Fun Fact of the Day: A member of the U.S.’s rugby team, New England Patriots safety Nate Ebner made history as the first active NFL player to participate in the Olympics. Ebner’s first love was rugby but he gave it up in college, when he walked on to Ohio State’s football team his junior year. He had not played football in high school.
Gymnastics. The US women’s gymnastics team (nicknamed the “Final Five”) won gold! This is the first time that the US’s little women have won gold in 2 consecutive Olympics. The Americans started off strong and stuck the landing, finishing with a score of 184.197, a stunning 8.209 points ahead of second-place Russia. This was a particularly emotional win for national team coordinator Martha Karolyi, who helped build USA Gymnastics into the powerhouse it is today. At age 73, she will retire after these Olympic games.
Swimming. Michael Phelps added 2 more gold medals to his collection, making 25 total (21 of them gold). First, he won the 200m butterfly, avenging his London 2012 loss to South African rival Chad le Clos, who did not place. Cue the finger wag! Then he anchored the 4x200 freestyle relay, where he swam alongside a star-studded team that included Ryan Lochte. Fellow American Katie Ledecky took home gold in the 200m freestyle, which as a long distance swimmer was her “weakest” event. She only has the 800m freestyle left and all the smart money is on Ledecky.
Tennis. #1-ranked superstar Serena Williams played sloppily and was upset by #20-ranked Ukranian Elina Svitolina, in a surprising 3rd round match. This means that Serena, who was the reigning gold-medalist for both singles and doubles from the London 2012 games, is now going home medal-less. Serena and her sister Venus were also kicked out of the doubles tournament earlier this week.
Spotlight on Laurie Hernandez
At just 16 years old, Laurie Hernandez is the youngest member of the US women’s gymnastics team. After winning gold with the Final Five, she will compete for individual event medals in balance beam and floor exercise next week. Here’s what you need to know about this superstar gymnast:
A proud Boricua. Laurie’s grandparents were Puerto Rican, making Laurie the first U.S.-born Latina on the Olympic gymnastics team since 1984. Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton showed her support tweeting “#ImWithHernandez” when Laurie made the team.
A natural gymnast. Laurie has trained with coach Maggie Haney ever since she was 5 years old. Haney had never coached an elite national-level gymnast before, so at first she didn’t recognize Laurie’s potential. Eventually, she had Laurie perform a USA Gymnastics skills evaluation, which included feats like holding a handstand for as long as possible and climbing a rope with your legs held out parallel to the floor. Laurie received the #1 score in the country for all 9 year olds.
She bounces back. Laurie was sidelined for all of 2014 with a gruesome knee injury. She had to get surgery, including a new patella ligament from a cadaver. By 2015, she was back to competing and went undefeated in all four junior all-around competitions.
A show-woman. Laurie is nicknamed “The Human Emoji” and “Baby Shakira” for her bubbly personality and theatrical dance moves in her floor routine. While many gymnasts have moved towards pure athleticism, Laurie manages to combine power with performance art.
Seen and Heard
Tim Tee-ball? ESPN analyst and former NFL QB Tim Tebow wants to get back into pro sports, but this time around he’s going to try his hand at baseball. He’s invited all 30 MLB teams to watch him work out later this month. On top of “Tebowing” in the end zone you probably remember Tim for being a 1st round pick in the 2010 NFL Draft, and then bouncing around the league before getting cut in 2015. Maybe baseball is like riding a bike? Tim was really good at baseball in high school, but he stopped playing after his junior year. Now, he’s 29 years old and it’s been 11 years since he last played, so this seems like it might be a pipedream. It ain’t easy. You might remember another pretty awesome athlete named Michael Jordan. At age 31, he also dabbled in baseball to underwhelming results in the minors.
Out-Fielder. Texas Rangers DH Prince Fielder is expected to announce that his career is over, after a second spinal fusion surgery. At 32, Fielder’s performance has recently deteriorated because of chronic neck injuries. He was a 6x All-Star whose 319 career home runs matched his father Cecil’s total.