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17 Epic Highlights and Crazy Statistics From the 2016 Rio Olympics

Carmelo Anthony, Neymar, Michael Phelps, Usain Bolt, and Allyson Felix made history—plus more wild stats from Brazil.
17 Epic Highlights and Crazy Statistics From the 2016 Rio Olympics

The Rio Olympic flame has been extinguished, but there's still plenty of unpack from the 2016 Summer Games.

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There were 28 different sports featured in Rio, with a total of 306 medals being given out to athletes. The United States dominated the medal table with the highest total of medals, but countries like Great Britain, China, Russia, Germany, and Japan got in on the action too, finishing in the top 10 on the medal table.

The Rio Games saw dominating wins, unexpected upsets, inspiring stories—it was quite the spectacle.

Here are the some of the wildest stats and highlights from the 2016 Summer Olympics:

Say what you will about Carmelo Anthony’s age, but give him this much: the New York Knicks superstar was rock-solid for the United States in Rio. It showed, too, as Melo surpassed LeBron James to claim the U.S. Olympic basketball scoring record and his record third Olympic basketball gold. Anthony was visibly moved at the gold medal ceremony, pausing to collect himself as he reflected on his last Olympic Games with Team USA. "Despite everything that's going on right now in our country," he said, "we got to be united."

The lead-up to the Rio Olympics was dominated by negative headlines, from chaos over incomplete apartment buildings in the athlete village to worries over “superbacteria” in the city’s polluted bays. But the host nation moved past it once the opening ceremony began, claiming a history-making 19 medals—most notably a gold in futebol, as the superstar Neymar single-footedly avenged his country’s World Cup loss to Germany with a thunderbolt penalty kick in extra time.

He entered a favorite. He departed as one of the greatest of all time.

The Lightning Bolt was peerless as usual in his final Olympics, thundering past the competition in the 200m and the 100m—he is the first man to win three consecutive golds in the 100—and then leading the Jamaican 4x100 team to gold. The result? The heralded “triple triple,” an achievement that puts Bolt on the level of some of the best athletes of all time.

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Armed with some of the best basketball talent in the NBA, “Coach K” led the Team USA to a resounding victory in his last year as coach of the program, as the American hoopsters extended their winning streak to a dominant 52 games and won their third consecutive Olympic gold medal. He passes the torch to San Antonio Spurs coach Gregg Popovich after steering the rambunctious American squad to a perfect 24-0 record in the Olympics, plus two world championships in 2010 and 2014.

The United States absolutely dominated the podium in Rio. The Americans won 51 more medals than any other country, and took advantage of an absent Russia (due to doping) and a lackluster performance from China to finish the 2016 Summer Olympics with 46 golds, 37 silvers, and 38 bronzes—a total of 121.

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As if Michael Phelps hadn’t reached enough milestones already. The American swimmer brought home five more gold medals in Rio, giving him 13 individual gold medals for his career—enough to break the record of Leonidas of Rhodes, a famous Ancient Olympian. Leonidas had won 12 individual events over four Ancient Olympic Games and his record stood for over 2,000 years—until “The Baltimore Bullet” came along.

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“Phenom” barely describes her. In the summer before her freshman year of college, the 18-year-old utterly crushed the rest of the world en route to four gold medals—the 200m, 400m, 800m, and 4x200m—as well as a team silver in the 4x100. The highlights are plenty, but it’s hard to argue with the moments when she smashing her own world records in the 400 and 800. Say it with us: Michael Phelps who now?

The United States has long been a sprint powerhouse, but it had ceded ground in the mid-distance and long-distance events in recent decades. So it was a momentous event for USA Track and Field as Matt Centrowitz Jr. out-strategized the field (namely Kenya’s Asbel Kiprop, the favorite) and raced a blazing final 400 en route to America’s first victory in the metric mile since 1908. It wasn’t a fast race—in fact, it was barely faster than the winner in 1932—but it was a personal victory for his family, as he won the race his father, Matthew Centrowitz Sr., lost in 1976.

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With her bronze medal in skeet shooting, Rhode, 37, became the first woman in history—and the first athlete at the summer Olympics—to medal in six consecutive Games. She won her first medal at 17—a gold in Atlanta for double trap—followed by (in order) bronze, gold, silver, gold, and her final bronze. The only athlete who has accomplished a similar feat is Italy’s Armin Zoeggeler, who scored six consecutive Winter Olympics medals in the luge.

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The British distance specialist won his second clutch of gold medals in dramatic fashion on the track. In his first race, the 10k, Farah tripped and fell before putting the pedal to the medal and racing past the pack for a win. That was about as theatrical as it got—Farah started strong and only got faster in the 5k, cruising past runner after runner and crossing the finish line in a commanding 13:30.3 to win his second gold of Rio—a perfect bookend to the two golds he claimed in London.

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Even track wonks weren’t sure what to expect in the Olympic high hurdles, especially after world-record holder Keni Harrison never advanced past the U.S. team trials. But in one of the most triumphant moments for Team USA, the United States swept the 110m race, with Brianna Rollins, Nia Ali, and Kristi Castlin coming out ahead of every other nation’s best.

With her silver-medal finish in the 400m, Felix broke a tie with Olympic legend Jackie Joyner-Kersee to become the top female track star in United States history. Felix looked like she was set for a gold medal before Shaunae Miller of the Bahamas dove across the finish line to take first place, but the silver was enough to put Felix atop the list. The track star later added more medals in the 4x100m relay and the 4x400m relay, an event the U.S. women have won six consecutive times.


One of the most remarkable stories of the Rio Olympics was the performance of American swimmer Anthony Ervin. After winning a gold medal in the 50m freestyle in the Sydney Olympics in 2000, Ervin came back to competition and dominated again—16 years after his first medal. The California native swam into the hearts of fans by winning the gold medal in the same event nearly two decades after his first gold.

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The 2016 Summer Olympics saw 87 different countries bring home a medal—and 59 of them won golds during the course of the Games. The list of delegations that brought home medals ranged from the United States at the top of the medal table with 121, to nations like Portugal, the United Arab Emirates, Morocco, Finland, Austria, Nigeria, and Estonia, who all brought home one medal.

The Rio Olympics were a milestone for South America—it was the first Olympiad held in the continent—but it also marked some major firsts for certain nations. Fiji won its first Olympic medal by taking gold in the rugby competition, while Kosovo won its first medal in its first-ever Olympics by taking home a silver in women’s judo. Puerto Rico got in on the action too: Monica Puig won the women’s tennis singles to bring home the first gold medal for the island’s delegation.

Azerbaijan had a small delegation of athletes—56 in total compared to the 554 for the United States—but won 18 total medals, the best mark of any country. The Azerbaijanis nabbed one gold, seven silvers, and 10 bronzes, almost a medal for every three athletes.

We all know the United States dominated the medal count in Rio, but what would happen if you looked at things through the lens of population size and medals per capita, who would be the “most dominant” nations in Rio? The answers: Grenada and the Bahamas. With one silver medal, Grenada finished with 9.4 medals per million people (the highest per capita) while the Bahamas’ lone gold medal—from Shaunae Miller’s spectacular dive in the 400m—puts the island nation (population 388,000) at 2.6 gold medals for every million people.


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