Top 10 Tokyo Olympic moments
How I stopped worrying and loved the Tokyo Olympics
I was one of the naysayers about the Tokyo Olympics. Not a vociferous one, just skeptical that hosting a giant sporting event in your country while it is still in the thralls of a major COVID crisis would a good idea. Well, I was wrong. Perhaps more than ever, this year of all years, the world needed this. And by “this” I don’t mean raw athleticism, but sportsmanship. And I define sportsmanship as the ability to both chase glory with every fiber of your being and recognize at the end of the day it’s something bigger still that really matters…our shared humanity and the spirit of endeavor.
I won’t lie. I’m no sports buff in general. In fact I’m an American who is so oblivious I still can’t cogently explain to you the rules of American football. But there were ten stand-out moments from the Tokyo Olympics that absolutely captivated and delighted me, and I want to share them with you. Whether or not they got gold, silver, bronze or didn’t podium at all, these following athletes are all truly the champions of my heart.
🇬🇧 Britain’s Brocheting Champion
Tom Daley is an incredible knitter/crochet artist. You can find his work on his his Insta @madewithlovebytomdaley. He tries to keep his insta to the knitting content, he explained, but he just has to make an exception that day because…he just won a GOLD OLYMPIC MEDAL for Men’s synchronized 10 meters platform diving. I mean, fair enough!
In fact, Tom has been seen knitting and stitching all over the games, something he said kept him sane. And his work is so impressive! I mean, not that his diving isn’t. But his designs are honestly delightful: a Bernie amigurumi! A creative and colorful rainbow crochet top! And his masterpiece…an impressive Great Britain Olympic Cardigan!
Take it away with the color commentary, Leslie Jones!
🇹🇼 The best-loved Silver medal in the Olympics
It is known that while bronze medals feel elated just to be on the podium silver medalist feel a sense of just missing out on glory so intense it actually shows up affecting their life-expectancy. Well, not Taiwanese Judo player Yang Yung-Wei. At 23, he’ll be back for another run at the gold and maybe more. In the meantime, his complete and utter satisfaction and pride in his silver medal radiates off the GIF. You just know, he’s going to be sleeping with that medal next to him for AT LEAST the next six months. Awww. Let’s learn from Yang how to be be graceful and joyous with our achievements, whatever they are.
🇰🇮 Going out in style…and for a good cause
Kiribati weightlifter David Katoatau didn’t make his lift. But rather skulking off the stage, he took a bow and danced his way out with aplomb! Dancing after he lifts is Katoatau’s thing. He dances when he wins, and he dances when he loses. And he does it to raise awareness for the plight of his country, which is in danger of disappearing under the rising sea levels if climate change continues.
🇦🇺 Two Awesome Aussie Ladies
Olympics are fundamentally, almost exclusively, the domain of the young. It’s assumed that if you’re not raised as a tot in the sport, that you simply haven’t a chance in the world to compete at that level. Well never tell Sinead Diver the odds.
The Aussie runner only discovered athletics at the age of 33, after becoming a mom. She then trained for 11 year before facing her very first Olympics as a marathoner. At the age of 46, she finished the race in 2 hours, 31 minutes and 14 seconds, just under 4 minutes behind the winner to come in tenth, making her the second Australian woman to come in top ten at the Olympics!
Meanwhile, it was Australian Jian Fan Lay’s staggering sixth Olympics. At age 48 and ranked 156th in the world, she nevertheless made it to the third round of competition, taking out a 19 year-old and 35 year-old along the way. More like Jian Fan Slay, amirite?
The strength of spirit and zest for competition of those ladies are incredibly inspiring. And a reminder for us all to ignore our perceived limitations and aim at excellence, never mind the odds!
🇺🇸 Simone Biles champions mental health
Simone Biles went into Tokyo as the acknowledged GOAT of women’s gymnastics. But even GOATs have bad days. And Biles was having a very bad day. Specifically, she was suffering from what gymnast called “the twisties,” a loss of orientation in the air as your muscle memory deserts you. She decided to bow out of the rest of the competition, a decision that some people, including me, initially found difficult to understand.
Why couldn’t Biles just MAKE herself finish the competition? Why didn’t she just try? Then I realized that if she had a physical injury that was as serious and potentially dangerous as fellow gymnasts say “the twisties” are, I wouldn’t have questioned her decision at all. It’s only because it was a mental challenge that I reflexively thought “why couldn’t she just get over it?”
Part of the value of these Olympics is for us to observe people performing at the limits of human endurance and learn some valuable lessons. Simone’s lesson was one of integrity (she was frank that her issues were mental rather than physical), of humility (she knew her own limits) and respect for mental conditions — just because you can’t see it, doesn’t mean it’s not real.
I have a feeling that might be a valuable lesson indeed for many of us. 🤍
For years Taiwan had been forced to compete under the nonsense title of “Chinese Taipei.” I don’t think I need to explain too much why for the readers of this Substack why. So when, during the opening ceremony, the announcer said “Taiwan desu” (“It’s Taiwan”) in Japanese when the “Chinese Taipei” team came out, a collective shiver ran down the spine of the nation. It didn’t happen again. Announcers returned to the official moniker for the rest of the game. But just that one utterance had an “emperor’s new clothes” effect.
Taiwan punched above its weight in these Olympics, bringing home 2 golds, 4 silvers and 6 bronze medals. The visibility raised with each athlete that podiumed underlines the absurd contradiction of “Chinese Taipei.” Another opportunity to voice, on the athlete’s social media “I am TAIWANESE.” And a reason to hope that one day our athletes will be able to compete on the world stage under the real name of our country: Taiwan. It’s what our friends already call us ❤️
🇨🇳Happy Chinese Dad
I want to congratulate the Chinese team on their fabulous performance at the Tokyo games. Despite being pipped by the US for first in the gold medal counts, they displayed incredible athleticism, dedication and sportsmanship. However, my favorite moment from Team China was actually from their cheerleading section back home! 🥰 🎊 🎉 Is there anything as pure as a Proud Asian Dad?
🇦🇹 The Woman who Mathed on her way to Gold
You’ve got to understand. This simply doesn’t happen. A cyclist who only turned pro in 2017, who was her own coach and nutritionist, who didn’t even have teammates, won gold in the women’s road race final. But Austria’s Anna Kiesenhofer, who by the way have a Math PhD, had an audacious strategy…start riding ahead of everybody else and don’t look back.
Drafting is such a huge deal in road races. Teams typically ride in a huddle so that their strongest rider can draft off the others, before making a break right at the end from the peloton. The sole representative of the Austrian team, Kiesenhofer first buddied up with a couple of other breakaways, before simply plunging solo and exposed into the blistering Tokyo heat. Way too soon, it seems. She’s got no protection. She’ll fade. Who is she anyhow.
She rode out of sight, and the others kind of just forgot about her. She crossed the finish line a full 75 seconds ahead of anyone else. Did she expect this? Surely not. How could you expect such a thing. But as Kiesenhofer herself said, “there was always this little hope,” and “I dare to be different.”
🇹🇼 Cutest intimate male friendship by two badminton champs
While Chinese players might have to be afraid of netizens’ wrath if they come in second, Taiwanese badminton players Lee Yang and Wang Chi-lin (who did come home with gold by the way), have a different problem: Fans shipping them as a couple.
They’re not. Though they are definitely not afraid to hug and show love for each other on the court. And why not? Why isn’t there space for displays of physical intimacy between friends in our society without it being necessarily sexual or romantic? To borrow a Twitter Trope, Lee Yang’s answer to all those jokes about “when are you guys getting married” is pure emotional intelligence:
“I have a girlfriend,” said Yang, “but I don’t think it’s a bad thing that people think of us as a couple. The relationship between badminton partners is kind of like being in a couple anyhow.”
One of the wackier concept against homosexuality on the twitters is that gays, just by existing, kills intimate male friendships. Taiwan’s badminton gold-medalists are here to remind you: only if you are loco in the coco.
🇶🇦 🇮🇹 🥇 🥇How two friends made history
This is the story of two friends: Qatar’s Mutaz Barshim and Italy’s Gianmarco Tamberi. They’ve known each other for years. Competed with each other, but also supported each other and egged each other on. Off the track, they played checkers and cards. And in Tokyo, they faced off against each other for silver and gold. But when both cleared every jump until the 2.39 meters mark and then both failed to clear it for three consecutive attempts, the two friends were faced with the dismal prospect of deciding who should get the silver and who the gold in the high-jump equivalent of penalty shoot-outs: moving the bar higher and lower until one man clears it and the other one doesn’t. An exhausting and unsatisfying end to the thrilling competition between the two friends seemed inevitable until Barshim asked the referee: Can we have two golds? Nobody has done this before.
Yes, the referee said. Yes you can.
“[The referee] was trying to actually continue and explain at that moment. We didn’t really care.” Said Barshim, “I looked in (Tamberi’s) eyes. He looked at my eyes. And we started celebrating already.”
And the rest is history.
Damn. Who’s cutting the onions. Anyhow. Please don’t expect too much more sports content from Taipology. So let us now salute our athletes, not just for their strength, but also for their humanity. 🌎 ❤️ 💪
I enjoyed your column. In general, I have no use for for sports , but your positive interpretations are spot on. Thank you.
Hi Angelica! As always thank you for another eminently entertaining, refreshing, and insightful post. Previously I'd heard the point about bronze medalist being happier than silver, but never knew there was scientific study to substantiate the claim and its debilitating effects. Your posts consistently enrich and provide added value to whatever subject you write on.
I'm with you--I wasn't particularly excited about these Olympics. But in retrospect, I felt they provided a much needed boost to our "shared humanity" perspective that has been under great stress. Thank you for promoting that message and highlighting several heart warming incidents I wasn't aware of.
Public opinion is fiendishly fickle. Let's hope the Japanese public comes to appreciate the difficult position their government was in and respect the choice that was made to go forward under less than ideal conditions. They certainly put on a great show and appeared to be excellent hosts.