Michael Phelps

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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BEST OF 2010s: Summer Olympians | Winter Olympians | Teams
MOMENTS: Summer Olympics | Winter Olympics | Paralympics | Viral

Ten memorable Summer Olympic gold-medal moments from 2010s

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

London 2012: Fierce Five puts U.S. back atop women’s gymnastics
Gabby Douglas, Aly Raisman, Jordyn Wieber, McKayla Maroney and Kyla Ross became the first U.S. gymnastics team to win an Olympic title outside of a home Games. This group set the tone for what would become a dynasty — the U.S. women have won every Olympic and world team and all-around title since 2011. Douglas went on to capture the all-around in London. Raisman grabbed her all-around medal in Rio, a silver. Wieber kicked it off with the 2011 World all-around crown. Maroney was shockingly relegated to silver in the 2012 Olympic vault final, then repeated as world champion in 2013. Ross would join Simone Biles on world all-around podiums in 2013 and 2014.

London 2012: Michael Phelps breaks career Olympic medals record
Though Phelps broke Mark Spitz‘s single-Games mark by taking eight golds in 2008, he entered the decade in second place on the career Olympic medals list behind 1950s and ’60s Soviet gymnast Larisa Latynina. Phelps needed three medals in London — what he said would be his final Games — to take the lead with 19 total. He tied and broke the record on the same night with a silver behind Chad le Clos in the 200m butterfly and gold anchoring the 4x200m freestyle relay. Phelps went on to win another nine Olympic medals between London and Rio — with a brief retirement in between — to finish with 28 medals and 23 golds. Latynina, with 18 medals and nine golds, is now a distant second.

London 2012: Misty May-Treanor/Kerri Walsh Jennings three-peat
The greatest team in beach volleyball history took their final bow together at Horse Guards Parade, completing an undefeated run for a third straight Olympics. May-Treanor and Walsh Jennings had separate win streaks of 90 and 112 matches in the 2000s but were vulnerable going into London. They had won four of their 17 international events together since May-Treanor unretired in 2011. But they dropped just one set in seven matches at the Olympics, sweeping countrywomen Jen Kessy and April Ross in the final. May-Treanor retired from international play for good, while Walsh Jennings planted the seed of her next partnership at the net after the final. She and Ross paired and earned bronze in Rio.

London 2012: David Rudisha breaks world record in epic 800m final
Maybe the greatest race in history. The Maasai warrior Rudisha was tapped by many to break his own world record in his Olympic debut. He did it, leading from the break and towing six of the seven other finalists to personal bests. Rudisha clocked 1:40.91, becoming the first man to break 1:41. Every runner’s time was the fastest ever for that finishing placement. “It was the performance of the Games, not just of track and field, but of the Games,” said London 2012 chairman Seb Coe, a former 800m world-record holder.

London 2012: David Boudia wins platform on final dive
Boudia, after qualifying last out of 18 divers out of preliminaries, entered the sixth and last final-round dive in a virtual tie with world champion Qiu Bo of China and British favorite Tom Daley. For the biggest dive of his life, Boudia performed the highest-scoring dive of the day — 102.60 points — on a back two-and-a-half somersault with two-and-a-half twists in the pike position. He won by 1.80 points over Qiu, giving the U.S. its first Olympic diving title since Laura Wilkinson in 2000.

Rio 2016: Simone Biles, Aly Raisman go 1-2 in all-around
For Biles, gold was a coronation marking four years of unprecedented excellence. For Raisman, silver was sweet, representing a three-year comeback journey to become an even better gymnast than she was in London (where she missed an all-around medal on a tiebreak). Biles’ margin of victory — 2.1 points — was greater than the previous nine Olympic margins combined. Raisman had a 1.433-point edge over bronze medalist Aliya Mustafina, greater than the margin separating Mustafina from the 10th-place finisher.

Rio 2016: Katie Ledecky completes 4-gold-medal Games with second world record
You can’t ask much more of a swimmer than a personal best. When Ledecky does that, it usually means a world record. She shattered personal bests in the 200m, 400m and 800m freestyles en route to four golds (including the 4x200m free relay) at her second Olympics. The 400m and 800m frees were world records, nearly two seconds faster than the previous marks. Ledecky shed rare tears after the last race, the 800m free, knowing it was her final one under D.C.-area coach Bruce Gemmell before matriculating at Stanford.

Rio 2016: Wayde van Niekerk breaks Michael Johnson’s 400m world record
From way out in lane eight, the South African took down Johnson’s 17-year-old world record in perhaps the most astonishing feat of the Games. Van Niekerk, then coached by a 74-year-old grandmother (Ans Botha), clocked 43.03 seconds. Usain Bolt, watching on a TV in the stadium, covered his mouth in a similar reaction to many at the Maracana. The two sprinters trained together earlier that year. “Bolt told me in Jamaica, ‘You will break the world record,'” van Niekerk said in Rio. “Tonight [Bolt] said, ‘I told you you can do it.'”

Rio 2016: Usain Bolt finishes golden Olympic career
With one last relay leg, the Jamaican bid farewell to the Olympics with a “triple-triple,” gold medals in the 100m, 200m and 4x100m at the 2008, 2012 and 2016 Olympics (the 2008 relay title would later be stripped for a teammate’s doping). Though Bolt turned a close 4x100m into a runaway on anchor, perhaps the more memorable image of that night came hours later. Some time after midnight, Bolt made his way back onto the track and threw a javelin.

Rio 2016: Neymar wins Brazil’s first Olympic soccer title in shootout
In what he later called the most nervous moment of his life, Neymar calmly netted the decisive shootout attempt in the Olympic final at the Maracana. The opponent: Germany, whose national team trounced Brazil 7-1 two years earlier in the World Cup semifinals, also in Brazil. Neymar dropped to his knees, was mobbed by teammates and then sobbed. Brazil, a five-time World Cup champion, earned its first Olympic soccer title and its most coveted medal of the Rio Games.

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BEST OF 2010s: Summer Olympians | Winter Olympians | Teams
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Michael Phelps’ deadline for comeback passing by

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Michael Phelps has repeated — over and over and over again — that he will not unretire (for a second time) for a 2020 Olympic bid.

Whether those listening believe he will stick to that is now moot: Phelps, in the unforeseen event he wants to come back, must have notified swimming’s international governing body by this week (perhaps before this week) to be eligible for June’s Olympic trials.

When U.S. Olympic-caliber swimmers unretire, they must re-enter the drug-testing pool six months before they are allowed to compete in high-profile events like trials. To compete at trials, which begin June 21, swimmers must post a qualifying time in an even earlier meet.

Remember that Phelps re-entered the drug-testing pool in 2013 — but did not announce that he did until a few months later — in his comeback for the Rio Olympics.

“If I was racing in the 2020 Games, then that would mean that I would have to be into the drug-testing pool by this point, right, because I have to make Olympic trials, all that process, it’s a nine-month window,” Phelps said on The Dan Patrick Show in October, referencing the previous nine-month rule that was in effect for his previous comeback but has since been shortened to six. “I’m not in the testing pool right now. It’s less than a year away, and there’s not enough time.”

By 2024, Phelps will be 39 years old. Still possible for a comeback, given one American swimmer competed in the Olympics in their 40s — Dara Torres in 2008, earning three silver medals.

“I won’t be in 2020, I guarantee you that,” Phelps said in October, “and I don’t have any plans of coming back any time soon.”

MORE: Teens make splash with Olympic swim trials on horizon

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