The Olympics has finally drawn to a close with the extinguishing of the flame in Tokyo and a grateful farewell of ‘arigato’. In three years time, we will see Paris take up the role of host nation and the Games will begin all over again.
It’s been an incredible games and our Aussie athletes performed extremely well, cleaning up in our second-best Olympic games ever with a total of 46 medals — 22 bronze, 7 silver, 17 gold — and finishing in sixth place overall, just behind Russia or ‘the ROC’.
The Olympics follow a familiar pattern. First, there is the success of the host city in getting the nomination. Then, there are years of building, spending, and the inevitable scandals that follow in which people start questioning whether this is all really worth it. Then there’s the build-up to the Games themselves, with much of the population highly sceptical of the overall event. Then, the Games open with mind-blowing pizzazz and all doubt is banished as we marvel at the success of the city, the wonder of the athletes, and the triumph of our respective nations.
Tokyo 2020 trod a similar path. This time around, however, the highs and lows were hyper-charged by the chaos of the pandemic. In Japan, people called for the Games to be cancelled while the whole world wavered over whether or not this was a good idea.
That is what made the success of these Games so sweet. We saw athletes overcome the most difficult of challenges to lay it all on the line for us and we shared in their wins and their heartbreaks.
With much of the nation either in lockdown or at risk of further restrictions, we needed this boost like never before. Here we’ve rounded up the best moments of the Tokyo Olympics 2020 to relive the glory.
Ariarne Titmus and Coach Dean Boxhall
Australia made a triumphant return to the glory days of old with our dominance in the pool.
The women were the shining stars here, with 20 of our 46 medals coming from the pool events and the Dolphins predominantly.
Tassie legend-in-the-making Ariarne Titmus heightened the drama with her showdowns against US rival Katie Ledecky. Her first gold came from the 400m freestyle and she has gone on to win a second gold and a silver. Not bad for an Olympics debut.
However, her win was overshadowed somewhat by her coach’s celebrations as she touched the finish first.
While some were calling for Boxhall to apologise for his antics, Titmus has said she was unsurprised by his outburst as he’s always been “enthusiastic”.
— Rajendra Chaudhary (@Bombaymoshai) July 26, 2021
Rayssa Leal the Fairy Champion
13-year-old silver-medalist Rayssa Leal defied all expectations for what an Olympic athlete should look like with her second-place finish in the debut women’s street skateboarding event.
Leal, from Maranhão state in north-west Brazil, caused a stir on the internet seven years ago when a video was posted of her landing a heelflip down a three-set of stairs in a fairy costume. The video caught the attention of Tony Hawk who shared the post online.
Dubbed ‘a fadinha do skate’ or ‘the little fairy of skating’, the tiny champion beat out 20 other skaters to land in second place at Ariake Urban Sports Park.
— Olympics (@Olympics) July 26, 2021
Oh, and if it makes you feel any worse, Momiji Nishiya and Funa Nakayama, the Japanese skaters who took gold and bronze, are 13 and 16 respectively.
Keegan’s Kickflip 540
While we’re on the subject of skateboarding, the first-ever men’s skateboarding Olympic gold in the park event went to 18-year-old Keegan Palmer from Queensland.
The young Aussie legend wowed judges and spectators alike with an incredible display straight out of Tony Hawk‘s Pro Skater. He was awarded a score of 95.83 out of 100, the highest score seen across any skateboarding event. The closest score to his was for 26-year-old Brazillian Pedro Barras’ run of 86.14.
But it was Palmer’s kickflip varial 540 that had the nation on its feet. Take a look below.
Sharing the Gold
Gianmarco Tamberi of Italy and Mutaz Barshim of Qatar are the best in the world at high jump. Literally. They tied at the men’s high jump event after agreeing to split the gold.
Both high jumpers cleared 2.37 metres but then neither of them could jump the 2.39 bar.
Track officials suggested that the athletes settle the tie with a sudden death jump-off.
Barshim had a better idea: How about two golds? The officials agreed and both went home with the top prize.
Fave moment of the Olympics so far. Barshim (Qatar) and Tamberi (Italy) were tied in the high-jump final. The official is there talking about a prospective jump-off, but Barshim asks immediately: "Can we have two golds?" One look, no words exchanged, they know they're sharing it. pic.twitter.com/E3SneYFocA
— Andrew Fidel Fernando (@afidelf) August 1, 2021
The pair are actually great friends, and Barshim helped Tamberi come back from a career-threatening ankle injury in Rio 2016.
“He’s one of my best friends. Not only on the track but outside of the track,” Barshim said. “We’re always together almost. True spirit, sportsmen spirit, coming here and delivering this message”.
F*ck Yeah, Kaylee McKeown
As Olympic debuts go, Kaylee McKeown performed exceptionally well. Winning three gold medals, a bronze medal, and setting a new world record for the women’s 100m backstroke is apparently all in a week’s work for this 20-year old who is sure to go on to be one of the all-time Aussie greats.
Still, while you can take the girl out of Brisbane, you can’t take Brisbane out of the girl. Her reaction to winning the first gold at the 100m backstroke is absolutely priceless.
“What would you like to say to your mum and your sister?”
“Fuck yeah oh shit… Woooo 🤙”
— Jeremy Story Carter (@jstorycarter) July 27, 2021
McKeown has had a rough year with the death of her father from cancer. “I hope you’re proud, and I keep doing you proud,” she said of her dad after her win.
The First-Ever Gold For the Philippines
Weightlifter Hidilyn Diaz made Olympic history as the first-ever gold medal winner for her home country, the Philippines.
The country has been competing in the Olympics for 97 years without a first-place victory which is incredible enough but Diaz’s story is just breathtaking.
Tokyo is her fourth Olympic Games. In 2008, she came second last in her weight class. In 2012, she placed 12th in the snatch and officially ‘did not finish’ in the clean and jerk. In 2016, she dropped 5kgs to enter a lower weight class and won the Philippines first medal in 20 years with a silver in the clean and jerk. She returned in 2020 to set a new Olympic record for her weight class and bring home the first-ever gold for the country.
The moral here is ‘keep trying’.
Hidilyn Diaz is the Philippines' first ever Olympic gold medallist.
Here is the message for her people.
— Olympics (@Olympics) July 28, 2021
Jess Fox and Her Dad
Proving once again that Aussies are just incredible in the water, Jess Fox won both a bronze and gold medal in the K-1 and C-1 canoe slalom events.
In a video shared on TikTok, the athlete showed off an inventive method of repairing a canoe using one of the 150,000 Olympic condoms given to athletes to get a smooth finish on her boat.
Her father, Richard Fox, is a former Olympian in the canoe slalom and commentated his daughter’s win. His reaction during and afterwards was one of the most touching moments to come out of the games.
The smile when he realised his daughter was about to win gold.
The emotion afterwards…
— 7Olympics (@7olympics) July 30, 2021
Tom Daley Knitting For Gold
Legendary British diver Tom Daley secured his first-ever gold at an Olympic event after earning a bronze and a silver at the previous two games.
He’s an outspoken champion of gay rights, being one of the most prominent Olympians to come out, and use his platform to campaign for equality.
He’s also just an all-around bloody decent guy who knows what he likes and isn’t embarrassed by his less than typical habits of keeping calm before events.
That’s why he seemed totally unfazed to be filmed knitting in the stands while he watched the women’s 3m springboard finals.
— Dal Bologknees 🍝 (@DalBologknees) August 1, 2021
Simone Biles Takes a Stand
Being the greatest of all time is no easy task and arguably no one has had it tougher than Simone Biles. With an incredibly difficult background and a constant barrage of media criticism levied at her, Biles has managed to amass a haul of 25 Olympic medals, just shy of the all-time record set by Michael Phelps with his 28.
She’s also become an icon in her own right for refusing to let tradition dictate her actions and laying down the line when it comes to mental health.
After suffering a setback at the opening of the women’s all-round gymnastics team event, Biles withdrew from the competition, returning only for the individual beam event in which she won bronze.
Revealing that she suffers from ADHD, she’s been a champion for vulnerability and a guiding light for anyone who thinks their own mental illness is a roadblock for success.
For too long being 'mentally strong' has meant denying any #mentalillhealth. #SimoneBiles is a role model for what mentally strong should be – facing up, being open and honest about what you need and making the hard decisions to rest when there is enormous pressure not to ❤️ pic.twitter.com/hbtXv3bhmA
— The Mental Health Community (@TheMH_Community) August 1, 2021
The Super Bol
Sudanese-Australian Peter Bol had the whole nation behind him as he became the first Australian to reach the men’s 800m final in more than 50 years.
Bol’s family fled the civil war in Sudan and spent four years in an Egyptian refugee camp before migrating to Australia. Although he finished fourth, and seemed a little upset about it, he gained a huge following in the process.
Bol previously said that whether he won or lost, he felt he had achieved his goal of inspiring the whole nation.
He gave himself every shot!
— 7Olympics (@7olympics) August 4, 2021
Reaching New Heights
Nicola McDermott may have placed second in the women’s high jump event — against three-time world champion Maria Lasitskene — but she’s first in our hearts.
Not only did the Central Coast legend set a new Aussie record for women’s high jump with a massive 2.02m jump, but her unorthodox method of doing so also caught all of our attention.
McDermott is hugely religious and a follower of Pentecostal Christianity. On her wrist, she had written the phrase “Jesus makes all things new” and seemed to channel the holy spirit before each jump.
Here she is raising her arms to the sky and starting the clap that has become her trademark before shouting “come on!” and launching herself into Olympic history.
🚨 NEW AUSTRALIAN RECORD 🚨
— 7Olympics (@7olympics) August 7, 2021
McDermott also immediately went to her journal after every jump, a move she said freaks out the other competitors. She was scoring herself out of 10 for every aspect of the jump, a process she says keeps her mindful and focused on the jump ahead.
Boom Goes the Dynamite
While McDermott was smashing records in the track and field, the Boomers were breaking historical droughts of their own on the basketball court.
The team – captained by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander athlete Patty Mills – brought home the bronze for Australia, the first Olympic medal we have ever won for Basketball.
The victory for the Boomers and for Mills, in particular, is made all the better by the fact that the team are such activists and role models. Mills donated his entire $1.5 million salary from the 2020 NBA to Black Lives Matter Australia, Black Deaths in Custody, and The We Got You campaign.
It’s truly the stuff of legends.