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Features / Art

Heroes and Villains: Rio 2016 through the eyes of Wilfrid Wood

Photography:

Luke Stephenson

Sculptures:

Wilfrid Wood

The Rio Games saw over 11,000 athletes compete for 2102 medals in 306 events of 28 different sports. More than 40,000 hours of TV footage were created, more if you include digital, as the eyes of the world turned to Brazil. Throughout the event Wilfrid Wood, with some help from the It’s Nice That team, has been watching events and looking to tell the alternate story of the Games, one that celebrates achievement in all its forms.

“Sporty types have striking faces,” says Wilfrid. “Usain Bolt had to be sculpted, he has a monumental presence. The O’Connor brothers popped up from nowhere with their disarming interviews and I tried to fix their cheeky charm. Adam Peaty’s nan had her ten minutes of fame. Apparently Clare Balding can’t get off the tabs so I thought it would be amusing to catch her having a sneaky one round the back of the commentary box. The only shame was all the beauties and oddities I left out. I’m keeping the plasticine warm for Tokyo 2020.”

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Thomas Bach

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Mo Farah

Thomas Bach

Thomas Bach is the president of the IOC and was elected on the 10 September 2013. He is the ninth person to hold the post and the only president to have won a gold medal in competition at the Games. “These were marvellous Olympic Games in the cidade maravilhosa. The Olympic Games Rio 2016 have shown the best of the Cariocas and Brazilians to the world,” he said after the event had concluded.

Mo Farah

Mo Farah left Rio with the “double double”, having won the 5,000 and 10,000 metre men’s race at consecutive Games. The achievement looked in doubt as the athlete tripped during the shorter race, but recovered to take the line in dramatic fashion.

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Usain Bolt

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Mavis Williams

Usain Bolt

The Jamaican sprinter is the fastest human being on the planet, ever. Although he did not break any world records at the Games this year, he won gold in the 100m, 200m and 4×100m sprint events. Rio is expected to be the 30 year-old’s last games as a global superstar prepares to retire next year.

Mavis Williams

21-year-old British Swimmer Adam Peaty smashed the world record in the 100m breaststroke in the pool at Rio this year, gaining a gold medal in the process. Back home, 74-year-old Mavis Williams was able to change her Twitter bio to “Proud Nan to a World Champion Breaststroker” and became a minor internet sensation in the process. Relive the magic of 2016 through her Twitter feed @Mavise42mavis.

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Michael Phelps

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Michael Phelps

Michael Phelps

The most decorated Olympian of all time came out of retirement to participate in the Rio Games. The swimmer left Brazil with a haul of six medals, five gold and a silver, bringing his career total to 28. “I feel fulfilled,” he said. “It was what I wanted. I was able to dedicate myself to this last comeback and that was it. One last hurrah. Looking back, it happened exactly how I wanted it to and exactly how it should have. Now I can hang up my suit and be happy with retiring.”

Lads

Gary and Paul O’Donovan

Gary and Paul O’Donovan

Irish brothers Gary and Paul O’Donovan won silver in the lightweight men’s double sculls, the first medal Ireland won at the Games. The pair, from west Cork, caught the attention of the world with their laid-back approach to media interviews after their win. “What’s the craic? We’re in Rio. The background looks superimposed but it’s real.,” said Paul. ““It isn’t too complex really. A to B as fast as you can go and hope for the best. Close the eyes and pull like a dog.”

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Fu Yuanhui

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Dipa Karmakar

Fu Yuanhui

Chinese swimmer Fu Yuanhui won fans not only in the pool, but, like the O’Donovan brothers, for her post event interviews. In the individual backstroke she won a bronze medal, but did not realise until a reporter told her in a poolside interview – discovering her achievement after everyone else in the building. After a poor showing in the relay, her honest response was a refreshing change to the usual platitudes and hyperbole that media-trained athletes spout: “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.

Dipa Karmakar

The 23 year-old artistic gymnast was India’s first female representative in the discipline ever to compete at the Games, and the first gymnast of any gender to do so for 52 years. She left Rio having won fourth place in the vault event.

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Doaa Elghobashy

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Kōhei Uchimura

Doaa Elghobashy

Doaa and her teammate Nada Meawad represented Egypt in the women’s beach volleyball, becoming the first duo ever to represent the nation in the sport at the Games. The pair competed wearing long sleeves and Doaa wore a Hijab for the match, in stark contrast to the minimal apparel often worn by athletes in the sport.

Kōhei Uchimura

27-year-old Kōhei left Rio with two gold medals in artistic gymnastics, one in the team all around event and one in the individual all around event. Famously driven, the Japanese athlete now has seven Olympic medals in total. He also garnered attention for amassing a mobile phone bill of £3,700 by playing Pokemon Go! while in Brazil.

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Yelena Isinbayeva

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Clare Balding

Yelena Isinbayeva

Yelena Isinbayeva didn’t make it to Rio. The world champion pole vaulter was denied the right to compete at the Games after the IOC placed a blanket ban on Russian track and field athletes following the discovery of a state sponsored doping programme. She was a vocal critic of the decision. Since then, the 34-year-old two-time Olympic champion has been elected to the IOC Athletes’ Commission and will be the voice of the athletes within the organisation. Concerns have been raised about her suitability for the role after she came out in support of Russian legislation banning homosexual propaganda in 2013 but later retracted the marks in a statement issued via the IAAF.

Clare Balding

Clare Balding was the anchor of the BBC coverage of the Games. Wilfrid pays respect to the presenter, writer and broadcaster who reaffirmed her status as a national treasure following her marvellous presenting at London 2012. “If you type her name into Google you get various pictures of her surreptitiously smoking, usually with captions such as ‘only months after being given treatment for cancer, Balding is spotted smoking at Aintree,’” says Wilfrid. His sculpture imagines her having a cheeky fag after a hard day of punditry.