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Olympic tattoos: the coolest body art at Rio 2016

Olympic tattoos: the coolest body art at Rio 2016

Many of the world's best athletes have powerful stories of triumph, loss, perseverance and love painted on their skin

For elite athletes, the Olympic rings are a popular choice of tattoo design (Photo: Getty Images/Sean Garnsworthy)

Rio 2016 is shaping up to set a new record for the number of tattoos that will be on show at an Olympic Games. It's a rare sportsman or sportswoman these days who doesn't flaunt at least one piece of body art. has rounded up some of the best that will soon be arriving in tattoo-crazy, body-worshipping Rio de Janeiro.

Sonny Bill Williams

(Photos: Getty Images)

The New Zealand rugby star, who will be joined by his sister at Rio 2016, has a Maori tattoo on his right arm that represents his ancestors and a tattoo of his family name on his back.

Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce

The gold medal-winning sprinter from Jamaica (second right in image above) has a flower tattooed on her upper left thigh. “I like colourful things, shiny things, strong colours. They make me happy and they’re relaxing and that helps me at the start of the race,” she says.

Lin Dan

(Photos: Getty Images)

The effervescent shuttlecock maestro from China is known as the 'David Beckham of badminton'. He sports five tattoos, including a cross, five stars representing the golden slam he won in 2012, plus tattoos referring to his wife, his own name and his favourite manga film. 
Rafaela Silva

(Photos: Emmanuel Charlot/L'Esprit du judo)

The Brazilian judoka's many tattoos include a word-seach puzzle containing the Portuguese words for “judo, passion and dream".

Ryan Lochte

(Photo: Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)

The swimming legend, 11 times an Olympic medal-winner, has an alligator tattooed on his back. It is a symbol of Lochte's home state Florida. He has already qualified, alongside Michael Phelps, for Rio 2016.

Bradley Wiggins

(Photo: TeamSky)

Olympic cycling hero Sir Bradley Wiggins was the first British cyclist to win cycling's greatest prize, the Tour de France. One of his tattoos is of English king Henry V, who with his 'band of brothers' defeated the French at Agincourt in 1415.

Alison Cerutti

(Photo: MPC Rio Comunicação)

The giant Brazilian beach volleyball player is nicknamed 'Mammoth'; it took six hours to tattoo this beast onto his body.

Ellen Hoog

(Photo: Klaas Jan Van der Weij)

A touching tribute from Ellen Hoog, the best hockey player in the world, to her late father, who called her Toos. "It is a beautiful memory, it represents the relationship between me and him,” she says.


(Photo: Facebook)

Brazil's no.1 football idol is covered in tattoos. The most recent one on his left leg represents his own childhood; a young Brazilian boy with a football dreaming about one day having his own home and winning the Champions League. 

Arthur Zanetti

(Photo: Facebook)

After winning gold on the rings at London 2012, Brazil's Arthur Zanetti tattooed an image of the medal onto his side. “If there is another tattoo, it will be in 2016, because I'm going to get that title," he said.

Brazilian volleyball star Thaísa is 1.96m (6 feet and 4 inches) tall. That's a lot of skin to draw on. Thaisa already has 19 tattoos and promises to get more done after Rio 2016.
Maris Strombergs

Nicknamed 'the machine' and once voted Latvia's second sexiest man, Strombergs has won Olympic gold in the two BMX cycling events since the discipline joined the Games. He carries memories of both moments on his skin. 

Alexandra Nascimento

(Photo: Instagram)

The butterfly on the back is a symbol of freedom for the Brazilian handball player. “I got this tattoo on my back when I moved out of my parents' home and I went to São Paulo to play professional handballm," she said.

Isaquias Queiroz

Queiroz, Brazil’s biggest medal hope in canoe sprint, has three tattoos: the names of his mother and father, plus a giant Maori-inspired design on his chest and shoulder.

Stanislas Wawrinka

(Photo: Getty Images/Scott Barbour)

“Ever tried. Ever failed. No matter. Try again. Fail again. Fail better.” The words of Nobel prize-winner Samuel Beckett are an inspiration to Swiss tennis player Stanislas Wawrinka. “You lose almost all the tournments you're in and you need to accept that you have to be positive about it because you need to keep going.”

Thiago Pereira

(Photo: Facebook)

The three Japanese symbols on the right arm of Brazilian swimming hero Thiago Pereira represent perseverance, conquest and water. On his right leg, the coordinates of the London Aquatics Centre, where he won silver in 2012, and the Latin words veni, vidi, vici (I came, I saw, I conquered).

Serena Williams and Hope Solo

(Photos: Getty Images and Instagram)

Maybe the greatest women's tennis player ever, Serena Williams is also a sensitive soul, with a small heart tattooed onto the back of her nack.

Double Olympic football champion Hope Solo sports a chest tattoo that consists of a long inspirational message.
The Olympic rings: a trend among athletes

The most obvious choice for a tattoo design for medal-winning athletes. Olympians who have tattooed the symbol onto their skin include Michael Phelps, Tom Daley, Khatuna Lorig, Matheus Borges, Mariana Pajon and Missy Franklin.

Athletes and the Olympic rings (Photos: Getty Images and Rio 2016)

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