by Grace Grabowski, Sports Reporter, Joyce Lee, Sports Editor, & Marisa MacDonald, Sports Reporter
graphic by Adrienne Lirio
For months, all eyes were on USA gymnast Simone Biles, whose impressive performances in international competitions propelled her to fame. Before this year’s games, her unmatched strength and complex moves earned her 30 Olympic and World Championship medals.
The overwhelming pressure to dominate the Games led her to doubt her abilities, Biles said in an interview with the “Today Show.” She felt something gymnasts refer to as the ‘twisties,’ where she suddenly lost the awareness needed to complete her routine mid-air. With such difficult moves, she decided for her own safety to put a hold on competing. After qualifying for every event final, she only returned for the Beam Finals, where she placed third.
Although Biles’s departure was unexpected and disheartening, the rest of her team, athletes who entered the individual competitions expecting to place second at best due to Biles’s impressive record, could compete for gold. Teammates Sunisa Lee and Jade Carey took this in stride, taking home the gold in the Individual All-Around and Floor events, respectively. Mykayla Skinner performed impressively as well, and despite not originally qualifying in Vault, won silver in Biles’ place. Athletes’ victories across the events highlighted their individual skills, even without the star athlete.
To the public eye, Olympians are the picture of dedication and hard work. Being the most serious athletes in the world comes at the cost of the world viewing them as such. However, with the rising popularity of TikTok, a social media platform whose appeal is based on its informality and convenience, athletes have taken advantage of showing what’s behind the scenes.
The app’s short and impersonal video style has given the world a peek into athletes’ less serious sides.
USA women’s rugby player Illana Maher, whose videos on TikTok have earned her more than half a million followers, said in one of her posts that in addition to giving the public a look into her personal life, social media has been an outlet for her and many other athletes to relax.
Through videos and posts, the public has found relatability in the world’s elite. The ongoing support for athletes on social media testifies to fans’ excitement for athletes’ less-professional aspects. Not only does social media serve as a crucial step in mitigating the barrier between the athletes and their audience, but it also allows for athletes to pursue their dreams without the weight of the world’s unattainable expectations scarring their experiences.
The Tokyo Olympics cost Tokyo roughly $15.4 billion, according to Time Magazine. The high price tag is partially attributed to the eight venues the country built, which cost about $3 billion.
Now that the games are over, the National Stadium, which seats 68,000, will mainly be used for soccer and rugby matches, while the athletes’ village, which cost about $490 million to build, will be converted into private housing.
The COVID-19 pandemic, which forced the Olympics to be held a year later with no spectators at events, contributed to around a $2.8 billion loss.
An additional contributor to the high costs was efforts to make the Games more eco-friendly, including cardboard beds and podiums made from recycled plastic. The metal used to make the medals was also recycled from electronics.
Unfortunately, these efforts fell short, leading to one of the worst environmental impacts of any Olympics in history, due to the construction, air travel, resources and food that were necessities for the games.
Hopefully, future host countries will find better ways to make the Olympics more sustainable without adding to the already high costs of hosting.
Winning two gold medals and two silver medals, USA swimmer Katie Ledecky gave one of the most memorable performances at the Tokyo Olympics.
Her first gold medal came from the 1500m freestyle, held for the first time for women in the Olympics this year. Ledecky also won gold in the women’s 800m freestyle, where she broke her own world record. She currently holds the top 23 fastest times in this event.
Ledecky won her first gold medal in the 2012 Olympics at only 15 years old. Nine years later, she is still going and regarded as one of the best swimmers in the world.
Going into the 2020 Tokyo Olympics, Ledecky had already won six medals and held numerous world records. Now, she is a household name and one of the most decorated female swimmers of all time.
Despite her many wins this year, in the women’s 200m, Ledecky placed fifth: the first time she hasn’t been on the Olympic podium in an event.
Ledecky stood out in Tokyo for Team USA, and fans of the Olympics are looking forward to seeing her add to her legacies in 2024.
A policy in the Olympics and sports world at large has recently sparked much controversy – sex verification, specifically testosterone regulations in women’s athletics.
From its creation by the International Association of Athletics Federations, and later adoption by the International Olympic Committee (IOC), the sex verification policy has greatly evolved. Although it was originally fueled by fears that male athletes might pose as women to compete in women’s sports, scientists have not been able to prove a causal relationship between intersex athletes and a significant competitive advantage. Female athletes currently have to fall below a certain threshold of testosterone to compete on women’s teams.
Multiple female runners were prevented from competing in Tokyo due to their naturally high testosterone levels, including South African runner Caster Semenya, a two-time Olympic gold medalist who refused to lower her testosterone levels after saying that it would make her more prone to injury. For future Olympics, IOC President Thomas Bach said that the committee will continue to review these rules to better fit its understanding of sex and gender, even if it means changing the way sex is determined from sport to sport.
For its Olympic debut, the skateboarding competition consisted of street and park, with each discipline holding both men’s and women’s events. The street competition took place on a course featuring stairs, handrails, curbs and benches, focusing on tricks like ollies and grinding, while the park course was held in a curved skate bowl, encouraging mid-air skills.
A stand-out star from the games is Team USA’s Cory Juneau who came home with a bronze medal in men’s park. Prior to his Olympic debut, Juneau predicted his success, telling the Dew Tour, which served as the final U.S.-based Olympic Skateboarding qualifier for the Tokyo Games, “Not many people will get this opportunity. I know it will be a life-changing experience for me just to go, and I believe I can win.”
Japan won the gold medals in men’s street, women’s street and women’s park, while Australia’s Keegan Palmer took home the gold in men’s park. Momiji Nishiya, who competed in women’s street, triumphed at only 13 years old to become Japan’s youngest-ever gold medalist. The inclusion of skateboarding in this year’s Olympics allowed a new generation of young athletes to showcase their skills and spirit of camaraderie during the competition.