.
The U.S. was stripped of its silver medal from London when Tyson Gay was suspended for drug use. Gay then made sure the U.S. would not have to give back a 2015 Worlds medals by botching the final baton exchange. Oddly, Gay will be back on the U.S. team for this race, though he doesn’t figure to be chosen for the final. A showdown looms between Jamaica (led by Usain Bolt, Yohan Blake, and Nickel Ashmeade) vs. the Americans (Justin Gatlin, Trayvon Bromell, Marvin Bracy, and hopefully not Tyson Gay)
24. Track and Field – Women’s 4x100 Relay
Jamaica’s team of Elaine Thompson, Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce, Christania Williams, and Veronica Campbell-Brown looks like the squad to beat. The Americans set the world record winning this race in 2012 and their foursome of Tori Bowie, Tianna Bartoletta, English Gardner, and Jenna Prandini is also formidable.
25. Boxing – Women’s Middleweight (75 kg)
To quote the greatest philosopher of the 21st century, Enzo Amore: If I had a dime for every time Claressa Shields has lost since winning gold in London … I would have zero dimes! The Flint, Michigan native who won the United States’s first boxing gold since Andre Ward in 2004 can become the American boxer to ever win back-to-back golds.
26. Track and Field – Women’s 100m
Jamaica’s Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce is the defending Olympic and world champion, but she is not even the top runner from Jamaica in this event. That would be Elaine Thompson, who ran a scorching 10.70 earlier his year. Other contenders are the Dutch Dafne Schippers and American Tori Bowie.
27. Swimming – Men’s 100m Butterfly
Michael Phelps is aiming to win this race for the fourth straight Olympics, but he has two huge obstacles in his way. Hungary’s Laszlo Cseh has the world’s fastest time this year, while Chad le Clos of South Africa won the world title last year, an event Phelps missed due to a DUI suspension.
28. Gymnastics – Women’s Floor Exercise
Kids across the country will be imitating the bounce-up move Simone Biles does to end every floor routine. Aly Raisman won gold on floor in London, but will have a hard time making the final in 2016.
29. Indoor Volleyball – Women’s
The Brazilian women are looking for their third straight gold medal. The Americans, who lost to Brazil in the gold medal match in 2012, have now taken silver three times, but seek their first ever gold.
30. Indoor Volleyball – Men’s
A gold medal for Brazil could provide the indelible image of these Olympics on the Games’ final day. The U.S. won gold in 2008, but were upset by Italy in a quarterfinal sweep in London. The U.S. exacted some revenge beating the Italians to win the World Cup last year, and may be the only obstacle between Brazil and a nationwide celebration.
31. Track and Field – Men’s 400m
This is a three-man race between defending champion Kirani James of Granada, 2008 champion LaShawn Merritt, and reigning world champion Wayne van Niekirk, who could win the gold medal at the next five Olympics and still not be the most famous South African 400 meter Olympic runner.
32. Rugby – Men’s
Fiji has never won an Olympic medal, and saw its most famous athlete, Vijay Singh, pull out of the golf competition. But, the tiny island nation of about 900,000 people has a real chance to win its first medal in this debut event of rugby sevens. The American team features New England Patriots Safety Nate Ebner and Carlin Isles, who worked out for the Detroit Lions and ran a 4.22 40.
33. Rugby – Women’s
The entire rugby tournament takes place over three days. The Americans, ranked sixth, qualified for the Olympics with an 88-0 win over Mexico. The top two ranked teams are Australia, led by Sharni Williams, a former mechanic, and New Zealand, known as the Black Ferns.
34. Track and Field – Women’s 800m
If you watch a replay of 2012's 800 meter final, you will see Caster Semenya spend much of the race in last place, before darting past six racers to finish second. I’m a Semenya truther. I think she lost the race on purpose to avoid further media scrutiny of the gender controversy she has been subjected to her whole career. Anyway, she better get ready for the media, because Semenya has been running so much faster than the field this year, that even if she doesn’t want to win she’s ending up with gold.
35. Gymnastics – Women’s Vault
Simone Biles has won a vault medal at the last three World’s, but never gold. Russia’s Maria Paseka, who won the 2015 Worlds and took bronze in London, looked to be the favorite, but she is battling a back injury. If she isn’t healthy, Biles’s toughest competition will be North Korea’s Honh un-Jong.
36. Track and Field – Women’s 100m Hurdles
American Kendra Harrison, who was number one in the world, did not qualify for Rio. Harrison was so upset about missing the Olympic team that she went out and broke the world record a few weeks later. Amongst the hurdlers who made it to Rio, Jamaica’s Danielle Williams won last year’s world title, but Americans have run the 19 fastest times so far this year. Brianna Rollins is the best of the U.S. crop that actually made the team.
37. Fencing – Women’s Individual Sabre
Mariel Zagunis won the only two gold medals in U.S. fencing history in 2004 and 2008, but she came in a disappointing fourth in London. Zagunis followed that up with a quarterfinal loss at last year’s worlds. To win a third gold in Rio, Zagunis will have to get past top-ranked Sofiya Velikaya of Russia and Ukraine’s Olga Kharlan, who beat Zagunis to win bronze in London.
38. Swimming – Women’s 4x200m Freestyle Relay
A team of Katie Ledecky, Missy Franklin, Allison Schmitt, and Leah Smith will be tough to beat, as the U.S. look to win this event for the fifth time in six Olympics.
39. Gymnastics – Men’s Rings
China’s Liu Yang has a gold and bronze on rings in the last two Worlds. Defending World Champion Eleftherios Petrounias of Greece is a strong contender. Brazilian Arthur Zanetti could blow the roof off the Arena Olímpica do Rio (which sounds cooler than its new name, the HSBC Arena) with a strong performance, but Zanetti, the reigning Gold medal winner on Rings, did not make the final at last year’s World’s.
40. Track and Field – Women’s 4x400 Relay
The U.S. has not lost this race since 1992, but the Jamaica women are vastly improved at this distance, and four Jamaicans finished top-six at the 2015 Worlds. Led by Allyson Felix, who could be racing for her eighth and final Olympic medal, the U.S. can also add Courtney Okolo, who was the world’s fastest heading into U.S. Trials, but did not make the 400 team.
41. Tennis – Women’s Doubles
Venus and Serena have won this event all three times they have contested it (2000, ‘08, ‘12). They have looked beatable as a doubles team in recent years, but they just steamrolled through Wimbledon.
42. Track and Field – Women’s High Jump
“Vashti Cunningham’s father is Randall Cunningham” is set to become the new “Ryan Fitzpatrick went to Harvard.” Also, if Vashti wins a medal and her father gets 100 percent of the post-race interview questions, which happened on NBC at the U.S. Olympic Trials, the internet will self-combust. The 18-year-old Cunningham’s teammates have interesting back stories, too. Chaunte Lowe has the world’s best jump this year and is looking to shake off the demons of three straight poor Olympic performances. Meanwhile, Inika McPherson has just returned from a lengthy cocaine-related suspension.
43. Diving – Men’s 10m Platform
Eighteen divers make the semifinals of this event, and American David Boudia took the last spot in London 2012, ranking 18th of 32. Boudia improved in the semifinals, then topped favorite Qiu Bo and hometown hero Tom Daley for gold. Bo bested Boudia and Daley at last year’s Worlds. This figures to be the marquee event of the diving competition again in Rio.
My most lukewarm Olympic take is that diving is overrated. If the average person watched with the sound off—but don’t do that because Ted Robinson is great—they would have a difficult time differentiating between the second best diver and the 15th best diver.
From an NBC perspective, the Olympic sport tiers seem to be as follows:
Tier 1: Gymnastics, Track, Swimming
Tier 2: Diving, Beach Volleyball
Those are the five sports that you will regularly see in primetime.
I would classify Tier 3 as the team sports which can hold their own but don’t take up primetime real estate on the Costas telecast. Those sports are basketball, soccer, tennis, and now golf and rugby. You can make an argument for indoor volleyball, also.
44. Track and Field – Men’s 4x400 Relay
This race was a house of horrors for the Americans in 2012. Star LaShawn Merritt sat out with an injury, Manteo Mitchell BROKE HIS LEG DURING THE (PRELIMINARY) RACE, and Angelo Taylor, a hurdler the undermanned team was reduced to using as the anchor, was run down for the gold by the Bahamas, despite starting with a huge lead. Now, with Merritt healthy and limited competition, the Americans should win this relay for the 17th time in 23 tries.
45. Judo – Men’s Heavyweight (over 100 kg)
France’s Teddy Riner has only lost eight times in his career and not since September 2010. If you are dreaming about an upset (assuming you have a lot of judo-based dreams), look out for world number two Hisayoshi Harasawa of Japan, who has never faced Riner.
46. Track and Field – Men’s 110m Hurdles
The Americans often talk about sweeping this event, and they have won 20 of 28 available golds, but they’ll be lucky to earn one medal this time around. Jamaica’s Omar McLeod is the favorite and 2008 champion Dayron Robles returns for Cuba. The Americans are led by Oregon Ducks WR Devon Allen. World record holder and defending champ Aries Merritt did not fully recover from receiving a kidney transplant and will miss the Games.
47. Swimming – Men’s 100m Freestyle
This is shaping up to be a three-man race between defending gold medal winner Nathan Adrian (USA), Worlds winner Ning Zetao (China), and Cameron McEvoy (Australia), who has the world’s fastest time this year. Pity for Brazilian Cesar Cielo, who owns the world record in both this event and the 50m. He could have reasonably expected to be one of the Games’ headliners, but at age 29 he failed to qualify at either distance.
48. Track and Field – Women’s 3000m Steeplechase
This is only the third women’s steeplechase Olympic race. It’s uncelar why before 2008 the IOC thought women could run marathons, but couldn’t jump over puddles of water. Anyway, American Emma Coburn has a real chance to finally win a steeplechase medal. Her top foes are Bahrain’s Ruth Jebet and Kenya’s Hyvin Jepkemoi.
49. Track and Field – Men’s 3000m Steeplechase
A few Olympics ago I might have ranked the steeplechase races in the 200s. I’ve learned to love the steeplechase. Those little water jumps add just the right amount of drama while still looking completely hilarious.
An American man last won a steeplechase medal in 1984; since then Kenya has claimed 16 of the 21 available medals. American Evan Jager is the best non-Kenyan in the world, but that may only be good enough for fourth place.
50. Swimming – Men’s 4x200m Freestyle Relay
If Michael Phelps joins Townley Haas, Jack Conger, and Ryan Lochte in the final, he will likely be adding his fourth straight gold in this event.
51. Gymnastics – Women’s Uneven Bars
The Americans’ weakest event in recent years, they brought in Madison Kocian for her bars expertise. Kocian was part of a four-way tie for gold at last year’s World Championships, so this is the most wide open event of the women’s competition.
52. Track and Field – Men’s 400m Hurdles
The difference between Olympic glory and anonymity can be literally a fraction of an inch. The 2012 Olympic champion, Felix Sanchez, has the largest stadium in his native Dominican Republic named after him. This year, Johnny Dutch had the two fastest low hurdles times of 2016 and looked like a gold medal favorite. In the finals of the U.S. Olympic trials, Dutch, who had a massive lead, clipped the final hurdle, ever so slightly, lost his balance, and finished fifth. Dutch will not get a stadium named after him (not that hurdlers get stadiums named after them in America). There will be no 2020 for Dutch, either. He announced his retirement after the trials, saying he couldn’t pay his bills as a non-Olympic athlete.
As for the people who made it to Rio, contenders include Turkey’s Yasmani Copello and the American duo of 2008 silver medalist Kerron Clement and 2012 silver medalist Michael Tinsley.
53. Basketball – Women’s
The American women are 40-0 at the Olympics since the WNBA was formed. Candace Parker did not make the U.S. squad. She would be the best player on any other team in this tournament.
54. Track and Field – Women’s Pole Vault
In 2008, American Jenn Suhr took silver, which was immediately followed by her coach berating her live on camera for losing. Four years later, in London, now married to the coach, Suhr won gold. She returns to face a field that is missing her biggest rival, Russia’s Yelena Isinbayeva, but will feature hometown favorite Fabiana Murer, and Sandi Morris, who broke Suhr’s American record right before heading off to Rio.
55. Water Polo – Men’s
The American men have won silver or bronze six times, but never gold. Serbia failed to win gold in London but are overwhelming favorites here.
56. Judo – Women’s Half-Heavyweight (78 kg)
Kayla Harrison, the first American to ever win a gold medal in judo, returns to defend her title. Shock 2012 finalist Gemma Gibbons of Great Britain did not qualify. The Netherlands for some reason chose to send sixth-ranked Marhinde Verkerk over world number two Guusje Steenhuis. I’m guessing Steenhuis did not take that news well.
57. Swimming – Women’s 50m Freestyle
Australian Cate Campbell is the defending world champion and has 2016's fastest time. Other contenders include Cate’s sister Bronte and Olympic record holder Ranomi Kromowidjojo (Netherlands). It will be tough sledding for Americans Simone Manuel or Abbey Weitzeil to reach the podium in this race or the 100 meters.
58. Archery – Men’s Team
South Korea takes archery so seriously they have been known to build exact replicas of the Olympic archery facility to practice on. Since archery was reintroduced to the Olympics in 1972, South Korea has taken 19 of the 36 available gold medals. After being upset by the U.S. in the semis in 2012, South Korea has revamped their team, bringing three Olympic rookies to Rio. The American team is led by world number three Zach Garrett and Brady Ellison, who was ranked first heading into London, but has slipped to seventh ahead of the Olympics.
59. Track and Field – Men’s 800m
David Rudisha of Kenya is the Olympic champion, the world champion, and the world record holder. Rudisha won gold in a 2012 race that was so fast, the last place finisher would have won gold in every other 800-meter Olympic final this century. The fastest American, high schooler Donovan Brazier, did not even make it out of the first round at Olympic trials, so the top American medal hope is Boris Berian, who is best known for his legal battle with Nike.
60. Swimming – Men’s 200m Freestyle
China’s Sun Yang specializes in longer races, but he has 2016's fastest time and won silver at both the last Olympics and the last Worlds. Great Britain’s James Guy beat Sun at 2015 Worlds, and is the one to beat here. World record holder Paul Biedermann of Germany would love to win gold to celebrate his birthday, but that ship may have sailed; he set the mark at age 22 and will turn 30 the day this event begins. Americans Conor Dwyer and Townley Haas are in the mix. Also, Townley Haas sounds like he belongs on the Lacrosse All-Name Team.
61. Gymnastics – Men’s Horizontal Bar
This is Kohei Uchimura’s best chance to win his first apparatus gold. American Danell Leyva and Epke Zonderland of the Netherlands are medal contenders as well.
62. Wrestling – Women’s Freestyle 75 kg
Major props to FILA, the governing body of wrestling, for increasing the number of women’s freestyle divisions to six, matching the men. The Olympic sport that now has the most catching up to do, equality wise, is boxing, which has 10 men’s divisions and just three for women. Shooting’s nine to six ratio could also be improved.
Adeline Gray can become the first American woman to win Olympic gold, as her potential gold medal match would be one day before other American hopefuls Elena Pirozhkova and Helen Maroulis. The Denver-native is in her first Olympics, but she has won medals at the past five Worlds, three of them gold. Gray has won 41 straight matches, so gold is likely, but she stands to be overshadowed by Brazil’s Aline Ferreira, if the Sao Paulo-native can win the first ever Olympic wrestling medal for the home nation.
63. Swimming – Women’s 4x100m Medley Relay
The Americans and the Australians have gone one-two at this event at the past five Olympics. (The U.S. has three victories to Australia’s two.) The Aussies should even the score here, with Cate Campbell and Emily Seebohm leading the way.
64. Cycling, BMX – Men’s
Latvia’s Māris “The Machine” Štrombergs is the only male BMX champion in Olympic history, having won gold in 2008 and 2012. The U.S. claimed silver and bronze in 2008, but in London, Connor Fields crashed during the finals. Fields is back for Rio, but it is Nicholas Long who comes in with momentum, having taken bronze in May’s World Championships.
65. Cycling, BMX – Women’s
BMX cycling is tremendously fun to watch, but really feels out of place at the Summer Olympics. It has a serious X Games vibe. Colombia’s Mariana Pajon, nicknamed the “Queen of BMX”, looks to defend her gold. The U.S. team is the same as 2012—Brooke Crain and Alise Post
66. Track and Field – Women’s 200m
Allyson Felix would have been the favorite in this race, but she missed out on a spot by .01 seconds to Jenna Prandini, who will be fortunate to make the finals. This now appears to be a two-woman race between Dafne Schippers of The Netherlands and Jamaica’s Elaine Thompson.
67. Swimming – Men’s 50m Freestyle
France’s Florent Manaudou is the defending Olympic and world champion here. The American team is 35 year-old Anthony Ervin and Nathan Adrian, who will likely battle Aussie Cameron McEvoy for silver.
68. Track and Field – Men’s 1500m
An American has not won gold at this distance in 108 years, though they’ve taken silver five times since then. That winless streak should continue, with three-time defending world champion Asbel Kiprop of Kenya the favorite. The U.S. should have a shot at the lesser medals with Matt Centrowitz, who finished fourth in London, leading the way.
69. Swimming – Women’s 4x100m Freestyle Relay
The Campbell sisters make Australia a heavy favorite in this race. The Americans, led by Simone Manuel and aided by Katie Ledecky, are a good bet for silver.
70. Track and Field – Men’s High Jump
Last Olympics this was a closely contested event, with tyree high jumpers tying for bronze. If athletes tie for a bronze, instead of giving out three separate medals, they should have to share it, Fed-Ex’ing it back-and-forth to each other every few months. This year, this event is expected to be a barnburner with Canada’s Derek Drouin, Qatar’s Mutaz Essa Barshim, Ukraine’s Bohdan Bondarenko, and Italy’s Gianmarco Tamberi all chasing gold and possibly, a world record.
71. Track and Field – Women’s 400m Hurdles
In all four hurdles races at the U.S. Olympic trials, either the defending gold medal winner or the person with the world’s fastest time in 2016 failed to make the Olympic team. In the women’s 400 meter hurdles that was Shamier Little, the world number one who didn’t even make it out of the semifinals. Capitalizing on her misfortune is an American team that includes 16 year-old Sydney McLaughlin from New Jersey, plus legit contender Dalilah Muhammad. Zuzana Hejnova of the Czech Republic has won the past two World titles.
72. Gymnastics – Men’s Floor Exercise
At 19, Japan’s Kenzo Shirai is one of the youngest competitors in the men’s field, but he has already won a world title in floor exercise.
73. Track and Field – Women’s Long Jump
Reigning world champion Tianna Bartoletta (USA) is also competing in the 100 meters and the 4x100 relay. Fellow American Brittney Reese won gold in London and has the world’s best jump, by far, this year.
74. Swimming – Women’s 200m Butterfly
This is the most wide open race of the entire swim meet. Australia’s Madeline Groves is the fastest in the world this year. Japan’s Natsumi Hoshi is the world champion. fifth in London, and Cammile Adams (USA) took silver at Worlds. China’s Zhang Yufei is a sleeper. Just 17-years-old last year, she took bronze at Worlds.
75. Gymnastics – Men’s Vault
Reigning gold medal winner Yang Hak-seon (South Korea) will miss Rio with a foot injury, which is a shame, since his nickname is “The God of Vault”. Ri-se gwang of North Korea took the past two world titles, and is a heavy favorite.
76. Tennis – Men’s Doubles
The Bryan Brothers, Bob and Mike, won gold in London, but they are late scratches due to “health” concerns. Still, this event is absolutely loaded; contenders include Andy Murray and his brother Jamie, Novak Djokovic and Rafael Nadal teaming respectively with doubles specialists Nenad Zimonjic and Mark Lopez, plus hometown faves Marcelo Melo and Bruno Soares.
77. Fencing – Men’s Individual Foil
A teenaged Alexander Massialas was trounced in the round of 16 in London. Now 22, Massialas is the best in the world, and has an opportunity to be the first American man to win fencing gold. His chief rival is second-ranked Yuki Ota of Japan, who defeated Massialas to win gold at the last Worlds.
78. Swimming – Men’s 100m Backstroke
It’s really a shame that swimming only allows two racers per country. An entire nation sweeping the medals and standing on the podium together is an indelible image, though it happens far less frequently than it did in say, 1904, when the Americans went 1-2-3 in 19 events ... in track and field alone. In related news, four of the five best 100 meter backstrokers are Americans. Ryan Murphy and David Plummer’s only real competition for gold-silver should be Australia’s Mitch Larkin.
79. Rowing – Women’s Coxed Eight
The seemingly unbeatable U.S. women’s eight looks for their third straight gold. The only constant on all three teams will be Elle Logan, who was named the PAC-12's Rower of the Century.
80. Track and Field – Men’s Triple Jump
It’s unlikely the U.S. will go 1-2-3 in any event in Rio, but this or men’s shot put might be the closest the Americans get. Christian Taylor and Will Claye went 1-2 in London and have combined for the five best jumps of the year. Teammate Chris Benard is unlikely to finish third, though.
81. Swimming – Women’s 100m Breaststroke
An American swimmer did not even make this final at 2015 Worlds, but Indiana Hoosier Lily King came out of seemingly nowhere at the age of 19, to record the fastest swim of the year in June. Her toughest competition will come from world record holder Ruta Meilutyte of Lithuania. King’s teammate Katie Meili, a late bloomer in her first Olympics at 25, could also medal.
82. Weightlifting – Men’s Over 105 kg
The best battle of the entire Olympic weightlifting program was going to be Iran’s Behdad Salimi versus Ruslan Albegov of Russia. But with the entire Russian weightlifting team banned, Salimi’s primary competition will come from Georgia’s Lasha Talakhadze.
83. Swimming – Women’s 800m Freestyle
Katie Ledecky is better at swimming the 800-meter freestyle than any Olympian has ever been in any event. She is better at swimming the 800-meter freestyle than Usain Bolt is at running the 100. She is better at swimming the 800-meter freestyle than Michael Jordan was at basketball in 1992. Whoever gets silver and bronze should give their medals to Ledecky, and thank her for swimming in the same pool as them.
84. Field Hockey – Women’s
The medals should come from traditional powers Netherlands, Australia, and Argentina. It is unlikely but not inconceivable that the American women, who finished fifth at a major tournament last year, could earn their first field hockey medal since 1984.
85. Taekwondo – Women’s Welterweight (67 kg)
With 2008 and 2012 champion Hwang Kyung-Seon out of the picture, American Paige McPherson has a chance to be the first American woman to win taekwondo gold.
86. Gymnastics – Men’s Parallel Bars
China has won 10 of the 16 available golds at the past two Olympics, and Deng Shudi and You Hao are top contenders here. American Danell Leyva is in contention.
87. Boxing – Women’s Lightweight (60 kg)
Ireland’s Katie Taylor cemented her legacy as the greatest women’s boxer ever with a gold in London, but the 30-year-old Taylor was stunned by France’s Estelle Mossely in May, her first loss in five years. A Taylor-Mossely rematch in the final could be the highlight of the boxing program in Rio.
88. Track and Field – Men’s Long Jump
Buffalo Bills WR Marquise Goodwin missed making this team, which was a blow for the Americans hopes for multiple medalists in an event they’ve won 20 times. Arkansas Razorback Jarrion Lawson is the current NCAA Champion in the 100 and 200 meters, as well as this event—something only he and Jesse Owens have done—and has the best jump this year. Great Britain’s Greg Rutherford shows up for big meets; he is the defending Olympic and world champion.
89. Swimming – Women’s 400m Individual Medley
One of the stars of the London Olympics was Ye Shiwen (China), who at the age of 16 won the 200 and 400 individual medleys in explosive fashion. Ye turned many heads when she swam her final lap faster than men’s 400-meter individual medley champ Ryan Lochte. But instead of becoming the next Michael Phelps, Ye faded into obscurity just as quickly as she emerged. At last year’s World Championships, she did not even make the final, swimming 14 seconds slower than her gold medal time. Ye enters Rio as the year’s 92nd fastest 400-meter individual medley swimmer. Washed up at 20-years-old, what a crazy sport.
90. Archery – Women’s Individual
Ki Bo-Bae won double gold in London, but isn’t even South Korea’s top archer here. That would be prodigy Choi Mi-sun, who just turned 20. Texan Mackenzie Brown is ranked fourth, and is the only female archer who qualified for the U.S.
91. Wrestling – Women’s Freestyle 53 kg
Saori Yoshida of Japan has been called the greatest wrestler in Olympic history. Yoshida has won three straight Olympic gold medals, and is aiming to become the first Olympic wrestler to ever win four straight gold medals. She will have to win this gold at a different weight, though, after her old 55 kg division was consolidated.
Yoshida’s toughest competition will be American Helen Maroulis, who won the 55 kg world title last year. Nigeria’s Odunayo Adekuoroye can earn her country’s first wrestling medal and the first wrestling medal for any woman from an African country.
92. Wrestling – Women’s Freestyle 58 kg
Much like countrywoman Saori Yoshida, a gold medal in Rio would be a record fourth straight for Kaori Icho. Icho will actually have the first crack at breaking the Olympic record, since her final is a day before Yoshida’s.
Colombia’s Jackeline Rentería Castillo won bronze in 2008 and 2012. Another medal in Rio would make her the first Colombian with three Olympic medals.
93. Swimming – Women’s 100m Backstroke
Missy Franklin did not qualify for this race to defend her gold medal, so silver medalist Emily Seebohm (Australia) should be able to upgrade to gold in Rio. American Olivia Smoliga is a live underdog.
94. Track and Field – Men’s Shot Put
Many predicted an American sweep in this event in London, but the U.S. trio finished 3-4-9. This time around Americans have the top nine throws this year. The star is world champion and Penn State alum Joe Kovacs, who despite being number in the world, only has 6,600 followers on Twitter. Not a ton of shot put groupies.
95. Track and Field – Women’s Shot Put
New Zealand’s Valerie Adams has 17 siblings, the youngest of whom, Steven, used to be on the same basketball team as Kevin Durant. Adams won gold in 2008 and silver, initially, in 2012, but that was upgraded to gold when Nazdeya Ostapchuk (Belarus) was stripped of her gold for doping violations. Top challengers to Adams include Germany’s Christina Schwanitz, China’s Gong Lijiao, and American Tia Brooks.
96. Swimming – Men’s 200m Backstroke
Americans have won this race five straight times. Ryan Murphy hopes to make it six in a row, but world champion Mitch Larkin of Australia stands in his way. American Jacob Pebley also has a chance at a medal in his first Olympic race.
97. Diving – Women’s 10m Platform
North Korea has never won an Olympic diving meda,l but Kim Kuk-hyang struck gold at the last year’s World Championships. Just 17 years of age, Kim is still two years older than her main competitor, China’s Ren Xi.
98. Wrestling – Men’s Greco-Roman 130 kg
The past four times Cuba’s Mijain Lopez and Turkey’s Riza Kayaalp have showed up at the same major tournament, they’ve faced off in the finals. Cuban wrestling legend Lopez won the first three, including the gold medal match in London, but the controversial Kayaalp finally struck back, taking gold in Las Vegas at the 2015 Worlds.
If Lopez can exact revenge verse Kayaalp, he stands to become the third man ever to win three straight wrestling golds, exclusive company that includes the GOAT Alexander Karelin.
American Robby Smith has a chance at winning the first U.S. medal in the top Greco-Roman division since Rulon Gardner in 2004, but he needs to avoid Mijain Lopez in the draw. Lopez beat him 8-0 at the 2015 Worlds.
99. Fencing – Men’s Individual Sabre
American Daryl Homer made a great run to the quarterfinals in London, defeating current number one Aleksey Yakimenko (Russia) along the way. Homer made an even better run to the 2015 Worlds finals where he met up with Yakimenko again, but was punished15-5 by Yakimenko. Is a third encounter in the cards in Rio?
100. Golf – Women’s
The women are taking golf’s Olympic re-debut more seriously than their male counterparts, with virtually all of the top players heading to Rio. New Zealand’s Lydia Ko is the world number one. South Korea and the U.S. are responsible for seven of the top 13 players in the field.
101. Gymnastics – Men’s Pommel Horse
Great Britain’s Louis Smith won gold on the pommel horse in 2012, but teammate Max Whitlock may be the favorite this time around.
102. Track and Field – Men’s Decathlon
The winner of the decathlon is often referred to as the world’s best athlete, and that has never been more true than of Ashton Eaton. The Oregonian would have a real shot of making the Olympics at three or four different events if he focused on them instead of the decathlon. His best long jump would have won silver at the last Olympics. Unless he fouls every time in a field event, Eaton will become the third person to ever repeat as Olympic decathlon champion.
The issue with the decathlon and heptathlon is the impossibility of understanding the scoring system. There was a great New York Times article about how the 2008 decathlon champion Bryan Clay was struggling to make six figures despite owning the title of world’s greatest athlete. You can’t clear six figures if the sport you dominate requires calculus to determine who wins.
103. Track and Field – Women’s Heptathlon
Jessica Ennis-Hill stole the show for Great Britain at the London Games. Ennis-Hill took time off to have a son in 2014, but is back and set for a showdown with Canada’s Brianne Theisen-Eaton, who is married to decathlon frontrunner Ashton Eaton. The Eatons’ unborn child has already qualified for the 2036 Olympics.
104. Swimming – Women’s 400m Freestyle
Katie Ledecky will win this race, everyone else is racing for second. American newcomer Leah Smith has an excellent shot at silver. In a rarity for Olympic swimming, none of the medal winners from 2012 return. Bronze medal winner Rebecca Adlington (Great Britain) retired, silver medalist Alison Schmitt only made the American team as a relay swimmer, and gold medal winner Camille Muffat (France) retired, and subsequently died in a tragic helicopter crash while filming a reality TV show in Argentina.
105. Shooting – Women’s Skeet
Five Kim Rhode facts:
- Kim Rhode (USA) has won a shooting medal at every Olympics since Atlanta.
- Rhode (pronounced Roady) is the only female shooter to have won three gold medals.
- The AP reported she spends almost $5,000 per week on shells and targets.
- According to NBC’s Nick Zaccardi, Olympic guru extraordinaire, if she wins a medal in Rio, she will be the first Olympian to win medals on five different continents.
- She is not ranked number one in the world anymore. That would be Sutiya Jiewchaloemmit of Thailand, who is aiming to win her country’s first shooting medal.
106. Track and Field – Men’s 5000m
Bernard Lagat won silver and bronze competing for his native Kenya, but has not earned an Olympic medal since he started representing the U.S. At 41, Lagat may not be a medal factor, unlike old rival Mo Farah, who looks to repeat after winning gold on his home turf in 2012.
107. Swimming – Men’s 100m Breaststroke
This race is a showdown between world record holder Adam Peaty (Great Britain) and Peaty’s idol, Olympic champion Cameron van der Burgh (South Africa).
108. Gymnastics – Men’s Individual Trampoline
China’s Dong Dong won gold in London, but compatriot Gao Lei won last year’s world title. Russia’s Dmitry Ushakov and Uladzislau Hancharou of Belarus are threats as well. Sadly, Morgan Demiro-O-Demiro (France) finished sixth at last year’s Worlds but did not qualify for the Olympics.
109. Swimming – Men’s 4x100m Freestyle Relay
This was the most shocking race of the 2015 World Championships, even though the favorites took gold. Both the U.S. and Australia, armed with the top two swimmers in the world, failed to even make the final of this relay, with their second-string teams choking in the prelims. They should both make the final this time, where Michael Phelps will be added as a ringer, but France is a heavy favorite to repeat.
110. Archery – Men’s Individual
The only Olympic event that is not televised is the archery ranking round, the lone event that takes place Friday before the Opening Ceremony. This was disappointing when was I covering archery for NBC in 2012 and couldn’t watch it, though I’m pretty sure I’m over it now.
111. Swimming – Men’s 400m Individual Medley
Michael Phelps dropped this event after he shockingly finished fourth in London, seemingly handing the keys to the event over to gold medal winner Ryan Lochte. But the U.S. swim trials are often just as brutal as the Olympics, and Lochte, swimming a time that would have been fifth in London, was the third best in the pool, meaning Chase Kalisz and Jay Litherland will go in Lochte’s stead. Kalisz, Phelps’s training partner, has a real chance to make his mentor proud, as a gold medal is a realistic result. Japan’s Kosuke Hagino, who knocked Phelps off the medal stand in London, is likely the only man standing in Kalisz’s way.
112. Fencing – Men’s Team Foil
The U.S. hasn’t won a team foil medal since 1932 and has never won gold, but that’s likely going to change. The American men are so deep; all four of their foilists (Alexander Massialas, Gerek Meinhardt, Race Imboden, Miles Chamley-Watson) have been ranked numer one in the world.
113. Swimming – Women’s 200m Individual Medley
Maya DiRado is not like most Olympians. She started high school at 13, got a perfect score on the math portion of the SAT’s at 15, and started Stanford at 17. These are DiRado’s first Olympics and are also her last; she will retire and take a job with McKinsey after Rio. DiRado has a great chance of reaching the podium, though gold seems unlikely, with Hungary’s Katinka Hosszu a heavy favorite.
114. Track and Field – Men’s Pole Vault
I’m generally a fan of NBC’s Olympic telecast; they televise practically all relevant events and livestream everything, but it is field events like the pole vault that really get the short end of the antenna. If you want to watch judo on television at 9 a.m., it’s there for you on CNBC or Bravo, but if you want to watch the pole vault or the shot put with actual announcers, you are out of luck, outside of brief 30 second updates from Lewis Johnson between sprint heats. Free the pole vault, NBC.
115. Golf – Men’s
The Olympics clearly added golf with Tiger and Phil in mind, but were one quadrennial too late. In an attrition-filled event missing 35 of the world’s top-50 players, the U.S. team of Bubba Watson, Rickie Fowler, Patrick Reed, and Matt Kuchar contains half of the top-eight ranked participants. 2016 Masters Champion Danny Willett (Great Britain) and British Open winner Henrik Stenson (Sweden) are the other headliners.
116. Gymnastics – Women’s Individual Trampoline
China’s He Wenna won gold in Beijing 2008, but fell at the end of her routine in London and settled for bronze. Canadian Rosannagh Maclennan won gold at He’s expense and looks to repeat in Rio. Li Dan of China could be a factor as well.
117. Swimming – Women’s 100m Freestyle
Bronte Campbell (Australia) complains that she is the third fastest swimmer in the world, but only second best in her family. That could change in this race, a distance where she defeated big sister Cate at Worlds last year. Cate responded in typical older sibling fashion, by breaking the world record this year. And probably a noogie, too.
118. Track and Field – Men’s 10,000m
Mo Farah (Great Britain) is the defending Olympic and World champion, Yegrem Demalash (Ethiopia) is the world’s fastest in 2016. American Galen Rupp won silver in London and is also using this race as prep for the marathon, which he will run on the Games’ final day.
119. Archery – Women’s Team
This event has been contested seven times, with South Korea winning all seven. The Americans were the second seeded team in London but failed to qualify for Rio.
120. Diving – Women’s 3m Springboard
The Americans won this event the first eight times it was contested, and now China can match them with their eighth straight win on the springboard if returning silver medalist He Zi or Olympic rookie Shi Tingmao can pull through.
121. Handball – Men’s
Not only is this a rare event that the U.S. did not qualify for, the Americans did not even qualify for the North American qualification tournament. Apparently, calls for the U.S. to stack the roster with Tim Tebow and other failed NFL players were not heeded. Anyway, France is the world power in men’s handball, but Qatar is a serious gold medal contender. Germany and Denmark will also be in the mix for medals.
122. Swimming – Women’s 100m Butterfly
Dana Vollmer (USA) is the defending champion here, but the four-time gold medalist appears to be slipping. Sarah Sjostrom (Sweden) is a heavy favorite to win gold, while American Kelsi Worrell is also in the medal mix.
123. Boxing – Men’s Bantamweight (56 kg)
Michael Conlan of Ireland won bronze in 2012, and even though he is moving up a weight class here, gold looks like a possibility. Newark’s Shakur Stevenson is named after Tupac, and the 19-year old is probably the United States’ best shot at a men’s boxing medal.
124. Diving – Men’s Synchronized 10m Platform
David Boudia won bronze in this event in 2012, and returns with a new partner, the wonderfully named Steele Johnson. Johnson refused to quit the sport as a 12-year-old after hitting his head on the platform, falling 33 feet, and ripping his scalp in half when he hit the water.
125. Swimming – Men’s 200m Breaststroke
Americans Josh Prenot and Kevin Cordes will battle here with Germany’s Marco Koch and Briton Andrew Willis.
126. Wrestling – Men’s Freestyle 97 kg
The U.S. is so deep at 97 kg that defending gold medalist Jake Varner could not make it out of the Olympic Trials. Varner was defeated by 2015 world champion Kyle Snyder, who heads to Rio as the co-favorite with Russia’s Anzor Boltukayev.
Russia is so deep that Abdusalam Gadisov, who won Worlds in 2014 and lost a 5-5 gold medal match in 2015 to Snyder, was left off their team.
127. Handball – Women’s
Norway are the defending Olympic and Worlds champs. Other than host Brazil, only France, Sweden, and Argentina qualified for both men’s and women’s handball.
128. Swimming – Men’s 400m Freestyle
Sun Yang (China) is the biggest enigma in the Rio pool. He has not lost this distance in a major race since 2011, but he has struggled to match his best times recently and literally did not show up for his final race at last year’s Worlds. As in, they called his name and he wasn’t there. A controversy about Sun getting in some sort of an in-pool altercation with a female Brazilian swimmer ensued, though what actually happened is still vague. Anyway, he’s getting booed, if he manages to show up this time.
129. Track and Field – Women’s Triple Jump
Caterine Ibarguen of Colombia is the one to watch here. Newcomer Yulimar Rojas could be the first Venezuelan woman to win a gold medal. Same for Israel’s Hanna Knyazyeva-Minenko, who competed for Ukraine at the last Olympics.
130. Wrestling – Men’s Freestyle (65 kg)
Azerbaijan’s Togrul Asgarov won gold in London, but at 60 kg; these guys are much bigger. None of the 2012 medalists from London’s 66 kg are back, so this is the most wide open freestyle division in Rio. The favorite is probably reigning world champion Frank Chamizo, who used to compete for Cuba and now competes for Italy.
The U.S. is represented in this division by Frank Molinaro, who had an undefeated season at Penn State in 2012. Molinaro is not the only former All-American wrestler at 65 kg. Bulgaria’s Borislav Novachkov, also an American citizen, wrestled at Cal Poly San Luis Obispo.
131. Fencing – Women’s Team Sabre
Ibtihaj Muhammad will become the first American to compete wearing a hijab. Muhammad and Mariel Zagunis lead a U.S. team that is a real medal contender, though Russia, featuring a pair of top-five fencers in Sofiya Velikaya and Yana Egorian, is favored.
132. Boxing – Men’s Flyweight (52 kg)
Boxing at the London Olympics was plagued by scandal, particularly after a boxer from Azerbaijan was knocked down five times in a round, yet was still scored the winner of it. Reports surfaced that Azerbaijan paid $9 million for a guarantee of Olympic gold. While nothing was proven, in Rio Azerbaijan won’t have to pay anyone to win a gold medal. Elvin Mamishzada is the world champion, and has his eyes on the country’s first gold medal. Elsewhere, Britain’s Muhammad Ali will get lots of attention, definitely for his name, but he also might win a few matches in the ring.
133. Rowing – Men’s Coxed Eight
The U.S. has won this race 12 times, but missed out on a medal by three-tenths of a second in 2012. New Jersey-ite Stephen Kasprzyk is the only member of the eight to return.
134. Judo – Women’s Lightweight (57 kg)
American Marti Malloy won a shock bronze medal in 2012, but the road here is even more treacherous. Her competition includes the world number one, Mongolia’s Dorjsurengiin Sumiyaa, second-ranked Kim Jan-di of South Korea, 2012 gold medal winner Kaori Matsumoto of Japan, and Romania’s Corina Căprioriu, who won silver in London after beating Malloy in the semis.
135. Boxing – Men’s Heavyweight (91 kg)
Italy’s Clemente Russo has won silver at the past two Olympics, even defeating current WBC champion Deontay Wilder in the process. Russia’s Evgeny Tishchenko hopes to hand Russo his third straight silver medal.
136. Swimming – Women’s 200m Backstroke
Missy Franklin crushed the competition to win this gold in London, but she does not appear to be a medal factor, unless she greatly improves from June’s Olympic trials. Her American teammate Maya DiRado has a real shot at a medal, but it will most likely be bronze, behind Australian duo Emily Seebohm and Belinda Hocking.
137. Wrestling – Women’s Freestyle (63 kg)
American Elena Pirozhkova got beaten in her first match in London, but the Russian-born wrestler has won gold, silver, and bronze at World Championships since. This is by far the most wide-open division of women’s wrestling, so Pirozhkova could realistically win, but she’d need to get past wrestlers like Latvia’s Anastasija Grigorjeva, who thumped her at the 2012 Olympics.
138. Taekwondo – Men’s Welterweight (80 kg)
Steven Lopez (USA) won gold in 2000 and 2004, bronze in 2008, and lost in the first round in 2012. At 37, this is Lopez’s swan song, and even with another first round loss, he will go down as the Babe Ruth of American taekwondo. Iran’s Mahdi Khodabakhshi crushed Lopez 13-1 at last year’s World Championships.
139. Shooting – Men’s Skeet
Vincent Hancock (USA) is looking for this third straight gold medal in skeet. Egypt’s Azmy Mehelba finished in 36th of 36 shooters in London, but he is ranked fourth in the world now. Egypt has never won a medal in shooting.
140. Wrestling – Men’s Freestyle (57 kg)
Georgia has won 25 Olympic medals, 15 of them in wrestling. Vladimer Khinchegashvili stands to make it 16 of 26 here, with gold likely. His main competition is Iran’s Hassan Rahimi.
141. Men’s Field Hockey
Germany has won the previous two gold medals. Australia won gold in 2004. Besides that, they’ve taken bronze at every Olympics since Atlanta. The Netherlands, which have won a medal in this event at every Olympics since 1984, and India, once a giant in the sport but who haven’t won a medal since 1980, also figure to be contenders.
142. Track and Field – Men’s Discus
Piotr Malachowski of Poland might be short for a discus thrower at 6'4”, but he is the best at what he does, as the defending world champion and the world number one this year. Malachowski’s top competition in Rio might be a pair of German brothers, Robert (6'7”) and Christoph Harting (6'9”).
143. Shooting – Women’s Trap
Ten different countries have won women’s trap medals in the four times it has been held. There is a good chance that number will be increased, as the world’s top-ranked trap shooter is Ray Bassil of Lebanon, a country that has never won a gold medal. Bassil can also become the first Lebanese woman to win a medal of any kind…..
Alaskan Corey Cogdell won bronze in 2008—she is married to Chicago Bears DE Mitch Unrein.
144. Boxing – Women’s Flyweight (51 kg)
All three female boxing gold winners from London are returning to defend their crowns. Flyweight Nicola Adams (Great Britain) could have the toughest road of the trio, with silver medal winner Ren Cancan of China and Thailand’s Peamwilai Laopeam in her way. There is no American at this weight class; Marlen Esparza won bronze in London, but was stunned at U.S. Olympic trials.
145. Swimming – Women’s 200m Breaststroke
This is really the only race in the pool where Team USA has no chance of winning a medal. Top contenders are world record holder Rikke Pedersen (Denmark) and 2016's fastest woman, Rie Kaneto (Japan).
146. Gymnastics – Women’s Rhythmic Individual All-Around
Neither gymnast from Russia’s gold-silver finish in London returns, but they are just as loaded as 2012. Yana Kudryavtseva, known as the Crystal Statuette, is a massive favorite to win gold, while Margarita Mamun should help Russia finish one-two again.
147. Track and Field – Women’s 1500m
Ethiopia’s Genzebe Dibaba was eliminated in the first round of this event in London. Three years later, Dibaba set the world record in 2015, running a ludicrous 3:50.07, over 20 seconds faster than the gold medal winning time from London 2012. She’s definitely making it out of the first round this time.
148. Diving – Women’s Synchronized 3m Springboard
China’s Wu Minxia looks to win this event for the fourth consecutive Olympics. The Americans did not qualify a team in this event.
149. Boxing – Men’s Light Welterweight (64 kg)
Like many London boxing medalists, 2012 light welterweight champ Roniel Iglesias moved up a weight class, opening up a spot for Cuban countryman Yasniel Toledo, who is moving up from lightweight after winning bronze in London. Maryland high school valedictorian Gary Antuanne Russell is the brother of 2008 Olympic boxer Gary Russell. In fact, all five Russell brothers are named Gary, after their father and trainer, Gary Sr.
150. Track and Field – Women’s Javelin
Barbara Spotakova (Czech Republic) looks to win her third straight gold medal. The American women are not medal threats here.
151. Track and Field – Men’s Javelin
The most interesting part of watching the javelin is watching the people who collect the javelins after throws nearly get impaled by a misfired javelin. Seriously, there are tons of close calls and it is going to happen one of these days, and then the whole javelin event will be cancelled. If that doesn’t happen in Rio, then Germany’s Thomas Rohler should win gold.
152. Fencing – Women’s Individual Foil
How good is the Italian women’s foil team? Valentina Vezzali took silver in Atlanta in 1996, followed that up with three golds, and then a bronze in 2012. She is the Michael Jordan of fencing. At age 42, Vezzali is still ranked 18th in the world. But she retired in May; 18th isn’t good enough to get you a spot on the Italian Olympic foil team. Italy is still in great shape, though. Arriana Errigo, who beat Vezzali in the London semis, is number one in the world. She and countrywoman Elisa Di Francisca, who beat Errigo to win gold in London, could meet in the gold medal match again.
153. Synchronized Swimming – Women’s Duet
Natalia Ishchenko and Svetlana Romashina look to win their second straight gold in the duet, while giving Russia its fifth gold in five tries since it was reintroduced to the Games.
154. Diving – Men’s 3m Springboard
Russia’s Ilya Zakharov took a rare gold away from China in 2012, and returns to defend his title. His main competition: China’s He Chao, who defeated Zakharov at last year’s World Championships.
155. Wrestling – Men’s Greco-Roman 75 kg
Mark Madsen (the wrestler, not to be confused with the former Lakers benchwarmer and now Lakers assistant coach) took silver at the 2013 and 2015 Worlds, taking time off in-between to win his first two MMA fights. Denmark has never won a gold medal in wrestling, unless you count the 1906 Intercalated Games, which the IOC does not. That streak will likely continue, as Russia’s Roman Vlasov beat Madsen 6-0 in last year’s Worlds final and is the favorite. American Andy Bisek could win a medal, likely bronze.
156. Tennis – Mixed Doubles
Max Mirnyi and Victoria Azarenka won gold in London for Belarus, but Azarenka announced she was pregnant three weeks before Rio.
Bill Simmons has been saying this for years, but it is insane that all medals are created equal. You get the same gold medal for winning four mixed doubles matches that you do for winning the marathon or an entire soccer tournament. Mixed doubles is so irrelevant outside the Olympics that if you offered Rafa Nadal or Novak Djokovic $3 million to play in the mixed doubles tournament at Wimbledon, they would turn you down. Even the top doubles players, like the Bryan brothers, don’t play it.
157. Fencing – Women’s Individual Épée
Sisters Courtney and Kelly Hurley won bronze in the team event in London. Kelly hopes to add another medal to the family trophy case before going off to medical school. There is a possibility the Houston-based sisters could face each other in the singles competition. Courtney is ranked higher, but big sister Kelly leads the head-to-head matchup, three to two.
158. Judo – Men’s Half-Middleweight (81 kg)
Avtandili Tchrikishvili of Georgia is ranked number one at 81 kg. American Travis Stevens, who started practicing judo after watching The Karate Kid, is ranked fifth and actually beat Tchrikishvili at the London Olympics. Japan’s Takanori Nagase and Canada’s Antoine Valois-Fortier are contenders here.
159. Boxing – Men’s Super Heavyweight (over 91 kg)
Reigning world champion Tony Yoka (France) has the worst nickname in boxing history, “The Artist”. Other contenders include the bronze medalists from London: Ivan Dychko (Kazakhstan) and Mahommedrasul Majidov (Azerbaijan).
160. Shooting – Men’s 50m Rifle Prone
This event has the most parity in Olympic shooting, as the past seven gold medals have been won by seven different nations: Czechoslovakia, South Korea, Germany, Sweden, United States, Ukraine, and Belarus. In a competition where none of the three London medalists return, the best bets to extend that streak may be Australia’s Warren Potent and Brazil’s Cassio Rippel.
161. Track and Field – Women’s 5000m
Take it to the bank: The top six finishers in this race will all be from Ethiopia and Kenya. Ethiopia’s Almaz Ayana is the heavy favorite.
162. Boxing – Men’s Middleweight (75 kg)
Cuba’s Arlen Lopez only lost one round en route to a world title last year. Eighteen-year-old Charles Conwell of Cleveland is the youngest boxer on the U.S. team. Campbell is also the largest boxer on the U.S. team, which did not qualify fighters in the top three weight classes.
163. Shooting – Men’s 25m Rapid Fire Pistol
Cuba’s Leuris Pupo failed to make the final at three straight Olympics, before finally making it and winning gold in 2012. Prior to representing the U.S., Emil Milev used to shoot for Bulgaria, winning silver for them ... in 1996. This will be Milev’s sixth Olympics.
164. Track and Field – Women’s Discus
“A girl should be two things: CLASSY and FABULOUS.” So says Sandra Perkovic’s Instagram bio, at least. Perkovic, who crushed the field to win gold in London, and is expected to do the same in Brazil, is also a member of the Croatian Parliament. Seriously, if you have any complaints about how things are going in Zagreb, send her a fax at: + 385 1 6303 398.
165. Boxing – Men’s Lightweight (60 kg)
Cuba’s Lázaro Álvarez took bronze in London at bantamweight, then moved up to lightweight where he’s won the past two World Championships. Carlos Balderas, who has been boxing since he was seven (he’s now 19), has an outside chance at a medal.
166. Swimming – Men’s 1500m Freestyle
The 1500 is swimming’s most boring race. That being said, it is asinine that the men swim 1500 as their longest distance, while the women swim 800. Pretty sure the women could handle the extra 700 meters, especially since Katie Ledecky’s best time at this distance—women swim it at the World Championships—would have beaten over 1/3 of the men in the 2012 Olympics.
167. Cycling, Track – Women’s Team Pursuit
Great Britain’s Laura Trott and America’s Sarah Hammer lead the teams vying for gold. The U.S. won the battle at this year’s Worlds, but Hammer’s four teammates have no Olympic experience.
168. Shooting – Men’s Double Trap
Houston’s Glenn Eller finished 22nd out of 23 shooters in 2012, after winning gold in Beijing. Both he and Josh Richmond of Pennsylvania are ranked in the top ten in the world.
169. Diving – Men’s Synchronized 3m Springboard
In 2004, Peng Bo and Wang Kenan botched their final dive, earning zero points and finishing in last place. In the three Olympics since, Chinese divers have earned medals in all 24 diving events. Cao Yuan and Qin Kai look to continue that streak here.
170. Diving – Women’s Synchronized 10m Platform
China is 4-for-4 all-time in this event, and Chen Ruolin, who is also 4-for-4 in her Olympic career, hopes to keep both streaks intact.
171. Boxing – Men’s Light Heavyweight (81 kg)
Ireland’s Joe Ward has lost to Cuba’s Julio Cesar La Cruz in the finals of the past two World Championships, and Cruz won another world championship before that, too. Somehow he was stunned in the quarterfinals of London.
172. Cycling, Track – Women’s Omnium
Californian Sarah Hammer won two silvers in 2012, and after winning two world titles since London she is confident she will win her first gold. But Great Britain’s Laura Trott looms large. Trott defeated Hammer to win gold in London, and beat her at Worlds in March.
173. Shooting – Women’s 25m Pistol
Nino Salukvadze won two medals for the Soviet Union in 1988 and now competes for Georgia, adding a bronze in Beijing. Enkelejda Shehu competed for Albania in 1992 and 1996, but now competes for the U.S. The top contenders here are defending gold medalist South Korea’s Kim Jang-mi and world number one Zhang Jingjing, of China.
174. Taekwondo – Women’s Featherweight (57 kg)
Defending champion Jade “Head Hunter” Jones of Great Britain earned the nickname because of her proclivity to kick opponents in their heads. Also, she kind of is a head-hunter, since she helps people find jobs ... in other fields, since they can’t beat her at taekwondo.
175. Weightlifting – Women’s 63 kg
Each country only gets a certain amount of weightlifting slots to divvy out, so some lifters like Deng Wei can get left home, even if they are world champions. After missing out on London, Wei earned one of China’s precious spots for 2016 after winning her third world title, and her stiffest competition will be world record holder Lin Tzu-chi of Chinese Taipei, or as you probably know it, Taiwan.
176. Gymnastics – Women’s Rhythmic Group All-Around
Belarus is probably the strongest contender to Russia’s dominance in this event. Russia topped Belarus in 2012, but neither squad returns a single gymnast from four years ago.
177. Shooting – Women’s 10m Air Pistol
Guo Wenjun of China won air pistol gold in 2008 and 2012. Ukraine’s Olena Kostevych is the 2004 gold medalist, and she’s now ranked number one in the world.
178. Weightlifting – Women’s 53 kg
Chinese Taipei’s Hsu Shu-ching won the gold medal in London … she thinks. Zulfiya Chinshanlo of Kazakhstan lifted more than Hsu, but she is expected to soon be stripped of the medal for steroid violations. Hsu’s world title from 2015 is not in dispute, and she is the favorite heading into Rio.
179. Track and Field – Men’s Marathon
Kenya is so deep that Dennis Kipruto Kimetto set the world record less than two years ago and did not even make this team. In total, Kenya had 427 qualified marathoners to choose from. Ghirmay Ghebreslassie from Eritrea is the defending world champion, but this race is impossible to predict.
180. Boxing – Men’s Light Flyweight (49 kg)
Paddy Barnes of Ireland hopes to upgrade his bronze medals from Beijing and London into gold. Cuba’s Joahnys Argilagos, the 2015 world champion, is a gold medal threat. Kansan Nico Hernandez is not a medal threat.
181. Shooting – Men’s Trap
Italy’s Giovanni Pellielo missed the final in London by one target after winning silver or bronze in Sydney, Athens, and Beijing. This is the only shooting event which the U.S. did not qualify for.
182. Triathlon – Women’s
American Gwen Jorgenson, a former accountant, got a flat tire in London during the bike portion of the triathlon, and finished 38th. Now, Jorgensen, who had a string of 13 straight elite triathlon race wins snapped earlier this year, enters the Olympics as world champion and Olympic favorite.
183. Weightlifting – Women’s 48 kg
Hou Zhihui has never competed in a major world event, but the 210 kg she managed to lift at the Chinese Nationals can’t be touched by anyone in this competition. Japan’s Hiromi Miyake won bronze in London, making her the third weightlifting medalist in her family, after her father and uncle.
184. Shooting – Women’s 50m Rifle Three Positions
Germany’s Jolyn Beer is ranked second in the world but did not make the Olympic team. Ranked first in the word is Snježana Pejcic, who did make her team and can become the first Croatian woman to win shooting gold.
185. Taekwondo – Men’s Heavyweight (over 80 kg)
Jasur Baykuziyev is the number two heavyweight in the world but he’s not going to Rio. That’s because Baykuziyev is from Uzbekistan, and so is the number one heavyweight, Dmitriy Shokin. This would be Uzbekistan’s first taekwondo medal.
186. Rowing – Women’s Quadruple Sculls
Megan Kalmoe and Adrienne Martelli return from the American foursome that won bronze in London. If the U.S. women win gold, like they did at 2015 Worlds, it would be the first rowing gold for American women outside of the eights.
187. Weightlifting – Men’s 85 kg
China’s Tian Tao is the biggest enigma in weightlifting right now. In three World Championships, he has failed to finish twice and taken sixth place the one time he did. But, in April, Tian reportedly broke the world record (unofficially) at the Chinese National Championships.
While people may be skeptical, China does not send weightlifters to the Olympics unless they are gold medal threats. If Tian flops, Kianoush Rostami of Iran, a world champion who won bronze in London, could pick up the gold.
188. Shooting – Men’s 50m Pistol
South Korea’s Jin Jong-oh is the world record holder, and after earning silver in 2004, has won the last two golds. Jitu Rai was born in Nepal, but competes for India. If Rai can upset Jin to win gold, it would only be India’s second gold medal since 1980.
189. Wrestling – Women’s Freestyle 48 kg
Japan’s Eri Tosaka is the three-time defending world champion. Between the Summer and Winter Olympics, the Netherlands has won nearly 400 medals, but none have come from wrestling. Jessica Blaszka, bronze medal winner at 2015 Worlds, can be the first.
190. Fencing – Women’s Team Épée
Team China, led by top-ranked Xu Anqi, are defending Olympic and World champions. The Americans women, starring the Hurley sisters, Courtney and Kelly, won bronze in London, but the rest of their roster, particularly Katarzyna Trzopek, is a concern at this level.
191. Rowing – Women’s Single Sculls
Ekaterina Karsten has been competing in the Olympics for longer than her native Belarus has. After winning bronze as part of the Unified Team in 1992's quadruple skulls competition, she switched to solo competition under the Belarusan flag, taking gold in 1996 and 2000, silver in 2004, and bronze in 2008, before falling to fifth in 2012. The American in this event, Genevra Stone, is a doctor, having completed Tufts Medical School.
192. Cycling, Track – Men’s Team Sprint
Phillip Hindes caused a stir in London when he admitted to intentionally crashing to force a race restart, when Great Britain got off to a slow start. With new life, the Britons went on to win gold. Hindes and Jason Kenny return to defend gold in Rio, with Jamie Staff replacing legendary Chris Hoy. France has a won a medal every time this event has been contested.
193. Synchronized Swimming – Women’s Team
The U.S. won the inaugural version of this event in Atlanta, but have now failed to qualify for the second straight Olympics. Russia, which has won every gold since, should claim their fifth straight title.
194. Wrestling – Women’s Freestyle (69 kg)
They’re probably both out of the gold medal picture, but watch out if Egypt’s Enas Mostafa and Israel’s Ilana Kratysh square off. Mostafa was suspended for allegedly biting Kratysh’s back during a 2013 match, and refused to shake hands afterwards.
The actual gold medal contest will be between Russia’s Natalia Vorobieva and China’s Zhou Feng. Vorobieva won gold in London.
195. Rowing – Men’s Coxless Four
Great Britain could win this event for a fifth straight Olympics, but Italy is the reigning world champion. The American team—featuring Henrik Rummel and Charlie Cole from the bronze-winning 2012 squad, plus newcomers Seth Weil and Matt Miller—could contend.
196. Wrestling – Men’s Freestyle (86 kg)
Abdulrashid “The Russian Tank” Sadulaev has won every tournament he has entered since 2014. His closest match at last year’s Worlds was a 6-2 win in the semifinals. The honor of losing to the Tank in the finals should go to Turkey’s Selim Yasar or Cuba’s Reineris Salas.
197. Taekwondo – Women’s Flyweight (49 kg)
China’s Wu Jingyu stands to become the first person with three gold medals in taekwondo. In London, Wu won her matches by scores of 10-2, 14-0, 19-7, and 8-1.
198. Cycling, Track – Men’s Team Pursuit
Great Britain, which won this race in 2008 and 2012, is led by Bradley Wiggins, who is looking to win a medal for the fifth straight Olympics. Their chief competitor is Australia, the only non-European nation to ever win the team pursuit.
199. Rowing – Women’s Double Sculls
Great Britain’s Katherine Grainger returns with a new partner, Victoria Thornley. After winning silvers in Sydney, Athens, and Beijing in quadruple sculls and coxless pair, Grainger switched to double sculls for London and struck gold.
200. Boxing – Men’s Welterweight (69 kg)
Morocco, which has only ever won medals in track and boxing, has a chance to win its first boxing gold behind Mohammed Rabii.
201. Cycling, Track – Women’s Keirin
Australia’s Anna Meares, who won sprint bronze in 2004, silver in 2008, and gold in 2012, hopes to add keirin gold to her five Olympic medals.
202. Judo – Women’s Half-Lightweight (52 kg)
Majlinda Kelmendi, who was forced by the IOC to compete for Albania in 2012, is a heavy favorite for gold, which would be Kosovo’s first medal, in its inaugural Olympics. American Angelica Delgado is verified on Twitter, but only has 490 followers as of this typing.
203. Fencing – Men’s Team Épée
This event was not contested in 2012. One of the bizarre aspects of Olympic fencing is that only two of the three fencing disciplines get to have a team event each Olympics. One of the three, this year men’s sabre and women’s foil get rotated out. It’s as if staging another event for fencers, most of whom are already there, would be a major undertaking for the Olympics. It also means that fans only get one chance to see certain star fencers like American Mariel Zagunis, who had no team saber event in 2012.
204. Weightlifting – Men’s 94 kg
Kendrick Farris is the only American male weightlifter in Rio. U.S. men have won 41 weightlifting medals, but none since 1984. Farris finished eigth in 2008 and 10th in 2012; he is not a medal hopeful, but he did go vegan in 2014.
Also not a medal hopeful is world record holder and two-time defending gold medalist Ilya Ilyan (Kazakhstan), who has moved up to 105 kg and was banned for steroids in June.
Without Ilyan, the weight class is a mess. None of the top eight finishers from London will be in Rio. Vadim Stralsou of Belarus came out of nowhere to win the world title by a wide margin in 2015.
205. Cycling, Track – Men’s Omnium
American Booby Lea had a drug suspension reduced to be allowed to compete in Rio. Lasse Norman Hansen (Denmark), who won gold in London, the first time this event was held, returns. Also racing is Mark Cavendish (Great Britain). Best known for his Tour de France sprinting prowess. Cavendish has won world titles in track and road cycling, but never an Olympic medal.
206. Judo – Women’s Extra-Lightweight (48 kg)
Brazilian Sarah Menezes won gold in London, but world number one, Monkhbatyn Urantsetseg of Mongolia, has plans to ruin her homecoming. Menezes did upset Monkhbatyn when they faced off in December.
207. Rowing – Men’s Coxless Pair
New Zealand’s Hamish Bond and Eric Murray have won every major title since 2009. American Nareg Guregian (teaming with Anders Weiss here) is engaged to women’s eight rower Katelin Snyder. She is probably going to come home with gold, while Guregian will be lucky to have his own Wikipedia page when he gets home.
208. Cycling, Track – Men’s Keirin
Great Britain’s Chris Hoy, who won this race in Beijing and London, has retired. Azizulhasni Awang, nicknamed the “Pocket Rocket Man” for his small stature, took bronze at the past two Worlds, and has a chance to win Malaysia’s first cycling medal and first gold in any Olympic event.
209. Judo – Men’s Half-heavyweight (100 kg)
Every Olympics, I get excited to watch some judo match, and then remember that the rules are completely impenetrable to the layman. I wasn’t even really a layman—I’ve gotten paid to watch judo—and I still don’t quite understand all the rules. You know who knows the rules? The Netherlands’ Henk Grol. He’s won bronze at the last two Olympics, but has a real chance to turn that into gold here.
210. Wrestling – Men’s Freestyle 125 kg
Turkey’s Taha Akgul outscored opponents 41-3 on the way to winning the 2015 world title. Other contenders are Russia’s Bilyal Makhov, who beat Akgul in London, and Jamaladdin Magomedov of Azerbaijan.
211. Rowing – Men’s Quadruple Sculls
The German team returns three of four rowers from the team that won gold in London. Another contender, Australia, returns zero from their bronze medal group.
212. Cycling, Track – Men’s Individual Sprint
Great Britain’s Jason Kenny won gold in London after taking silver in Beijing, in addition to winning gold in both team sprints.
213. Judo – Women’s Heavyweight (over 78 kg)
This is a two-woman race between 2012 champion Idalys Ortiz of Cuba and China’s Yu Song. Somehow, the two have only faced off twice in eight years together in the sport (each won once.)
214. Rowing – Men’s Single Sculls
All three medalists from London return: Mahe Drysdale (New Zealand, gold) Ondrej Synek (Czech Republic, silver) Alan Campbell (Great Britain, bronze.) No American qualified for this event, which they have been shut out in since 1956.
215. Cycling, Road – Men’s Road Race
This is the only individual Olympic event where a country can send as many as five athletes to compete. It’s also a strange event where someone like Great Britain’s Chris Froome can finish 109th at the last Olympics and be considered a gold medal contender in Rio.
216. Shooting – Women’s 10m Air Rifle
The winner of this event—I’ll predict Andrea Arsovic of Serbia—will be the first gold medalist of Rio 2016. At NBC, the word medalist is okay, but the phrase ‘to medal’ is verboten; it is not to be used as a verb. But I think we’re cool here.
217. Judo – Men’s Middleweight (90 kg)
This is probably the judo weight class with the most parity: Japan’s Mashu Baker is ranked number one, but he faces stiff challenges from South Korea’s Gawk Dong-han, Hungary’s Krisztián Tóth, Sweden’s Marcus Nyman, and Georgia’s Varlam Liparteliani.
218. Taekwondo – Women’s Heavyweight (over 67 kg)
A staggering 75 of the 206 countries that participate in the Olympics have never won a single medal. Cambodia, which has a population of over 15 million, is on the list. In fact, Sorn Seavmey, competing in this weight class, became the first ever Cambodian to actually qualify for the Olympics. All previous Cambodian Olympians received special invites set aside for athletes from countries which otherwise couldn’t send an Olympic delegation. Seavmey, ranked 33rd, probably won’t win Cambodia’s first medal, but the country is headed in the right direction.
219. Rowing – Women’s Coxless Pair
Great Britain’s Heather Stanning and Helen Glover last lost a race in 2011. Since then they have become Olympic, world and European champions. Stanning, now a major in the British army, has done a tour in Afghanistan.
220. Cycling, Road – Men’s Time Trial
American Taylor Phinney hopes to improve upon his London experience, when he finished a brutal fourth in both the road race and the time trial.
221. Wrestling – Men’s Greco-Roman 98 kg
Iran’s Ghasem Rezaei won gold in London, but lately he has run into the buzzsaw known as Artur Aleksanyan. Rezaei actually beat Aleksanyan at the Olympics en route to victory, but the Armenian defeated Rezaei in the semis of the World Championships in 2014, then the finals in 2015. Round four may be coming in Rio.
222. Track and Field – Men’s Hammer Throw
Make sure you pick Poland’s Pawel Fajdek in your Olympic Pools. With 2016's top ten throws, he is an overwhelming favorite.
223. Weightlifting – Women’s Over 75 kg
Russia’s Tatiana Kashirina was probably the biggest lock of the entire weightlifting competition to win gold. No one in the Rio field came within 35 kg of her at the World Championships. But with the banning of the entire Russian weightlifting team, Kashirina will miss out on an impossibly easy gold medal. Between Kashirina’s absence and China not selecting any weightlifters for this division, this is really no longer an Olympic-caliber event. North Korea’s Kim Kuk-hyang should win an uninspiring gold.
Sarah Robles of the U.S. finished sixth at 2015 Worlds. Holley Mangold, Nick’s sister, also competed in this weight class in London, but did not qualify for Rio.
224. Cycling, Track – Women’s Team Sprint
Anna Meares will start her Olympics as Australia’s flag-bearer in the opening ceremony. If she and teammate Stephanie Morton make the podium in the team sprint, she could walk into the closing ceremonies with eight career Olympic medals.
225. Track and Field – Women’s Marathon
This race features a set of Estonian triplets, Leila, Liina, and Lily Luik. They are not medal contenders, but you will hear much more about them than anyone who might potentially win the race. The favorites you won’t hear much about include Mare Dibaba of Ethiopia and Kenyans Helah Kiprop and Jemima Sumgong.
226. Wrestling – Men’s Greco-Roman 59 kg
Iran’s Hamid Sourian was the favorite, having won gold in London, plus six world titles, but a neck injury has put his Olympic status in doubt. The beneficiary could be Azerbaijan’s Rovshan Bayramov, silver medalist at the last two games. If Sourian and Bayramov do meet, expect bad blood: Sourian was disqualified from the last World Championships for head-butting Bayramov.
227. Cycling, Road – Women’s Time Trial
American Kristin Armstrong, who has now come out of retirement twice, is aiming to win this race for a third consecutive Olympics. It would be a great birthday present to herself; she turns 43 the day after the race.
228. Weightlifting – Women’s 75 kg
Rim Jong-Sim of North Korea has a chance to win back-to-back golds in different weight classes. She finished second at the 2015 Worlds, but gold went to a Chinese lifter not competing in Rio and bronze went to a banned lifter from Kazakhstan…..American Jenny Arthur finished 7th at Worlds.
229. Wrestling – Men’s Greco-Roman 85 kg
Ukraine has won six wrestling medals at the past two Olympics, but none of them gold. The man most likely to change that is Zhan Beleniuk, whose father was killed in the Rwandan Civil War when he was a toddler.
American Ben Provisor is out for redemption after losing in the round of 16 in London.
230. Badminton – Women’s Singles
China has won gold in women’s singles at the last four Olympics, but Spain’s Carolina Marin stands in their way. Marin, the two-time defending world champion, is looking to win Spain’s first badminton medal. Her chief rivals are Thailand’s Ratchanok Intanon, plus the Chinese duo of Li Xuerui and Wang Yihan, who won gold and silver, respectively, in London. The U.S. will be represented by Iris Wang, ranked 33rd in the world.
231. Fencing – Men’s Individual Épée
This is by far the weakest fencing event for the U.S. Their only entrant, Jason Pryor, is ranked 24th. The top épée fencer is France’s Gauthier Grumier, who has four golds at world championships, but lost in the first round in London. Grumier’s toughest competition is world champion Géza Imre of Hungary.
232. Rowing – Women’s Lightweight Double Sculls
Probably the most wide-open race of the women’s rowing program, contenders include British duo Charlotte Taylor and Katherine Copeland—Copeland won gold with a different partner in London—New Zealand world champs Sophie MacKenzie and Julia Edward, plus China’s Pan Feihong and Huang Wenyi, who won silver with a different partner in London.
233. Badminton – Men’s Singles
Denmark is the only non-Asian country to ever win a men’s badminton medal. That drought is almost certain to continue. The world’s top three players are the three London medalists Lin Dan (China, gold), Lee Chong Wei (Malaysia, silver), and Chen Long (China, bronze).
234. Wrestling – Men’s Greco-Roman 66 kg
The past eight winners at this weight class have come from eight different nations. Germany’s Frank Staebler could make it 9-for-9; he won 2015 Worlds in Vegas. Iran has also never won this weight class; Omid Norouzi won gold at 60 kg in 2012, but he had to move up in weight, after the men’s classifications were consolidated in favor of adding extra women’s weight classes.
235. Shooting – Men’s 10m Air Rifle
Italy’s Niccolo Campriani won silver here and gold in the 50-meter air pistol in 2012. Surprisingly, he is not even the only member of the Italian Olympic team to have attended West Virginia University; Petra Zublasing did too.
India’s Gagan Narang was a surprise bronze medalist in London, as he didn’t place in the top eight in his six other Olympic competitions.
236. Taekwondo – Men’s Featherweight (68 kg)
Taekwondo is both the most diverse sport in the Olympics and the sport with the most parity. Thirty-two countries have won medals in just four Olympics. Look, for instance, at the countries of origin for the featherweight top seven: Belgium, South Korea, Mexico, Russia, Turkey, Spain, Iran. The top 20 also includes athletes from Azerbaijan, Tunisia, Poland, Portugal, Canada, and Egypt.
237. Badminton – Mixed Doubles
China swept all five badminton gold medals in London, and Zhang Nan and Zhao Yunlei return to defend their mixed doubles gold. British pair Chris and Gabby Adcock are married.
238. Judo – Men’s Half-Lightweight (66 kg)
Japan’s Masashi Ebinuma is the only returning medalist here from 2012; the gold and silver medal winners both moved up weight classes. Unlike with boxing and the UFC, I can’t endorse moving up weight classes in judo unless you absolutely can’t make weight. It’s not like you get a bigger medal if you win gold at middleweight vs. lightweight. I’m not the type of person who plays video games on the easiest mode, but if it was my job to beat video games, I definitely would.
239. Shooting – Men’s 10m Air Pistol
Pang Wei won gold in 2008, but finished fourth in this event in London, snapping China’s streak of winning a medal at every Olympic air pistol competition since it was introduced at the 1988 Games. American Will Brown had to beat out his brother Wyatt and his father Dan at the Olympic Trials to make the team.
240. Badminton – Women’s Doubles
In 2012, for the first time ever, China failed to win at least two of the women’s doubles medals when one of their teams—along with both South Korean duos and an Indonesian pair—was thrown out of the competition for “tanking.” They were accused of throwing matches to try to get an easier matchup in medal rounds. One of the accused, Yu Yang, returns and will try to get back on the podium, having won gold in Beijing. Japan’s Ayaka Takahashi and Misai Matsutomo are the top-ranked team. American pair Eva Lee and Paula Lynn Obanana are the lowest ranked team.
241. Sailing – Women’s 49erFX
This is the debut event for women’s 49erFX. The U.S. team of Paris Henken and Helena Scutt has been through more than most teams. In their first World Championships together, Scutt fractured her spine during a race. Now, Scutt is dating Henken’s older brother Hans.
242. Badminton – Men’s Doubles
Indonesia is the fourth most populous country on earth, yet in 2012 it failed to win a gold medal. (Though neither did India, the second most populous country on Earth.) Indonesia’s brightest hope in 2016 is the team of Hendra Setiawan and Mohammad Ahsan. Setiawan won gold in 2008, but his partner Markis Kido dropped out of London 2012 at the last minute due to undisclosed “personal problems.” Setiawan teamed up with the younger Ahsan in 2013 and they are now the world’s number two team, behind South Korea’s Lee Yong-dae and Yoo Yeon-seong. The U.S. team of Sattawat Pongnairat and Phillip Chew is seeded 15th of 16 teams.
243. Sailing – Women’s Laser Radial
Eight of the top nine finishers from London return for this event. American Paige Railey is one of the returnees, she finished eighth in 2012. Her brother Zach won a sailing medal in Beijing. China’s Xu Lijia has seen larger obstacles than trying to repeat as Olympic champion; she is practically blind in her left eye, has major hearing problems, and missed the Athens Olympics when a tumor was discovered in her knee.
244. Canoe Sprint – Men’s Canoe Double 1000m
Brazil has never won a medal in canoeing, but Isaquias Queiroz and Erlon Silva are favored to win gold in Rio.
245. Canoe Sprint – Women’s Kayak Single 500m
Maggie Hogan is the only American to qualify for a canoe sprint. Hogan, now 37, first started in the sport when she was 26. She works for GE, in the wreck repair department. Hungary’s Danuta Kozak won this race in 2012, she was also part of the K-4 gold medal team.
246. Canoe Sprint – Men’s Kayak Double 200m
Alexander Dyachenko and Yury Postrigay won the debut version of this event in London. Hungary’s Sándor Totka and Peter Molnar are strong contenders, also.
247. Canoe Sprint – Men’s Canoe Single 1000m
Germany’s Sebastian Brendel has followed up his gold medal in London by winning five more world championships.
248. Canoe Sprint – Women’s Kayak Four 500m
Hungary ended Germany’s K-4 gold medal streak at four in London. The last country to win this event other than Hungary or Germany no longer exists (East Germany).
249. Canoe Sprint – Women’s Kayak Single 200m
New Zealand’s Lisa Carrington is the defending champion, she also won the 200-500 double at 2015 Worlds.
250. Canoe Sprint – Men’s Kayak Single 1000m
Adam van Koeverden, who has been Canada’s flag-bearer in both opening and closing ceremonies, has won medals at the past three Olympics.
251. Canoe Slalom – Men’s Kayak Single
Michal Smolen, who took bronze at last year’s Worlds, could become the first ever American K-1 medalist. Born in Poland, Smolen, was not eligible to compete for the U.S. in London due to citizenship issues.
252. Cycling, Track – Women’s Individual Sprint
Kristina Vogel is a German police officer when she’s not entering Olympic races as the favorite. Vogel won gold in the team sprint in London.
253. Sailing – Men’s RS:X
Nick Dempsey (Great Britain), who won silver in London, reportedly left his wife, sailor Sarah Ayton—who won golds in 2004 and 2008—for her competitor Sarah Mills, who also took silver in London.
254. Canoe Sprint – Men’s Kayak Single 200m
Great Britain’s Liam Heath has won six Olympic and world medals, but never gold.
255. Table Tennis – Men’s Singles
China’s Zhang Jike won gold in London but compatriot Ma Long is now number one in the world. An all-China final likely looms for the third consecutive Olympics. Germany’s Dimitrij Ovtcharov, ranked fifth, is the top ranked non-Chinese player in the world. At 16-years-old, Kanak Jha is the youngest member of the entire U.S. Olympic roster. If you want to feel old, he was born in the 2000s.
256. Cycling, Road – Women’s Road Race
This is a very deep race that includes all three medalists from Rio: Marianne Vos (Netherlands, gold), Lizzie Armitstead (Great Britain, silver), Olga Zabelinskaya (Russia, bronze)
257. Canoe Sprint – Men’s Kayak Four 1000m
Half of Australia’s gold medal team from London returns in Murray Stewart and Jacob Clear, who are now joined by Lachlan Tame and Ken Wallace.
258. Swimming – Women’s 10km Open Water
In 2008, France’s Aurelie Muller finished 21st of 25 swimmers in the inaugural Olympic swimming marathon. In 2012, Muller did not even qualify for the race. Now, she stands as the favorite to win gold in Rio. American Haley Anderson hopes to improve on her silver medal finish in London.
259. Table Tennis – Women’s Team
Chinese women have won 13 of the 14 available gold medals in table tennis since the sport was introduced to the Olympics in 1988. Japan, with two of the top seven players in the world, is a serious favorite for silver.
260. Rowing – Men’s Coxless Lightweight Four
The Swiss team that won gold at last year’s Worlds is intact. The American men have only ever won one lightweight rowing medal, a bronze in 1996.
261. Canoe Sprint – Women’s Kayak Double 500m
Tina Dietze and Franziska Weber of Germany are back to defend their title. They will also be part of the K-4 team again, where they won silver in London.
262. Table Tennis – Women’s Singles
China’s Liu Shiwen is ranked first in the world, but was not selected for this event; Li Xiaoxia and Ding Ning were chosen instead. Li defeated Ding in the gold medal match in London. Singapore’s Feng Tianwei, who took bronze in London, is actually ranked higher (fourth) than Li (fifth).
263. Weightlifting – Men’s 69 kg
This is how deep China is at the 69 kg weight class. They have 2012 gold medalist Lin Qingfeng. They have the 2008 gold medalist Liao Hui, who just set the world record less than two years ago. But neither of those champions will be in Rio, because they found a new golden boy at 69 kg—Shi Zhiyong, the 2015 world champion.
264. Canoe Slalom – Women’s Kayak Single
Australia’s Jessica Fox won silver in London in a kayak, then took gold in a canoe at the last three C-1 World Championships.
265. Rowing – Men’s Lightweight Double Sculls
Denmark’s Mads Rasmussen took fourth in 2004, bronze in 2008, gold in 2012, so he has returned at age 34 to claim his rightful silver medal.
266. Track and Field – Women’s 10,000m
Ten thousand meter races are 30 minutes of aimless boredom followed by a final 30 seconds of excitement. Any race that can feature multiple commercial breaks is skippable. American Molly Huddle lost out on bronze at last year’s Worlds when she started celebrating before the line. The announcers will have plenty of time to retell that anecdote.
267. Table Tennis – Men’s Team
Beginning with the introduction of Olympic table tennis in 1988, Chinese men won all five Olympic doubles events. Then in 2008, it was switched to a team event, and China should pick up their third straight gold with ease. China is looking for their third straight sweep of the four Olympic table tennis events.
268. Weightlifting – Men’s 62 kg
China’s Chen Lijun set the world record in Houston last year and is light years ahead of the rest of the division. Silver-bronze could be all-Colombia, with Francisco Mosquera and 2012 silver medalist Oscar Figueroa. Oddly, Colombia has won 19 Olympic medals, but only two golds.
269. Sailing – Men’s Finn
Race favorite Giles Scott (Great Britain) follows in the footsteps of Sir Ben Ainslie, probably the greatest sailor in Olympic history.
270. Canoe Sprint – Men’s Kayak Double 1000m
Germans Max Rendschmidt and Marcus Gross have won two world championships together. Serbia’s Marko Tomicevic has won medals at the past two Worlds with different partners; he teams with Milenko Zoric here.
271. Judo – Men’s Extra-Lightweight (60 kg)
When I was a researcher at NBC for London 2012, one of our pre-Olympic tasks was to obtain proper pronunciation for the more obscure athletes. There is already a database for the medal contenders and a separate one for the Chinese athletes’ names. We would scour YouTube for interviews or call embassies and ask them for pronunciation help. Anyway, seeing names like Boldbaatar Ganbat or Sharafuddin Lutfillaev gives me anxiety. Though, they would undoubtedly say the same thing about my last name.
272. Weightlifting – Men’s 77 kg
China’s Lu Xiaojun bludgeoned the field in London, and then broke the world record a year later. But Lu enters Rio on a strange note, having failed to complete the clean and jerk at last year’s World Championships, DQ-ing him from the event. Egypt’s Mohamed Ihab can win the nation’s first weightlifting medal since 1948. Egypt has 26 medals in total, all from men.
273. Judo – Men’s Lightweight (73 kg)
The world number one at 73 kg, An Chang-rim, was born in Japan but represents South Korea. One of An’s top challengers is Japan’s Shohei Ono. Japan has three of the top six judokas in this division, but is only allowed to send one per weight class. The rules are the same in other combat sports, like boxing, wrestling, and taekwondo. Even if you have the top two fighters in the world, a country needs to pick one. I supposed the fear is collusion, but why would that be the case in judo but not, say fencing, where compatriots are allowed to face each other?
274. Canoe Slalom – Men’s Canoe Single
With three-time gold medal winner Tony Estanguet (France) retired, David Florence (Great Britain) has a chance to win his first Olympic gold, after silvers in Beijing and London. American Casey Eichfeld created a GoFundMe page to help him get to Rio, receiving over $13,000.
275. Sailing – Men’s Laser
Great Britain’s Nick Thompson has won the past two world titles. But the story here will be Brazil’s Robert Scheidt, who could win a medal in his sixth consecutive Olympics, which would also give him more sailing medals than any person in history.
276. Sailing – Women’s RS:X
About ten different women could reasonably take this event, but why bet against Spain’s Marina Alabau, who won in 2012?
277. Weightlifting – Men’s 105 kg
Alexandr Zaichikov of Kazakhstan ran away with the world title last year in Houston, but Ruslan Nurudinov has bested Zaichikov’s 421 kg multiple times. Nuruduniv could win gold, but any color medal would be Uzbekistan’s first in weightlifting.
278. Sailing – Mixed Nacra 17
Lincoln Chafee did not win the Democratic presidential nomination, but at least he can go to Rio to watch his daughter, Louisa Chafee, compete instead of campaigning. Now being competed as a mixed event, this is one of nine Olympic competitions to feature both men and women, in addition to all six equestrian events, plus mixed doubles in tennis and badminton.
279. Sailing – Men’s 49erFX
This should be a battle between Aussies Nathan Outteridge and Iain Jensen, who won gold in 2012, versus New Zealand’s Peter Burling and Blair Tuke, who took silver. American Thomas Barrows III competed for the Virgin Islands in Beijing.
280. Cycling, Mountain – Men’s Cross-Country
All 15 men’s cross-country medals have gone to European countries. That should continue with the favorites including France’s Julien Absalon—who won gold in 2004 and 2008 but blew a tire in London and did not finish the race—and Switzerland’’s Schurter, who won bronze in 2008 and silver in 2012. The five-time world champion would love to complete the progression.
281. Weightlifting – Men’s 56 kg
North Korea’s Om Yun-chol beat China’s Wu Jingbiao, both at the 2012 Olympics and then at the 2015 Worlds, but only by a combined four kg total.
282. Taekwondo – Men’s Flyweight (58 kg)
With the gold, silver, and bronze medalists from London all moving up in weight class, the heavy favorite here is 19 year-old Farzan “The Tsunami” Ashourzadeh, of Iran.
283. Sailing – Women’s 470
Austria’s Lara Vadlau, who is teaming with Jolanta Ogar in Rio, finished dead last of 20 boats in London, but after winning world titles in 2014 and 2015 she has a real chance of going worst-to-first. New Zealand’s Jo Aleh, pairing with Olivia Powrie, is hoping not to go in the opposite direction after claiming gold in 2012.
284. Weightlifting – Women’s 58 kg
Pimsiri Sirikaew won silver in London but could take gold in Rio, in what is a watered down division. Thailand did not win a gold medal in London, and all of its medals have come from weightlifting, boxing, and taekwondo.
285. Judo – Women’s Half-Middleweight (63 kg)
To ensure every country gets representation in the Olympics, the IOC invites athletes who don’t have the formal qualifications to compete in certain events. Generally, those events are “safe” like the 100 meter dash, or swimming the 50 meter freestyle, but in certain sports they do allow many countries to send one “lesser qualified” athlete. For instance, Nepal’s Phupu Lhamu Khatri is ranked 149 in the world, but will be one of about 20 judokas competing at this weight class. The 19 year-old’s record on judoinside.com shows 0 victories and 9 losses. Nepal has never won an Olympic medal and that does not look likely to change here.
286. Judo – Women’s Middleweight (70 kg)
It does seem like judo is one of the last sports that random entrants should be thrown into.
The five worst Olympic sports for novices:
- Triathlon – I’m lazier than I am afraid of being hit.
- Boxing – At least there’s head gear.
- Equestrian – The horse is throwing me off.
- Judo – I assume it would be over quickly.
- Wrestling – You can always just run off the mat.
287. Track and Field – Women’s Hammer Throw
The five biggest gold medal locks of these Olympics:
- Katie Ledecky (USA), Women’s 800m Freestyle
- Teddy Riner (France), Men’s Judo (over 100kg)
- Team USA, Women’s Basketball
- Irina Wlodarczyk (Poland), Women’s Hammer Throw
- Simon Biles (USA), Gymnastics Individual, All-Around
288. Cycling, Mountain – Women’s Cross-Country
Georgia Gould won the first ever U.S. medal in cross-country in London. She’s not back, but Lea Davison and Chloe Woodruff will represent the U.S.
289. Weightlifting – Women’s 69 kg
For the first time ever, China did not win this weight class at the London Olympics, with North Korean Rim Jong-Sim finishing on top. With Jong-Sim moving up a weight class, China’s Xiang Yanmei should romp.
290. Modern Pentathlon – Women’s
The U.S. is represented here by a pair of sisters, Margaux and Isabella Isaksen. Neither is a serious medal threat, though Margaux finished fourth in the Beijing Olympics as a 16-year-old. The favorite is probably top-ranked Germany’s Lena Schöneborn, who won gold in Beijing.
291. Equestrian – Individual Jumping
New Yorker McLain Ward might be the U.S. best medal bet in this event. Fellow Big Apple resident Beezie Madden was shut out in London after winning gold in Athens and a pair of medals in Beijing. Yes, her husband’s name is John Madden.
292. Rowing – Men’s Double Sculls
Chris Morgan and David Watts would be the third consecutive different Australian pair to win gold. The Sinkovic brothers of Croatia won silver in London in quadruple sculls.
293. Equestrian – Team Jumping
Not only did Great Britain prevent the U.S. from winning a third straight team jumping gold in London, the Americans were kept off the medal stand altogether, finishing tied for sixth. There is a huge age gap between the Team USA women: Beezie Madden is 52, Lucy Davis is 23.
294. Sailing – Men’s 470
Australia Matthew Belcher, teaming here with William Ryan, won gold in London, plus he’s won six of the past seven World Championships. Belcer was finally unseated by Croatian duo Sime Fantela and Igor Marenić. Americans Stuart McNay and David Hughes have legit medal hopes.
295. Equestrian – Individual Eventing
German Michael Jung is the favorite, but the Americans have a strong team. In his sixth Olympics, Phillip Dutton, who won two golds for Australia before switching to the U.S., is ranked third. Boyd Martin is seventh and Lauren Kieffer 11th.
296. Canoe Slalom – Men’s Canoe Double
I know. It feels like there should be about ten fewer canoe races. Almost done.
The only returning medalists from London’s C-2 are Richard Hounslow and David Florence, who won silver. Just falling short of the title was not unfamiliar territory for Hounslow, a Tottenham fan.
297. Equestrian – Team Dressage
European countries are 19-for-19 in the team dressage. The U.S. is the only non-Euro country to ever win a team dressage medal. American Steffan Peters has a medal in this event- a bronze way back in Atlanta 1996.
298. Triathlon – Men’s
Triathlons are boring to watch when you’re cheering on family members, let alone strangers. Speaking of family members, the British Brownlee brothers return after a gold-bronze finish for Alistair and Jonathan in London. No American man has won a triathlon medal, something the U.S. team led by Joe Maloy is unlikely to rectify in Rio.
299. Equestrian – Team Eventing
Phillip Dutton’s horse is named Fernhill Cubalawn. New Zealand’s Mark Todd could win an Olympic medal in a fourth different decade, despite being shut out in the 1990s.
300. Track and Field – Women’s 20km Walk
After finishing fourth at the past two Olympic Games, Liu Hong is expected to walk away with the gold this year. Sorry.
301. Canoe Sprint – Men’s Canoe Single 200m
Portugese police officer Helder Silva could win his country’s first canoeing gold.
302. Track and Field – Men’s 20km Walk
If you watch this entire race, tweet me @keev26 and I will paypal you $10. Offer only applies to the first person to reply.
303. Modern Pentathlon – Men’s
Modern Pentathlon has no business being in the Olympics.
Modern Pentathlon now consists of fencing, swimming, show jumping, and a cross country run where the runners have to take a break for some laser shooting. Purportedly invented by Baron Pierre de Coubertin, the founder of the modern Olympics, the pentathlon takes place at the very end of the Games, far off the radar of television.
The sport was at risk in 2013, when, along with Wrestling and Taekwondo, it faced expulsion from the Games, in an effort to lessen the Olympic footprint. In what appeared to be a FIFA-esque travesty, wrestling, a sport with an incredibly rich Olympic history, lost the vote and was excised from the 2016 Games. Speculation was rampant about how a tiny sport with no international following was able to topple wrestling, with theories pointing to Samsung—supposedly the Olympic sponsor wanted to keep the sport because of its many South Korean fans, even though South Korea has never won a medal in the event. More likely, the vote was a repudiation of FILA, the wrestling organization.
In an interesting reversal, wrestling was reinstated seven months later and new IOC President Thomas Bach shepherded in five new sports for 2020: baseball/softball, skateboarding, surfing, karate, and sports climbing.
304. Swimming – Men’s 10km Open Water
Jordan Wilimovsky failed a lifeguard camp entrance exam when he was nine, shaming him into joining a swim team. Now he is the world champion and favorite going into Rio. Also, he just graduated Northwestern, so every American sportswriter in Rio will be all over this kid.
305. Track and Field – Men’s 50km Walk
Go read a book.
306. Equestrian – Individual Dressage
Equestrian is primarily accessible to British royalty—Queen Elizabeth’s granddaughter, Zara Phillips, won a silver medal in London 2012—and American royalty—Bruce Springsteen’s daughter, Jessica, was an alternate at the last Olympics.
The issues with equestrian are not just its impenetrability as a potential competitor and as a television viewer; even with rugby added to the Olympic slate, equestrian is the Olympics’ most dangerous sport.
Oh, and we know very little about Zika’s effect on horses.
Correction: This post originally stated that American men have never won a lightweight rowing medal. They won bronze in the lightweight coxless four man in 1996.