The 2016 Summer Olympics are quickly approaching, and while many women are packing their bags to head to the beach, the women of the U.S Olympic Team are packing theirs for a trip to Rio. The Olympic Games are a time of unity, where the world puts aside political and cultural differences to focus on the comradery of sportsmanship. With this sportsmanship also comes competitiveness, as each country passionately cheers on their athletes with the hopes of bringing home as many gold medals as possible. Athletes become celebrities, and we marvel at their skill, discipline, and accomplishment.
As we prepare for the games, we can’t help but find extra inspiration in the incredible women competing for Team USA this summer. They are a force to be reckoned with, and we know they’re going to take Rio by storm.
Here are 10 noteworthy women we can’t wait to see compete this summer:
1. Simone Biles (Team USA, Gymnastics)
Although 19-year-old Simone Biles is small at only 4’9”, she has made a huge impression at the Olympic trials. Simone has quickly become known for her incredible strength and control, unmatched by many gymnasts in her category. However, despite her intimidating strength, she brings a genuine sense of enjoyment and happiness to the competition, causing some to say that she is bringing back the joy and artistry to a sport that has become focused on points. A video featuring her floor routine from a recent competition was viewed more than 11 million times in just a few days, proving that her performance in Rio is eagerly awaited.
2. Kayla Banwarth (Team USA, Volleyball)
Volleyball has been a part of Kayla Banwarth’s life since she was only 4 years old. As a member of an athletic family, they nurtured her love for the sport by making sure she had every opportunity to succeed, even personally coaching her until the age of 16. She fondly remembers the hours her mother spent playing volleyball with her when she was just a young girl, and says that her family remains the most important part of her life. She loves musical theater, and in another world, says she would have loved to be a Broadway star. When she’s not playing volleyball, she enjoys the beach and spending time in the sun.
3. Allyson Felix (Team USA, Track and Field)
Six-time Olympic medalist Allyson Felix is no stranger to the Olympic Games. She was hugely successful in the London Games and is expected to arrive even stronger in Rio. Allyson first discovered her athletic talent in the ninth grade, when after only 10 weeks of training, she finished ninth in the 200m at the CIF California State Meet. As a devout Christian, Felix has always felt that her running ability was a special gift from God that she was meant to develop and use to the best of her ability.
4. Mackenzie Brown (Team USA, Archery)
Mackenzie was first introduced to archery through the National Archery Schools Program in Texas. After discovering her love for the sport, she starting shooting in a Junior Olympic Archery Development club, where she was eventually selected as a member of USA Archery’s Junior Dream Team. At only 16 years old, she competed for a spot on the 2012 U.S Olympic Team and finished in the top 16, proving that even at such a young age, she was destined for the Olympic Games. Outside of archery, she is a talented photographer and enjoys baking and knitting.
5. Katie Ledecky (Team USA, Swimming)
With a mother that swam for University of New Mexico, Katie Ledecky was already in the pool at the young age of 6, swimming with her brother for a summer league swim team. She now shows so much promise that some say she is expected to win a medal every time she dives into the Rio pool. For Katie, her own high expectations are her strongest competition, which has earned her a place as the youngest woman on the US swimming team for the upcoming games. She places a very strong emphasis on her role as a member of Team USA, stating that team events are even more important and memorable than individual competitions. With a heart for service, Katie serves meals to the homeless once a month, volunteers with the Wounded Warrior Project, and collects, assembles and repairs bicycles for developing countries.
6. Claressa Shields (Team USA, Boxing)
Claressa Shields is breaking new ground for US boxing. She is the fist American female to win an Olympic gold in boxing and is destined to be the first American boxer, male or female, to win gold medals in two consecutive Olympic Games. She is dedicated to setting a strong example for those following in her footsteps and was the first in her family to graduate from high school. Her dream is to win a gold medal in Rio so that she can move her whole family out of the impoverished city of Flint, Michigan, where they currently reside despite her gold medal win in the London Games. This love and dedication is reflected in the intensity and discipline of her training, making her a fierce competitor in Rio.
7. Jessica Long (Team USA, Paralympic Swimming)
Born in Siberia, Jessica Long was adopted from a Russian orphanage when she was 13 months old. Born with fibular hemimelia, she didn’t have fibulas, ankles, heels, as well as other important bones in her feet. This resulted in her legs being amputated below the knees by the time she was 18 months old. However, this did not slow Jessica down in the slightest. She was actively involved in numerous sports including gymnastics, basketball, cheerleading, ice-skating, running, and rock climbing, using prosthetic legs. She developed a particular love for swimming as she practiced in her grandparents’ pool, where she would spend hours pretending to be a mermaid. At age 12, she was the youngest athlete on the US Paralympic Swim Team, showing that hard work and perseverance in the face of adversity can yield incredible results.
8. Alev Kelter (Team USA, Rugby)
25-year-old Alev Kelter has not spent her whole life training to play rugby. However, this is not stopping her from bringing home a gold medal with the US Rugby Team this summer. She discovered a love for rugby after having a successful college career in both soccer and hockey. Her impressive athleticism caught the attention of the U.S women’s rugby coach who convinced her to train and try for the team. Her quick rise to success in rugby is a testament to years of playing sports, developing discipline and skill that have brought her all the way to the Olympic Games. She makes her Olympic debut in Rio, providing the team with a contagious determination and passion for the game, and for winning it.
9. Paige Selenski (Team USA, Hockey)
With unparalleled strength and speed, Paige Selenski has become a huge threat in the international hockey scene. She joined the U.S Women’s National Team in 2009, even taking her senior year of college off so that she could pursue her passion and train with the National Team full time. Her hard work brought her to the 2012 London Olympic Games, where she quickly became an irreplaceable member of the team. Unfortunately, a recent injury has resulted in her placing as an alternate player for Rio. However, with her passion and dedication for the game, she remains an important and inspiring member of team.
10. Mariel Zagunis (Team USA, Fencing)
Saber fencer Mariel Zagunis comes from a family of Olympians. Her parents were both Olympic rowers, passing on their discipline and Olympic dreams to Mariel. She served as the flag bearer for the U.S delegation during the Opening Ceremonies at the London 2012 Olympic games, proudly carrying our flag and introducing Team USA to the world. Mariel is the most decorated fencer in the history of USA Fencing and was officially inducted into the FIE Hall of Fame in 2013. Outside of her fencing career, she has a passion for volunteer work, actively promoting the importance of environmental preservation.
Who are you pumped to watch at this summer’s Olympics?
Written by Darling Digital Media Intern Jessica Tomkins