Home Culture Culture Lists

The Underdogs: 15 Olympic Athletes That Could Shock the World

Refugees, teens and a country with only one athlete are among those trying to defy the odds.

Once you get past all the stories about crime, pollution, doping and Zika infections, the 2016 Olympics are sure to deliver in the same way the Games always do: Shattered world records and Phelps-like individual dominance, as well as shocking upsets and heartwarming tales of athletes whose mere participation is a victory. We remember wrestler Rulon Gardner for his shocking upset of Russian powerhouse Aleksandr Karelin, as well as Eric "The Eel" Moussambani, the swimmer from Equatorial Guinea who, thanks to his opponents' disqualification, swam his 100-meter freestyle heat alone, struggling to finish because he'd never even competed in a pool that big. Looking ahead to Rio, here are 15 underdog stories to watch, from those who might win gold to some runner-ups you'll root for anyway.

Olympic underdogs, Olympic cinderella stories, Rio Olympics, refugee athletes

Olympian Etimoni Timuani

Courtesy of 2016 Olympic Games

Etimoni Timuani

Timuani ran the 100 at a pace of 11.72 at the 2015 World Championships, so he's not likely to advance after the first round. What is fun about the 24-year-old is that he's the only athlete to in Rio representing Tuvalu, the small island nation with a population somewhere around 10,000. It's the only one-athlete country to compete in the Games this year.

Olympic underdogs, Olympic cinderella stories, Rio Olympics, refugee athletes

Hungarian swimmer Laszlo Cseh

Matthias Hangst/Getty

Laszlo Cseh

The 30-year-old Hungarian swimmer has five medals to his name but no golds, thanks mostly to Michael Phelps and Ryan Lochte. His three silvers in 2008 were all just behind Phelps, and they'll face off one last time in the 100- and 200-meter butterfly events, making Rio Cseh's last time to be the bride instead of the bridesmaid.

Show Comments