9 Women to Watch at the Rio Olympics 2016

← Previous Post Next Post →

On the eve of the 2016 Rio Olympic Games, we've rounded up a group of women to watch for their sheer sporting prowess and undeniable talent. From home turf Brazilian talent in Volleyball to the first woman to ever wear a hijab in the Olympic games, 2016 is set to be an exciting year for this group of Olympic hopefuls...

Katie Ledecky, 19

Sport: Swimming

Odds to win a medal: 1/4

Team: USA

Why you need to watch her: She's tipped as unbeatable. Insiders have said it's not a case of whether she'll win, but by how much. Her speed is matched by her endurance too; she's just as fast swimming the 200m as well as the 800m. That's the equivalent of a runner winning a 100m sprint and a long distance 5000m run - and unheard of in the sport.

Did you know? Katie is one of the tallest swimmers in her field, standing at a stately 6ft tall.

Genzebe_Dibaba_by_Augustas_DidzgalvisGenzebe Dibaba, 25

Sport: Track and Field - Long Distance 1500m

Odds to win a medal: 1/1

Team: Ethiopia

Why you need to watch her: Geneze holds the world record for the 1500m, indoor 3000m, 500m, mile and two mile distances. The Women's 1500m should be a comfortable win for her, but plenty of rivals will be challenging her for the Gold.

Did you know? Genzebe is one of three Olympian sisters, who all run middle/long distance - Ejegayehu Dibaba, who won silver in Athens in 2004 and Tirunesh Dibaba who has won a whopping three Olympic Gold medals and holds the world record for the 10,000m.

Katarina_Johnson-Thompson_Olympic_ParadeKatarina Johnson-Thompson, 23

Sport: Track and Field - Heptathlon

Team: Great Britain

Odds to win a medal: 4/1

Why you need to watch her: She's challenging fellow Brit Jessia Ennis-Hill for the heptathlon title - their friendly rivalry will be enough to watch alone, but the European pentathlon champion Katarina Johnson-Thompson will be doing all she can to beat Ennis-Hill to the Gold.

Did you know? Johnson-Thompson owns two dachshunds (sausage dogs) 'Chorizo' and 'Bronx', who will accompany her to Rio and stay in the Sausage Dog Hotel. Fancy!

GetPhotoTalita Antunes, 33 and Larissa Franca, 34

Sport: Volleyball

Team: Brazil

Odds to win a medal: 4/1

Why you need to watch them: As a national sport, Volleyball has a strong fandom and following in Brazil. With the Olympics held on home soil (or sand), this tenacious team will be looking to make their mark on Copacabana beach and win a medal apiece as Brazil takes centre stage.

Did you know? The dynamic duo have won 12 of the 19 FIVB World Tour events they have entered since partnering in 2014; as long as the US team don't topple them, an Olympic win will be the cherry on the cake for Antunes and Franca.

Biles_simone_2013_natsSimone Biles, 19

Sport: Gymnastics

Team: USA

Odds to win a medal: 1/1

Why you need to watch her: She's a rags-to-riches American Dream story; hailing from a broken home and a mother with substance abuse issues, Biles was adopted by her maternal grandparents. Beginning gymnastics aged 6 after she was seen 'imitating' other gymnasts, Biles is tipped as unbeatable. The hype surrounding her will no doubt put pressure on the young gymnast, but is she one to watch? Without a doubt.

Did you know? Biles stands at just 4ft 9inches - a diminutive 145cm.

athletisme_livoirienne_marie-josee_ta_lou_rafle_la_medaille_dor_au_meeting_de_londres_Marie Josée Ta Lou, 27

Sport: Track and Field - 100m Sprint

Team: Ivory Coast

Odds to win a medal: 4/1

Why you need to watch her: Josée Ta Lou recently beat Shelley-Ann Fraser-Pryce, the 100m Olympic Gold Winner of the London 2012 Olympics in the London Diamond League 2016 and she'll be giving it all she's got for the Gold in the 100m sprint on 

Did you know? Josée Ta Lou started off playing football and only swapped to athletics after her older brother suggested it out of fear she'd turn into a tomboy.

512px-Ibtihaj_Muhammad_podium_2013_Fencing_WCH_SFS-EQ_t215413Ibtihaj Muhammad, 30

Sport: Fencing

Team: USA

Odds to win a medal: 25/1

Why you need to watch her: Ibtihaj is the first American-Muslim woman to qualify for the Olympic Games wearing a hijab. After discussing Muslim issues in America with Barack Obama, Muhammad may be tipped to carry the flag for the USA in the opening ceremony.

Did you know? She has her own modest clothing line in keeping with her faith, Louella.


Yusra Mardini, 18

Team: Refugee (born in Syria)

Odds to win a medal: 25/1

Why you need to watch her: Mardini will be competing under the Refugee flag with 9 other athletes (who combined represent 60 million refugees) after escaping war-torn Damascus in Syria with her sister in August 2015. Just a year later, Mardini leaves Berlin in Germany, where she now lives, to fly to Rio and compete against the world's best swimmers in Rio.

Did you know? Heroic Mardini and her sister Sarah part-swam their way from Turkey to Greece after the engine in their dinghy failed and began to take on water, endangering the lives of the refugees on board.

Inspired by our 9 women to watch at the Rio Olympics (or want to take a closer look at the world of athletics)? Why not check out our Sports titles for the latest in health, wellbeing, fitness and sporting - from running and triathlons to golf, horse riding and cycling. Who knows - it could be you in 2020. 

Image Credits: Katie Ledecky, Genzebe Dibaba, Katarina Johnson-Thompson, Ibtihaj Muhammad, Yusra Mandini- Wikipedia | Talita Antunes and Larissa Franca - fivb.org | Simone Biles -  wagymnastics | Marie-Josee Ta Lou - Ivoire Times