2020 Tokyo Olympic Games: one to remember


Griffin Traylor, Sports Editor

After a yearlong delay, the Tokyo Olympics started on July 2 with its closing ceremonies held on Aug. 8. 

The Tokyo games held 33 sports and 46 disciplines, including 339 total medal events. The games also saw the debuts of four new sports, including karate, skateboarding, sport climbing and surfing. 

In addition to this, the Tokyo Olympics hosted world record performances, despite some fan favorites being exempt from the games. 

Some of the most notable records broken were that of Usain Bolt’s under-20 record of 19.93 seconds, broken by 17-year-old Erriyon Knighton, who came through with 19.43 seconds in the 200-meter sprint. Two-time reigning world champion Yulimar Rojas broke Ukrainian Inessa Kravets’ 1995 record of 15.50 meters in the triple jump, with 15.67 meters. Karsten Warmholm, Norway, broke his own 400-meter hurdles world record with a lightning-fast time of 45.94 seconds, shedding three-quarters of a second off his previous best. 

Records aside, this year’s Tokyo Olympics will go down in history, with masked athletes and empty stadiums, the games were filled with historic happenings. 

USA’s Simone Biles shed light on the immense pressure athletes are under in the Olympics. The decorated competitor pulled herself out of four Olympic finals before returning to the women’s balance beam final, placing third with bronze. 

Following her withdrawal from the events, Biles said, “At the end of the day, my mental and physical health is better than any medal.” 

During the Olympic team final Biles attempted a 2 ½-twisting vault but stalled out after 1 ½ twists. 

“I had no idea where I was in the air,” said Biles, describing to sources what went wrong as “having a little bit of the twisties.” 

Biles said her mental health was affected by the pressure to perform as one of the faces of the Tokyo Olympics. 

These Olympics mark the first time since 2008 that Team USA has not taken gold in the women’s gymnastics team final.

Raven Saunders, shot-put silver medalist, used the podium as a platform to highlight social injustice by raising her arms in an X. Isaiah Jewett, USA, fell after tripping over, Nijel Amos, Botswana, in the men’s 800-meter semifinal before Jewett helped Amos up with a handshake and hug as the two athletes jogged to the finish line together. Amos was the favorite in the event, being ranked no. 1 in the world. 

Jewett was in position to place third in the event before rounding a corner with Amos, who was attempting to pass. Around the corner Amos clipped the heel of Jewett, sending both competitors to the ground. Instead of shaming Amos for the accident, Jewett displayed a true show of sportsmanship. Despite Jewett having a chance at the podium he tells sources, he’s learned from all the superhero anime he watches, “regardless of how mad you are, you have to be a hero at the end of the day.” 

“That was my version of trying to be a hero,” Jewett said. “Standing up and up and showing good character even if it’s my rival or whoever I’m racing, or if anything happened.”

Jewett said that Amos did offer an apology immediately following the fall. 

“He’s like, ‘Sorry,’” Jewett said. “I said, ‘It’s okay man’.” 

Amos said during the event he did not know what happened. 

The Tokyo Olympics was packed with historic upsets and underdog performances. 

Bobby Finke, USA, swam under the radar of many before the final 50-meters of the men’s 800-meter freestyle. Finke, who was fighting for fourth most of the race, came back to pass all three spots to claim the first ever Olympic men’s 800-meter freestyle. 

“I noticed 10 meters out I was catching up a little bit of ground and that was the only motivation I needed to try and pass and get my hand to the wall first,” Finke said. 

Going into Tokyo Finke’s best time was 8:47 and in the preliminaries, Finke’s time dropped to 8:42. 

“I had no idea I was going to do that,” said Finke, who won with a time of 7:42.87. 

In the men’s 1500-meter freestyle finals, Finke pulled off another late comeback. He passed two competitors in the last 50 meters of the race to walk away with gold. This marked the first time since 1984 that an American male swimmer has won gold in the Olympic distance race. 

“I honestly did not expect to win. At all,” Finke said.

Anna Kiesenhofer, of Austria, won Austria’s first ever cycling medal, breaking so far away from the pack that second place celebrated after passing the finish line, unaware that Kiesenhofer had won 75 seconds prior. Kiesenhofer earned a PhD in applied mathematics from the Polytechnic University of Catalonia in Barcelona. 

“As a mathematician you’re used to solving problems on your own, so that’s the way I approach cycling,” Kiesenhofer said. 

In cycling, Kiesenhofer plans her own nutrition, race strategy and training. Entering the Tokyo Olympics, she was considered a novice cycler compared to her competition, having only turned professional in 2017. 

“It was unrealistic, because nobody would have believed it,” Kiesenhofer said. “It was just incredible. I couldn’t believe it, even crossing the line I couldn’t believe it.”

The USA men’s basketball team defeated France to win gold after losing to them in the opening game. Stars Jrue Holiday and Khris Middleton of the Milwaukee Bucks, alongside Devin Booker of the Phoenix Suns, came to the rescue of team USA following the NBA Finals. Holiday and Middleton became the fifth and sixth players to win the NBA title and the gold medal in the same summer. 

“I guess me thinking about it and me telling the story, that’s a hell of a summer,” Holiday said.

Kevin Durant agreed to a $198 million contract with the Brooklyn Nets a few hours prior to dropping 29 points and six rebounds on 9-of-18 shooting from the field in the gold medal game. This is the third Olympic gold medal for Durant who is the all-time leading scorer in the Olympics for USA Basketball. 

“This is one of those special journeys,” Durant said. “When you’re a part of a team that’s evolving by the second, it’s amazing to see. Each game we continued to grow. I’m grateful we all committed to it, we stuck with it and we finished it off.”

The United States narrowly beat China for most gold medals with 39 to China’s 38. The USA topped all competitors with 113 combined medals won out of 339. China placed second with a combined 88 medals followed by Russia (ROC) with 71. Russia was classified as the Russian Olympic Committee, represented by a neutral Olympic flag in this year’s Tokyo Olympics due to their 2015 doping scandal. Making up the ROC were athletes from Russia that were not involved in the scandal. 

The Tokyo Olympics closing ceremony ended with the symbolic flame being extinguished. 

The 2024 Summer Olympics are set to be held in Paris, a passing of the Olympic flag to the Paris organizers. This followed the video provided by the Paris organizers starring a flag with the Paris 2024 logo over the Eiffel Tower. According to the Paris organizers, the flag was the largest ever flown, comparing it to the size of a football field.