Nikki Hamblin and Abbey D'Agostino hug on the track
The Olympics. Weren’t they brilliant? Team GB came second at Rio 2016 – yes SECOND – overall, with a total of 67 medals (27 gold, 23 silver and 17 bronze). But for us, the real winners were women. Because everywhere you looked, in every sport, there were women being totally inspiring, kicking ass and showing us what team spirit and sportsWOmanship really should be.
From talking openly about periods to same-sex marriage competitors, and loads of medal-winning in-between, here are our most inspiring women from Rio 2016.
1. Nikki Hamblin
The New Zealand athlete stopped to help American Abbey D’Agostino after they both fell in a heat for the 5,000m. Hamblin refused to leave D’Agostino’s side until she had helped her into a wheelchair, forfeiting her chances at an Olympic medal herself. She has since been given the Pierre de Coubertin award for epitomising the Olympic values of fair play and sportsmanship. And we reckon she’ll be remembered for much longer than she would have for a regular medal as a result.
2. Laura Trott
With four gold medals under her belt from just two games, Laura Trott has won every event she has ever entered in the Olympics. Respect.
3. Fu Yuanhui
After the Chinese swimming team came fourth in the 4x100m relay, Fu Yuanhui felt she’d let her team mates down because they missed out on bronze. “It’s because my period came yesterday, so I felt particularly tired – but this isn’t an excuse, I still didn’t swim well enough,” she said after the race. Fu, you didn’t let anyone down. And you were a total inspiration to women all over the world! #letstalkaboutperiods
4. Katherine Grainger
The British rower became the most decorated female Olympian after winning silver with Victoria Thornley in the double skulls. She’s now picked up medals at five consecutive Olympic games. That’s dedication for you.
5. Oksana Chusovitina
There are plenty of sports you’d expect to find competitors competing in into their 40s; equestrian, archery….oh wait, no. Let’s start again. There are hardly any sports you’d expect to find competitors competing in into their 40s. Least of all ones where you have to be super fit and bendy. So how amazing that at the age of 41, Oksana Chusovitina was doing gymnastics? Really amazing.
6. Ellie Downie
Don’t know if you noticed, but Team GB did really, REALLY well in gymnastics. And we fell in love with all the girls in our team. Elllie Downie was the first to catch our eye when, after landing on her head during a floor routine, she picked herself up and carried on competing on the remaining apparatus. Go Ellie!
7. Yusra Mardini
The 18-year-old, a Syrian refugee who now lives in Germany, has an amazing story; the boat she was travelling in to flee Syria began to sink so Mardini, her sister and two other people on the boat who could swim, pushed it for three hours until it reached the safety of Lesbos. She competed in the 100m butterfly and freestyle swimming events in Rio as part of the refugee Olympic team.
8. Claudia Fragapane
The second member of the British Olympic team we fell in love with was Claudia Fragapane for her beautifully expressive hands (and sassy topknot). So we are THRILLED that she’s just been announced to appear on Strictly Come Dancing 2016 this autumn!
MORE: STRICTLY COME DANCING 2016: THE STARS ARE REVEALED
9. Simone Biles
The 4ft 9” American won five medals in Rio (four of them gold) with her incredible skills that will no doubt put her down as one of the greatest gymnasts of all time. And putting aside all that Zac Efron stuff, how about the best quote of the Olympics? “I’m not the next Usain Bolt or Michael Phelps. I’m the first Simone Biles.”
10. and 11. Kate and Helen Richardson-Walsh
Kate and Helen made history first by being the first same-sex married couple to compete in an Olympic Games, and then by being part of the gold medal-winning women’s hockey team on Friday. Which brings us to…
12. Maddie Hinch
Maddie was arguably the most memorable member of the hockey squad for her individual performance. I mean, who wouldn’t want someone who is often referred to as ‘Mad Dog’ for her bravery in goal when the final comes down to a penalty shoot out? Special shout out to the rest of the team for their amazing spirit and general girl power.
13. Charlotte DuJardin
The Brit retained her gold medal from London 2012 in the individual dressage on her horse Valegro. We love all the equestrian sports in the Olympics, not only because of the very smart outfits, but because it’s the only individual sport where woman compete against men.
14. Simone Manuel
Making history, Simone Manuel became the first black female swimmer to win an Olympic gold medal, and broke the Olympic record for 100m freestyle while she was at it. Oh, and then she won another gold in the 4x100 medley and a silver in the 50m freestyle, too!
15. Bryony Page
We didn’t even realise that trampolining was still an Olympic sport until Bryony Page came and won silver in it out of nowhere. It’s inspired us to try and find somewhere we can learn how to do it!
16. Annemiek van Vlueten
The Dutch road race cyclist had such a severe crash that we were holding our breath for hours afterwards waiting to find out if she was OK. Remarkably, she was tweeting the next day and even got back on a bike before the closing ceremony. What a woman.
17. Jess Ennis-Hill
She might have lost out on retaining her gold to new Belgian wonder kid Nafissatou Thiam, but guys, she had a baby inbetween London and Rio! Jess is still a total boss as far as we are concerned.
18. Sophie Hitchon
The girl who swapped ballet for athletics and won Britain’s first medal in hammer throwing since 1924 with the bronze.
19. Nicola Adams
The world’s first female boxing Olympic champion won gold again in the flyweight boxing in Rio. That means she’s still the only woman who can say she’s won a boxing flyweight Olympic gold. EVER!
20. Doaa Elghobashy
The Egyptian stood out from the bikini beach crowd in her hijab, long sleeves and trousers, as she and partner Nada Meawad became the Egypt’s first team to take part in Olympic beach volleyball. “I have worn the hijab for 10 years”, she told the press. “It doesn’t keep me away from the things I love to do, and beach volleyball is one of them.”
21. Amy Tinkler
The youngest member of Team GB, in interviews Amy Tinkler also came across as the sweetest, but don’t be fooled; this is a girl with one hell of a competitive spirit and fearless drive who never cracks under pressure. That’s how she won a bronze on the floor in gymnastics, after all.
22. Jade Jones
The Welsh wonder clawed back her taekwondo gold medal after a thrilling final. We loved watching taekwondo – 6 minutes of pure nail-biting excitement!
23. Anna Botha
Anna Botha – or Tannie Ans as she is affectionately known – is the 74-year-old great-grandmother who coached South African 400m sprinter Wayde Van Niekerk to Olympic gold.
24. Hannah Mills and 25. Saskia Clarke
It was great that Hannah and Saskia won gold in the sailing and everything, but the thing we like best about them was that they are the best of friends, too. And they’ve been through a lot together – as well as winning silver at London 2012, they were robbed at knife point two years ago when preparing for Rio. So no-one deserved that win more than them.
26. Marjorie Enya
Let’s finish with a story for the future. Marjorie Enya, who worked as a steward in one of the Olympic stadiums, proposed to her girlfriend, the Brazilian rugby player Isadora Cerullo, on the pitch after the game and in front of all of the cameras.
After an Olympic Games jam-packed with empowering images of women from all walks of life, we’d love to know your favourite moments. Tweet us @InStyle_UK to join in the conversation.