An underdog describes someone who is not expected to win. People all have their favorite athletes competing in the Olympics, but sometimes you just can’t help but to root for an underdog. Why? Because underdogs have that fighting spirit and drive to do their very best despite the odds against them. Like the founder of the modern Olympics Pierre de Coubertin once said, “Winning medals wasn’t the point of the Olympics. It’s the participating that counts.”
So here are some of our favorite underdogs of the 2016 Summer Olympics — athletes for whom doing their best and working hard against all odds is a win in itself.
Joseph Schooling, Singapore
Joseph Schooling wasn’t expected to win. After all, he was swimming against Michael Phelps, one of the greatest swimmers of all time and someone who has won the 100-meter butter y in the previous three Olympics. But he did. To everyone’s surprise (even his own!), Joseph Schooling of Singapore beat Michael Phelps of the United States and the six other veteran (or more experienced) swimmers to take the gold at this year’s Olympic games.
Monica Puig, Puerto Rico
Puig, the world’s number 34 tennis player had only won one other tournament in her career and it was a relatively small one. Her opponent, Angelique Kerber, on the other hand, was the world’s number 2 tennis player and had won a number of titles including the 2016 Australian Open. But Monica did win, and boy did she win big! She dominated the tennis court at the Olympic games and won a gold medal for it. She is the first female athlete to win an Olympic gold medal for Puerto Rico. Game. Set. Match!
Dipa Karmakar, India
Imagine a sport that nobody in your country values. Imagine choosing to train in it even without the right equipment and only your own belief to guide you everyday. That is what Dipa Karmakar had to do in India, where she trained to be an Olympic gymnast. Karmakar was born with at feet, but little did that discourage her as she started training at the age of six. In a country that adores sports like cricket and hockey, she and her coach struggled to raise money to buy equipment, choosing instead to repurpose discarded parts from scooters and crash mats. But despite the lack of support and bad equipment, her tricky routine, nicknamed “the vault of death,” won her a spot in the Olympics and almost a medal in the games — and this in a sport that India has never even competed in. Way to go, Dipa!
Guarika Singh, Nepal
She is the youngest athlete to compete in the Olympics at only 13 years old. While she might not have won a spot in the nals against swimmers twice her age, Guarika did manage to beat all the women in her heat (or the race to see who would make it into the nals). A competitive swimmer from a young age, Guarika today considers herself lucky. Why? In 2015, while attending a swim meet in Nepal, she barely escaped an earthquake that struck the area and killed 9,000 people. Since then, she has donated her winnings from championships to the survivors of the earthquake.