Who else is voraciously devouring whatever limited Olympic content is available? I certainly am. It has been a colossal shame to discover the broadcasting monopoly sold away by the IOC, but the BBC has certainly tried, if frustratingly. Still, what few, magical moments do percolate from Tokyo have generated some very special Olympic stories.
I very briefly wanted to highlight the most extraordinary, alongside some honourable mentions. No doubt you’ll have equally followed these scenes, I simply wanted to reflect on them.
Special Olympic stories define the competition. Despite all the turmoil of this past year and the particular controversies encircling this iteration, the Olympics conjure the fiercest emotions and best of human sporting ability. Even better, we’re scarcely half-way through!
Special Olympic Stories (Honourable Mentions)
Fijian Triumph –
Rugby 7s is arguably one of the most dynamic Olympic formats, and certainly one of the most watchable, regardless of your knowledge going in. I’m more on the casual end of the spectrum. I know the rules, I’ll watch the Six Nations and World Cup, and I’ve loved watching the 7s here – I can’t wait to see what the Women’s draw brings.
Watching the Fiji team convincingly claim a consecutive gold was powerful. It’s so apparent how deeply the victory resonated back home, and the players themselves poured forth the significance of the win for all to plainly see. Spectating after a disappointing Team GB defeat (to an additionally storied Argentina team) was a refreshing delight.
Team GB claiming 4x200m Freestyle Gold –
I’ve probably been shown this race more than any other. It was remarkable, and surprisingly dominant. Perhaps, after Tom Dean and Duncan Scott sealed a historic Gold-Silver combination, it should have been expected. Still, after Tom Dean established an underwhelming first leg, the dogged fight back from GB’s swimmers was imperial.
It’s the emotions so keenly on display in the aftermath that reminds us of sport’s importance. After Tom Dean’s family and friends rightfully lost their minds of his victory, they were on ecstatic form once more. The poolside tears of joy from James Guy and Matthew Richards completed an overall, wonderful performance.
Simone Biles –
Have you heard that Simone Biles, face of the US Olympic Team, withdrew from the All-round Gymnastics? Shocking. The enormous uproar in the wake of her decision is brilliantly indicative of how much pressure and judgement she must have felt heading into the competition, and surely demonstrates the immense strain she’s withstood.
Were this a competitor who’d barely scraped through the qualifying stages, it would be little more than a footnote. It’s damningly revealing of the unhealthy pedestal we promote our top athletes to. Our societal values prioritise victory at all costs, when sport should fundamentally be about enjoyment. No one outside of Simone Biles or her team has any right to comment on the decision itself.
So much has already been said on the importance of mental health, and this hopefully will blossom into far-reaching conversations. My only disappointment, which is not to detract from Biles at all, is the feeble support we as a whole mustered for Naomi Osaka as she withdrew from Roland Garros. Hopefully, both names will be mentioned in conversations of strength and resolve moving forwards.
The strength of Triathletes
The triathlon is a gruelling event, requiring mastery over multiple disciplines. Not only do you have to cycle forty kilometres and then run a further ten, it’s all done in wet shoes. Without socks. The blisters must be unbearable.
Yes, there was the embarrassing false start in the Men’s, and a treacherous moment in which several athletes appeared in jeopardy from a boat’s propeller. But the characteristic shambles aside, Kristian Blummenfelt was supreme in claiming gold. Raw agony strewn across his features, he mustered something inhuman to break free in the race finale and secure uncontested victory. That was it. He could no longer walk. He could no longer move after crossing the line. Had the run been ten-thousand-and-one meters, he might well have come last.
Supported by a dramatic Women’s event, in which Flora Duffy delivered Bermuda’s first ever gold, they were a special sequence. At one stage, it appeared torrential rains would cancel the Women’s, but they soldiered through appalling conditions. Huge congratulations too, of course, to Britain’s Georgia Taylor-Brown for riding through a tyre puncture and still claiming silver.
The Ultimate Olympic Journey
Perhaps the most bizarre Olympic heroics were encapsulated by Hidilyn Diaz, a Philippine weightlifter. The thirty-year-old, weighing in at fifty-five kilograms, proceeded to break the world record by lifting a total two-hundred-and-twenty-four kilograms, bringing home the Philippines’ first ever Gold.
She might not have always been a source of national pride, however. Astonishingly, it was just two years ago her name was included on a list of accused plotters against President Rodrigo Duterte. Diaz denies any involvement, and I certainly not casting aspersions. Whatever the truth, there are no hard feelings, as Duterte’s spokesperson declared:
“We will carve Hidilyn Diaz’ name in the Philippines’ history”.
Thanks for reading! Hopefully you’re all looking forwards to the remainder of the Olympics as much as I am – I’m sure there’re plenty of special moments in store. If you’re looking for a change of pace, I also post short stories and travel blogs. Feature image courtesy of Wikipedia Commons.
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