It’s been less than a week since the sun set on the 2016 Summer Olympic Games in Rio De Janeiro, and if you’re experiencing Olympics withdrawals and longing to post up on your couch and have Bob Costas guide you through a night of nerve-wracking track and field, diving and gymnastics competition, we feel your pain. While the feelings of national pride and unity are somewhat unique to the Olympic Games, it’s also the pure entertainment of riveting athletic competition that keeps us wanting more.
And while some of us are ready to bust out our crockpots and initiate an office fantasy football league, there are those of us who don’t know where to turn to find a distraction until Tokyo 2020. While they may not be on the world’s biggest stage, there are a multitude of athletic events on the horizon that can temporarily fill the Olympic void.
If you liked track and field:
Team USA had superlative performance in track and field at the Rio Games, racking up the most medals (32) in a non-boycotted Olympic Games since 1932. The U.S. women in particular had a stellar Games, pulling in 16 medals and winning five of the six possible medals in hurdle events, include a 100m podium sweep. The men also had a great showing, especially in longer-distance track events and the decathlon, in which “world’s greatest athlete” Ashton Eaton posted an Olympic record for total points. If watching track and field got you psyched to lace up your sneakers and hit the track, trail or pavement, check out these events to sustain your motivation.
- The U.S. had a historic year in the so-called “Metric Mile” — the 1,500m — with Matt Centrowitz taking the men’s gold for the U.S. for the first time since 1908 and Jenny Simpson earning the first U.S. medal (bronze) ever in the women’s event. If you want to take your shot at this short-course event, check out the NYRR Fifth Avenue Mile in New York City over Labor Day weekend, where amateurs and pros alike test their mile pace over 20 beautiful city blocks.
- For the first time ever, the U.S. took gold and silver in the women’s long jump, with first and second-place winners Tianna Bartoletta and Brittney Reese jumping 7.17m (24 feet) and 7.15m (23 feet), respectively. If you’ve thought about doing a Warrior Dash like Warrior Dash Indiana, you might want to practice your own long jump in order to successfully clear the Warrior Roast, an actual pit of fire.
- Thanks to Galen Rupp (bronze medalist) and Jared Ward (6th), the U.S. men turned in their first pair of top-10 finishers in the marathon since 1976, with Rupp putting up a smoking fast 2:10:05 time (a mere week after his fifth-place 27:08.92 finish in the 10,000m, no less). If you’re motivated to go the distance this year, look into the REVEL Canyon City Marathon or, for a glitzier vibe, the Rock ‘n’ Roll Las Vegas Marathon.
If you were obsessed with swimming:
The USA Swimming Team dominated the Rio Games, with all eyes unsurprisingly on Michael Phelps, who now officially holds the title of most decorated Olympian of all time with a record 28 medals overall. Katie Ledecky, the stand-out on the womens side, took home a total of five medals (four of them gold), and broke the record in the 800m freestyle with a lightning-fast time of eight minutes and 4.79 seconds. And while there was a small, dark cloud of controversy that arose towards the end of the games (cough cough, Ryan Lochte), it was incredible to see emerging stars like Madeline Dirado and Simone Manuel grace the pool and go home victorious, winning 200m backstroke and the 100m freestyle, respectively.
While many gyms and health clubs across the country boast an Olympic-distance pool for the swimming enthusiast, there are a few open water swim events across the country available for swimmers looking to tap into their competitive side.
- The 8th Annual San Diego Shark Fest Swim on October 2 consists of a 1-mile (1.6 km) open water swim in the warm waters of San Diego Harbor, where the winners in each age group receive a personalized Shark Fest Champion plaque. How’s that for bragging rights?
- If you’re seeking to capitalize on your Olympic motivation quickly, head to Lake Tahoe on August 27 for the Lake Tahoe Open Water Swim which offers half-mile, 1.2-mile or 2.4-mile distances in one of the largest, bluest and purest alpine lakes on Earth.
If you were intrigued by triathlon:
Triathlon proved to be exciting at the 2016 Rio Games. After an unfortunate 38th place finish due to a flat tire at the 2012 London Games, professional triathlete and Wisconsin native Gwen Jorgensen was the favorite to take home the gold — and she did not disappoint. Jorgensen won the women’s event with a stellar time of 1:56:16, and brought a nation to tears with her emotional finish.
If that was your first experience witnessing a major triathlon event, then you’ll want to tune into the NBC live coverage of the IRONMAN World Championship in Kona, Hawaii on October 8, 2016. In the world of long-distance triathlon, Kona is Mecca, and professionals, amateurs, even your occasional celebrities battle all season long to earn a spot in this renowned event. The athlete stories are nothing short of inspirational, and the scenery isn’t so bad either.
If you’re feeling compelled to take on the swim, bike and run yourself, check out the different array of distances the sport of triathlon has to offer.
- If you’re entering the world of triathlon for the first time, the sprint distance (0.25-mile swim, 12-mile bike and 3.1-mile run) serves as the perfect introduction, and events like Mesa Sprint Triathlon in Mesa, Arizona offer an accessible and scenic course for newbies.
- If you’re looking to truly embody the spirit of an Olympic triathlete, the Olympic/International distance (0.93-mile swim, 23-mile bike and 6.3-mile run) is the one for you. Fun events like the Mack Cycle Escape to Miami Triathlon have you leaping off a ferry into the waters of Biscayne Bay at the swim start, creating a memorable race experience in a perfect late summer destination.
If you were glued to volleyball:
While neither the U.S. men’s nor women’s Beach or Indoor Volleyball teams took home the gold this year, both women’s teams and the men’s indoor team rallied to win bronze. We also saw perhaps the greatest women’s beach volleyball player, Kerry Walsh Jennings, compete in her final Olympic Games.
Volleyball is an energetic and engaging sport to watch, and the fact of the matter is that some of the most exciting matches happen at the collegiate level. Mark your calendars for the 2016 NCAA Division 1 Women’s Volleyball Championships December 15-17, 2016 at Nationwide Arena in Columbus, Ohio. The top teams will compete for the ultimate title of Division 1 Champions, and you’ll most likely see some future Tokyo Olympians on the court.