As sun sets on Rio, 7 Olympic-sized questions finally answered
Phelps and Bolt dominated as expected, but Rio offered many surprises
By Pete Evans, CBC Sports
The Rio Olympics are now behind us (or just about), and despite predictions of the event being a financial fiasco, riddled with Zika-bearing mosquitoes and under the constant threat of terrorism, the Games went off without any major stumbles.
There were many questions headed into Rio, but after 16 days of competition, we learned the answers to some of the bigger ones.
Will the Phelps 'Pharewell' happen?
U.S. swimmer Michael Phelps came into these Games looking to cement his legacy as the greatest Olympian of all time. With six more medals including five golds and a silver — losing to to his biggest former child fan in the process — he delivered.
Prior to Rio, he said these Games would be his last. He's left the door open a crack to coming to Tokyo in four years, but with 28 medals and an infant son, it seems inconceivable that the Flying Fish thinks he has anything left to play for.
Can Usain Bolt 3-peat?
In a word: yes.
The Jamaican came into these Games as the unquestioned fastest man who ever lived, and was looking to add more medals to his impressive lifetime total to ensure his legacy.
Only one other man has ever repeated as 100-metre champion, and Canadians know why American Carl Lewis has a huge asterisk on his resume. Not satisfied with back-to-back, Bolt came to Rio wanting to become the only man to ever do it three times. As if that weren't enough, he vowed to repeat the feat in the 200 and the 4x100 relay, two more accomplishments that nobody else can lay claim to.
While there were moments of drama along the way, ultimately the result, in retrospect, was never in doubt, as Bolt cruised to victory in all three events.
Now 30 years old, Bolt may indeed have some gas left in the tank by the time 2020 rolls around. But it's hard to imagine he thinks he has anything more to prove in sprinting. Expect next year's world championships to be his swan song, if Rio wasn't it.
The bromance continues. All smiles between Bolt and De Grasse as they cross the finish line <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/DeBolt?src=hash">#DeBolt</a> <a href="https://t.co/vtHo2cGKHv">https://t.co/vtHo2cGKHv</a>—@CBCOlympics
The three new medals are nice, but Bolt also leaves Rio with a new BFF, apparently, if reports of the budding bromance between Bolt and his heir apparent, Andre De Grasse, are really true.
Can the Selecao bring home the gold?
Every host nation hopes to finish near the top of the medal table. But as was the case for men's hockey in Vancouver in 2010, one sport always matters much more than the rest to the home crowd.
In soccer-mad Brazil, the medal they want most is gold in futebol. And while they got off to a bumpy start, Neymar and Co. seemed to jell as the tourney rolled on.
A thrilling gold medal final between Brazil and Germany went to a shootout — with Neymar scoring the winner for the home team, setting off a chorus of celebrations.
Brazil had many other moments of national pride at these games, including an inspirational gold by Thiago Braz da Silva in men's pole vault, and three medals for sprint canoeist Queiroz da Silva.
<a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/BRA?src=hash">#BRA</a> Thiago Braz da Silva clears 6.03m, sets new OR. Watch the pole vault showdown here: <a href="https://t.co/HCmbrOa1Fd">https://t.co/HCmbrOa1Fd</a><br> <a href="https://t.co/WAXq7CAdes">https://t.co/WAXq7CAdes</a>—@CBCOlympics
But none will be as fondly remembered as what Neymar and his compatriots pulled off.
Is the water safe?
Water woes were the theme coming into these Games, but for the most part the predictions of pestilence didn't come to pass.
Sure, there were some strange gastrointestinal issues in the racewalk, and the diving pool's #greenwater didn't do the host country's reputation any favours. But all in all, the water quality ended up being a non-issue.
Still, as Swedish silver medallist golfer Henrik Stenson learned, diphtheria isn't the only thing that can kill you in Brazil's waterways.
Crocodile sighting in <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/Golf?src=hash">#Golf</a>! <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/SWE?src=hash">#SWE</a> Henrik Stenson is a brave man. <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/Rio2016?src=hash">#Rio2016</a> <a href="https://t.co/JAoL0ve2RK">https://t.co/JAoL0ve2RK</a> <a href="https://t.co/SGetLiws3W">https://t.co/SGetLiws3W</a>—@CBCOlympics
Will golf and rugby be hits?
Golf didn't come into Rio on the most positive of notes, with many of the world's best staying home, citing fears about Zika and other concerns. But by the time the final pairing teed off in the men's event on Sunday morning, the sport had redeemed itself. Fans were even treated to an epic finale, as Stenson and Justin Rose came into the 18th tee in a tie, requiring a perfect approach shot by Rose to secure the win on a tap-in.
On the women's side, the action was just as good, with Inbee Park taking the gold and Canadian teen phenom Brooke Henderson making a late charge for the podium but ultimately finishing in 7th place, at 8-under par.
Rugby sevens, on the other hand, came in to very little fanfare but ended up stealing the show from the start. Canada earned a medal in the inaugural event on the women's side with a hard-fought win over Great Britain in the bronze-medal game.
And the tiny island country of Fiji earned its first ever Olympic gold medal on the men's side, producing one of the most heart warming moments of the games in their celebration.
Will Brazil dominate the Copacabana beach?
Two weeks ago, we boldly proclaimed it was a "sure bet" for Brazil to take home some hardware on Copacabana beach, as the country had earned at least one medal in beach volleyball in almost every Olympics where it has been contested.
The men delivered on that promise, with Bruno Schmidt and Alison Cerutti winning gold. Brazil's women earned a silver, bringing two medals to the country most associated with the sport.
Beach party! <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/BRA?src=hash">#BRA</a> completes comeback against <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/SUI?src=hash">#SUI</a> in beach volleyball to advance to semifinals <a href="https://t.co/mCd44bkiek">https://t.co/mCd44bkiek</a>—@CBCOlympics
Will the doping scandal flare up?
If there was a dark cloud on the Rio Games, it has to be the continuing Russian doping scandal, which reared its ugly head after the questionable decision to reinstate dozens of Russian athletes who had been banned from the Games for doping violations.
No athlete wore this scandal more than swimmer Yulia Efimova, who had her two silver medals marred by being booed mercilessly throughout her swims, and earned the scorn of more than one of her fellow competitors.
Efimova and other Russians may indeed be clean. But with state-sponsored doping that was apparently underway in the Sochi games, it's highly questionable why many of them were allowed to attend Rio in the first place. And the reaction is all too predictable.