Imprints Spirited by Olympians on Friendship, Courage, Solidarity and Humanity at Tokyo | Sunday Observer

Imprints Spirited by Olympians on Friendship, Courage, Solidarity and Humanity at Tokyo

3 October, 2021
Emma McKeon who won four Golds and three Bronze -Allyson Felix with her 11th Olympic Medal-Caeleb Dressel who won five Gold Medals
Emma McKeon who won four Golds and three Bronze -Allyson Felix with her 11th Olympic Medal-Caeleb Dressel who won five Gold Medals

It was an extraordinarily difficult Olympic Games. Yet, with captivating stories of success and accomplishments spanning across 339 events under 33 sports, the utmost dedication, commitment, resilience and drive was on show. The author felt that the world was united not by Coronavirus’s catastrophic hand but by passion, perseverance and innovation.

Through their wins and losses, trips and falls, we see heartening displays of courage and humanity, team spirit and camaraderie, and the human spirit at its highest. More than anything, though, Tokyo 2020 has thrown a spotlight on the inspiring and surprising strength and character of young athletes like never before.

The author was enamored by the stories of athletes from all corners of the world. You can take many lessons and apply them to your everyday life. Seek to find that joy in what you do even if you’re not the best at it. You will be a lot happier and more fulfilled when you make that mindset shift. Let us not let the ‘Imprints Spirited’ on us by the Olympians at Tokyo 2020 be lost on us.

1. Exposure and Inspiration

Kids probably be inspired to pick a sport of their liking, watching athletes engage competitively at Olympic Games. More so, if your child likes sports, but doesn’t feel he or she is doing well in a particular sport, exposure to Olympics can be a shining example of newer activities and sports they could try out.

Another unique benefit is the diversity of sporting events, and the incredible people participating. While we often teach kids to be the best at whatever they do, kids should also be taught that failures are often, the very stepping stones to success, and much like the Olympians, they too can bounce back.

2. Spirit and Talent

Momiji Nishiya, 13, of Japan took part in the inaugural street skateboarding and became the first female skateboarder to win a gold at Olympics. She was part of the youngest ‘Olympic Podium’ in history alongside Brazil’s Rayssa Leal, 13, and Japan’s Funa Nakayama, 16.

Leal wrote history as Brazil’s youngest ever medalist and youngest Olympian. Sky Brown, 13 became Britain’s youngest ever Olympian and took bronze in the women’s skateboarding. Kokona Hiraki, 12, became Japan’s youngest Olympian and secured a silver in the women’s park event.

Syrian table tennis prodigy Hend Zaza, 12 became the youngest competing athlete in Tokyo. They exemplified the spirit of a new cohort of Gen Z athletes: wildly talented and competing for the joy of the sport.

3. Honour and Glory

A sporting extravaganza like the Olympics, has a lot riding on it. There’s the country’s honour at stake and competition from multiple talent pools. While we often cheer for every athlete who wins a medal, it goes on to prove that great victories do not come easy. Every aspect of their lives is dedicated to the pursuit of their Olympic aspirations.

The athletes, train incredibly hard, do not give up and do not lose sight of the target. It’s a great lesson for a child of any age to absorb how capable they are in whatever they do. Resilience and determination are key things to be taught to kids from an early age and bear the most fruits.

The Tunisian teenager, Ahmed Hafnaoui, 18 won his first gold in 400m freestyle. It was a masterful, powerful performance and an Instagram post gave a peek at what drives him in the water: “Win if you can, lose if you must, but never quit!”

4. Training and Endurance

The Olympians, whether they make the podium or not, typically have the opportunity to try again four years later. Covid’s disruption changed all of that. Many athletes spoke about their doubts last year on whether they could continue their rigorous training for one more year.

For veterans, their bodies aged another year, while the up-and-coming competitors had an extra year to mature. Mentally, they all had to prepare for a fifth year of training to return to the Olympic stage.

Allyson Felix, 35 endured her 17-year winning streak, Athens 2004 through Tokyo, to become the most decorated woman in Olympic athletics history and the most decorated American, with 11 Olympic medals. Felix said, “It’s something I felt I could accomplish. I feel like I have come a long way… This one is just different. The biggest thing for me was coming back.”

5. Courage and Caliber

Caeleb Dressel, 24, of the US was on a gold rush, winning the highest of 5 golds by an athlete at Tokyo 2020, winning men’s 50m and 100m freestyle, 100m butterfly, 4x100m freestyle and medley relay with 2 world and 2 Olympic records. Courageous Australian swimmer Emma McKeon won 7 medals - 4 golds and 3 bronzes, the most medals by an individual athlete.

Dutch distance runner, Sifan Hassan is proof that Olympic athletes are of a different caliber. She tripped and fell to the ground, 300m from the finish line of her 1,500m heat. She opened her stride and sprinted her way to first place. Hassan said, “thought of quitting the race crossed my mind for a split second, but I told myself no.” She became the first athlete in the world history to reach podium in 1500m, 5000m and 10,000m, winning 2 gold and one bronze.

6. Mental Health

Gymnast Simone Biles, widely acknowledged as the GOAT (greatest of all time), arrived in Tokyo with the weight of the world on her shoulders. But things began to go wrong in qualifying. They fell apart when she stepped out of bounds during her floor routine, then aborted her vault in mid-air during the women’s team finals.

A combination of mental health concerns and a case of ‘the twisties’ saw the seven-time Olympic medalist suddenly withdrawing from the team finals and three other individual events. Facing heavy media scrutiny, she finished with two medals.

To step away and out of the Olympics to put her mental health first, took great maturity and courage and perhaps in this process, she re-found herself. She summarized: “I didn’t really care about the outcome. I was just happy that I made the routine and that I got to compete one more time.”

7. Willpower and Eagerness

Making her Olympic debut in Tokyo, Sanda Aldass has come a long way in the past six years. In 2015, she escaped her home in Damascus in war-torn Syria, where she was separated from her husband cum coach and two-year son. While her family later joined her in the Netherlands, Aldass spent six months alone in a refugee camp where she continued her judo training.

“Running around and doing some exercises filled up my time and also kept me in good mental health,” she told. “If I had sat doing nothing, I would have gone crazy.” Now living with her family in the Netherlands, the mother-of-three represented the IOC Refugee Olympic Team.

8. Sports and Academics

To become the world’s top athlete, many begin their dream as early as six years. Nadine Apetz took an interest in boxing only at 21. She mastered her craft for 14 years and made history competing as Germany’s first female boxer, all the while pursuing her doctoral degree (PhD) in neuroscience.

“It wasn’t always easy,” Apetz told. “It means at times the day can be very long. Getting up early in the morning to train, then go to the lab to work afterwards … You have to manage your time very well, organize and plan.”

9. Speed and Flexibility

Hurdlers Sydney McLoughlin of the US and Karsten Warholm of Norway, made you realize how much they rely on speed and flexibility. They can’t just run; they must time their leaps while speeding down the track. Both of them spectacularly clinched the Olympic golds with new world records in 400m hurdles.

Every hero needs a nemesis, and in the US’s Dalilah Muhammad and Rai Benjamin, they found one willing and able to push them to their very best.

Champions dedicate their lives to making their dreams come true. Their will to succeed, combined with the opportunities, enables them to pursue their dreams and achieve them.

10. Family, Friends and Mentors

Japanese Brother and sister, Hifumi Abe and Uta Abe won gold medals in Men’s 66kg and Women’s 52kg judo divisions to become the first siblings to win Olympic titles in individual events on the same day.

Family members, friends, and coaches with whom the athletes have grown close to are the first to bask in a win with the victor. This support system knows how hard the athlete has worked to get where they are today and was there to guide them for most of the journey.

Family and friends should make up part of your support system. Always, consider expanding your circle to include some more positive friendships. Spend time with those who uplift you and support your goals, and you’ll be amazed by what they could help you achieve.

Another way to build up is through networking, which could find you valuable mentors who could teach through experience and lend a helping hand. While you’ll most likely find mentors in a professional capacity, the advice and support they give can be applied to almost every facet of life.

11. Determination and Hope

There’s nothing quite like having an Olympic medal draped around your neck. That’s why those four years are filled with intense focus and preparation. Just think about the runners in 100m. Their races only last ten seconds. Yet, they spent years training.

That sort of dedication is admirable. It should put a lot of your personal goals into perspective, like going back to school or changing career paths. It would take a lot of calendar events, planning, and execution to reach your goals.

In Tokyo, Canadian Andre De Grasse, 26 was the only male sprinter to compete in the sprint double. He began 100m, posting a new SB of 9.91 and in the finals though slow off the blocks, rapidly gained ground to claim the bronze with a PB of 9.89.

De Grasse next competed in 200m, setting a PB and NR of 19.73 in the heats, then won the gold with an improved PB and NR of 19.62. He guided Canada to the bronze in 4x100 taking the anchor leg. He is a devout Catholic, with the word “hope” and a “Prayer” tattooed on his arm.

12. Friendship, Solidarity and Fair Play

The Olympics is not just about medals, but also, as the Games’ Charter puts it, “Friendship, Solidarity and Fair Play”. Qatar’s Mutaz Essa Barshim and Italy’s Gianmarco Tamberi did agree to become co-gold medalists in the Olympic high jump.

After an exhausting two-hour competition where the pair recorded their best clearances of 2.37m, the duo decided instead of doing a jump-off, they asked the golden question: “Can we have two Golds?”.

It was a joyous and a shining example of what it means to have sportsmanship: “I look at him, he looks at me, and we know it. We just look at each other and we know, that is it, it is done. There is no need,” Barshim told.

13. Bravery and Self Belief

Charlotte Worthington had to work 40-hour weeks in a Mexican restaurant to support her biking career, competing during the annual leave. Fast-forward to Tokyo 2020 and she tried a groundbreaking 360-degree backflip but came off her bike.

If she had completed it, she would have been the first woman to do it in an international competition. But Worthington took the risk, tried again and nailed it. For these unbelievable levels of bravery and self-belief, she took gold.

14. Persistence and Perseverance

Hidilyn Diaz’s first ever gold is for persistence and perseverance and highlighting the seeds of frugal innovation! The Philippine’s Weightlifter made history when she won the women’s 55 kg whilst achieving 2 Olympic records.

Earlier last year Covid-19 hit her in Malaysia. Not able to return home she improvised with the little resources she had in a makeshift gym and continued to train. Large plastic water bottles filled with water became her weights. Poles were bamboo sticks. Later, as she improved, duffle bags full of heavy water bottles helped her progress whilst the door frames were her ‘pull up stations’.

Hidilyn’s clever gym hack coupled with her focused persistence to not let the pandemic dampen her dreams of competing well in Tokyo offers a lesson for would be innovators. Often it is not lack of resources, equipment or money that impedes progress, it is actually not starting.

15. Sharing and Celebrating

There is no doubt that the road to Tokyo was long and challenging. Keeping athletes focused was therefore critical for morale and performance. For those that missed the wonderful example of mate ship and how celebrating and sharing can spur another to succeed, consider the story behind the bronze in the Decathlon.

Down to very last of the 10 events in decathlon, Ash Moloney and his fellow Aussie running mate Cedric Dubler were competing in the 1500m. Dubler strapped his hamstring and caught up to shout and encourage his friend. Moloney spoke of his mate: “I could feel his voice bouncing in my cranium like a bat out of hell.”

Footage from Moloney crossing the line also shows a Dubler, many metres back, celebrating wildly and joyously for his friend’s achievement. The Twittersphere went equally wild with the new modus operandi - “Doing A Dubler” an expression for helping another’s success.

16. Discipline and Hard Work

While it’s true that most, if not all, of the Olympic athletes you see, are naturally gifted, none of them made it to the world stage without their fair share of hard work. It takes gallons of blood, sweat, and tears to become an Olympian and even more to make it to the podium. When the going gets tough, just remember that discipline is required to be great.

Many professionals are used to getting up early and working long hours to achieve their goals. A lot of people will tear themselves down when they notice that someone else is better at them at something. You might ask yourself, “Why should I continue to pursue if there’s always going to be someone who’s faster?” That sort of feeling will get you stuck in a deep rut rather quickly.

At Tokyo 2020, you saw athletes jump for joy with tears in their eyes after winning a bronze medal. Two Olympians outdone them, but they didn’t care. The way they saw it, they were still one of the best in the world and now had an Olympic medal to commemorate all of their hard work.

(The author is the winner of Presidential Awards for Sports and recipient of multiple National Accolades for Academic pursuits. He possesses a PhD, MPhil and double MSc. He can be reached at [email protected])