The Emotional Range of Olympic Hugs

Embraces—in victory, defeat, and everything in between—are the best part of the Olympics, and they come in many varieties.

Laurie Hernandez receives a hug from her coach after her floor routine during the women's gymnastics team final.  (Dylan Martinez / Reuters)

There are many complaints you could make about the Olympics. The cost. The nationalism. The sometimes sexist media coverage. In the end, though, those objections tend to dissolve when met with one simple thing: the humanity the Olympics encourage.

The Games, despite the world stage they are played on, are an intensely personal event for the athletes who participate in them, with years of training and coaching and teamwork coming down to minutes and seconds and leaps and throws and landings. And there’s no better reminder of that than the simplest, and most universal, event at the Olympics: the hug. Whether rewarded in victory or offered in consolation, the embrace—human to human, warmth to warmth—is perhaps the best, most compelling aspect of the two-week event. And, fortunately for viewers, Olympic hugs come in many forms.

Below, a guide to the most common.


Simone Biles hugs Aly Raisman following her floor routine during the women's gymnastics team all-around final. (Mike Blake / Reuters)
Kohei Uchimura of Japan gets a hug after winning gold in the Artistic Gymnastics Men's Individual All-Around Final (Mike Blake / Reuters)
Kristin Armstrong of the USA reacts after winning the women's individual time trial in road cycling. (Matthew Childs / Reuters)
Cristian Poglajen of Argentina (L) and Demian Gonzalez of Argentina hug supporters. (Pilar Olivares / Reuters)
Anouk Verge-Depre of Switzerland (R) hugs Isabelle Forrer of Switzerland during the women’s beach volleyball preliminary. (Ruben Sprich / Reuters)

2. The ‘Thanks So Much, Coach’ Hug

Lisa Unruh of Germany hugs her coach after the Women's Individual Eliminations in archery. (Leonhard Foeger / Reuters)
Laurie Hernandez of the USA receives a hug from her coach after her floor routine during the women's gymnastics team final. (Dylan Martinez / Reuters)
Koki Niwa of Japan hugs his coach after winning his table tennis match against Wong Chun Ting of Hong Kong. (Alkis Konstantinidis / Reuters)
Kim Song I, of North Korea, left, hugs her coach after defeating Ai Fukuhara, of Japan, in the women's singles table tennis bronze medal match. (David Goldman / AP)

3. The Subtle-in-Victory Hug

Brazil's Neymar, right, and Gabriel Jesus embrace after a group A match of the men' s Olympic football tournament between Brazil and Denmark. Brazil won the match 4-0. At left are Denmark's Kasper Larsen (3) and Pascal Gregor. (AP / Leo Correa)
Hiroyuki Endo and Kenichi Hayakawa of Japan hug after winning their doubles badminton match against Chai Biao and Hong Wei of China. (Marcelo Del Pozo / Reuters)

4. The Un-Subtle-in-Victory Hug

Argentina's Facundo Callioni, right, raises his sick while embracing Matias Rey after Rey scored against Germany during a men's field hockey match. (Dario Lopez-Mills / AP)

5. The ‘You Just Beat Me, but We’re Cool’ Hug

Juan Martin del Potro, of Argentina, cries while hugging Novak Djokovic, of Serbia, after defeating him in the men's tennis competition. (Vadim Ghirda / AP)
Guilherme Toldo of Brazil (L) hugs Daniele Garozzo of Italy after fencing’s men’s individual foil quarterfinals. (Issei Kato / Reuters)
Moises Rodrigues Duque of Brazil and Carlin Isles of the USA embrace after the end of their rugby match. (Phil Noble / Reuters)
Kei Nishikori of Japan embraces John Millman of Australia after winning their Men’s Singles tennis match. (Kevin Lamarque / Reuters)

6. The ‘I’d Really Rather Not Right Now’ Hug

Inna Deriglazova of Russia hugs Elisa Di Francisca of Italy after winning fencing’s Women’s Individual Foil gold-metal match. (Peter Cziborra / Reuters)
Deng Shudi of China is hugged after competing on the pommel horse during the men's artistic gymanstics team final. (Damir Sagolj / Reuters)
Penelope Oleksiak and Chantal VanLandeghem of Canada embrace after the Women's 100m Freestyle preliminaries. (David Gray / Reuters)
Sun Yang of China embraces Conor Dwyer of the USA during the Men's 200m Freestyle Victory Ceremony. (Stefan Wermuth / Reuters)

7. The Consolation Hug

Rebecca Downie of the United Kingdom (facing camera) hugs her sister Elissa Downie after a fall during her beam routine at the women's qualifications. (Dylan Martinez / Reuters)

8. The Patriotic Hug

The United States's Michael Phelps, top, hugs his teammate Caeleb Dressel after the medal ceremony for the men's 4x100-meter freestyle final. (Michael Sohn / AP)
Gold medallist Kohei Uchimura of Japan (L) hugs silver medallist Oleg Verniaiev of Ukraine (R) after the men's individual all-around final in men’s artistic gymnastics. Kai Pfaffenbach / Reuters)

9. The Accessorized Hug

Rugby player Isadora Cerullo of Brazil hugs Marjorie, an Olympics volunteer. (Alessandro Bianchi / Reuters)
Isadora Cerullo of Brazil hugs Paula Ishibashi of Brazil after scoring in the women’s rugby game against Japan. (Phil Noble / Reuters)
South Korea's team embraces the United States's team at the end of the final for the men's team archery competition. South Korea won gold; the U.S. won silver. (Natacha Pisarenko / AP)
Hiromi Miyake of Japan embraces the weights after winning the bronze medal in the women’s weightligting final. (Kai Pfaffenbac / Reuters)

10. The Extremely Photo-Bombed Hug

Brazil's Marcelinho Huertas is embraced by fans after the team's win over Spain in a men's basketball game. (Eric Gay / AP)

11. The Back-Tackled Hug

Demarcus Cousins of the USA hugs Carmelo Anthony of the USA during the Men’s Basketball preliminaries. (Jim Young / Reuters)
Gauthier Grumier of France celebrates winning fencing’s Men's Epee Individual Bronze Medal Bout. (Issei Kato / Reuters)

12. The Floating Hug

Gold medalist Joseph Clarke of Britain, left, embraces silver medalist Peter Kauzer of Slovenia after competing at the kayak K1 men's final of the Canoe Slalom. (Natacha Pisarenko / AP)
Australia's Kyle Chalmers gets a hug from Cameron McEvoy after winning the 100m freestyle finals during the swimming competitions. (Morry Gash / AP)

13. The ‘That Was Awesome’ Hug

Rafael Nadal, of Spain, top, embraces partner Marc Lopez as they celebrate after defeating Canada in their men's doubles match. (Charles Krupa / AP)

Astou Ndour Gueye (L) and Leticia Romero of Spain embrace after the women’s basketaball preliminary game. (Sergio Moraes / Reuters)
Michael Phelps embraces teammate Ryan Held of the USA on the podium at the Men's 4 x 100m Freestyle Relay Victory Ceremony. (Stefan Wermuth / Reuters)
Team USA Coordinator Marta Karolyi (R) hugs Gabby Douglas, Aly Raisman, Laurie Hernandez, Simone Biles, and Madison Kocian during the women's gymnastics qualifications. (Mike Blake / Reuters)

14. The ‘That Was Awesome and I’m So Happy It’s Over’ Hug

U.S. gymnast Simone Biles hugs Madison Kocian during the women's qualifications. (Damir Sagolj / Reuters)
United States' Katie Ledecky, right, embraces second placed Sweden's Sarah Sjostrom after winning the gold medal in the women's 200-meter freestyle. (Lee Jin-man / AP)

15. The Game Face Hug

Britain's Elissa Downie, right, is hugged by teammate Amy Tinkler after her performance on the balance beam during the artistic gymnastics women's team final. (Rebecca Blackwell / AP)

16. The Mobile Hug

Portia Woodman (R) embraces Gayle Broughton, both of New Zealand, after scoring in the Women's Rugby Semifinals against Britain. (Alessandro Bianchi / Reuters)
Lucie Safarova and Barbora Strycova of the Czech Republic celebrate after winning their match against Serena Williams and Venus Williams of the USA. (Toby Melville / Reuters)

17.  The ‘This Is Totally Worth Stooping For' Hug

Malaysia's silver medalists Pandelela Rinong, back right, and Cheong Jun Hoong, back left, hug China's gold medalists Liu Huixia, right, and Chen Ruolin, left, during the medals ceremony after the women's synchronized 10-meter platform diving final. (Matt Dunham / AP)
Bronze medalist Jiri Prskavec of the Czech Republic gets hugs after the finish of the men’s canoe/kayak final. (Ivan Alvarado / Reuters)
Claire Lambe of Ireland and Sinead Lynch of Ireland are hugged at dock after competing in the Lightweight Women's Double Sculls Semifinal. (Murad Sezer / Reuters)

18. The Synchronized Hug

Team Canada and team USA hug on the podium during the Women's 4 x 200m Freestyle Relay Victory Ceremony. (Pilar Olivares / Reuters)
Luis Scola hugs Nicolas Laprovittola of Argentina as Manu Ginobili hugs Facundo Campazzo of Argentina after defeating Croatia in the men’s basketball preliminary. (Jim Young / Reuters)
South Korea's Jung Yu-ra, foreground left, embraces team mate South Korea's Gwon Han-na after winning the women's preliminary handball match between the Netherlands and South Korea. (Matthias Schrader / AP)
Competitors embrace after their race in the Women's 400m Individual Medley Final. (David Gray / Reuters)

19. The Decidedly Non-Synchronized Hug

China's Cao Yuan and Qin Kai, left, hug each other after finishing third as Britain's Jack Laugher and Chris Mears, right, celebrate after winning the men's synchronized 3-meter springboard diving final. (Wong Maye-E / AP)

20. The Semi-Group Hug

Japan's players embrace each other after winning the men's rugby sevens match against Kenya. (Themba Hadebe / AP)
France's team players celebrate their win against Colombia in the women’s soccer preliminaries. (Mariana Bazo / Reuters)

21. The Full Group Hug

Michael Phelps, Conor Dwyer, Townley Haas, and Ryan Lochte of the USA hug after they won the gold medal in the Men's 4 x 200m Freestyle Relay Final. (Laszlo Balogh / Reuters)
Dutch gymnasts hug during the women's artistic gymnastics qualifications. (Dylan Martinez / Reuters)
Chantal Achterberg, Nicole Beukers, Inge Janssen, and Carline Bouw of the Netherlands embrace after a silver medal finish in the Women's Quadruple Sculls Final. (Murad Sezer / Reuters)
The United States team hugs after winning the gold medal in the 4 x 200m freestyle relay finals. (Morry Gash / AP)

22. The ‘The Only Two People in the World’ Hug

Brazilian players celebrate their second goal in the Women's First Round against China. (Leonhard Foeger / Reuters)
Norway's Stine Bredal Oftedal, facing, hugs Norway's Amanda Kurtovic after they won the women's preliminary handball match between Norway and Angola. (Ben Curtis / AP)
Brady Ellison hugs compatriot Jacob Linde-Kaminski (USA) during the men’s archery preliminaries. (Leonhard Foeger / Reuters)
Canada's bronze medalists Roseline Filion, right, and Meaghan Benfeito hug each other on the podium after the women's synchronized 10-meter platform diving final. (Wong Maye-E / AP)

23. The After-Literally-Every-Play Volleyball Hug

Brazil's Barbara Seixas de Freitas, right, hugs teammate Agatha Bednarczuk during a beach volleyball match against the Czech Republic. (Marcio Jose Sanchez / AP)
Sarah Pavan of Canada embraces Heather Bansley during their beach volleyball match against Switzerland. (Ruben Sprich / Reuters)

24. The ‘Thank You for Being a Friend’ Hug

Oreane Lechenault of France hugs teammate Louise Vanhille during the women's gymnastics qualifications. (Dylan Martinez / Reuters)
Sandra Auffarth, of Germany, embraces Opgun Louvo after competing in the equestrian eventing dressage competition. (John Locher / AP)
Francesca Dallape and Tania Cagnotto of Italy embrace after the Women's Synchronised 3m Springboard final. (Kai Pfaffenbach / Reuters)

25. The ‘Thank You for Being a Fan’ Hug

Mireia Belmonte of Spain hugs her supporters after winning the gold medal in the Women's 200m Butterfly. (David Gray / Reuters)
Evelyn Stevens of the USA embraces a fan before the start of the Women's Road Race final. (Paul Hanna / Reuters)
Danny Barrett of the USA hugs a fan in the stands after the men’s rugby match against Spain. (Alessandro Bianchi / Reuters)

26. The ‘We Just Got Engaged!’ Hug

Rugby player Isadora Cerullo of Brazil hugs Marjorie, a volunteer, after receiving her wedding proposal on the sidelines of the women's rugby medal ceremony. (Alessandro Bianchi / Reuters)

27. The ‘AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAH Your Cousin Just Won Olympic Gold’ Hug

Wrapped in a Brazilian flag Giovana Silva, 4, center, cousin of the Brazilian Judo gold medalist Rafaela Silva, is hugged by a friend as they stand next to her aunt Cristiane as she holds a poster of Rafaela Silva, at Cidade de Deus slum in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, Tuesday, Aug. 9, 2016. Cidade de Deus is the former home of Silva, who grew up there. If not for the sport that helped her climb up and out, “I could still be living in City of God now,” she said through tears after winning on Monday. (Leo Correa / AP)