Our Olympians have dedicated an incredible amount of time, effort, and commitment to mastering the art of competing with other top-ranked athletes for glory, greatness, and gold. But that’s not the only thing they’ve mastered. In addition to displays of athletic greatness, Olympians also try their hand at the world-renowned digital portrait artistry. Yes, selfies—I mean, they’re taking selfies.
Amid the enormous pressure of competition, the athletes manage to cherish their time spent with like-minded (and like-abled!) athletes and celebrate the only way most of us know how: with selfies. Here are 15 of the most epic selfies from the Olympics. Epic in different ways, these selfies provide a much more relatable element to our experience of the 2016 Olympics!
15 Cierra Runge, United States Swimmer
At the opening ceremony of the 2016 Olympics in Rio, Runge gathers many of our favorite competitors in one epic selfie. You can feel their building excitement and joyful anticipation for the matches, races, and games to begin. What an enlivening way to start the Olympics! You know, with nothing but 200 of your closest teammates.
A giant, US Team selfie might be awesome just because it is a picture of all of our esteemed power players. However, what might make it even more epic is that Runge was able to capture that many people in one selfie! She can compete with the best swimmers in the world and she can take a selfie without cutting everyone’s head off like Ellen did at the 2014 Oscars–what feat can’t she conquer? She even got Phelps to smile. Think about that.
14 Hong Un-Jong, North Korean Gymnast & Lee Eun Ju, South Korean Gymnast
A picture of two talented Olympians taking a picture. Why does this seemingly uneventful selfie rank in our list of epic selfies from the 2016 Olympics? Because this photo demonstrates the very best element of sports: bringing people together in a celebration of effort, life, and, perhaps most importantly, peace. While sports might be frowned on by some as a waste of time and dedication, this selfie-taking by Un-Jong and Eun Ju speaks otherwise.
North Korea and South Korea have been officially at war since the Korean War in 1950 as no formal peace agreement was signed. That makes this one of the greatest moments the sports world and 2016 Olympics have to offer. How beautiful it is to see discord conquered by peaceful moments.
13 Daniel Norton, Great Britain Rugby 7s
Olympian Daniel Norton brings his team in for one of the most uplifting selfies to be found from the Olympics. There is nothing but hope in those eyes (even if most of the eyes don’t realize Norton is trying to take a great selfie with his guys). And, Daniel, we're loving the passion!
This ‘selfie’ is a pile of hunks in great physical shape with strong British accents ready to compete is the most intense rugby games in the world—do you need us to explain why this photo is epic? Beyond that, who doesn’t love a band-of-brothers group of men aspiring to achieve the greatest honor in their field? Yes, everything about this selfie is wonderfully joyful, truly inspiring, and very attractive. You’re welcome.
12 Brianne Theisen-Eaton, Canadian Heptathlete
Here, Brianne Theien-Eaton, Nafissatou Thiam, and Jessica Ennis-Hill pose for a selfie with Usain Bolt after his record-breaking 100-meter dash that reminded every watcher that he’s the fastest man alive. (And his name is Bolt—could you want anything more out of him?)
What makes this selfie special is not only that Bolt just ran a superhuman race—it’s that the athletes next to him hopped a fence to snap this picture. Ironic, isn’t it, to think of Olympians jumping fences and breaking rules to get selfies with… other Olympians? The Bolt frenzy is so contagious is, I suppose, it can even catch heptathletes!
11 Michael Phelps, United States Swimmer
This photo of Michael Phelps (who I assume needs little introduction) is powerful, featuring him as a majestic bird-like man soaring through the water, bolting ahead of his competition. He also had a personalized, waterproof selfie stick extended about four feet in front of him to take this epic pic. Okay, we're lying, but we could convince you that Phelps pulled that off.
Some of the greatest moments of the Olympics can’t be captured by those demonstrating them. The photographers at the games, thankfully, don’t let much go undocumented. That means we have a boundless pile of brilliant photos like this just waiting to awe you. Fortunately (and perhaps disturbingly), the cameras are generally close enough to make a selfie seem like a far shot.
10 Simone Biles & Laurie Hernandez, United States Gymnasts
This is potentially the sweetest and most heartwarming selfie a person could find in the lineup of Olympic-themed selfies. A photo of dreams realized, friendship deepened, and children growing into world-renowned athletes, just as they worked to be. Their pure enjoyment of their time in Rio is delightful, reminding us of the worth of working hard and achieving goals.
If you’ve even caught a glimpse of Biles on the beam or uneven bars, you wouldn’t be surprised that she could capture your heart with a selfie—she encourages tears with everything she does. Powerful and elegant, Biles’s celebration of life in the gym and in her free time (that’s a joke; there is no free time), is as inspiring as it is uplifting.
9 Bubba Watson, United States Golfer & Katie Ledecky, United States Swimmer
Bubba Watson was taking selfies with everyone he could get into the camera shot of his phone. When I think golf, I imagine hushed crowds, strict etiquette, pleated shorts, and feigned politeness (I adore golf, but let’s be real about these things). If the queen was strolling the greens, golfers would need to be no more polite and reverent than they are already.
That’s what makes this selfie-taking something especially enjoyable. Look at Bubba, our token golfer for this post, having nothing but a good time taking simple selfies with other athletes. And even though you can’t see Ledecky’s medal in this photo, you can be assured there’s a hefty amount of gold weighing on her shoulders. Enjoy your time with the champ, Bubba!
8 Marcus Ellis, Professional Badminton Player, England
This selfie is great in its own way—shaded in blue, laced with smiles, and covered in nothing but great hair. They obviously anticipated that selfie occasions would arise during their time at the Olympics. We don’t know if it makes the photo ‘epic,' but there is an unmistakable One Direction feel here (we suppose how epic you think it is depends on your affinity for boy bands).
Yes, we see the ladies, but the guys’ hair commands one’s attention. A badminton racket in one hand, styling gel in the other, this group looks like nothing but a good time. We're recklessly confident the “tilt ‘til we’re skinny” sentiment was not their motivation for the aerial view. You know, just in case there was any confusion.
7 Ryan Seacrest, American Host/Commentator of 2016 Olympics
Here is Ryan Seacrest enjoying his place in the Rio Olympics as a host/personality. Also, if you can glance past the stubbled, chiselled chin, you’ll see the ocean! Would you look at that! While others are snapping selfies with world-renowned athletes (who Seacrest has unfettered, continuous access to), Ryan takes time to share a photo with the… ocean.
It seems silly, but, ah, if he is Seacrest and he’s taking a photo with crests of the sea, perhaps this is a sort of deep, artistic moment in which he reflects upon his name and existence. Perhaps he feels as one with the world through the presence of the wave-crested water, finding familiarly even in Rio. Nah, we think he just likes the beach.
6 Allyson Felix, Brittney Reese, & Christian Taylor, United States Track & Field Athletes
Here we find Felix, Reese, and Taylor capturing a moment with the animated Rio Olympics mascot (we don’t know why they settled for a poster when there was a massive mascot running rampant through the games, but the selfie is adorably gleeful and wonderfully patriotic anyway).
Reese commands our attention in the center, looking happier than hell to grab a selfie with her teammates and that little colorful monkey/cat/bird mix, called Vinicius after the Rio native poet, Vinicius de Moraes. It is a delightful mixture of all of the famous Brazilian animals and effortlessly represents joy and culture. A playful website has been dedicated to the mascot, which is shared with the mascot for the Paralympics, Tom. You can enjoy the site here.
5 Cody Miller & Ryan Murphy, United States Swimmers
This selfie is perhaps the “olympiest” Olympic selfie to find. Here are two athletes with nothing but satisfied grins and hard-earned gold medals.
How did Ryan Murphy get all of that hardware, you ask? By smoking his competition in the Men’s 100 Backstroke, Men’s 200 Backstroke, and Men’s 4x100m Medley Relay, of course! But Miller has also made a name for himself with his performance in the Men’s 4x100m Medley Relay.
What also deserves comment are Miller’s beautiful, flowing locks! Even the swim cap can’t tarnish that hair. What makes Miller’s hair doubly enjoyable is knowing the scrupulous effort with which professional swimmers manage (remove, basically) their body hair to foster more speed. You can almost hear Miller say “yeah, but not my hair.”
4 John Kerry, United States Secretary of State
Olympian of foreign affairs (and selfies?), Secretary of State John Kerry gathers with the USA Team for a wonderfully enormous selfie. Maybe it’s just politics, but the athletes seem genuinely honored to grab a picture with the government giant!
Like we wrote previously about our inspiring North Korea/South Korea selfie, sports bring people together in a way few things can. From different perspectives, different backgrounds, and different lifestyles, we know speed, ability, effort, drive, motivation, and dreams. These are languages we all speak fluently and that communicate better than words.
From the head of the American government to the top of the Olympic Podium (or from the comfortable seat of a recliner, with your favorite bag of chips), we gather together in celebration of hard work and remarkable dedication.
3 Danas Rapšys, Lithuania Swimmer (obviously)
Olympians live and breathe dedication, going to extremes to realize dreams, conquer challenges, and reach goals. It seems that radical dedication carries over for epic selfie-taking as well. Why wouldn’t it? It would be a devastating waste of all that potential to take normal selfies in the bathroom mirror!
Really, we love everything about this photo. We're surprised his phone company doesn’t have this in a commercial already for the incredible water-resistant power! Even up to the water force of an Olympic Swimmer’s speed! Sigh, opportunity missed.
How comically ridiculous it seems, but we guess when you spend the majority of your time in the water, it wouldn’t be a proper picture of who you are outside the pool. Stay true to you, Danas!
2 Simone Biles, United States Gymnast
If you saw or heard any of Simone’s interviews during the past few days of the games, you would know that she spoke giddily about Zac Efron more than she did for the many gold medals she recently earned! Winning titles at the Olympics isn’t the only dream coming true for Biles (and the whole US Olympic Gymnast Team), and this selfie captures that giddy excitement over her ‘meet and greet!’
Biles has been adorably public about her intense crush on Efron, and he came to Rio to surprise her and her teammates. The whole thing has been heartwarming. What is perhaps more surprising than Efron’s drop-in is the ladies allowing any distraction during the games! A distraction worth having, we're sure they would happily argue.
1 Usain Bolt, Jamaican Sprinter & Ellen DeGeneres, American backpack?
Oh, when we said earlier that Usain Bolt crushed his competition in a 100-meter sprint in the evening of August 14, 2016, you didn’t realize that he carried Ellen across the finish line? What did you think all the fuss was about? Maybe you didn’t see her there because Bolt broke some sort of plane of vision.
While the selfie is hilarious, Ellen did receive a lot of flack online, with some even calling her "racist." She clapped back to the controversy on Twitter, by writing, "I am highly aware of the racism that exists in our country. It is the furthest thing from who I am."