Following an inspiring Olympic Games in Tokyo, Grace reflects on some of the key lessons that athletes have taught us this summer
The Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games was unique. This uniqueness didn’t come from a new and exciting opening ceremony, however, it came from holding an Olympic Games during a mass global pandemic. From the postponement of a year to the lack of spectators, these Games were like no other and are bound to be like none other ever again. Despite the challenges, Tokyo provided a stage for athletes to inspire once again. These Olympics taught the world lessons in a way that only happens every four years (or five in this case).
Lesson 1: Age knows no bounds!
When you hear the word Olympian, many picture a twenty-something in the prime of their life. Tokyo 2020 showed us that this common assumption is only a myth on both ends of the age spectrum. Team GB proved that age is just a number with Sky Brown winning the bronze medal in the Skateboard Park at just 13 years old, making her Britain’s youngest Olympic medallist. Whilst dressage rider, Carl Hester, won his third Olympic medal at the age of 54. Moving away from the British camp, Japan and Australia, respectively, provided us with Tokyo 2020’s youngest and oldest medallists. Japan’s Kokona Hiraki took the silver medal in the Women’s Skateboard Park at just 12 years of age, whilst Australia’s Andrew Hoy won silver in Team Eventing and Bronze in the Individual Eventing at the age of 62.
These athletes showed the world that you are never too young or too old to follow your dreams and achieve success against the odds.
Lesson 2: If at first, you don’t succeed. Try, try again!
Leaving the Olympics empty-handed and broken-hearted is part and parcel of the world of professional sports. On one hand, some of these athletes will pick themselves up and try again, whilst on the other, others will accept their fate and call it a day. Tom Daley has shown exceptional commitment to his quest for an Olympic gold medal in the diving pool, fighting time after time in previous Games he has always come close, with bronze medals in both London 2012 and Rio 2016, after missing out on the medals completely in Beijing 2008. Many people doubted him coming into the games, thinking that it was too late for him to stand on the top step of the podium in Tokyo. So when Daley clinched the Gold alongside partner, Matty Lee, in the 10m Synchro, he couldn’t hold his emotions in, showing the nation his grit and determination of not giving up and always finding an opportunity to succeed.
Lesson 3: Always put yourself first!
Coming into Tokyo, many were expecting a clean sweep of the medals from American gymnast Simone Biles. After a noticeably rocky qualifying session, Biles’ first vault in the Team Final final was sub-par. What came as a massive surprise to fans and spectators across the globe was her immediate withdrawal from the competition on the spot. Biles then went on to pull out of the Individual All-Around, Vault, Floor and Bars finals. As a superstar athlete, the bravery that it took for her to admit that she was not mentally fit for competition is unimaginable and something that should be admired by not only athletes but the general public all over the world. It takes great courage to stand up to your friends and teammates but even more to face the world head on. By putting herself first and withdrawing from the majority of her events, she saved both her mental and physical health from serious damage and injury. Biles went on to win a bronze medal in the Beam Final, which showed great resilience as she overcame her mental blocks. Biles taught the whole world that putting yourself and your health first is the greatest achievement and most important thing.
Finally, some honourable mentions must be mentioned. Firstly to the triathlete Fiona Duffy, who inspired her home nation by doing what no Bermudian had done before, and win a gold medal in an Olympic Games. Secondly, the decision of high jumpers, Gianmarco Tamberi (Italy) and Mutaz Essa Barshim (Qatar), to share their gold medal taught everyone the true meaning of sportsmanship. And finally, to the Dutch athlete Sifan Hassan, who fell during her heat of the Women’s 1500 metres, yet still went on to win the race – proving that even if you fall, you can literally pick yourself up to keep going and achieve great things.