Gold Rush

September 9, 2016
Glenn Greenberg with TIME and AP reporting
CAMERON SPENCER—GETTY IMAGES

The world’s top athletes came together in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, to compete in the 2016 Summer Olympics.

On August 21, a colorful closing ceremony in Maracanã Stadium, in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, marked the end of the 2016 Summer Olympics. The United States dominated the 16-day international competition, bringing home 121 medals, 46 of them gold.

Fastest in Water Michael Phelps swims on August 13.

WILLIAM VOLCOV—BRAZIL PHOTO PRESS/LATIN CONTENT/GETTY IMAGES

In his fifth—and final—Olympics, American swimmer Michael Phelps, 31, added to his trove of medals. He is the most decorated Olympian of all time. Phelps won five gold and one silver, bringing his career total to 23 gold, three silver, and two bronze. “I’ve had 24 years in this sport and I’m happy with how things finished,” Phelps said after his final race.

The U.S. women’s swim team achieved historic victories too. In the 4 x 100–meter medley relay race, swimmers gave the U.S. its 1,000th all-time gold medal. Katie Ledecky, 19, beat her own world records by nearly two seconds in both the 400-meter and 800-meter freestyle. She took home four gold medals and one silver. “I hit all my goals right on the nose,” she said.

FINAL FIVE Team U.S.A. gymnasts show off their gold medals.

BEN STANSALL—AFP/GETTY IMAGES

Many nations had reason to cheer. Dmitriy Balandin, 21, of Kazakhstan, won his country’s first swimming medal in the men’s 200-meter breaststroke. Joseph Schooling, 21, won Singapore its first gold. He defeated Phelps, his childhood idol, in the 100-meter butterfly.

Dreams Come True

U.S. women gymnasts came away with seven medals. Simone Biles, 19, won four gold and a bronze. In addition to team gold, Laurie Hernandez, Madison Kocian, and Aly Raisman earned silver. Biles had the honor of carrying the U.S. flag at the closing ceremony. “Every single day that I’ve had here has been like a dream come true, and it just keeps on getting better,” she said.

FASTEST ON LAND Usain Bolt wins the men’s 200-meter final.

OLIVIER MORIN—AFP/GETTY IMAGES

The Games held many memorable moments. Kosovo, Fiji, Vietnam, and Puerto Rico, which is part of the U.S., celebrated first-ever gold medals. The athletes representing the Refugee Olympic Team received big cheers. Distance runners Nikki Hamblin, from New Zealand, and Abbey D’Agostino, from the U.S., did not win medals in the 5,000-meter event, but earned the Fair Play award. In a qualifying race, the runners stumbled and fell, and then helped each other finish.

Jamaican sprinters Usain Bolt, 29, and Elaine Thompson, 24, showed that they are the world’s fastest. Thompson won the 100-meter and 200-meter sprints. Bolt became the first man to win the “triple triple.” He has won gold in the 100-meter, the 200-meter, and the 4 x 100–meter relay in three Olympics. “I am the greatest,” he said.

GOAL! Brazil’s soccer team celebrates its gold-medal victory over Germany.

LAURENCE GRIFFITHS—GETTY IMAGES

Games to Come

The 2016 Olympics are over, but the spirit of competition lives on. From September 7 to 18, Rio is hosting the Paralympic Games. The spotlight will shine on 4,350 athletes with disabilities. Athletes from 176 countries will compete in 23 sports.

The 2020 Games will be held in Tokyo, Japan. Many athletes have already started training for their events. Will Biles compete in Tokyo? “That’s a really long ways away,” she said on TV. “We’ll see.”