6 Awesome Stories From The Rio Olympics NBC Won't Show You

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You probably heard that the Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro were going to be an absolute shitshow. In fact, we told you that a couple times. But every virus-laden cloud holding you up at gunpoint has a silver lining, and there have been some truly inspirational stories to come out of the Games so far. Some of them didn't even get one of those over-the-top motivational mini-movies NBC has such a hard-on for.

More Than 1,000 U.S. Spies Are In Brazil To Keep People Safe

6 Awesome Stories From The Rio Olympics NBC Won't Show You

If that movie Munich taught me anything, it's that terrorists like using the Olympic Games as a target (and you should never, ever piss off the Israelis). And this year, with all the attacks around the world that ISIS and Al-Qaida (remember them?) and even just lone-wolf crazies have taken credit for, it was a bit concerning that so many people would be gathering together like very muscular sitting ducks. It was even more concerning that Rio needed a $850 million bailout to beef up security just weeks before the Games started.

6 Awesome Stories From The Rio Olympics NBC Won't Show You

Their original plan was less than impressive.

But the American government wasn't going to let some suicide bomber distract from our athletes' domination of the medals table. That's why they sent 1,000 spies down to Brazil to make sure everything is hunky-dory. So some of those seemingly drunk spectators with flags sticking out of their hair dancing around to ABBA at the men's beach volleyball could actually be putting their lives on the line. If that isn't enough, all 17 U.S. intelligence agencies (did you know we had 17 intelligence agencies?!) are working with the Brazilian government and doing everything from vetting the athletes themselves to monitoring known terrorists' social media accounts.

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"That Michael Phelps is so hot. I totally want to blow him ... up."

To top it off, it just so happens that all branches of the military sent athletes to the Games this year. So if some jackass intent on doing harm does get past all the security precautions, he better not target certain shooting, boxing, or wrestling competitions, or he might find himself laid out, Greco-Roman style.


That Dutch Cyclist Didn't Die

6 Awesome Stories From The Rio Olympics NBC Won't Show You
Bryn Lennon/Getty Images

How much did you care about the Dutch women's road race cycling team before the Olympics? Liar. Still, there is a pretty good chance you know something about it now, since humans are terrible by nature and this happened to one of the riders:


That's Annemiek van Vleuten flipping over the front of her bike and slamming head-first into the side of the road. And she wasn't even the first person that happened to! During the earlier men's race, the leader, Italy's Vincenzo Nibali, crashed in almost the exact same spot and broke his collar bone.

It's not like no one knew this descent was going to be a problem. One former Olympian told the BBC he was pissed off because the course was obviously dangerous to anyone who knew what they were looking for, but for some reason the designers just left it. Cycling's governing body defended the course, obviously, saying it had been "extensively tested." Yes, we know, but testing stuff with competitors' faces doesn't really count.

6 Awesome Stories From The Rio Olympics NBC Won't Show You

Come here; I need to "extensively test" this boxing glove for a minute.

The very, very good news is that van Vleuten is basically fine. She suffered a concussion and a few fractures in her lower back, but considering that is a crash where the best-case scenario on most days is that you are in a wheelchair the rest of your life, she got off easy. Of course, since this is the Olympics and people are so hyped up on competition, a woman almost dying was pretty secondary to the rest of the race. The NBC commentators barely mentioned it before moving on, and van Vleuten's teammate Anna van der Breggen sped right past her friend's motionless body to win the gold.

A Selfie Showed Korean Leaders That Peace Is Possible

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North and South Korea have been at war with each other since 1950. They've spent more than half a century in a tense standoff, and as recently as while I am writing this they are threatening to kill us all.

That's why it was kind of shocking to see two young gymnasts from the different countries chatting with each other and then stopping to take a selfie.

6 Awesome Stories From The Rio Olympics NBC Won't Show You


As soon as the picture hit the web, social media exploded with concerns that Hong Un-jong was going to go back to North Korea and be disciplined, maybe even killed. After all, we know that place is part of the Axis of Evil and run by a dangerous, cheese-loving megalomaniac. And there is precedent; Olympians have applied for asylum in the past due to things that happened during the Games. But Hong is far more likely to be heralded as a star when she gets home, getting special housing and maybe even a film made about her life. That's because North Korea sees sports as one of the best ways of making them look somewhat normal to the rest of the world. They even have a name for it: "sports diplomacy." And it works! How can you be thinking about Kim Jong-un with his finger on the red button when you look at that young girl's smiling face?

6 Awesome Stories From The Rio Olympics NBC Won't Show You
Andy Buchanan/AFP/Getty Images

Who needs nukes when you've got those guns?

Of course, it's probably less effective when North Korean athletes start beating us, like Hong did in Beijing in 2008, where she won the gold medal in vault. Is Kim Jong-un breeding a race of adorable gymnasts who can leap over our defenses on the 38th parallel? Why am I the only one asking this question?

There's A Refugee Olympic Team

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Kyodo News via Getty Images

You're probably not used to hearing about the refugee crisis unless Angelina Jolie is talking about it. Refugee stories are by their very nature depressing, so we need to take the edge off by looking at a famous actress at the same time. But the International Olympic Committee decided that they wanted to highlight this very serious issue and managed to do it in the most tear-jerking manner possible.

Out of the millions of refugees worldwide, the IOC found 10 that had the ability to compete at the highest level and had them form a team of their own, the Refugee Olympic Team. They come from countries like South Sudan and Syria and are competing in judo, track, and swimming. They walked in the parade of nations during the opening ceremony carrying the Olympic flag to illustrate that we are all really one nation, no matter what's going on in the world.


I'm not crying; you're crying.

One refugee in particular is getting a lot of attention for her amazing story. Yusra Mardini had been training to compete in her home country of Syria, but her training sessions kept being interrupted by pesky explosives. So she and her sister fled, trying to cross the Aegean Sea from Turkey to Greece. They crowded into a tiny dinghy with 20 other refugees, but within half an hour the boat was sinking. So Mardini, her sister, and another strong swimmer jumped in the water and pulled the boat behind them until they reached land. It took three and a half hours and left Mardini with "a hatred for the open sea."

Lars Baron/Getty Images

Here she is beating the crap out of Poseidon.

She made it to the Games and competed in the women's 100-meter butterfly and women's 100-meter freestyle. She didn't win any medals, but that's OK. Even Michael Phelps can't put on his resume "Saved 20 people from drowning."

Kosovo Won A Gold Medal At The First Olympics They Were Able To Compete In

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Kosovo, like many Eastern European nations, has had a tough history. It was part of Communist Yugoslavia and then Serbia. In the late 1990s, war broke out. If you're too young to remember the actual fighting, you might remember it because we told you how the singer James Blunt was actually a kickass Army captain who probably prevented WW III during it. But, like most wars, it was really horrific, with a U.N. court finding that there had been "a systematic campaign of terror, including murders, rapes, arsons, and severe maltreatments."

6 Awesome Stories From The Rio Olympics NBC Won't Show You
Buda Mendes/Getty Images

None of these are acceptable Olympic events, even in Rio.

Kosovo is still in a really precarious position. Besides being tiny and poor, not everyone recognizes it as a country. That's why, even though they declared independence from Serbia in 2008, it was only two years ago that the IOC allowed them to become a member in their own right. That makes this their first Olympics. How much can you really expect from a country in that situation?

It turns out, some flat-out ass-kicking. Twenty-five-year-old Majlinda Kelmendi, one of eight athletes Kosovo sent to the Games, won gold in the 52 kg women's judo event. She is already considered a hero in her home country, and she told interviewers that this proves that no matter where you come from or what you went through, if you want something, you can have it.

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Pascal Le Segretain/Getty Images

As long as you are willing to face-plant for it over and over again.

Unless Kelmendi also wants that thing. It sounds like she could beat you up, so maybe just let her have it instead.

An Australian Swimmer Pulled Off A Surprise Victory Over A World Champion Who Bullied Him

6 Awesome Stories From The Rio Olympics NBC Won't Show You
Jean Catuffe/Getty Images

Here's Sun Yang of China, who won two gold medals in swimming during the London 2012 Games and is a big jerk:

6 Awesome Stories From The Rio Olympics NBC Won't Show You
Quinn Rooney/Getty Images

The shoes already give it away.

Why? Glad you asked. In 2013, Sun got in a fight with his coach over his girlfriend that was so bad he was suspended from swimming for a short time. Only a few months later he borrowed a relative's Porsche despite not having a license and crashed it into a bus. That resulted in a week in jail and a six-month ban from swimming. At the 2014 Asian Games, he decided to ruffle some feathers by calling the Japanese national anthem "ugly," because why not?

But none of this compares to the ultimate no-no of competitive sports. In 2014, he was suspended for another three months after testing positive for a banned substance. He claimed not to know it was in a heart medication he was taking, but that's not how athletes and coaches work. They double- and triple-check what is in everything they put in their bodies, because they never want an accident to happen.

Then during a practice session earlier this week, he started splashing one of his main rivals, Australia's Mack Horton (it wasn't the first time he's used this childish tactic to try to get in another swimmer's head). Asked what he thought about this, Horton said, "I don't have time for drug cheats."

6 Awesome Stories From The Rio Olympics NBC Won't Show You
Tim Clayton/Corbis via Getty Images

Nice burn, Blonde Harry Potter.

The Chinese team was incensed about this and demanded an apology. Instead, Horton went on to post a personal best time and beat Sun by a split second in one of the races the latter had won in London. And Sun, like most bullies who can't take it when they get shown their place, cried.

Kathy wrote a very funny book called FUNERALS TO DIE FOR, and you can buy it here. Or follow her on Facebook, Tumblr, and Twitter.

See the downside to the Olympics in 5 Things They Don't Want You to Know About the Olympics and find out why boycotting does nothing in 4 Reasons We Were Right Not to Boycott the Olympics.

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