The Olympics is incredible for a host of reasons, not least for some fantastic viewing, seeing your country own the world stage and the world’s best athletes compete, but also for the legacy it leaves behind. The hike in sports participation following the Olympics and other major events is thanks to the work of the sporting greats and their achievements.
The name that stands out the most is Michael Phelps, and no athlete has achieved more than the American. Phelps’ record as the most decorated Olympian speaks for itself and with 23 gold medals to his name he has been the biggest name in swimming for over a decade.
Phelps’ love of the water is clear to see, and his dedication and love for the sport have been rewarded. The 31-year-old once said: “If you want to be the best, you have to do things that other people aren't willing to do” and the American has done just that, sticking to his gruelling training regime, he has owned the water. He set out to revolutionise the sport that he loved, stuck with it, and did just that, if he were a country, his medal tally would rank him in the top 60 in modern Olympic history.
Phelps has inspired thousands of children across America who all want to be as good as him. 19-year-old Katie Ledecky scooped four gold medals during Rio 2016 as well as breaking two world records. Shortly after Ledecky’s
Olympic glory, a picture circulated of her ten years previous, a beaming nine-year-old girl posing with Michael Phelps.
Now retired, Phelps’ incredible reign in the pool has inspired America’s new wave of swimmers who are set to dominate waters. And the Phelps effect has crossed borders too, South Africa’s Chad Le Clos admitted that his career was modelled around Phelps and the Olympic legend was the reason he swam butterfly.
Away from the pool, Usain Bolt has redefined track and field and continues to dominate his sprinting rivals. The Jamaican superstar is the first man to hold both the 100 metres and 200 metres world records and has inspired a nation.
Bolt’s prominence on the track has stimulated national pride in Jamaica, and his rise from Waldensia Primary School, where many of the students hail from poor rural backgrounds, has given children there the hope and belief that they can follow in his footsteps. His modest persona and relatability show that he remembers his roots, whilst proving that Jamaicans can compete on the world stage.
At 4ft 8in, Simone Biles has proven that you don’t need to be born in the mould of Phelps and Bolt to dominate your sport. Biles is mightily powerful for her size and has changed female gymnastics. The strength and power seen in the 19-year-old are unprecedented in any previous female seen on the mat. Biles unique moves and confidence to work them into the hardest floor routines in history has won her plaudits from far and wide, with Team GB star Beth Tweddle heaping praise on the youngster.
However, the teenager’s rise to the top of gymnastics hasn’t been without its difficulties. The gymnast was placed into foster care at a young age due to her mother’s drug and alcohol problems and was then adopted by her grandfather and his wife.
Biles’ grit and determination to exceed expectations and keep a positive mindset has touched many of her fellow competitors, and it’s likely that her dominance on the beam will inspire young girls across America to try their hand at gymnastics.
It would be hard not to take inspiration from Chris Froome’s three Tour de France titles, and rightly so, the amazing feat deserves recognition. Froome and his Tour de France counterparts inspired nearly 100,000 people to take part in British Cycling registered events following the 2014 campaign, with recreational programmes in British Cycling increasing by 64 per cent.
Froome’s very own Team Sky orchestrated Sky Ride events in which 50,000 people took part. Froome’s Tour de France glory is helping to keep UK cycling cemented in the spotlight, and more people than ever are now buying their bike to take to the roads.