Kaleigh Gilchrist might be a force to be reckoned with in the water polo pool, but wait till you get the 24-year old World Champ in the open ocean, where she surfs with the best women in the world. Literally. Before dominating the collegiate and international water polo scene, the Newport Beach, California native was a two-time Under-18 surfing national champion, jetting off to contests from France to Peru. And while taking home a gold at these Rio Olympics remains her focus, Gilchrist plans to pursue professional surfing full-time once the Games wrap.
Though he’s cycling’s reigning World Champion and a seven-time Tour de France stage winner, Slovakia’s Peter Sagan bucked convention in the Rio Games, skipping the road race in favor of going for mountain bike gold. What else do you expect from a man who trains like Rocky, skis like a world-class downhiller, reenacts scenes from Grease, and is known to pop no-handed wheelies up Alpine mountain passes? If the charismatic 26-year old wild man walks away with a medal in Sunday’s cross-country race, he’ll go down as one of the sport’s all-time greats.
With his preternatural speed, Team USA Rugby star Carlin Isles — aka the fastest man in Rugby — seems to have come out of nowhere. But that’s not giving the 26-year old enough credit. Sure, he only took up the sport four years ago, but before he began blazing down the pitch he was a high school football and track star, setting school, county, and division records before joining the Detroit Lions’ practice squad. A loss to top-seeded Fiji saw the US men’s rugby team leave Rio without a medal, but look for Isles to continue upping his game as he displays his diverse athletic background on the world stage.
For most of us, paddling a canoe down a dangerous raging river is something best avoided. But for Australian kayaker Jessica Fox, it’s a family tradition. Her father competed for Great Britain as a canoeist in the 1992 Barcelona Games, while her mother competed for France in the 1996 Atlanta Games. With a love for thrills and white water in her blood, Fox became a phenom, taking silver in London and adding a bronze to her medal tally in Rio. At 22-years old, she’s got plenty of international competition left in her, not to mention a world of white water rapids to conquer.
If there were an Olympic Decathlon for extreme sports, USA Swimming’s Conor Dwyer — otherwise known as “Diddy” — would be a gold medal favorite. When the 27-year old isn’t leading the USA’s 4x200m freestyle relay team to a gold medal, he can be found shredding the waves with friends at Manhattan Beach, waterskiing and wakeboarding in Florida, and hiking the towering peaks outside of Colorado Springs. So how does the two-time Olympic medalist unwind? By playing in an aggressive, family-only hockey tournament over the Holidays back in his native Chicago, of course.