Tokyo Olympics: Seven Moments Worth Revisiting
Olympic moments abound, whether widely noticed or barely. There were 339 events in 33 sports contested by more than 11,000 athletes at the Tokyo Games, so don’t worry if you couldn’t keep up. Here is just a sampler:
A Stunning Upset in Rhythmic Gymnastics
Setting aside all the is-it-a-sport-or-not arguments, rhythmic gymnastics (the one with the ribbons) delivered some drama with an unexpected finale.
And an unsettled loser afterward.
The gold medal favorite, Dina Averina of Russia, completed a routine as convoluted as the reason Russia is competing as R.O.C. (for Russian Olympic Committee) at the Olympics instead of its plain old name.
She’s the three-time world overall champion, and to make matters even more interesting, her identical twin sister Arina was in the running, too.
But Linoy Ashram of Israel, and her hoop, ball, clubs and ribbon, would not back down and finished with the highest score (even after dropping the ribbon).
She gave Israel its second gymnastics gold ever and its first in rhythmic gymnastics. Averina got the silver (her sister came in fourth) and Alina Harnasko of Belarus got the bronze.
Dina Averina kept stirring the pot after the competition.
“It’s very hard to talk at the moment and I can’t agree with how the scoring went today,’’ she said. “And this is maybe the first time I disagree with the judges.”
And the Russian Olympic Committee protested in a tweet that Averina “became the champion from whom the gold medal was taken away in the most simple way. By the decision of the judges.”
Yet Ashram exulted at her win.
“I focused only on myself,’’ she said. “I didn’t look at the routines of Dina and Arina. I worked so hard for this, so it’s worth it.”
“It’s like a dream. I think, like, I’m not here.”
A Cuban Wrestler in the Record Books
Every Summer Games since 2008 has included Mijaín López, 38, the Cuban wrestler.
His winning gold has become as reliable as a goofy moment in the opening ceremony. Tokyo did not disappoint, either in the moment or Lopez’s gold. He secured his fourth.
He became the sixth person to claim four gold medals in an individual event, joining the likes of Michael Phelps and Carl Lewis.
Known for slinging opponents or coaches over his shoulder, López, who is listed at 6-foot-5, 290 pounds, had said he would retire after the Tokyo Games. But after winning his latest Greco-Roman super heavyweight medal, he wouldn’t close the door on the Paris 2024 Olympics — at 41.
An American Wrestler in the Record Books
Not to be outdone, the United States also provided a notable wrestling highlight.
Tamyra Mensah-Stock slew her opponents and the internet with her emotional, exuberant celebration of winning gold.
Her waterfall of tears during an interview after her final match, with some excited jumping thrown in, became a social media sensation.
Her achievement as the first Black woman — and the second U.S. woman — to win gold in wrestling lives on forever.
No, You Don’t Have to Pole Vault Again
What do you do when you win gold after nearly missing the mark, after a tough year that included battling Covid-19 and then setting your personal best to earn a ticket to the Olympics?
Katie Nageotte of the United States had every right just to soak it in after winning the pole vault, recovering from two misses to clear 4.9 meters (16 feet 1 inch) and defeat Anzhelika Sidorova of Russia.
But she decided to try again, setting the bar at 5.01 meters, lifting the pole and taking off only to pull up short and stop with a big smile.
This time, she said, “the emotion of winning” got the best of her.
A Diving Prodigy Finally Gets Gold
In 2008, at the Beijing Games, the British diver Tom Daley was the spunky Olympic wunderkind at all of age 14.
For a while it looked like he and his partner in 10-meter synchronized diving, Blake Aldridge, were going home with a medal until they faltered in the final (and reportedly quarreled before the dive).
Since then, despite racking up medals at diving tournaments around the world, an Olympic gold medal eluded Daley despite acclaim as one of the best in generations.
The Chinese, the most dominant country in diving, often stood in the way.
Not in Tokyo.
He won gold in synchronized 10-meter diving with his partner Matty Lee and a third bronze in the 10-meter platform (losing, naturally, to the Chinese divers Cao Yuan, who won gold, and Yang Jian).
It also looked like he won gold in Olympic athlete crocheting, spotted knitting in the stands between dives (he was making a cardigan for a brain cancer charity in honor of his father, who died in 2011).
When the Sailing Winners Capsized Their Boat
Look, if you just won a gold medal in sailing, what happens to the boat afterward probably doesn’t matter much.
Martine Grael and Kahena Kunze of Brazil won the 49er FX competition and decided to sail toward friends on the shoreline. They encountered shallow water and rocks and broke the mast in the maneuvering.
“We broke the mast, but it’s OK,” Kunze said. “It’s a nice moment. It’s going to stay in our mind forever.”
They won gold at home in the 2016 Rio Games. And guess what? The boat capsized then too.
Oldest Tokyo Medalist Tells All
It can be a bit strange to be 62 and an Olympian. Fellow denizens of the athletes’ village apparently had trouble processing this.
“When people meet me in the village they say, ‘Hey, so what do you do? Are you an official?’ And I say, ‘Well, I’m an athlete.’”
Still, it must be nice to be Andrew Hoy of Australia. He is Tokyo’s oldest medalist, earning a silver and bronze in equestrian (the youngest medalist was 12-year-old Kokona Hiraki of Japan, who won silver in, appropriately enough, skateboarding).
Hoy got bronze in individual eventing, and Australia won silver in team eventing.
An eight-time Olympian, his first appearance was at the Los Angeles Games in 1984, and he earned gold in Barcelona, Spain, in 1992.
He is Australia’s oldest ever medalist. (Laura Kraut, at 55, became the oldest American to win a medal since 1904, taking silver in equestrian team jumping along with Jessica Springsteen, the daughter of Bruce, and McLain Ward.)
“I’m actually grateful people can still say how old I am,’’ he said, “because when I started in the sport I used to be really proud of being the youngest person in the team.”
Middle-age couch potatoes: Go get a horse.
James Wagner contributed reporting.