OLYMPICS 2021 WRAP-UP PART II
There’s been sooo much to say about the recent Summer Olympics in Tokyo that I had to split my article about it all into two parts. Last week I discussed some of the technical aspects of the sporting extravaganza (which you can still read here if you missed it: itsnotaboutme.tv/news/olympics-olympics-2021-wrap-up-part-i.)
Now let’s get into the fun of discovering some of the athletes you may not know about—mainly yay–and some shocking/interesting moments that happened at the Games.
~ Gold medal wrestler Tamyra Mensah-Stock emerged as my new favorite Olympic athlete. Every single interview she gave after her win was a delight. Of course, I’d love to be friends with so many of the Olympians, (even for just a day, so that they can answer my many questions,) but none moreso than Tamyra. I will be rooting her on in everything she does in life.
~ Mutaz Essa Barshim of Qatar and Gianmarco Tamberi of Italy produced my favorite moment of not just the games, but of the entire summer! If you missed the end of their High Jump competition, you really should look for it on-line because even I cannot do it justice in writing. But I’ll try:
The two guys were tied in the height they cleared at the end, and when the officials asked them if they wanted to do a “jump-off,” Mutaz asked, “Can we have two golds?” When the man said it was possible, Mutaz told Gianmarco, who immediately leapt into his competitor and friend’s arms and stated crying. Yes, “friend” is correct because those two are basically best friends!!! The uber-thin men hail from very different countries, but because of worldwide track and field meets, they spend soooo much time together. Of the double golds being awarded, Gianmarco said afterwards, (when he was able to finally pull himself together, and paused from hugging everyone in sight,) “I still can’t believe it happened. Sharing with a friend is even more beautiful. It was just magical.”
On a sidebar to this story, I had just seen handsome Italian Lamont Marcell Jacobs shock the world by beating-out all the favorites to win the 100-meter dash, thus becoming the “fastest man in the world,” when I noticed some guy come out of nowhere and jump all over him in the most celebratory way. Since I knew that no fans were around, and no other men’s races were about to take place, and the celebrant had an Italian flag around him, I deduced that he was one of Marcell’s countrymen who had just won something. By going through other coverage of the Olympics, I discovered that the “attacker” was indeed Gianmarco Tamberi, who had just won his own gold medal in that most unusual and happy way!
And there’s one more fun part to Gianmarco’s journey; he very sadly missed the Rio Olympics five years ago because he broke his ankle right before it. And he brought his cast to this Olympics! And had it on the field with him!
I love everything about this story!!! I’ve cried every time I’ve seen the clips of this whole happy happenstance. I’ve never seen anything like it before.
~ On another wildly emotional note, the oldest gymnast in history, forty-six-year-old Oksana Chusovitina from Uzbekistan, just competed in her eighth Olympic Games. That is beyond mind-boggling! Most female gymnasts are deemed over-the-hill at twenty-four! This woman has stayed in shape almost twice as long! And in not the most supportive, technologically-advanced country! While being a mother! (Oksana is one of only seven gymnasts in history to compete internationally after becoming a mom.)
When she was done with her vault in Tokyo, (vault is the only apparatus she competed on this go-round,) she received a standing ovation from all the (much younger) competitors on the floor. She announced that this would, finally, be her last Olympics. I know she deserves to rest now, but we’ll see, won’t we?
~ Since I try to watch as many sports as possible in all Olympics, I was lucky enough to see this next drama unfold live. Austrian Anna Kiesenhofer won the gold in the Women’s Cycling Road Race in dramatic fashion. Even the commentators were amazed; the main guy kept repeating how surprising Anna’s race was, and different from the norm in road races. She got out in front early, riding first with a few others, then all by her lonesome. That is never how these races go; many cyclists usually stick together over the more than eighty-five miles, until the three medalists break away right near the end. No one has ever led from start to finish before, that I’m aware of, anyway.
On top of the major accomplishment of winning an Olympics Gold Medal, she’s a professional research mathematician, who earned her PhD with a thesis on “integrable systems on b-symplectic manifolds.” (No worries—I don’t understand it, either!)
And here’s another point of interest from that race. I had noted that Annemiek van Vleuten from the Netherlands seemed absolutely ecstatic to win the silver medal when she crossed the finish line in second place. I’ve rarely seen such a happy runner-up at the Olympics! She had suffered an absolutely horrific crash in the Rio 2016 Olympics, so I assumed she was just thrilled to finish here, with a medal, to boot! (Especially because she had also had a little collision much earlier in this race, too!) But it turned-out that Annemiek thought she had won!!! Anna Kiesenhofer was so far ahead of everyone that no one else saw her cross the finish line! And in Olympics road races, no communication with coaches is allowed, so since they couldn’t see her so far ahead, almost no one else in the race had realized she had gotten away from them all.
But no worries for poor Annemiek van Vleuten—she went on to win the Gold Medal in the Individual Time Trial just three days later. So everyone came away from Tokyo happy.
~ Speaking of being happy, the absolute happiest “hometown” celebration was for teen-age swimming gold medalist Lydia Jacoby. The television coverage featured many watch parties for the athletes; since no spectators were allowed in the venues, all the families and friends had to stay home this time. The watch party for Lydia’s little hometown of Seward, Alaska was at, of all places, a railroad terminal! Perfect. Every single person there went absolutely berserk when seventeen-year-old Lydia was the surprise winner of the 100-meter breaststroke race. Mr. X and I must have watched the craziness about fifty times, concentrating on a different celebrant each time. If you haven’t seen the video yet, do yourselves a favor and seek it out. I promise—it will uplift your day. (Unless you’re one of her competitors, of course!)
~ I don’t know which was better—seeing the still-cute young Brit, Tom Daley, finally win a Gold Medal after appearing in three Olympics, or watching him sitting in the stands, cheering for his fellow divers while…knitting!!! (Yes, you read that right—the champion diver is also a prolific knitter and crocheter!)
~ I have to always remind others, (and myself!,) that I do not dislike Serbian tennis player Novak Djokovic. I’ve always found him intelligent and amusing, especially way back in the day when he did his spot-on imitations of some of the other top players. (His take on Rafa Nadal picking his butt before every point is a riot!) I always root against him solely because I never want him to go ahead of Roger Federer in amassing records, which he’s close to doing.
So I was absolutely thrilled that he came away from these Olympics medal-less. He entered the Men’s Singles competition, of course, and also, because of the occasion, the Mixed Doubles. He was expecting to at least medal in the latter, and win the Gold in the former. But what he experienced instead was an exquisite fall from grace.
I’ll have more on Novak when I preview the US Open next week, but I must say that witnessing the emotions of Pablo Carreno Busta, the Spaniard who beat him out for the Bronze, was wonderful. I was crying right along with him.
~ This is a horrific one, but the guy is on the mend, so I feel okay telling you about it. (And I hope it deters parents from letting their children participate in this sport!) American BMX Racing star, and Gold Medalist in the Rio Olympics in 2016, Connor Fields, had a life-threatening crash in a semi-final race. He suffered a brain-bleed, brain-shearing, a collapsed lung, and a broken rib. The crash appeared to be more serious than others I’ve seen, and when the coverage pulled the camera waaaay out from the action, I knew it could not be good. But, when I saw his name on the starting list for the Final, my heart sang. Turns-out, they were just letting us know he made the final, (due to two earlier races of his,) but, of course, he wasn’t there. It felt like a horror movie to me to be so happy for Connor one moment and then learn the sad truth the next.
Instead of competing in the Final, he was in the hospital instead. In the ICU! He’s home now, recuperating, thank goodness. No one knows if he’ll ever race again. I just hope he recovers completely and does what’s best for himself in the future. And I pray that no other BMX riders ever suffer the same fate.
~ This one is silly, but it just might help some of you, (as it did me.) If any of you gals want to feel better about yourselves, look at these not-great stomachs on such amazing athletes. And…they’re both Olympic Champions!!! Mariya Lasitskene is the High Jump Gold Medalist who proved that even the skinniest girls can make a stomach roll when sitting down. (On a side note, she and I have the same January 14th birthday! But, as we can all see, that’s where the similarity ends.) And Mariya and my fellow Capricorn, January 10th-born Faith Kipyegon, is the 1500-meter Champion at both the 2016 and 2020 Olympics, and had a baby in-between them. (Hence the wrinkly belly, which she does not seem to mind letting hang out. Good for her!)
~ Dutch runner Sifan Hassan, yet another one of my fellow Capricorns, (born on January 1st this time,) provided one of the most jaw-dropping moments of the entire Olympics. Not only did she win gold in both the 5,000-meters and 10,000-meters, and a bronze in the 1,500-meters there, (making her the only athlete in history to medal at these events in the same Olympic Games,) but she did it all in spectacular fashion. I wouldn’t have believed it if I hadn’t witnessed it with my own eyes. Just eleven hours before she won the 5,000, something unheard of happened in her heat for the 1,500. She fell!!! Over another competitor. Which made her run in last place with less than a lap to go! But Sifan just picked herself up and…won that race! When she didn’t even need to because, since it was just a heat, the top six would advance. It was an absolutely remarkable athletic performance.
Those are just the few of the athletes and Olympic moments that have stood out to me as I’ve been working on this article. There were a ton more worthwhile stories in the sixteen days, but these are the ones that left the most lasting impressions on my soul.
If there’s something from these Summer Olympics that you’re curious about, which maybe I can answer for you, or you have a thought you’d like the rest of us to know about, please share them in the Comments section below. I promise to give you the benefit of my insane Olympics-watching obsession when possible.
Now on to Beijing for the Winter Olympics in February! I better rest up for a bit!