Aussie Athletes Shine: Tokyo 2020 Wrap Up

It’s hard to narrow down two weeks’ worth of sporting prowess to just ten spectacular moments. Every Olympics is filled with moments of global joy, yet Tokyo 2020 has been extra special, knowing that these athletes had to wait an extra year to show the world what they’re made of.

As a proud Aussie, here are my top ten memorable moments from Tokyo, where Australian athletes SHINED (yes most of which I have cried at).

  1. Surfing DEBUTS and Owen Wright wins bronze!

As an ocean baby, it was absolutely incredible to see Surfing get a platform for the first time at the Tokyo Olympics. It’s been so relaxing to watch the half-hour heats and see what the surfers can do, and it was really time for everyone to shine. Our four chosen surfers have had amazing achievements off the Olympic stage and to see Owen Wright (who suffered a traumatic brain injury in December 2015 at the Pipeline Masters in Hawaii) take home a bronze was such a great moment. 

  1. Ariarne and Dean: the Dream Team.

Swimming at the Olympics is one I watch every time. In Tokyo, Emma McKeon became Australia’s most successful Olympian ever with 11 medals. There were so many debutants (and teenagers!) but one of the standouts for me was Ariarne Titmus and her coach Dean Boxall. Dean’s celebratory dance after Titmus’ victory over Katie Ledecky in the 200m freestyle went viral and to watch it live was so hilarious. There was a lot of hype and pressure around her battle against one of the greatest female swimmers of all time, and to finish with two gold, and a silver and bronze is an incredible opening for her Olympic career and something we all loved to see.

Ariarne Titmus with her coach, Dean Boxall.
  1. Kaylee McKeown: F*$k Yeah!, Oh Sh!t WOO!

Another swimming debutant (and special mention to Isaac Stubbley-Cook for his record-breaking gold medal win at his first games too), Kaylee McKeown’s story is a triumphant one. Her father passed away last August from brain cancer and had the Games gone ahead as scheduled he would have seen his daughter swim. Despite this, she still took home three gold and a bronze from her first Olympic Games — something to be absolutely proud of. One of my favourite interview moments of the games, she gets a little too excited talking to her mum and sister. Well Done Kaylee! 

Winner winner, chicken dinner.
  1. Kyle Chalmers and my favourite interview of the Games.

Now if it’s anything about these athletes I have watched for over the last week and a half, it’s their humility that stands out the most to me. Kyle Chalmers won gold in the 100m Freestyle 2018 as a 16-year-old who left high school to go to Rio. Chalmers says this:

“Everything is challenging, everyone has challenges. But to stand up and go an equal-best time in an Olympic final when it counts the most, with all the pressure and the expectation on me, it is special.”

It takes a lot of courage to be proud of missing gold by six-one hundredths of a second, and the spirit of Australian sportsmanship exists in this man. WELL DONE. BRB crying. 

Kyle Chalmers
  1. The strength of Saya Sakakibara

I didn’t know this girl’s name until this week and I’ve cried twice for her. Ooof I’m just so proud. 21-year-old current BMX no. 7 in the world had a massive lead up to these events. She ran well in the heats but had a devastating crash in her semi-final, and these heart-breaking moments are well and truly the worst parts of the Olympics. Her 25-year-old brother Kai sustained a brain injury last year and Saya’s bravery makes the whole country proud. Saya herself has confirmed that ‘she will be back’ in a gracious Instagram video and I’m excited to see her in the future. 

  1. Jess Fox: the QUEEN we STAN wins her gold. 

I remember Jess Fox’s Silver from London and I didn’t know much about Canoe Slalom back then but I remember thinking, this girl’s cool. She certainly captured our nation’s hearts when she returned for Bronze in Rio, and there was an insane amount of build-up for her to chase the medal she was missing. Missing out on gold and taking bronze by just one single penalty in the K1 was absolutely shattering for her and those watching at home. To return with a triumphant victory in the C1 (the first-ever time Women’s Canoe C1 has been run at the Olympics), is worth the jump onto the podium at the end. To have attended three Olympics and medalled each time is quite something. You’re amazing Jess. 

  1. Sam Kerr’s 89th minute EQUALISER.

I have always loved football, and I’d just like to put my hand up and wholeheartedly apologise for not watching enough of it. It’s so good to watch. Sam Kerr debuted for the Matilda’s aged 15 in 2009. She was the Young Australian of the Year in 2018, and she’s an incredible Australian sportswoman. She’s also the first Australian footballer to score a hat-trick at a World Cup tournament. To move into the semi-finals through the group stages was important and The Matilda’s have not made the semi-finals in major international competitions until now. We were screaming at the TV.

  1. The Oldest Australian Olympian is a LEGEND.

Equestrian isn’t a sport that I follow day to day. But to hear a story from these Olympics about the oldest Australian Olympian being 62 and still making the podium (twice) at Tokyo is something to be stoked about. Andrew Hoy’s first Olympics was 1984 in Los Angeles and he followed the next decade with gold in 1992 Barcelona, 1996 Atlanta and 2000 Sydney. Such a long career and so many wonderful achievements deserves to be celebrated. Watching the last moments of his eventing jumping final where he picked up an individual bronze medal, adding a second to his earlier silver medal in the team event, I was absolutely floored by his admission to ‘seeing you in Brisbane’ in 11 years’ time. It’s incredible right now that an athlete has made it to 8 Olympics, proving to me yet again, that Olympians are something inspiring.

  1. Peter Bol’s historical 800m run.

The Olympic commentators talk a lot about history. Australia has not had a competitor in the 800m final since Ralph Doubell won gold in 1968. Now in 2021, we have Peter Bol. Bol fled Sudan with his family when he was six years old. Finishing fourth, “I’d be lying if I say I’m pretty happy right now,” he said after the race. I had my heart in my hands in his post-match interview. Bol set two Australian records in Tokyo. In the heats he ran 1:44.13; and in the semi-finals he bettered that by two one-hundredths of a second. Makes me want to buy a new pair of runners and go for a sprint.

Peter Bol
  1.  Skateboarding DEBUTS, and would you look at that young podium!

Watching the Women’s Skate Park Final really was surreal. Like surfing, skateboarding makes its debut in Tokyo and it’s really a nice touch to see so many young faces celebrating such a monumental achievement of the sport. The epitome of falling down and getting back up again, it’s really cool to bring urban sports into an Olympic context. The fact that the entire podium was made up of teenagers really got me. The future of sport is in front of us, and that really makes me quite excited. At the final run of the last competitor, they all formed a group hug and lifted Misugu Okamoto into the sky. If this is what is coming, I’m all for it. And I’m off to buy a skateboard like the rest of the world. 

I also wanted to make an honourable and IMPORTANT mention to Simone Biles. She pulled out of both the All-Around, Team and Individual Events to return to the Beam event, and finished with a bronze medal. To be the current most famous gymnast in the world, and to have an insane amount of pressure on her to perform, it breaks my heart. I don’t know a whole lot about gymnastics but the media coverage about her was overwhelming and it was a really fantastic opportunity to pause and realise the importance of mental health as much as physical health. You can’t be the best if you’re not actually okay. And I really applaud Simone for using her platform to promote that.

Jeez, I love watching the Olympics. I’ll be moving my family to Brisbane in 2032. Mark my words. And now, instead of five years of waiting, we only have to wait three. Oui Oui PaREE!

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