Unity in the Face of Adversity: Defining Moments from the Tokyo 2020 Olympics

Source: Eurosport

Every four years, the igniting of a flame marks the start of two weeks filled with incredible athletic achievements, emotional highs and lows, and beautiful displays of sportsmanship. Beyond the record-breaking performances, however, Tokyo 2020 was an Olympics like no other. After 18 months of uncertainty and struggle against Covid-19, the postponed Games carried a message of hope, solidarity and connection when the world needed it most.

From extraordinary triumphs to acts of kindness that inspired billions across the globe, we take a look back at the defining moments of the historic 33rd Summer Olympics.

The world is a brighter place when we share our light

Source: CNN

The Olympic Games may be a showcase of enthralling ability from the world’s most competitive athletes, but this year’s event proved that relationships are more important than winning at all costs. Nowhere was this more evident than during the men’s high jump finals, when Qatar’s Mutaz Barshim and Italy’s Gianmarco Tamberi decided to share a rare Olympic athletics gold.

After both athletes were unable to match the Olympic record of 2.39 meters, they were given the option to settle the tie with a jump-off. Barshim had a better idea. He asked an official if they could both be awarded gold. “Yes, it’s possible”, said the official. Upon learning this, the two friends — and rivals — jumped into each other’s arms to celebrate, prompting cheers beyond their home countries in a powerful display of unity.

To be a leader is to embrace our common humanity

Source: Reuters

Simone Biles, one of the world’s most celebrated gymnasts, is known for pushing the limits with her awe-inspiring routines. In 2016, she became the first female US gymnast to win four gold medals at a single Olympic Games. Naturally, her accomplishments raised the expectations of fans everywhere as she entered the Tokyo Olympics. But after experiencing the twisties — a mental block that causes gymnasts to lose their spatial awareness mid-air — Biles chose to back out of the competition, putting her physical and mental health first.

Teaching the world a lesson in humility and humanity, she spoke out about the importance of prioritising her wellbeing. “At the end of the day, we’re not just entertainment,” she said during a press conference. “We’re humans, and there are things going on behind the scenes that we’re also trying to juggle.”

When you dare to be courageous, you make way for many

Source: The Guardian

Yusra Mardini is a refugee from Syria whose strength was put to the test when she was forced to swim for her life in the open sea. Having escaped the war raging in Damascus at the age of 17, she and her sister saved the lives of 18 refugees, as well as themselves, when their boat’s engine seized. In a remarkable feat of endurance, they climbed out into the cold water for hours, keeping the boat steady as they pulled it towards the Greek island of Lesbos. Eventually, they made it to Germany, where Yusra Mardini was appointed the youngest ever UNHCR Goodwill Ambassador.

In 2016, Mardini was selected to compete in Rio de Janeiro as part of the first Refugee Olympic Team, notably declaring: “‘I represent more than Syria; I represent millions around the world.” The celebrated swimmer came back to the Games this year, using her platform in Tokyo to advocate for refugees globally. While she had no chance in the preliminary heat, her astonishing story of hope and inclusion beyond borders was far more important than the result.

Together, we can accomplish more

Source: Eurosport

Having a friend who has your back, who helps you when things get tough, and who wants nothing more than to see you succeed is a valuable thing — a lesson that was demonstrated clearly in one of the last events of the Tokyo Olympics.

During the highly anticipated men’s marathon, world-record holder Eliud Kipchoge completed the race in a staggering 2:08:38 hours. However, it was not just the Kenyan’s victorious accomplishment that had people talking; it was the group of runners who came after him that truly stole the show. Kenyan runner Lawrence Cherono and Dutch athlete Abdi Negeeye were about to become numbers two and three. In fourth place was Abdi Negeeye’s longtime friend, Bashir Abdi, representing Belgium. The two had fled Somalia for Europe together at the age of six, and although they ended up in neighbouring countries, they stayed in touch and remained each other’s support system.

When the moment came for Abdi Negeeye to power ahead, he felt there was an opportunity to lift his friend along with him. With about 100 metres to go, he called out for Bashir Abdi to follow in his footsteps. At first, it wasn’t clear whether Abdi would make it. But the gesture of solidarity and friendship enabled him to gain momentum as the two athletes crossed the finish line and became first-time Olympic medallists, together.

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