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McKayla Maroney, Tonga flagbearer among viral Olympic stars of 2010s decade

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NBCSports.com looks back at the 2010s this week. Here are 10 viral Olympic moments that defined the decade …

Vancouver 2010: Alexandre Bilodeau wins Canada’s first home gold, hugs brother
Canada went gold-less at both the 1976 Montreal Games and the 1988 Calgary Winter Games. A lot of thought was put into which athlete would earn its first title in Vancouver. It ended up being Bilodeau, who upset the defending champion and embraced his older brother, Frederic, who has cerebral palsy.

Vancouver 2010: Jon Montgomery’s celebratory drink after skeleton title
The Canadian came from behind to stun Latvian Martins Dukurs for gold. The scruffy car salesman/auctioneer then drank from a beer pitcher on a victory march through the Whistler ski village in one of the iconic moments of the Games.

London 2012: Queen/James Bond Opening Ceremony
Who could forget the Queen’s royal entrance into the London Olympic Stadium, “parachuting” in from above with the help of 007. Danny Boyle, the Oscar winner who directed the Opening Ceremony, originally thought an actress — perhaps Helen Mirren — would play the Queen in the skit, if approved by the royal family. “They came back and said, ‘We’re delighted for you to do it, and Her Majesty would like to be in it herself,’” Boyle said in 2013.

London 2012: McKayla Maroney not impressed
Stunned and upset that she was beaten for the Olympic vault title, Maroney became one of social media’s first major memes for her smirk on the podium. “I remember doing the face for literally two seconds,” Maroney said later. “Like, if you watch the video, it’s two seconds. And I remember thinking, did I just make a face? Because it’s natural. I do it all the time. I have pictures of me when I’m little doing it. I have it on my Mac computer when I’m like 13.”

Sochi 2014: Four-ring Opening Ceremony
By the third Olympics of the decade, everybody knew about hashtags. Among the more memorable #SochiProblems was an Opening Ceremony glitch where five snowflakes were supposed to open into five interlocking Olympic Rings. Only four did, leaving one snowflake that ended up looking like an asterisk. Organizers later made light of the mishap in the Closing Ceremony.

Sochi 2014: Johnny Quinn busts through bathroom
The U.S. bobsledder tweeted at 4:16 a.m. ET, “I was taking a shower and the door got locked/jammed…. …With no phone to call for help, I used my bobsled push training to break out. #SochiJailBreak.” And so Johnny Quinn became a social media sensation. He capitalized, training with a SWAT team (after the Games) and becoming a public speaker. Quinn, a former NFL preseason wide receiver, told his story in front of Fidelity Investments, school assemblies and LiftMaster, a suburban Chicago company whose products include garage-door accessories.

Rio 2016: Michael Phelps’ face
The swimming ready room in Rio became such a hit that a constant live stream was added to NBCOlympics.com’s wall-to-wall coverage. Phelps authored the best moment, stewing with a disgusted look as rival Chad le Clos shadow boxed in front of him. “I always know there’s two cameras in the upper right-hand corner right before I walk out, and I’m like sitting there, like spitting water,” Phelps said later. “As I’m making a face, I was like, yep, that’s on camera. … Someone will pick that one up tomorrow.”

Rio 2016: Usain Bolt’s mid-race smiles for cameras
In his last Olympics, the world’s fastest man created the most buzz while caught in still images in semifinals. Photos of Bolt — smiling while looking back at his 100m semifinal competitors mid-race — and exchanging glances with Andre De Grasse in the 200m semis — lit up social media. Tack them on to Bolt’s other viral moments, from crossing the finish line at the 2013 World Championships as lightning struck to getting run over by a Segway at the 2015 Worlds.

PyeongChang 2018: Tonga flag bearer Pita Taufatofua
Taufatofua actually debuted his shirtless, oiled-up Opening Ceremony appearance in Rio as a taekwondo athlete. But his journey to becoming a dual Summer/Winter Olympian is the stuff of legend. He traversed the globe picking up Olympic cross-country skiing qualifying points in Finland, Australia, Colombia and finally Iceland, clinching a spot thanks to the sport’s very lenient structure for athletes from nations without a Winter Olympic tradition. In PyeongChang, he braved near-freezing temperatures to again go shirtless at the Opening Ceremony. He then finished outside the top 100 in his ski race.

PyeongChang 2018: Here Comes Diggins!
The U.S.’ first Olympic cross-country skiing title changed the lives of not only Jessie Diggins and Kikkan Randall, but also NBC Olympics analyst Chad Salmela. The exuberant call from Salmela, who knew fellow Minnesota native Diggins since she was in high school, became the name of a new flavor at Selma’s Ice Cream Parlour in Diggins’ hometown of Afton.

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Usain Bolt, Michael Phelps lead dominant Summer Olympians of 2010s

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NBCSports.com looks back at the 2010s decade this week. Here are 10 of the Summer Olympic athletes (five American, five international) who dominated the last 10 years …

Simone Biles, United States
Gymnastics
Four Olympic gold medals in 2016
Record 25 World Championships medals

Biles is the only athlete on this list who competed at just one Olympics in this decade. That’s a testament to just how dominant she has been. Undefeated for six years in all-around competition. History-making winning margins. Four unprecedented skills among three apparatuses that are now named after her. Before Rio, teammate Aly Raisman was the first to say that Simone was competing in her own division. That was true four years ago, and it remains true going into the 2020s.

Usain Bolt, Jamaica
Track and Field
Six Olympic gold medals in the 2010s
First sprinter to sweep the 100m and 200m at multiple Olympics

Bolt followed his breakout and world records in 2008 and 2009 with impressive longevity through the end of his career in 2017. Bolt’s competition got faster in this decade — and he slowed slightly — but he was always the man to beat. Training partner Yohan Blake defeated him at the 2012 Jamaican Olympic Trials, only for Bolt to return the favor at the London Games. Justin Gatlin re-emerged in the next Olympic cycle, also handing Bolt a loss in 2013, but the Jamaican still swept the 100m and 200m at the 2013 and 2015 Worlds and to complete his Olympic career in Rio.

Lisa Carrington, New Zealand
Flatwater Canoe
2012 and 2016 Olympic K-1 200m champion
At least one gold medal at seven different world championships in the 2010s

The queen of her sport’s splash-and-dash. Carrington won all nine Olympic or world titles in the individual 200m from 2011-19. She’s also added golds in the K-1 500m and K-2 500m at the world championships. In 2014, Carrington recorded the fastest 200m time in history, 37.898 seconds, which took more than a second off the 20-year-old mark held by German Birgit Fischer, considered by many the greatest female Olympian in history.

Ashton Eaton, United States
Track and Field
Two Olympic decathlon titles
Twice broke the decathlon world record

If the Olympic decathlon champion is still the world’s greatest athlete, then Eaton is going into the eighth year of his reign. The Oregon native opened the 2010s with a world championships silver medal at age 22 in 2011. Then he won every single global title, including indoor heptathlons, from 2012 through his retirement in 2016. Eaton’s personal bests in the 400m and the 400m hurldes (the latter not a decathlon event) would have made the Rio Olympic team.

Katie Ledecky, United States
Swimming
Five Olympic gold medals in the 2010s
World records in the 400m, 800m and 1500m freestyles

A 12-year-old at the start of the decade, Ledecky became arguably the world’s most dominant athlete for the 2010s. She was the youngest U.S. Olympian across all sports at London 2012 and brought back gold in the 800m free, upsetting British favorite Rebecca Adlington. Then Ledecky really turned it on, breaking 14 world records from 2013-18 and coining the Ledecky Slam — sweeping the 200m, 400m, 800m and 1500m free titles at one world championships in 2015.

Michael Phelps, United States
Swimming
Nine Olympic gold medals in the 2010s; 12 overall medals
Broke the record for career Olympic medals

Phelps’ prime came just before the start of the decade, with his eight Olympic gold medals in 2008 and last three individual world records in 2009. The 2010s were defined by comebacks — from ceding the title of world’s greatest swimmer to Ryan Lochte in 2010 and 2011 to outperforming his countryman at the 2012 London Games. From gaining 30 pounds in a 2012-13 retirement to becoming the world’s fastest butterflier again in 2014. From a DUI arrest, suspension, rehab stint and suicidal thoughts to become Team USA’s flag bearer in Rio, an Olympic team captain for the first time and end his Olympic career with five more gold medals.

Teddy Riner, France
Judo
Olympic heavyweight titles in 2012, 2016
Every world title from 2010 through 2017

Riner, a native of Guadeloupe, is a giant in his sport. Not just because he is 6 feet, 8 inches, and 290 pounds. But because he hasn’t lost a competitive match since September 2010. He is riding a win streak of around 150 matches, which includes skipping the 2018 and 2019 World Championships as he lightened his tournament schedule going into his fourth Olympics in 2020.

Svetlana Romashina, Russia
Synchronized Swimming
Olympic gold medals in all four synchro events in the 2010s
13 World titles across 2011, 2013, 2015 and 2019

Romashina gets the nod over longtime duet partner Natalya Ishchenko, who retired after the Rio Olympics. Romashina also left the sport after those Games, but she came back to win three more world titles this past summer at age 29 (her first golds came in 2005, when she was 14).

Claressa Shields, United States
Boxing
Won four of the five Olympic and world titles this decade before turning pro
Lost one bout in the entire decade, while winning more than 80

Shields has been the face of Olympic women’s boxing since taking gold at age 17 in the sport’s debut at the 2012 London Games. The Flint, Mich., product followed up by sweeping the world titles in the next Olympic cycle and capping her amateur career with repeat Olympic gold.

Anita Wlodarczyk, Poland
Track and Field
Won five of the seven Olympic or world hammer titles in the 2010s
Recorded the 15 farthest throws in history

Wlodarczyk won a reported 42 straight finals between 2014 and 2017 before defeats the last two seasons and arthroscopic left knee surgery that kept her out of worlds in September. Her world record of 82.98 meters (scribbled on her leg pre-op) is 11 and a half feet farther the second-best woman in history.

Honorable Mention: Mo Farah (Track and Field, Great Britain), Jin Jong-Oh (Shooting, South Korea), Laura Kenny (Cycling, Great Britain), Mariana Pajon (Cycling, Colombia), Maggie Steffens (Water Polo, United States), Christian Taylor (Track and Field, United States) and Kohei Uchimura (Gymnastics, Japan).

Correction: A previous version of this post incorrectly reported that Bolt won five Olympic gold medals in the 2010s. He won six, sweeping the 100m, 200m and 4x100m in 2012 and in 2016.

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Usain Bolt on Noah Lyles’ ‘Bolt Who’ Instagram, his Olympic 100m favorite

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NEW YORK — Usain Bolt spoke with OlympicTalk while in Manhattan to receive an International Humanitarian Award from the American Friends of Jamaica for his charity work.

Bolt, who just helped build a home for somebody who lost his in a fire, said he’s now focusing his foundation on bringing computers to children in rural Jamaica.

“When I learned about computers was when I got to high school,” Bolt said Thursday night. “We had no idea, because I’m from the rural area, about what was out there.

“The only thing you knew about was bicycles. You didn’t dream big.”

Bolt also discussed his peculiar Instagram post about Noah Lyles, Allyson Felix breaking his world titles record and his pick to win the Tokyo Olympic 100m. The Q&A is lightly edited and condensed for clarity.

OlympicTalk: Overall thoughts on the world championships?

Bolt: The distance [races] are picking up. I think most of the crowd came to see the distances. It was shocking to see the amount of people there for the sprints — that was different. Overall, the ladies are doing pretty well. They’re really doing much better than the men.

OlympicTalk: You saw Allyson Felix today and talked to her about breaking your world championships gold medals record. What exactly was said?

Bolt: I said to her, I saw you passed me for all-time medals. She said to me, well, most of your medals are gold. I laughed. For her to come back from having a kid, also, on this stage and work this hard to actually come out and compete is big. She said she spoke to [Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce, who won the world 100m title after a pregnancy break], and Shelly said the first year is always the hardest year. So next year, I’ll feel much better.

OlympicTalk: Does it hurt you a little bit inside that’s one record you don’t have anymore?

Bolt: It was never about records or running fast times. It’s always championships, getting to the championships, winning and dominating. Showing the world that I was the best. I got to my goal at the end of my career, and that’s what really matters.

OlympicTalk: What about Shelly-Ann, coming back from childbirth to win the 100m. For so long, she raced in your shadow a little bit. Do you think she didn’t get enough credit over the years?

Bolt: She didn’t get enough credit, but I think it’s the personality. I keep explaining to a lot of these athletes that one way people loved me is the personality that I had, that I showed people. Shelly is very shy. She’s quiet. When you hear her speak at functions, she’s really good, but to interact with people, she’s not that type of person. I tell her all the time, if you add the personality, it wouldn’t be like this. It would be much different because people would actually see you, love you, feel your energy and know who you are. So, yes, I kind of overshadowed her because of my personality, but I think people really did recognize what she did for track and field and the work that she put in.

OlympicTalk: Did you watch the Eliud Kipchoge event?

Bolt: No, I just heard about it.

OlympicTalk: It made me wonder if anybody ever came up to you and said, we want to set up an event so you can run sub-9.5. Maybe put a bunch of blowing fans behind you. Did that ever happen?

Bolt: No, no. I never had the opportunity. It would be interesting. We have talked about it. It would be cool to see how fast I would run with proper wind.

OlympicTalk: I have to ask you about something that happened on social media before and during the world championships. You might know what I’m going to ask about.

Bolt: [Laughs] Yeah.

OlympicTalk: After the Paris Diamond League, Noah Lyles posted this after breaking your meet record [shows Bolt the Instagram Story photo]. Did you see that, and what did you think of it?

Bolt: I think he went to another meet after that, and he ran, and then I was watching the TV, and they brought it up. I was like, what do you mean Usain Bolt who? If you don’t know who I am, you’re in the wrong sport. That’s the first thing that came to my mind. I’ve always said this, the young kids are always going to be like that. But it’s funny to hear them talk, hear the energy that they push. I’ve set a standard so high. You can talk all you want, but you have to prove that you can live up to that standard. Breaking a meet record means nothing to me. But I was surprised that he actually said that.

OlympicTalk: I’ve got to ask you a follow-up then. Did you post this [shows Bolt his own Instagram Story photo] after the world championships 200m final?

Bolt: Yes I did. It was funny to me because throughout the whole season [Lyles] was like, oh, I’m going to break the world record. I’m going to do this. I’m going to do that. But in my mind, I’m saying, do you know how hard it is to go to the championship and break a world record? I felt like, because he was running fast all season, he felt like, yeah, I’m going to show up, and I’m going to do it. So I found it funny.

Editor’s Note: Lyles was asked often this summer about Bolt’s world record in the 200m — 19.19 seconds — after Lyles ran 19.50 with no wind. Lyles’ usual response was that he hoped to do special things in the event, but never predicted, in media interviews, that he would word-for-word break the world record. Lyles won the world 200m title in 19.83 seconds.

OlympicTalk: Were you nervous he might get the world record in Doha?

Bolt: No, I knew he wasn’t going to get it. It’s not easy. A lot of people see it and feel like you show up and you just run fast. For me, throughout the season, I figured out what I needed to do. I didn’t run races because I wanted to run fast. I ran races to figure out how I needed to run the corner, my technique I needed to fix. If you followed me through my career, I didn’t run a lot throughout the season. I trained. I ran and competed, figured out what I needed to improve, then did that [repeated that process] over again. That’s what I did to perfect my race [for the championships].

OlympicTalk: Have you spoken to Noah at all this summer or fall?

Bolt: No, I’ve never had a conversation with him.

OlympicTalk: Noah wants to do the 100m-200m double next year. You’ve also got Christian Coleman, Justin Gatlin, Yohan Blake. Who is your pick to win the Olympic 100m?

Bolt: I don’t see anybody actually beating Coleman. I think he’s only going to get better. For me, competing with him [in 2017, when Coleman took silver and Bolt bronze at worlds], his start is ridiculous. If he improves the last part of his race, he’s going to be, probably, unstoppable. I don’t see anybody beating him. I also have to say respect to Gatlin, the fact that he medaled at the championship [silver in the 100m in Doha behind Coleman after squeaking into the eight-man final]. I told my people, listen, I’m sure Coleman is going to win, but Gatlin is going to be in the top three no doubt because when he comes to a championship, no matter how much you feel like he’s not going to do well, he shows up. That’s just the mind of a champion. Competing with him throughout the years, I figured that out. That’s why I respect him. I gave him respect at the end [of my career in 2017]. I said, you know, you’re a true champion. I really enjoyed my last five years of my career competing with him.

OlympicTalk: If you could do it over again, would you have raced in 2017?

Bolt: Definitely. Doing it was for the fans. When I went to my doctor [former German national soccer team doctor Hans-Wilhelm Müller-Wohlfahrt] before I went to the [world] championship, my doctor told me not to do it. He said, if you go to the championships, most likely you’re going to get injured because you’re not fit. I feel like you’re not ready to compete at this level. But I was like, you know what, I told everybody I was going to come out and compete. It was important for me to do it for the fans because they made me who I am, and I promised I would do it one more year.

Editor’s Note: Bolt was defeated in his last two career races, taking bronze in the 100m at the 2017 Worlds and tumbling to the track with a hamstring tear in the 4x100m relay final.

OlympicTalk: How far before worlds was that doctor’s visit?

Bolt: Two weeks. Every year before championships, I get a check-up.

OlympicTalk: Were you with him at Oktoberfest in Munich this year?

Bolt: Yeah.

OlympicTalk: I see videos and pictures of you at Oktoberfest every year. What was the beginning of you going to Oktoberfest, singing Queen and Kings of Leon in the beer hall every year?

Bolt: Every year I went to see the doctor, he would say, you should come to Oktoberfest. I would never go. But one year he finally convinced me. It was nice. Laughing, good food. Then they always try to bring me up on stage. The crowd is loud. The energy. That’s me. I love stuff like that.

OlympicTalk: What’s next for you in 2020?

Bolt: I told my agent I want to travel to all the meets. I want to know the athletes who are going to compete because, this year, I really didn’t know a lot about what was going on. I knew about Lyles and Gatlin, but I didn’t know much about the rest of the field. Next year, I want to go to meets, see the athletes, see who’s doing well. When I get to the Olympics, I can actually say, they’re looking good.

OlympicTalk: What will you do at the Olympics next year? Attend as a fan? Sponsor functions? Commentary?

Bolt: I definitely will be doing sponsor stuff. Eurosport has asked me [about broadcast work]. I’m not sure. I’m thinking about it.

OlympicTalk: And these meets you want to go to next season. We’re talking Diamond League meets around the world?

Bolt: Yeah. I’ll probably pick four or five, just to watch. I just want to see what’s going on, stay on top of things and know the athletes.

OlympicTalk: Did watching the world championships give you any itch to think, I wish I was out there?

Bolt: I missed it [competing]. Especially watching the guys from Jamaica not really doing that well. But I don’t want to. The training, that’s what I don’t want to do.

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