The 2016 Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro are right around the corner. 26 Days, 3 Hours, 19 Minutes and 46 Seconds to be exact. From August 5, 2016 to August 21, 2016, 10,500 athletes from 206 countries will compete in 28 different sports with the top three in each being awarded medals. These games will mark the first time in history that the Olympics have been hosted by a South American nation and the first time since 1968 that the games are being held in Latin America. Even though political unrest, structural doubts and Zika Virus have caused major concerns, the Olympics are scheduled to proceed without interruption. This year's Olympic trials have seen outstanding performances from female athletes across the board. So with out further ado, here is a look at 20 bad ass women who are competing in the 2016 Olympic Games.
1. Simone Biles (United States) - Gymnastics
If you haven't heard of Simone Biles by now, where have you been? The 19-year-old Texas native has all but sealed her spot in Rio after finishing #1 after the first day of Olympic Trials. Often called "the Michael Jordan of Gymnastics" Biles is the first woman to win the World All-Around Title three times in a row, and the first African American to hold the title of World All-Around Champion. If that wasn't enough, at 19 years old she has won more medals than any other American gymnast.
2. Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce (Jamaica) - Track and Field
Shelly Ann Fraser-Pryce took home the Gold in the Women's 100m in both Beijing (2008) and in London (2012). Born and raised in Kingston Jamaica, Fraser-Pryce has long aimed to raise awareness about Women's athletics in her country and around the World. In May, she told the Washington Post "The only thing I advocate for is for equality for female athletes because we train just as hard and we’re always having a lot of head-to-head clashes, always competing against each other... I definitely think in terms of not only our sponsors but our meet organizers and stuff like that, definitely should push a lot more the female athletes out there."
3 & 4. Serena & Venus Williams (United States) - Tennis
Serena and Venus Williams have been the leading force in the American Tennis Scene for as long as I can remember. Not only are they each accomplished Olympians in their own right, but together they hold a total of 14 Grand Slam titles and three Olympic Gold Medals (Sydney 2000, Beijing 2008, London 2012). This year, the two are looking to win a fourth. Coming off their sixth doubles win at Wimbledon and a Grand Slam victory for Serena, the two are well-positioned to be headed to Rio in August.
5. Mallory Pugh (United States) - Soccer
Back in February, The U.S. Women's National Team and reigning World Cup champions secured their spot at Rio by winning the CONCACAF Women's Olympic Qualifying Championship. The star studded US squad that includes Alex Morgan, Hope Solo, Carli Lloyd, Tobin Heath and Megan Rapinoe have gained a new teammate for the 2016 season. Mallory Pugh, is a offensive player from Colorado. She's also 18-years-old and the youngest player ever to be selected to play on the WNT. Pugh started playing with the U17 National Team in 2013, and went straight on to play with the U20 team the following year (yeah, she's that talented). Now the 18 year old is looking to secure a spot on the team as they head to Rio, and very well might earn one under the leadership of coach Jill Ellis.
6. Dutee Chand (India) - Track and Field
Dutee Chand, the Indian professional sprinter has officially paved her road to Rio in the Women's 100m dash. The 20-year-old has become the third women from India to qualify for the Olympic 100m. In 2014 Chand was set to compete at the Commonwealth Games until last minute, when the International Association of Athletics Foundation's (IAAF) banned her from competing when she failed a hormone test due to hyperandrogenism. Hyperandrogenism is a condition in which a women's body produces a high level of hormones such as testosterone. After the ban, Chand fought for her right to compete. She along with the Indian Government appealed her case to the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) on the grounds of discrimination. CAS later decided that they would lift the ban until the IAAF could prove that hyperandrogenism gave female athletes an unfair advantage in their field. Chand's case is not the first time women with hyperandrogenism have had to fight for their right to compete. South African runner Caster Semenya was forced to undergo gender testing in order to compete.
7. Brittney Reese (United States) - Track and Field
Britney Reese has long been the dominate force in my favorite field event, the long jump. When I was growing up I remember my dad using tape to mark the distance of the longest jump (29ft 4in). It is truly amazing how far these athletes can go and Reese is no exception. She holds the record for the indoor long jump at 23.72 ft and is a five-time World Champion and the reigning Olympic Gold Medalist in the event. According to USA Track and Field "Just once since her elite career started has Brittney Reese not recorded the farthest long jump in the country for either indoor or outdoor competition". On Saturday July 9th she secured her spot in Rio with a 23ft 11in jump at the Olympic Trials, at Hayward Field in Eugene Oregon.
8. Yuliya Stepanova (Russia) - Track and Field
Perhaps one of the biggest stories surrounding the Rio Olympics has been the ban on the Russian Track & Field team after Stepanova blew the whistle on her countries systemic doping practices. Stepanova, who's husband works for the Russian Anti-Doping Agency detailed the methods that coaches and officials were using to distribute performance enhancing drugs to their athletes. Her role in uncovering the doping-fraud has given her quite the reputation in her country (Putin even called her Judas) but it has allowed her to be considered for Olympic competition in Rio under a neutral flag. However, no decision has been made as of yet.
9. Katie Ledecky (United States) - Swimming
At the age of 19, Katie Ledecky is on the way to her second Olympic Games. Ledecky holds the second fastest all time record in the 800m Women's freestyle, a time that allowed her to finish four seconds before her competitors in the 2012 Olympics to win the Gold Medal when she was just 15 years old! At the US Olympic Swim trials in Omaha, Nebraska, the Bethesda, Maryland native blew past her competition winning the 800m freestyle and setting the record for the 3rd fastest freestyle in history. Also at the trials the recent high school graduate made headlines by swimming a 4:02.67 in the 400 freestyle, the exact time as decorated Olympian Michael Phelps in the same event.
10. Allyson Felix (United States) - Track and Field
Allyson Felix is no stranger to the Olympics. She first competed in Athens in 2004, where she won the Silver Medal in the 200m at the age of 18. Since then Felix has gone onto win four Olympic Gold Medals (2008 4x400m, 2012 200m, 2012 4x100m, 2012 4x400m) and another Silver (2008 200m). The USC graduate was a member of the 2012 Women's 4x100m relay team that shattered the previous world record set in 1985. The four time recipient of the Jesse Owens award hopes to double medal in Rio with a Gold in the 200m and 400m dashes.
11. Oksana Chusovitina (Uzbekistan) - Gymnastics
Women's Gymnastics is arguably the most popular sport at the Summer Olympic Games. Even if you don't regularly follow the games (which you should because they're amazing) you'll know that female gymnasts generally have a very short window of opportunity to make they're Olympic dreams come true. Oksana Chusovitinia is a little different. In April, at the age of 40, Oksana Chusovitinia became the oldest Olympic female gymnast of all time. She has competed for Germany, Uzbekistan, The Soviet Union and the gold medal winning Unified Team in 1992. The former silver medalist on vault will now look to win the Gold in Rio.
12. Claressa Shields (United States) - Boxing
Claressa Shields, the 21-year-old boxer from Flint Michigan returns to the Olympics looking to defend her 2012 gold medal title. At just 17-years-old, Claressa Shields became the first American woman to win an Olympic gold medal in Boxing. Her amazing 74-1 record is a indication of her raw talent, but Claressa also serves as a role model in her community. In an interview with ESPN she stated "I consider myself a hero and a role model for Flint. I thought my winning the Olympics gave people a lot more hope and a lot more faith than the city has had in a long time. I think it gave them a sense that even though you're from Flint, you can do anything you want to do.” When she returns to Rio in August she'll be looking too become the first ever Boxer to win back to back Gold at the Olympics.
13. Laetitia Beck (Israel) - Golf
Laetitia Beck won the the Israeli Women's Gold Championship for the first time when she was 12-years-old. Since then she has four times reclaimed her title. The now 24-years-old Israeli Golfer used to play for Duke and ever since she went professional in 2014 she has been competing for her country in international competitions around the world. Now, for the first time since 1904, she will have a chance to compete on the World's largest stage. Beck sat down with USA Today to discuss her hopes for the 2016 Olympics, "The way I behave and the way I carry myself can show people there’s another side of Israel other than war.” Beck is also trying to raise support for elite golfing programs in her home country of Israel, so more women like her can reach an elite level without having to go abroad to train.
14 & 15. April Ross & Kerri Walsh Jennings (United States) - Beach Volleyball
Rio marks the sixth time Beach Volleyball will appear at the Olympics. The U.S. Women's team of Kerri Walsh Jennings and Misty May Trainer have won three out of the five previous Gold Medals available in the Sport. This year, the team made up of Walsh-Jennings and now April Ross (Misty May Trainer Retired after London) is going to face some tough competition in Rio from the host country of Brazil, but with their strong performance at the 2016 FIVB Gstaad Major in Switzerland they are in a good position to take home Gold in Rio.
16. Dipa Karmakar (India) - Gymnastics
22-year-old Dipa Karmakar is set to become the first female Indian gymnast to compete in the Olympic Games. In addition, Karmakar is one of only five female gymnasts in the World that can perform the Produnova vault. The vault nicknamed "the vault of death", requires gymnasts to do a handspring and a double front somersault. Many people want the vault banned because of the high probability for gymnasts to land on their neck. Nevertheless Karmakar carries the highest score in the vault out of the five who have ever successfully performed it including its namesake.
(can we just observe this skill for a second though...)
17. Ajee Wilson (United States) - Track and Field
The 22 year old mid-distance runner from Neptune, New Jersey qualified for her first Olympic Games at Hayward Field in Eugene. With a time of 1:59.51 in the women's 800m Ajee won the silver medal behind 27-year-old Kate Grace. Wilson who has fallen in races before offered some insight into the causes of the fall that cost two athletes their Olympic dreams this year "With our race, everyone wants to be in the optimal position. Everyone’s coach tells them to try and be towards the front, third, fourth, on the outside of lane two. When you have everyone trying to get that position, there are going to be casualties."
18. Yusra Mardini (Refugee Olympic Athlete) - Swimming
18-year-old Yursa Mardini is one of the ten athletes chosen to compete in the Olympics as a Refugee Olympic Athlete, a team created in response to the on-going worldwide refugee crisis. Yursa, who will compete in the 200m freestyle fled Syria in August 2015 with her sister after their house was destroyed in the war. During their escape to the Greek island of Lesbos, Yursa's raft was in danger of capsizing after the motor broke. Her, her sister and another women got out and pushed the boat, swimming for over 4 hours until they reached land. Now settled in Berlin, Yusra told a press conference "I want all refugees to be proud of me, I want to encourage them that even if we are not in our homeland and had a tough way that we can still do great things, it is hard to leave your home, very hard." While she admits her chances of medaling are small, she hope to set a PR and gain experience for Tokyo in 2020.
19. Ibtihaj Muhammad (United States) - Fencing
Ibtihaj Muhammad is a 30-year-old American fencer from Maplewood, New Jersey. The Duke University graduate who double majored in International Relations and African Studies was a multi-sport athlete growing up, but she ultimately perused fencing after her mother pushed her to try it in high school. She went on to become a tree time All American Athlete and Junior Olympic Champion in 2005. In August, Ibtihaj Muhammad will be the first American athlete to compete at the Olympics wearing her hijab. Muhammad told the Associated Press “I feel like I’ve been blessed to be in this position, to be given this platform. When I think of my predecessors, and people who’ve spoken out against bigotry and hate, I feel like I owe it not just to myself but to my community to try to fight it".
20. Adeline Gray (United States) - Wrestling
Adeline Gray is heading to Rio after winning the US Olympic Team Trials in the 165lb weight class. The three time World Champion from Denver Colorado hopes to make history in Rio as the first U.S. women to take home the gold. Having not lost and international competition in 2 years, Gray has a good chance at making her dreams come true. When Gray isn't training she's encouraging young girls to consider the sport of wrestling. In an interview with USA Today she emphasized what many forget which is "you can go out there and be in combat sports and still be treated as an athlete when you step out on the mat and a female when you step off...” something Gray had initially doubted when starting her career.
Thanks for reading <3