Community & Current Events

The most inspiring athletes of Rio 2016 (who just happen to be women)

The most inspiring athletes of Rio 2016

Yusra Mardini Author: Ummema Chutani Source: The International Olympics Committee

Community & Current Events

The most inspiring athletes of Rio 2016 (who just happen to be women)

From a Syrian refugee to a Nepalese earthquake survivor, this year's Olympians are serving up serious inspiration.

1. Rafaela Silva

On August 8, Silva became the first Brazilian to win a gold medal at the Rio games. This judo champion almost gave up on her sport after the 2012 Summer Games in London, when she was disqualified after using a risky move that had recently been banned. She faced backlash not only from furious fans of the game but also from people back home in Brazil, who had been counting on her. Silva faced abuse and racism on social media, but like a true champion, she didn't let it stop her from qualifying for Rio—or making it to the top of the podium.

2. Gaurika Singh

At only 13 years old, Gaurika Singh is the youngest Olympian in the 2016 games. But her age isn't even the most inspiring part of her story. Singh is a survivor of the 2015 Nepal earthquake. She was in Kathmandu for the country's national championships when the disaster hit, forcing her and her family to take shelter under a table. When she did win at the national championships, she donated her prize money to help rebuild schools destroyed by the earthquake.

3. The return of rugby and Canada’s victory

The last time rugby was played at the Olympics was 1924, and even then it was traditional rugby. This year saw the debut of rugby sevens, a variation where seven players play seven-minute halves, and Canada made history by beating Great Britain to take the bronze.

Read more: Olympic rugby player Jen Kish on taking her team to Rio

4. Yusra Mardini

Part of the Refugee Olympic Athletes Team, Yusra Mardini went from saving lives to competing in Rio in the space of a year. When Mardini's home in Damascus was destroyed by the civil war last August, she and her sister fled to Lebanon and Turkey. From there, they took a boat to Greece with thirteen other refugees—but midway through the trip, the motor stopped working. Stranded in the middle of the Aegean Sea, she and three other swimmers jumped into the water and swan for three hours, pushing the boat to the safety of Lesbos' shoreline. This August, the now Berlin-based swimmer competed in the 100m freestyle swim and the 100m butterfly.

5. Oksana Chusovitina

This 41-year-old gymnast is competing against athletes who are literally half her age—and she's killing it. The oldest female gymnast at the Olympics, Chusovitinia is amazingly fast and elegant as a swan. Rio marks her seventh trip to the Olympics; she actually came out of retirement for the 2012 London games, and decided to continue competing for Rio, where she's staying ahead of the competition with moves are thrilling, dangerous and sure to keep you on the edge of your seats.

6. Mary Hanna

Mary Hanna is the oldest competitor in Rio. A 61-year-old equestrian, she has qualified for and competed at five Olympic games, but she's never medalled. We're inspired by her perseverance—and we think it's high time she made it to the podium.

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The most inspiring athletes of Rio 2016 (who just happen to be women)

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