The Gregory Brothers

The Gregory Brothers are an amazing group of musicians who have used pitch-correction software to turn verbatim into joyous song. The video below is of a song they call “Speechless,” stitched together with the words of joy of 2016 Rio Olympians. See Olympic stars Monica Puig, Mo Farah, Andre deGrasse, Kevin Durant and Simone Manuel in their singing debut.

Monica Puig of Puerto Rico wins gold in women’s single tennis.

The 2016 Rio Olympics had some absolutely thrilling moments. Here are a few to bring back the memories:

Saori Yoshida with the weight of Japan on her shoulders.

Fu Yuanhui
Far left, China’s Fu Yuanhui, bronze medalist in the 100-meter backstroke
When you think of Brazil, you think of samba, you think of Carnivàle, you think of joy. And the Rio Olympics had its share of joyful moments.

Here are a few of my favorite examples:

Fu Yuanhui: The Chinese may have had an off-par Olympics in terms of medal haul, at least to them, but Chinese swimmer, Fu Yuanhui, became an overnight sensation. While the Chinese expect gold from every one of their athletes, the Chinese and the rest of the world fell in love with the 20-year-old bronze medalist in the 100-meter backstroke. There were few more expressive, more unfiltered, more joyful than the young woman from Hangzhou. Watch the clip for a few examples of why Fu Yuanhui lit up the Twitterverse with delight.

Justin Rose: The golfer on Team GB was outspoken in his criticism of other professional golfers foregoing the Olympic re-boot of golf after over a century. Justin Rose won gold in men’s golf, stating “It’s right up there with anything I’ve achieved in the game.” Rose won on skill and determination. But on the 189-yard par-3 fourth hole in the first round of the tournament, Rose walked into a bit of luck with his 7-iron, nailing the first ever Olympic hole in one. Watch the video to see Rose’s pleasant surprise.

David Katoatau: If you have never heard of the Republic of Kiribati, you may be excused. This nation of 33 atolls and reef islands spread out over 3.5 million square kilometers lies on the equator in the middle of the Pacific Ocean. On one of those islands resides David Katoatau, who came in 15th at the 2008 Beijing Games in the 85kg weight class, and 17th at the 2012 London Olympic Games in the 94kg weight class. At the Rio Olympics, Katoatau managed only 14th in the 105kg weight class, but came in first in the Olympic dance competition. In his last failed attempt in Rio, Katoatau fell over, rolled on his back, flipped himself up, hugged the weights, and started the most joyful funky dance you’d ever see from a weightlifter.

Monica Puig: If you weren’t following tennis in the Olympics closely and tuned on the television for the women’s finals, you would be wondering, Who is Monica Puig? Even casual fans of tennis would likely have recognized Australian Open champion, Angelique Kerber, but you could be excused if you didn’t know the unseeded Puig. 

However, every time Puig won, her home country of Puerto Rico began to rumble and roar. In an economic mess, Puerto Ricans have had little to cheer about in recent months. But as Puig continued her march to the medal round, an entire country stopped to watch. With monumental expectations on her shoulders, Puig did the unthinkable – she upset Kerber. Her medal was gold, her tears were of joy.

Monica Puig's tears of joy
Monica Puig cries tears of joy.
Brazil’s Soccer Team: When Neymar sent the winning penalty kick at the finals of the Olympic soccer championships, not only did Neymar collapse in tears of joy, the entire country of Brazil exploded in celebration.

Monica Puig wins

It is the finals of the women’s singles final at the Rio Olympics. Monica Puig of Puerto Rico is ranked 34th in the world, has not won a tournament of consequence in her young career, and is facing off against world #2, Angelique Kerber of Germany, the reigning Australian Open Champion.

Somehow, Puig wins the first set, 6 games to 4. I begin to notice the chants in the background – U-S-A! U-S-A!

Yes, Puerto Rico is a territory of the United States, and Puig makes her home in Florida. But she has made it clear, she is competing for Puerto Rico. And besides, I thought, if Puerto Rico is a “territory” of the  U-S-A, then the  U-S-A isn’t really doing a remarkable job of managing it, at least nothing to cheer about.

Puerto Rico is in the deepest part of a 10-year economic slide. Its government is bankrupt, and unemployment is at 12%. Finding work, as well as hope, has become so hard in Puerto Rico that nearly a tenth of its population has moved to the United States. Here is how the New York Times recently described Puerto Rico:

It’s official: America now has a failed state within its borders, just the way Europe has Greece. America’s biggest unincorporated territory, Puerto Rico, effectively ran out of cash this summer and has stopped paying its debts. Now, Congress is putting together an oversight board to call the shots until the island gets back on its feet.

Monica Puig with Flag the Night Before the Finals

Imagine you’re Monica Puig from Puerto Rico. Quite possibly most of the 3.5 million Puerto Ricans in the country are watching the finals on television, gasping with each shot, moaning with every miss, and cheering every point won. Puig had the hopes and fears of an entire country riding on her shoulders.

After dropping the first set, Kerber came out in the second determined to show her metal,  taking the set 6 games to 4. Of course, everyone outside of Puerto Rico was thinking it was time for Puig to revert to her role as inexperienced upstart and lay down.

But lay down she did not. Puig raced out to a 5-0 lead in the third set, breaking Kerber twice, chasing the German champion side to side, playing sharp angles and failing to miss. However, as the announcers intoned, those last few championship points are the hardest, particularly for someone as inexperienced in the big matches as Puig.

Kerber serving in game 7 of the third set, fought for her life, earning six break chances. And each time Puig got it back to deuce. Puig also pushed it to the brink by getting to match point three times, before Kerber got it back to 40-40.

For Puig, the fourth match point was the charm. When Kerber sent a shot wide of the baseline, the 22-year-old from San Juan dropped her racket, her face etched in shock. Mouthing the words “Oh my God,” she stumbled to the net to shake Kerber’s hand, then the judge’s hand before dropping to her knees, overcome.

You could almost hear the roar out of San Juan, a guttural cry of both relief and release. A daughter of Puerto Rico not only put her country on the mental map of millions of armchair sports fans, she reminded her compatriots that like her, Puerto Rico will not go down without a fight.

“This is for them. They’re going through some tough times. They needed this. And I needed this. I think I united a nation. I just love where I come from.”

Monica Puig Puerto Rico's Heroine