The 2016 summer Olympics are here! Four long years (or, you know, the standard wait between Olympic games) have passed since the 2012 London games, and now the international sports action has kicked off in Rio. Swimming, gymnastics, track and field — the news will be dominated by tales of uplifting victory and, yes, crushing defeat for the next two weeks as the greatest athletes in the world show off their physical prowess.
Of course, if you have a superhero-centric worldview, it’ll be hard to watch some of these real-life super humans compete without comparing them to the fictional characters we follow in comic books. That connection makes sense; plenty of superheroes have abilities that would earn them a gold medal at Rio — although some might be disqualified if there’s a “no superpowers” clause in effect.
With the games underway and Olympics-mania sweeping the globe, CBR decided to assemble a team of athletes with comparable skills to Marvel’s team of Avengers and celebrate the strengths of these international athletes. Here are your 2016 Olympian Avengers.
10. Thor: Angelica Roos (Weightlifting, Sweden)
The Norse god of thunder, Thor is a super strong powerhouse that’s able to command lightning and go toe-to-toe with the incredible Hulk himself. While Sweden’s Angelica Roos isn’t a real Norse god and lightning command isn’t an Olympic sport, Roos’ strength makes her a natural fit for the Asgardian powerhouse. With the 2016 Olympics in Rio, Roos made history as Sweden’s first ever entry in a women’s weightlifting category. Roos competed in the Women’s âˆ’58 kg and while she didn’t make it to the finals, she lifted a total of 194 kg (or 427 lbs). Hopefully as the first Swedish female weightlifter to make it to the Olympics, Roos will inspire a whole new generation of Thors.
9. Hulk: Kendrick Farris (Weightlifting, U.S.)
Finding an Olympian to match the super strong Hulk is easy — you just find the strongest American in the competition. Kendrick Farris is legitimately super strong, and he accomplishes his feats of strength without an assist from gamma radiation and empowering fits of rage. This 30-year-old weightlifter from Louisiana is competing in his third Olympics, having lifted for the U.S. in Beijing in 2008 and London in 2012. Our Olympic Hulk won the gold at the 2010 Pan American Weightlifting Championships and is the only male weightlifter representing America in Rio this go round. You can check out Farris when he competes in the Men’s 94 kg weightlifting competition on Saturday, August 13.
8. Black Widow: Aliya Mustafina (Gymnastics, Russia)
One of the most agile superheroes to ever carry an Avengers membership card, it makes sense to cast Black Widow as a highly decorated gymnast. Aliya Mustafina hails from Black Widow’s home country of Russia and has brought home many, many medals. Mustafina won four medals in the 2012 games: a bronze in the all-around and floor exercise events, a silver in the team event and a gold in the uneven bars. When you factor in the world championships, there are almost a dozen more medals placed around her neck. Along with the Russian team, Mustafina will be going for more gold in Rio. With gymnastic skills as thrilling as hers, it’s safe to say that this gold medal gymnast could pull off pretty much every one of Black Widow’s deadly aerial assaults.
7. Hawkeye: Zach Garrett (Archery, U.S.)
Why isn’t Clint Barton an Olympian? Hawkeye picked up his archery skills while traveling with a circus as a kid, but his proficiency quickly went from “entertaining” to “outstanding.” And this Avenger’s a regular human — he’s just skilled, as skilled as Zach Garrett. Garrett’s a recurve archer, meaning he uses the same kind of bow Hawkeye went to battle with in this year’s “Captain America: Civil War.” And Garrett’s just as impressive with the weapon, even if his targets are less dangerous than invading Chitauri aliens. Garrett’s ranked the third best recurve archer in the world and the best in the United States. And along with Brady Ellison and Jake Kaminski, Garrett just took home a silver medal in the men’s team archery competition. He’ll compete in the men’s individual archery event on Wednesday, August 10.
6. Namor: Katie Ledecky (Swimming, U.S.)
As she glides through her second Olympics, plenty of commentators are calling Katie Ledecky the future face of swimming. It’s easy to see why, as Ledecky effortlessly breaks record after record. Yes, this 19 year-old swims with the same aggression as the Avengers’ resident underwater king, Namor. Ledecky burst onto the scene in 2012 when she got the gold in the women’s 800m freestyle. Ledecky then claimed another gold just this past weekend in Rio during the 400m freestyle (an event that she also has the world record for). She currently holds three world records — and is expected to break a few more this Olympics. While Ledecky is nowhere near as arrogant as the Atlantean Avenger, the down-to-earth Olympian kinda has every reason to be. Ledecky’s superhuman when she gets in the water.
You can watch Ledecky swim like Namor below.
– NBC Olympics (@NBCOlympics) August 8, 2016
5. Black Knight: Ibtihaj Muhammad (Fencing, U.S.)
Like the bow and arrow, the sword is a classic weapon that plenty of superheroes still carry around and wield with deadly accuracy — even if their opponents fire heavy artillery or powerful energy blasts. Therefore, we had to include one of the Avengers’ lead swordsmen, Black Knight, on this list and give a shout out to fencing. While Black Knight’s ebony blade is drastically different from the sabre used by Olympian Ibtihaj Muhammad, Marvel’s Dane Whitman is also a skilled fencer (along with a lot of other characters). And while fencing usually goes by comparatively unnoticed during the summer Olympics, Muhammad’s drawn a lot of attention to the sport with her Olympic debut in Rio. Muhammad’s earned five medals at the fencing world championships and is currently ranked eighth in the world.
You can watch Ibtihaj Muhammad’s fencing skills below.
– NBC Olympics (@NBCOlympics) August 8, 2016
4. Black Panther: Rayton Okwiri (Boxing, Kenya)
Finding an analogue for king/superhero Black Panther’s a bit more difficult than the others. First, he’s from the fictional country of Wakanda, but you can look to Kenya’s athletes since Marvel’s maps tend to place the African nation right next to it. Even more difficult, though, is narrowing down T’Challa’s many skills. He’s agile like a gymnast, strong like a weightlifter, and could easily best people in both judo and taekwondo. The guy can do it all, so we went with boxing — a sport that involves agility, reflexes, strategy, endurance and strength. Okwiri makes his Olympics debut in Rio, a spot he earned when he won the gold at the African Boxing Olympic Qualification Tournament earlier this year. Okwiri’s also advanced to the next round of the competition after winning a match with Russia’s Andrei Zamkovoi. You can see Okwiri enter the ring again this Thursday, August 11.
3. She-Hulk: Sarah Robles (Weightlifting, U.S.)
We have a Hulk on this list in Kendrick Farris, so it’s only fair to spotlight America’s She-Hulk, Sarah Robles. She-Hulk’s every bit as strong as her cousin Bruce Banner, and — seeing as how she doesn’t share his rage issues — she’s more efficiently served as the Avengers’ muscle over the years. Sarah Robles is the muscle of the women’s weightlifting team and has been ranked as the strongest woman in America. Robles competed in the 2012 games in London and she’s back for more in Rio, where she’ll compete in the women’s over-75kg competition on August 14. And, like She-Hulk, Robles also appreciates the fun things in life. A profile on her done by NBC reveals that she also enjoys s’mores, “Frankenstein” and making her own jewelry.
You can learn more about Sarah Robles below.
– NBC Olympics (@NBCOlympics) May 9, 2016
2. Ms. America: Laurie Hernandez (Gymnastics, U.S.)
Every Olympics, the U.S. women’s gymnastics team captures the country’s attention with their youth, energy and unparalleled talent. The same could be said for the Young Avengers team that was headed up by the powerhouse Ms. America. That team of youthful heroes also came together and wowed a new generation of comic fans. America Chavez possesses a number of powers, including a body that operates at better-than-peak human condition and teleportation. Hernandez may not be able to punch her way through dimensions like Chavez, but the two are physically superhuman. Like Ms. America, Laurie Hernandez is a star-spangled Latina with charisma to spare. Ms. America is also Marvel’s most prominent Latina superhero; Hernandez is also the first U.S.-born Latina to compete on the U.S. gymnastics team in 30 years, undoubtedly making her a source of inspiration for young, potential gymnasts.
Here’s Laurie being downright superheroic on the balance beam in Rio.
– NBC Olympics (@NBCOlympics) August 8, 2016
1. Captain America: Mason Finley (Discus, U.S.)
You can’t have an Olympian Avengers list without Captain America. The guy’s the living embodiment of everything America strives to be, and therefore one could argue that a little bit of Steve Rogers lives within every single athlete the United States sends to the Olympics. They’re representing America just like Steve Rogers does. But there’s also a specific, tangible skill Rogers has that would probably earn him a spot on the U.S. track and field team: the discus throw. That’s why we had to call out Mason Finley, one of the three discus throwers representing America this upcoming weekend. Finley’s making his Olympic debut at Rio, where he’ll sling a disc just as far — or further — than Captain America slings his shield.
Obviously there’s one living legend/Olympian that has been surprisingly absent from this list — and that’s because we were saving him for the end.
Captain America: Michael Phelps (Swimming, U.S.)
Michael Phelps is the most decorated Olympian of all time. The swimmer has 23 medals (19 gold!) across four Olympic Games. He’s already added one more gold medal to his collection at Rio in the 100m freestyle relay. He’ll also be going for another gold tonight on August 9 in the 200m butterfly. But his winning streak isn’t why he’s also a Captain America. He’s one of this list’s Captain Americas because he was chosen to carry the flag for his home country during the opening ceremony (see below). And, possibly even more in line with Steve Rogers, plenty of current Olympians have cited Phelps’ work ethic and drive as the direct inspiration for them becoming Olympians themselves. You can actually see a photo of a young, smiling Katie Ledecky (our Namor) getting an autograph from Phelps right here. When it comes down to it, that’s what makes Phelps a Captain America. He’s inspired the athletes that inspire today — and he fights (a.k.a. swims) right alongside them.
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