Rio 2016: 10 Unexpected Ways Austin Showed Up At The Olympics

The 2016 Summer Olympic Games might have been held in Rio de Janeiro, but Austin, Texas remained a present force throughout the entire production, often coming up in unexpected ways in commentaries and conversations about events and athletes.

We’re a proud people here in Austin — and we’re of course especially enamored with our fair city at — so we’re pleased ATX was not forgotten in Brazil. We know that for a fact because:

1.) 25 UT athletes and coaches competed…

The most blatant example of Austin showing up at Rio 2016 is found in the 25 Olympic athletes and coaches that were in at least some way connected to the University of Texas at some point during their careers. Among these are some pretty big names and gold medalists, including swimmer Joseph Schooling, shot putters Michelle Carter and Ryan Crouser and basketball player Kevin Durant.

2.) And collectively earned a whopping 13 Olympic medals.

A photo posted by UT Austin (@utaustintx) on Aug 22, 2016 at 2:14pm PDT

Overall, the aforementioned current and former UT student athletes — most of whom actually competed for Team USA — claimed 10 gold, 1 silver, and 2 bronze medals. Check out the longer piece we ran on this topic for more details and stats, including where UT would stand in the medal rankings if it had competed as its own country!

3.) An Austin Olympic runner’s Tweet reminded the world that dreams do come true…

Texas Monthly recently drew our attention to something beautiful. Five years ago, sprinter Morolake Akinosun tweeted her dream to run in the Olympics and graduate from college in 2016. Well, she just demolished her competition in the 4 x 100m at the Rio 2016 Olympics, earning a Gold medal along with her teammates, and she’s set to graduate from the University of Texas in December.

No, we’re not crying — there’s just something in our eye…

4.) And these Tweets by an Austin Tinder user went viral…

Here’s what happened:

Sabryna Salazar is a full-time Psychology student at UT. She created a Tinder account and swiped right when the app matched her up with fellow UT student and 20-something Joseph Schooling. Salazar and Schooling exchanged a few messages, but Salazar stopped responding and actually ended up unmatching Schooling, who shortly afterwards won the 100m Butterfly at the Rio 2016 Olympics, besting legendary Michael Phelps.

As you might imagine, lots of drama — both good and bad — ensued when Salazar tweeted about the match. That’s all we’re saying about that, but you can find plenty of details online, as Daily Mail, The Telegraph, and many other viral news outlets all jumped on the story.


Not to rub it in too much — because we definitely do love Michael and revere him for his impressive swimming prowess — but the fact that Joseph Schooling won what has been called Phelps’ best event is pretty stinkin’ amazing and makes us feel great pride for our community and UT’s clearly superior athletic program.

6.) And another one carried the friggin’ torch!

Tech giant Cisco Systems, Inc. might be headquartered in San Jose, California, but the employee that they selected to represent their company as a torchbearer in the Rio 2016 Olympics works as an Engineer, Customer Support Specialist, and overall IT expert at their Austin campus. Cody Bell, 27, is a Marine veteran and had some pretty profound things to say about carrying the torch in the Olympics, including:

“Carrying the torch for the Olympics is the pinnacle of everything I can think of,” Cody told Cisco. “It is such an incredible honor, and especially to do on behalf of the company I work for and has gotten me to where I am now.”

7.) Gold medalist Katie Ledecky set her previous 800m Freestyle World Record in Austin.

By now, you’re probably aware that Katie Ledecky, 19, won Gold in the 800m Freestyle at the Rio 2016 Olympics. You also probably know that in doing so, she broke the then-current world record by almost two seconds. The world record was an 8:06.68 and she swam a lightning fast 8:04.79 to claim Gold, nearly nine lengths ahead of any of her competitors.

So who owned that previous 800m Freestyle world record? Why, Ledecky herself! And she set it in our very own backyard at the 2016 Arena Pro Swim Series held in January at UT’s Lee & Joe Jamail Texas Swimming Center.

8.) Good ol’ Matt attended the Games.

Undoubtedly, lots of celebrities attended the Rio 2016 Games, but we can’t ignore the fact that one of our favorite Austin celebs, Matthew McConaughey, showed up to root on Team USA in person, according to the Statesman. Alright alright alright! In fact, McConaughey cheered for our athletes with so much unbridled enthusiasm that we pretty much think he should have his own facial expression Olympics.

9.) An Austin tech company released a study that got people talking…

Photo by Flickr user

Photo by Flickr user Gonzalo Baeza, CC licensed

An Austin-based tech company named Phunware released an interesting study predicting that record-breaking numbers of people would watch the Olympic Games on their mobile devices this year, as opposed to online or via television.

“Today’s consumers want more control over their media experiences. They expect access to the content and information they want, when they want it, and traditional television and even web viewing just doesn’t align with those expectations,” said Chairman and CEO Alan Knitowski in an article published by Phunware about the study. “Mobile gives them that level of customization and on-demand accessibility, so it’s no surprise that we’re seeing consumers turn off the TV and turn to mobile to stay connected, especially when it comes to some of the biggest media events of the year, like the Summer Olympics.”

Read more about Phunware’s findings here.

10.) And Austin was totally in the running to host the 2024 Summer Olympics.

Photo by Flickr user Katie Haugland, CC licensed

Photo by Flickr user Katie Haugland, CC licensed

According to multiple sources back in 2013, including Culture Map Austin and the Statesman, Austin numbered among four Texas cities that could possibly host the 2024 Summer Olympics. Dallas, Houston, and San Antonio were the other Lone Star cities included in the bidding, along with Los Angeles, Chicago, Nashville, and Boston.

Austin’s mayor at the time, Lee Leffingwell, definitely considered the possibility, stating that Austin has “time and time again” proven to be “very competitive” and that Austin has a successful track record of hosting large scale events like SXSW, ACL, and the Formula 1 United States Grand Prix.

Ultimately, however, we took a pass — and considering our rampant traffic problem and teeny airport, it’s probably best (though we could totally host our very own Games…). The site for the Summer 2024 Olympics has yet to be decided, but L.A. is still in the running.

Know of any other ways that Austin showed up at the Rio 2016 Olympic Games? Tell us in the comments or talk to us via Twitter, Facebook, or Instagram. We’d love to hear from you!


Featured photo: Wikimedia Commons user National Olympic Committee, CC licensed