The 2016 Olympic Games in Rio has come to end, leaving Team USA at the top, earning a total of 121 medals. As always, the Olympics were fun, emotional, and inspiring.
Let’s take a look at some of the top stories from the 2016 Olympics and see how performances and actions in Rio are changing the sports industry in various ways:
Male Swimmers — Wins and Blunders
Of course, arguably the biggest story out of Rio involves the most decorated Olympic athlete of all time — Michael Phelps. After taking five gold medals — to add to his world record of 23 golds and one silver — Phelps confirmed that he will not be returning to compete in Tokyo in 2020.
His story is truly remarkable, and his finale in Rio was the perfect exclamation to end his career with. For athletes and coaches alike, there is a lot to be learned from Phelps about training and maintaining a positive attitude.
For starters, he has used visualization techniques to prepare for success — a practice proven effective in many sports. A January 2014 study called Effects of psyching-up on sprint performance, which was published in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research, found that when the 16 male sprinters who participated used imagery to visualize their success, they were able to reduce their sprint times.
Phelps also knows the benefits of goal setting. He even publicly shares his goals beforehand to hold himself accountable. According to a 2015 study from the Dominican University of California, 70 percent of the 149 international participants who sent weekly updates on their goals to friends reported successful achievement, compared to the 35 percent who kept their goals to themselves.
When you set goals and share them, you feel accountable to those you tell, and since Phelps told the whole world about how much he wanted to accomplish, he went out and did it.
There’s no denying that Ryan Lochte had a strong performance in competitive swimming, but his recent blunder left Team USA scarred. He used negative stereotypes of Brazil as a coverup for his night of drunken debauchery. Unfortunately, for Loche, his gold medal has been overshadowed by the fact that he lost four major endorsements.
How does this impact sports? Athletes are far more accountable for their actions and their response to those actions. Agents need to know how to help their clients combat bad press, while athletes should realize how much scrutiny they are under. Also, they represent their employers and organizations or leagues they participate in, so their behavior affects a lot more than just their personal livelihood.
Sports media professionals should remain vigilant in holding professional athletes accountable. Coaches need to lead their athletes to learn a sense of integrity and emphasize the importance of their public persona and how their actions in their personal lives will impact their career.
Sexism and Double Standards
Cogdell-Unrein and Ledecky Overshadowed
Corey Cogdell-Unrein won her second bronze medal in the 15-target round after winning in a shoot-off with Spain’s Fatima Galvez. However, Cogdell-Unrein was overshadowed by egregious sexism from the Chicago Tribune. The headline read as “Corey Cogdell, wife of Bears lineman Mitch Unrein, wins bronze in Rio.” This begs the question, shouldn’t female athletes be defined by their personal performance and accomplishments? Of course, the answer is a resounding yes.
However, Katie Ledecky was subjected to similar treatment in the press. She made history as the second woman to win three freestyle events in a single Olympics Games. Her accomplishments were overshadowed by what many call a sexist headline, which went viral on Twitter. A journalist used Michael Phelps’ silver medal for the 100 fly as a his headline bait, with the subheadline outlining Ledecky’s new world record.
Sports writers should take note. Focus your articles on women athletes just as you would male athletes. Athletic accomplishments know no gender, race, or sexaul orientation. Sports media experts have the power to lead the change necessary for equality, and covering stories like these is where they can start that change.
Solo’s Suspension Following USA’s defeat in women’s soccer, Hope Solo was served a six month suspension for calling her Swedish opponents “cowards.” The suspension seems a bit harsh to critics who wonder how this situation would be handled if a male athlete made the same comments.
This raises another important topic. Solo’s words earned a long term suspension, while the U.S. Olympic Committee has not issued a punishment for Lochte, who vandalized a gas station and lied about being robbed at gunpoint. These double standards are certainly starting the right kind of conversations in the sports industry.
Closing With Pride
Biles Bears the Flag
Team USA voted to elect Simone Biles as the flag bearer, who lead the 2016 U.S. Olympic Team during the Closing Ceremony. She earned the honor by being the first American gymnast to win four golds at a single Olympic Games and one of only four women to accomplish the feat in Olympic history.
Her incredible debut is evidence that training hard and staying vigilant is key to an athlete’s success. What’s more remarkable is her bright attitude. She stays focused when she needs to, but she is also often seen smiling with her teammates, waving at the crowd, and laughing.
Expert trainers and coaches know the impact a positive attitude has on an athlete’s ability to overcome setbacks and missteps. She cultivated her outgoing personality over the years with the help of her coach Aimee Boorman, who pulled Biles out of her first senior level meet because she fell on every event from the overwhelming stress. Her training message centered on focusing on her inherent capabilities and strengths. By shifting her attention away from all her failures and mistakes, Biles worked harder and earned her spot at the Closing Ceremony.
What did you learn from the 2016 Olympics?