Tokyo 2020 Olympics: My Favourite Moments - week 2
First published: Sunday August 8th, 2021
Tokyo 2020 - What an Olympic
Not many people thought that Japan could pull this off in the middle of a pandemic, but finally it came to the end. And wasn't it one of the most memorable games ever? Empty stadiums did not dampen the atmosphere, and it
so far did not have many controversies, drug cheats, organisational issues. It ran as smoothly as it could under these difficult circumstances.
Following on my previous blog, here are some of the most memorable moments I have watched in the second week.
Men's High Jump Final (1/8)
To be honest, the Olympic was a bit like watching a bunch of X-men doing the extraordinary. Both Barsham and Tamberi were neck-to-neck all the way, clearing their first jumps from 2.24m to 2.37m. When they both failed at 2.39m, the official spoke to them about the playoff.
"Can we have two golds?" asked Barsham.
And the two guys did not listen further, hugged each other and decided to share the gold. It was particular emotional as few years ago Tamberi was injured and it was Barsham who encouraged him to be patient and keep fighting on. Wasn't this the best feel-good moment in this Olympics?
Weightlifting - Women's +87kg (2/8)
While the world focused on the first transgender competitor Lauren Hubbard from New Zealand (who failed to lift anything), the true star was the young Li Wenwen from China, the current world record holder. Her first snatch of 130kg was already above her nearest competitor (and in fact, above some others' clean and jerk results). She broke the Olympic records for snatch (140kg), clean and jerk (180kg), and combined (320kg), some 37kg above her next competitor.
A side story in weightlifting was Theodoros Iakovidis from Greece, who came 11th in the Men's 96kg. I did not watch the match, only read the news on how he broke down during an interview after his "poor" result. He announced his retirement in tears and told how his past injury affected his performance. He revealed his difficulties living on a €200/month subsidy from the Greek weightlifting federation. He could not afford fuel and had to walk to training, and was ashamed to see his physiotherapist who would not charge him money for consultation because he got none.
After this touching interview, there was an outpouring of support from Greece, including the NBA stars Antetokounmpo brothers. This story really highlighted that behind the glory of each champion, there are tens and hundreds of other sportspersons who struggle everyday and deserve our respect.
Badminton Men's Single Final (2/8)
The match itself was not too exciting as it was unexpectedly one-sided. Viktor Axelsen from Denmark won decisively against the former gold medallist Chen Long from China. Axelsen's reaction after winning gold was truly touching though. He could not stop crying and hugged his coach and team.
Axelsen learnt Mandarin since 2014 as he thought it would help him in securing sponsorship opportunities or a coaching job after retirement. He spoke to Chen fluently in Mandarin after the match, which earned him much respect in China (smart move). He even gave himself a Chinese name called An Sailong :)
Women 10m Platform Diving (5/8)
The 14-year-old Quan Hongchan from China, who had never appeared in any international competition previously and was totally unknown to the outside world, claimed gold with three of five dives scoring a perfect 10. While the Chinese were expected to do well in diving, this little girl surprised everyone.
However, she had a sad story behind her success. When she was interviewed by the media, she told how she was picked by the provincial team at the age of 7. She did not like studying and thought that she could skip school by diving. She ended up practising diving 120 times every day for the past 7 years. She was born to a poor peasant family with 5 children. Her mother had a motor accident and was ill, but she could not name the illness (she's pretty much illiterate). She complained that the training was so tough that she had never been to an amusement park or a zoo in her life. It gives a glimpse of how the Communist gold medal factory operates.
Now her family back home is inundated with gifts (such as lifetime amusement park free entry), unwanted media attention, and unknown "relatives" visiting daily. This poor girl's life is now changed forever (for good or bad).
Sport Climbing Men's Combined Final (5/8)
I have never watched sport climbing before and was curious what this was all about. While watching the bouldering and lead matches, I found myself sweating so much. My palms and feet were all wet while watching the guys hanging their body weights at impossible angles by few fingers at times.
The scoring system was cruel as well. It multiplied the ranking at the three different events and who had the lowest score would win, so no one would know the end result until the final competitor finished. At the end, the young Spaniard Alberto Ginés López won by coming first at speed climbing, seventh at bouldering and fourth at lead, and became the inaugural Olympic champion in sport climbing.
Hockey Men's Gold Medal Match: Australia vs Belgium (5/8)
Well I am not exactly a hockey fan. All I want to say is how I found the final shoot-out in hockey much more interesting than that in football. A player from each team was given a 8-second one-on-one challenge against the goalkeeper. Australia failed the last shoot-out, but was given a lifeline after video referee fouled the Belgian goalkeeper. However Australia failed again and Belgium won gold.
I wonder if football will adopt a similar concept one day, which would make the penalty shoot-out fairer and more interesting in my opinion.
Volleyball Men's Gold Medal Match: France vs Russia (7/8)
This was played at the same time as the Football (Brazil vs Spain) and Handball (France vs Denmark) finals. While I switched between these games, the volleyball was by far the most interesting and exciting match.
France, which narrowly lost to Brazil in the group stage (Set 2 37-39 & Set 5 20-18), had never won any medal in Olympic volleyball. It led the first two sets against Russia, but was equalised and entered the fifth set. At one point, it fell behind 3-6, but eventually won 15-12 in the fifth. It was a close contest and a memorable victory for the French team.
Other Notable Mentions
- Su Bingtian being the first Chinese qualified for the Men's 100m final and ran 9.83 seconds in the semi (Asian record)
- Yulimar Rojas from Venezuela setting the world record in women's triple jump
- Elaine Thompson-Herah winning "double double" in women's 100m and 200m
- Karsten Warholm of Norway and Sydney McLaughlin of the US both broke the world records in 400m hurdles
- Russia winning two golds at artistic swimming (7 golds in total for Svetlana Romashina over 4 Olympics)
At the end, sporting competitions can be cruel. Winning and losing are often down to a single point, a single manoeuvre, a split second decision and luck. Many athletes sacrifice greatly and the results are not always equal. A nation's performance at the Olympics is often determined by how much money they invest in elite sports (beside the obvious genetic differences). And we as spectators feel unreasonably proud on a victory by some strangers who you do not know, simply because they represent your country (and they often are not born or live there). Is the Olympic a free entertainment to keep the masses content, just like the gladiators at Roman's time? I don't know...