This year’s Olympics, postponed from 2020, will definitely go down in the history books. While the first Olympics to be held during a pandemic did not come without controversy in the midst of silent stadiums and empty stands, there were moments that warmed our hearts.
Two high jumpers share the gold
Mutaz Essa Barshim of Qatar and Italy’s Gianmarco Tamberi competed for hours, neither able to best the other. Rather than attempt a jump-off, Barshim asked if they could share the gold. The two have been friends for years, come back from potentially career-ending injuries, and when it came time for the medal ceremony, they held their hands in the air, clasped together.
Tamyra Mensah-Stock makes history
Mensah-Stock won the 68-kilogram wrestling freestyle, becoming the second woman and first Black woman in U.S. history to get the gold in wrestling. With a flag draped over her shoulders, many saw Mensah-Stock barely hold back her tears, overcome with emotion.
Simone Biles focuses on her health
Suffering from twisties, a frightening phenomenon when a gymnast gets lost in the air, Biles pulled out from the team final vault. Later she withdrew from the individual all-around final, and then all but the beam final. She said, “My mental and physical health is above all medals I could ever win.” From teammates, other athletes, and fans alike Biles received an outpouring of support. Her decision and subsequent candidness brought athletes’ mental health to the forefront of Olympic conversation.
Dutch runner, Sifan Hassan, falls in the 1500m race and wins
When the runner in front of her fell, Hassan went down too. Almost immediately, she jumped up and raced past the 11 runners in front of her, passing five of them in the last straightaway; those five happened to be some of the fastest runners in the world. In the final, she took the bronze, thanks to her outstanding comeback, adding to the two gold won in the 5,000 and 10,000-meter races.
Japan wins gold in karate
In its Olympic debut, after years of fighting to be included, karate gold went to the host country. Ryo Kiyuna won the men’s kata, one of the two disciplines at the games. It has the competitor fight against an imaginary foe using stylized attacks sometimes emphasized by yelling. On the podium, Kiyuna held a photo of his late mother. When asked about it, he said he “…wanted to report [his] triumph to [her].”
Tom Daley and his first gold
In his fourth Olympics, Daley finally won gold. It came in the men’s 10-meter synchronized platform diving with Matty Lee. To keep his medal safe, Daley made it a cozy, warming hearts around the world. Fans soon spotted Daley at different events knitting. At the end of the games, he took to social media to show off his Olympic cardigan, featuring the flag of Japan on one of the sleeves, and Team GB above the Olympic rings.
When 15-year-old Misugu Okamoto of Japan fell off her board in the final after qualifying first, she was left in tears. Her fellow competitors rushed over to her and cheered her out of the bowl, high on their shoulders.