The United States Olympic Committee joins the global Olympic Movement in celebrating the two-year countdown to the Rio 2016 Olympic Games Tuesday, Aug. 5. To commemorate the two-year milestone, the USOC is sharing thoughts from some of its top 2016 Olympic hopefuls, distributing sport storylines and qualification procedures, launching a video and online feature series dubbed “Ready for Rio” on TeamUSA.org, and promoting #ReadyForRio on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.
Additionally, and per tradition, OMEGA’s Olympic Games Countdown Clock will launch Aug. 5 on the homepage of TeamUSA.org, alerting fans on a continual basis to the remaining days, hours and minutes until the start of the 2016 Games.
With the Opening Ceremony to be held Aug. 5, 2016, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, will become the first South American city to host an Olympic Games. More than 10,500 athletes from 204 nations are expected to participate in 28 sports and 41 disciplines, including the highly anticipated reinstatement of golf and rugby.
A robust guide of athlete and sport storylines likely to unfold over the next two years, as well as qualification and selection procedures and key dates for each sport are available at TeamUSA.org/media. Below is a sampling of Team USA’s top storylines heading into Rio.
Olympic Inclusion: Previously contested at just two Olympic Games in 1900 and 1904, golf will be played for the first time in 112 years at the 2016 Games. Featuring men’s and women’s individual events as announced by the International Olympic Committee in 2009, both events will have 60 players competing in a 72-hole stroke play tournament. Rugby joins golf in making an Olympic comeback in 2016, although this will mark the first time the rugby sevens format will be contested at an Olympic Games. The sevens format is a smaller, faster-paced game than the more common 15-a-side rugby tournament, which was last featured at the 1924 Games, in which the U.S. defended its gold medal from 1920. The 2016 rugby sevens competition will feature both men’s and women’s tournaments.
New Partnership: All eyes will be on Kerri Walsh Jennings (Saratoga, Calif.) as she aims to make her fifth Olympic appearance – her fourth on the sand and first without long-time partner Misty May-Treanor by her side. With May-Treanor’s exit from the sport after the duo’s remarkable three consecutive Olympic gold medals (2004, 2008, 2012), Walsh Jennings has switched partners to 2012 silver medalist April Ross (Costa Mesa, Calif.). A strong partnership that has yielded multiple medals on the international circuit in 2014, the duo is still navigating the waters to find a consistent rhythm. Now a mother of three, Walsh Jennings has moved to the right side of the sand, which has been a challenge as she heads into unchartered territory in search of her fourth Olympic title.
Mix for Six: Five-time U.S. Olympic shot gun athlete Kim Rhode (El Monte, Calif.), who owns a U.S. Olympic record five medals in five consecutive Games, and is also the first Olympic shooter – male or female – to compete in all three shotgun events, now has her sights set on Rio. Since giving birth to her son, Carter, in May 2013, Rhode has won three world cup medals.
Streaking: Team USA has historically shown strength in team sports at the Olympic Games, and at the 2016 Games, there is potential for several teams to continue impressive medal runs. For instance, the U.S. women’s basketball team will look to capture its sixth straight – and eighth overall – gold medal at the 2016 Games. Men’s basketball will also look to expand a highly successful legacy, seeking its third consecutive gold medal in 2016. Undefeated on the world stage for eight straight years, the U.S. women’s eight rowing team – which has not lost an Olympic or world championship title since 2006 – will go for its third consecutive Olympic gold medal in Rio. Additionally, the U.S. women’s soccer and water polo teams have medaled at every Olympic Games since the debut of their sports in 1996 and 2000.
“This year has been an eye-opening experience in the sense that I see untapped potential in multiple events as we approach two crucial years in our sport,” said David Boudia (Noblesville, Ind.), 2012 Olympic gold and bronze medalist in diving. “Our whole team needs to continue to keep perspective and take it one year at a time, which will set us up to reach our greatest potential.”
“After wrestling at the London Games and having the experience of competing for my country, I have wanted to return,” said two-time world champion and 2012 Olympic gold medalist in freestyle wrestling Jordan Burroughs (Sicklerville, N.J.) whose current senior-level record is 88-1. “Each world championship, U.S. open and world cup since London have been stepping stones in my preparation for Rio, and I’d like to once again be at the top of my game while representing my country at the Olympics.”
“Since London, I have been training and focused on Rio 2016,” said 2012 Olympic triathlete Gwen Jorgensen (Waukesha, Wis.), who is currently ranked No. 1 in the world as a result of a historic season on the 2014 ITU World Triathlon Series circuit in which she has become the only athlete to capture four consecutive ITU series titles in one season. “I’m fortunate to have a support crew that is helping me on my journey, and I’d be proud to wear the red, white and blue again in 2016.”
“Obviously, the focus right now is on the 2015 FIFA Women’s World Cup in Canada, but as soon as that journey is over, we have the Olympics to look forward to, and it’s always great to have a big event on the horizon as it keeps us sharp and focused,” said midfielder Carli Lloyd (Delran, N.J.), who scored the game-winning goal in both the 2008 and 2012 Olympic gold-medal games. “We’ve done really well in past Olympic tournaments and we want to continue that streak. It’s always an honor to represent the USA and be a part of the Games, so we are really looking forward to qualifying for Rio and being in and around Brazil at all the soccer venues, especially after seeing all the great crowds at the men’s world cup.”
“My focus right now is competing at the 2014 world championship, but my long-term goal is to represent the United States in Rio in 2016,” said Kyla Ross (Aliso Viejo, Calif.), 2012 Olympic gymnastics team champion and 2013 world all-around, uneven bars and balance beam silver medalist. “In some ways, it’s hard to believe London was two years ago because I didn’t take a break from competition after the Games. And, I know the next two years are going to pass even more quickly, so my coaches and I are working hard every day to have the opportunity to represent Team USA again.”
“With the Olympics only two years away I am training harder than ever,” said Galen Rupp (Portland, Ore.), who became the first U.S. man in 48 years to medal in the Olympic 10,000-meter when he won silver at the 2012 Games, running his last lap in 53.8 seconds. “Success at the Olympics is what drives me day in and day out to push myself harder and strive for excellence. I am excited to get the chance to represent my country for a third time on the world’s biggest stage.”
“Being a part of Team USA at the 2008 and 2012 Olympic Games was an amazing experience, and it would be an honor to represent the United States again in 2016,” said Allison Schmitt (Canton, Mich.), six-time Olympic medalist in swimming. “I’m fortunate to swim with such a tight-knit and talented group at North Baltimore Aquatic Club that pushes me to be my best. Training is going well heading into the most important stretch of the 2014 season, and I’m focused on taking it one day at a time and improving with each workout.”
U.S. Olympic media rights holder NBCUniversal will help commemorate the two-year countdown to the 2016 Olympic Games through various promotions across NBC, NBCSN, the NBC Sports Regional Networks, select NBCU channels, NBC owned-and-operated stations, NBC affiliates and Telemundo. NBCOlympics.com will feature a Bob Costas-narrated short-form video, while OlympicTalk.NBCSports.com will examine the state of the Games two years from the Opening Ceremony. Additionally, NBC’s Today will celebrate in style by bringing some Brazilian flair to Rockefeller Plaza as well as 2012 Olympian in trampoline Steven Gluckstein (Atlantic Highlands, N.J.) and his brother, Jeffrey Gluckstein (Atlantic Highlands, N.J.), who are both top U.S. hopefuls for the 2016 Games. Meanwhile, Golf Channel and GolfChannel.com will air a spot to remind and excite viewers about golf’s return to the Olympic Games.
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL
Aquece Rio – the test event program of the Rio 2016 Olympic and Paralympic Games, which will test competition operations and fields of play at 45 international and national championship events in Rio de Janeiro through May 2016 – kick offs Aug. 3-9 with an International Sailing Regatta at Marina da Glória on Guanabara Bay. At the regatta, Team USA will field a team of 25 sailors in nine classes, including 2012 Olympians Stuart McNay (Providence, R.I.) and Paige Railey (Clearwater, Fla.). US Sailing will provide live Twitter coverage of the event.
Also, the Rio 2016 Organizing Committee’s website – Rio2016.com – will be re-launched Aug. 5 with a new design reflecting Rio 2016’s “Look of the Games.”
Courtesy of the USOC. Featured image: Michael Phelps.