In Ancient Greece, the sanctuary of Olympia hosted sports competitions between athletes from different Greek cities. It is this event that was resurrected nearly two millennia later to become the greatest sporting competition of our era: the Olympic Games. We may not believe in Zeus and Hercules anymore, but modern-day Olympians seem like they are on another level. They are so muscular and graceful. They are determined to win, and they push themselves past limits we can only imagine. As it turns out, their routines have very strange effects on their bodies. Read on to see just how strange they are!
The games in the Olympics are as diverse as the players. But let's focus on the players for a moment. This is the height contrast between gymnast Seda Tutkhalyan and volleyball player Aleksandr Volkov. It's just not something you witness every day!
As you can see, they are both in tip-top shape. Their bodies, however, are primed for very different tasks. Seda has worked for years to become a flexible flipper. Aleksandr smacks that ball away from the net, using his stature. As they say, opposites attract when it's time for a viral selfie.
Okay, seriously. We can't believe this is even a human leg. Can you? It is, and we can confirm that it is the lower extremity cyclist Janez Brajkovic, who hails from Slovenia. Is there something in the water over there, or what?
If you looked at this and thought it wasn't normal, you would be right. Janez battled bulimia, and it was pretty public. But he was the former world champion and tried to race anyway during his recovery. His muscles are especially pronounced because of his lean physique. It's fascinating to see what top bodies really look like, on an anatomical level.
At the Tokyo Olympics, a big win for the Philippines happened in women's weightlifting. Hidilyn Diaz earned the top spot, winning gold. It was actually the first gold medal for that nation, in any category in history. Way to go, Hidilyn!
Soft hands are great when it comes to tickling. But for lifting tons, one might need callouses and blisters. These things are just the body's normal reaction to stress and strain. In the end, it all helped her win. You never want your grip to slip!
It's an understatement: Jamaica is proud of Usain Bolt and all his quick sprinting. Observers of the sport say he is actually the fast sprinter of all time. What kind of body does it take to achieve that title, anyway?
One would assume that you would have nice legs to set the world record for the 100 meters dash. But it seems that the rest of the body is often overlooked when we try to analyze this type of success. Look at Usain's spectacular back, here. He's just a big muscle, isn't he?
USA Gymnastics has gotten a lot of attention in recent years, for good and for bad. The girls of the team proved themselves to be emotionally strong when it came to scandals. But they are just as physically strong, and this bikini picture proves it!
Simone Biles, Madison Kocian, and Aly Raisman enjoy a day in Rio, here. Are they self-conscious that they stand out in the crowd? According to Aly: "Instead of being insecure about my muscles, I've learned to love them. I don't even think of it as a flaw anymore because it's made me into the athlete that I am."
People may not be aware that rock climbing is actually an Olympic sport. Those who train all their lives for the big course are incredibly fit. They don't know the layout ahead of time, and they need to be prepared to take on any angle up there.
Rock climber Shauna Coxsey competed at the Olympic Games in Tokyo, where the event debuted for the very first time. Her Instagram shows her incredibly fit body dangling upside down in a million ways. Combining lead climbing, speed climbing, and bouldering, fans say this new competition is quite the sight.
We all know that gymnasts do cartwheels and backflips. But what does that look like, anatomically? This image went viral online and for good reason. The medical scan is not only stunning, but it tells us a whole lot about flexibility in the sport.
We're not sure if this was part of a forward jump, a scissors leap, or a tumble. But it looks like it's painful, doesn't it? Gymnasts train all their lives to do the impossible. Their hard work must be a challenge to explain to friends. Perhaps a picture really says a thousand words here!
Sarah Robles is an American weightlifter. She's been in the game for years and won the Bronze at the recent Tokyo Olympics. But by looking at her, some might assume she is just a regular gal. Some would question if she exercises at all. Au contraire, says Sarah.
As normal as Sarah may look, she can lift almost 570 pounds. That's more than a lion, for reference. And for the doubters: In some weight lifting events, extra weight on the body is actually beneficial. Not everyone is cut like Arnold Schwarzenegger!
Robert Förstemann is a respected German track cyclist. Not only does he have world-class cycling skills, but he also has a body that shocks other gym-goers. That's hard to do, with all the fit bodies out there today. But look at those thick thighs. We can't believe our eyes!
Perhaps part of it is genetic. But all of it? No way. Rob has worked hard for his bod for years. This champ has actually gotten a nickname since going viral for pics like these. With a thigh circumference of 34 inches, he now goes by "Quadzilla."
Synchronized swimming is no basic dip at the pool. Not many of us can hold our breath for minutes at a time, unlike the Olympians. What's more, they seem to be stretchier than all of us. How do they maintain their flexibility?
To be fluid in your movements while floating in fluid, there is a lot of prep. Here, British swimmer Olivia Federici shows off a few of her moves stretching during the 2016 Rio games. How many of us ever get close to this in yoga class?
Gold medalist Michael Phelps is no normal pool boy. With arms that seem to stretch for miles, he is designed for the sport he champions. According to Michael: "Swimming is normal for me. I'm relaxed. I'm comfortable, and I know my surroundings. It's my home."
His arm span is 6'7″, and that's 3 inches more than his height. None of us are wider than our heights! Michael clearly had an advantage from the start. It's a good thing he figured out that swimming was his mission. In golf or running, this would have been a total waste.
We might assume that all Olympians have perfect bodies. But sometimes, the reality is surprising. Swimmer Cody Miller, for example, is an interesting exception to the rule. He qualified for the 2016 Games in Rio de Janeiro and decided to share personal pictures with fans.
Cody has pectus excavatum, and he found out at a young age. Some boys may have decided he was physically challenged, but that wouldn't be true! Even though he looks different, he worked hard and became a gold medallist. Now, he's probably only self-conscious about the paparazzi.
Girls know the constant upkeep well: Shaving legs and armpits just never slows down, does it? Although that's mostly about looks, swimming requires it for speed. It's funny to think about how tiny little hairs could slow you down. But when the difference between winning and losing is milliseconds, every fuzz counts.
Here, Anthony Ervin shows off his shaving cream to fans on social media. He is a gold medal winner and actually competed at age 35 years in 2016. That made him the oldest Olympic gold medal winner in his event. A good razor can help, that's for sure!
Nadia Comăneci is a name we don't often hear these days. But for those in the world of gymnastics, she is a person no one can forget. Nadia achieved a perfect score at the Montreal games in 1976. That means ten out of ten. And she was only 14!
Looking at the development of her leg muscles, it's easy to see that she worked hard. She went on to win not one, not two, but six more perfect ten scores in her career. Undoubtedly, determination played a part. But those calves are undeniable!
Baths are a lazy luxury that everyday people enjoy. You don't have to be royalty to experience an escape in the tub. Bubbles are a nice touch, too. But when you're an Olympian, bath time is not really about aromatherapy.
Here, swimmer Ryan Lochte shares his bathing routine with fans online. It's odd, we think. He has a 30-pound block of ice cooling things down after his body pushed its limits. Maybe when you're a 12-time medalist, your rituals are different. We can't relate!
It's time to take a look at cyclist George Hincapie's legs. He competed at the Olympics, as well as the Tour de France. After one big race, he took a picture of his varicose veins. This was the freaky result!
Apparently, George's venous tissues are weak. The news noticed and this photo went out to the world. A vascular surgeon and Medical Director of Restoration Vein Care was even quoted saying: “These are the ugliest varicose veins I’ve seen in a while. They are more severe than the typical patient. I’ve seen bigger, but these are just a huge mass that are clumped together.” Yikes!
The sport of volleyball is about making sure the ball doesn't fall. Height helps in that regard if you are close to the net. In gymnastics, quick flips are the name of the game. Let's compare the bodies of top athletes in these fields, here!
On the left, we have a 6'8 athlete. On the right, Simone Biles stands at just 4'8. Fans understand that different builds have different benefits. The only confusion here seems to be about basketball. Why isn't this man shooting hoops in the off-season?
The size of your gripper matters in so many athletics events. In martial arts, it can mean a wider punch. In American football, quarterbacks are chosen for their hand size. But what about fencing? This Olympic art is often ignored by the media. But now, a giant set of hands in the sport is getting some attention.
It's shocking to see Miles Chamley-Watson's hand next to another great name in sports: Pele, the legendary Brazilian soccer star. It's not like Pele is a tiny man. But his hands are just normal, making the contrast even clearer. Those paws are outrageous, Miles!
Dutch swimmer Maarten van der Weijden was once diagnosed with leukemia. The life-threatening illness struck when he was just 20 years old. But miraculously, he went on to beat the disease and even become an Olympian medalist. Way to go, Maarten!
Fans may not know that the athlete raised a lot of money for research with some of his recent swims. Here, photos online surfaced that show just how hard Olympians push themselves past normal limits. After swimming for 55 hours to raise money for cancer, this was the result. Pruned is not a strong enough word, is it?
Acrobatic gymnastics is not currently at the Olympics. It is, however, a major event at many other championships. And the athletes are world-class in their field, without a doubt. They have performed at the opening and closing ceremonies of the Olympics in the past. Will they become an official event in the future?
If U.S. acrobats Aubrey Rosilier and Emily Davis have anything to do with it, it just might. Here, a stunning photo shows their niche in athletics. They know just how to balance grace and strength, unlike most of us. The clumsy are numerous, but there is no sport that celebrates it — yet.
Truthfully, whizzing at top speed is a dangerous thing to do, if you make a mistake in the process. One example we can't forget is what happened to J. R. Celski in the short-track speed skating Olympic trials in 2010. Look at that leg!
J.R. explained: "I fell in the corner and put the front six inches of my blade straight into my quad. I bounced off the pads with the blade still in my leg, looked down and had to pull it out myself." In fact, he almost severed a major artery in his leg, which would have been fatal. Ouch?
Being an elite athlete is no part-time hobby. It's clearly a full-time job, and only the most committed make it to gold. One winner we know and love is gymnast Aly Raisman, who was the captain of the USA team for years. She's retired these days. But we can still learn a lot from her Instagram!
Aly captioned this photo: "I know I am not the only gymnast who sometimes watches tv like this." Although we might assume these girls have some genuine downtime in between practice, that's not so clear. It seems like they're always multitasking, doesn't it?
Swimming is actually a very high-intensity activity, at elite levels. But is that really surprising? We've always heard laps are the best exercise to lose weight and tone up, for dieters. It's an incredible workout, and it's no wonder Olympians are always ripped.
Here, Dutch swimmer Sebastiaan Verschuren decided to be part of a cool photo. Not only can we see his expertly sculpted abs, but we learn a little bit more about the athlete. Maybe Sebastian has an artsy side. Seem like he might, right?
Polish biker Bartosz Huzarski is no longer professionally active in his sport. After ten years, he felt it was time to move on. But retired athletes have nostalgia, like the rest of us. Bart decided to whip out the old bicycle, one day. This was the result!
On the right, we see a photo of his legs when he was not yet a pro. On the left, we see an incredible transformation in veins. The human body is an amazing thing, but maybe we don't push ourselves to the limit often enough. Maybe we, too, could get veiny!
English rower Alex Gregory posted this picture on social media. He captioned it: "My hands after spending so long in wet gloves. The blisters were never bad on this Polar row, but the wet & damp seeped into the skin." What happened?
Apparently, Greg got stuck on a remote island with other rowers on a failed arctic expedition. He needed to escape, and luckily, he is an actual Olympian. When he posted these pics on social media, the world was shocked. Now we all know what wet gloves will do to do while rowing in the cold, if you row enough.
The Olympic events are meant to dazzle viewers on live TV. But what happens when things get truly out of hand? The athletes are still human, of course. Dutch track cyclist Laurine Van Riessen confirmed that fact the hard way.
The physics of this picture are impressive, but we know that what goes up must come down. When Laurine landed, she crashed into her opponent and required a medical evacuation. Several bones were broken, and she was definitely bruised. Will she compete in the future? Only time will tell.
We usually hear about skiing as an activity for the wealthy in the Swiss Alps or college students on break in Colorado. There is also extreme Olympic skiing. Devin Logan began the sport at age 2, and her elite physique has handled the impact well, for the most part. It was just that darned knee that kept acting up, over and over.
Something had to change, and that something was her knee. Devin explained her treatment online: "I finally got my knee cleaned up after skiing in pain for years... would just try and ignore what my body was telling me. This should have happened years ago but happy the knee is starting to feel/look like the other again(not twice the size)." Yikes!
During the 2008 Olympic games, social media was less prominent in our lives. But had it been today, this photo would have gone viral in a flash. Check out Swimmer Missy Franklin and gymnast Shawn Johnson. What a height gap!
Missy is 6 ft 1 in and Shawn is just 4 ft 9. They occupy different ends of the body spectrum, but they do have one thing in common. Both made America proud with gold medals. The podium accommodates tall and small, obviously!
Marvel, have you seen this? While some fans think Usain Bolt wants to be Spider-Man, he has never confirmed the accusation. All we have is this silly photo, but it does seem like a familiar superhero might do the same in a massage studio.
We all know that Usain can do anything he puts his mind to. In this case, that means using his core and leg strength to spend time sideways near the ceiling. Fans are just grateful this special moment was captured for historical purposes: It's a first, and firsts need to be documented.
According to Dutch gymnast Eythora Thorsdottir: "I do my gymnastics out of passion. Everything I do comes right from my heart. I would be very disappointed in myself if I wouldn't give it my all. I give 100% or not at all. There's no in-between."
Is that what she meant? Here, the champion gymnast doesn't settle for a regular high five with her pal. She went a bit farther, inventing a new social ritual. Hand moves are for regular folks. Here, we're dealing with an Olympian.
The Tour de France is not actually part of the Olympics. But is it any less intense? Polish cyclist Pawel Poljanski showed the world just how insane this alternative sports event can be, with this photo. What is going on with his veins, friends?
After the 26th stage of the Tour de France in 2017, Pawel Poljanski decided to break the internet. No one could believe the sheer number of visible veins here. Did they go back to normal, when things cooled down? Hopefully so, if he doesn't want to scare the children.
The tallest and shortest game is amusing, each and every time it's tried. At the Olympics, the extremes are heightened, shall we say. In 2016, USA basketball wanted to share a photo to highlight that contrast. Don't claim you're not impressed!
When the gymnastics team visited the basketball court, it made for an exciting photo op. Multiple members of each team posed with each other, and social media loved it. Sometimes, the world just needs a pick-me-up like this. Thanks, everyone!
For most of us, our strongest muscles are in our legs. But when we look at what Olympians achieve, it's easy to feel like we have chicken legs. Take a look at Olympian Harry Aikines-Aryeetey here, and put yourself to shame!
Olympians try to be quirky, in their own way. The English sprinter posted this photo with a cheeky caption: "Getting ready for that Christmas binge!" But no one was thinking about food when they saw the lines on his legs. When most of us jog, this doesn't happen!
Again, acrobatic gymnastics is still excluded from the main Olympic events. But just to consider what they achieve in other competitions, take a look at this impressive photo. Looks like strength, balance, and art to us. What's not to love?
This photo offers so much for fans to enjoy. We see strong gymnasts on the bottom, keeping everything up in the air. Then, we see girls in all sorts of tricky positions, above. In summary: Totally mindblowing, and totally underrated.
According to gymnast Simone Biles: “A successful competition for me is always going out there and putting 100 percent into whatever I’m doing...for me, it’s hitting the best sets I can, gaining confidence and having a good time and having fun.” Is that what she's doing here, back in 2016?
Seems so. Although Simone is not engaged in a formal contest here, she is putting in her best effort and having tons of fun. As a guest of the Houston Astros, the gymnast was invited to throw the first pitch. It's not her sport, but what a treat!