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If Memes Were an Olympic Sport, These Would Be the 2016 Winners

The hits, the misses, the really unfortunate pole vault. This was a glorious Olympics for memes.
Image: Pixabay

It's really no mystery that the Olympics is good meme fodder: An event that starts with a retelling of a whole nation's history through the medium of interpretative dance and ends, in the most recent case, with the Japanese Prime Minister popping out of a pipe dressed as Super Mario.It's bound to elicit a few memorable moments.

The Rio 2016 Olympics, which came to a close on Sunday, has seen its fair share of broken records and nail-biting finishes, but the internet doesn't always care about podium positions. US gymnast McKayla Maroney's performance at the 2012 Olympics in London will never be as easily retrievable as her viral "not impressed" expression.


So who took Olympic gold in memes this year?

Pita Taufatofua, Tonga

Taufatofua came to Rio to take part in taekwondo, but he made his way into viewer's hearts well before it was his turn to compete. As Tonga's flag bearer in the opening ceremony, his shirtless appearance (accessorized with a lot of body oil) caught a lot of eyes.

The Tonga flag bearer was THE story of the #Rio2016 #OpeningCeremony
— 120 Sports (@120Sports) August 6, 2016

Usain Bolt, Jamaica

Literally the fastest human in the world, Bolt is exceedingly meme-able. This Olympics, a photo by Getty's Cameron Spencer showing Bolt zooming ahead of his competitors with apparent ease captures both his unparalleled talent and buckets of charisma.

Always a great day at work when the worlds fastest man pops by #gettysport @usainbolt
— Cameron Spencer (@cjspencois) August 15, 2016

Michael Phelps, USA

PhelpsFace is the epitome of a good meme: simple, stupid, and incredibly versatile. The meme preserves a moment just before the 200m butterfly semi-final, with Phelps preparing himself with a look of great intensity next to his rival, South African Chad le Clos. But really, it's just about the face, which the internet diligently repurposed into every scenario imaginable.

You underestimate the power of the Dark Side…
— Deadspin (@Deadspin) August 9, 2016


Shaunae Miller, Bahamas

While most athletes dash to the finish line, Miller literally dove to beat four-time gold champion Allyson Felix and win the gold in the women's 400 meter track race. The dive was certainly one of the most memorable moments in track and field, but the Internet's been throwing shade at what many thought was cheating.

Shaunae Miller isn't just an Olympic gold medalist, she's also the only thing keeping the Leaning Tower of Pisa up.
— Funny Or Die (@funnyordie) August 17, 2016

Gary and Paul O'Donovan, Ireland

If only post-medal interviews could be an event, the Donovan brothers, lightweight men's double sculls in rowing, would be champions all over again. After their semi-final race, Paul described the process of rowing: "It isn't too complex really. A to B as fast as you can go and hope for the best. Close the eyes and pull like a dog." Leading up to the finals, #PullLikeADog became the choice hashtag of the O'Donovan brothers' fans.

Grinning from ear to ear listening to #odonovanbrothers
So proud.#PullLikeADog#shteakandspuds #RioOlympics2016
— John Toal (@johnnytoal) August 13, 2016

Fu Yuanhui, China

Watch swimmer Fu Yuanhui's expression of surprised delight when she hears she made the 100 meter backstroke in less than 59 seconds. "Wow! Am I so fast?" she exclaimed. "I am very pleased!" Yuanhui has been praised not only for her speed, but also for her adorable facial expressions, down to earth attitude, and her frank talk on periods.


She's just my favorite. #FuYuanhui #2016Olympics
— stephanie (@mrsDragaaa) August 16, 2016

Severo Jesus Jurado Lopez (and his horse Lorenzo), Spain

Lopez and his horse Lorenzo are literally "Smooth" dancers as they trot to the beat of "Smooth" by Santana during their dressage routine. While horse and rider definitely have rhythm, they also both have incredible skill in their ability to control their movements at the pace and beat of the song.

The Horse Dancing to Santana's 'Smooth' Makes It Real at the Olympics: Spain's Severo Jurado Lopez may have f…
— Thomas Adams (@fatzdaghost) August 15, 2016

Hiroki Ogita, Japan

Did Ogita's junk get in the way of his gold medal? When the pole vaulter's package grazed the pole, knocking the bar off the stand, Ogita was disqualified. He denies that it was his penis that led to the fail, but by the looks of the sadly meme-able image, it was a painful moment no matter what caused it.

Oh Nuts! Japanese Pole Vaulter Hiroki Ogita Crushes His Manhood And His Olympic Dream
— 9GAG (@9GAG) August 17, 2016