Despite the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic, the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020 was proof that where there’s a will, there will always be a way. Filled with confidence, determination and strong willpower, 11,656 athletes from all over the world came together for over a fortnight to make this much-anticipated event a success. They didn’t allow the SOPs, extra precautions or any other problem get in the way of them making their dreams come true. If anything, we as spectators should look up to these athletes for teaching us how to achieve our goals without any excuse. Amongst all the moments of glory that took place during the Games, here are 12 unforgettable ones that filled our eyes with tears of joy and our hearts with love and respect:

1. The return of the hot Tongan star at the opening ceremony

Photography: @Pita_tofua

Persistent and unstoppable are two words we’d use to describe 37-year-old Tongan flag bearer, Pita Taufatofua who made his third appearance at this year’s Olympics. First spotted shirtless at the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro where he competed in Taekwondo, he showed up at the Olympic Winter Games in PyeongChang, South Korea, two years later as a cross-country skiing athlete after learning about the sport via YouTube. This year, Pita’s dream to qualify for sprint canoeing didn’t come through as he didn’t have sufficient points, and as a result, he’s back at the Tokyo Olympics as a Taekwondo athlete again. PS If you’re wondering, the oil that was used on his body is a special coconut oil that’s made in Tonga!

2. Naomi Osaka’s special appearance

Photography: @Naomiosaka

We must say that the release of Naomi’s Netflix series was definitely an eye opener for many of us who never really understood the ups and downs that athletes go through in life, and there couldn’t have been a better time to release this show than right before the Olympics began! While it’s tradition for the final torch bearer’s identity to be kept a secret, we couldn’t help but squeal with delight when we saw this 4-time Grand Slam champ show up in full force to officially mark the start of the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020.

3. The intricate designs on the kimonos that promote peace and unity

Photography: Kimono Project

We’ve got nothing but major love for the effort that Japanese organisation, Imagine One World Organization put in just to promote peace and unity among different countries. The Kimono Project, which was led by designer Yoshimasa Takakura, featured a total of 213 kimonos that were uniquely designed to represent the cultural identity of the countries that participated in this year’s Olympics.

4. Malaysia’s Dato’ Azizulhasni Awang brings home a silver

Photography: @Azizulhasniawang

Known as ‘The Pocket Rocketman’ due to his small stature and skills, 33-year-old Azizul made Malaysians proud by giving the track cycling competition last Sunday his all and coming in second. Despite getting the news that his father was admitted to hospital for a mild stroke right before he left for Tokyo, Azizul chose to put his country first and was only 0.763 seconds behind winning the gold medal. Tearing up in front of an audience, this four-time Olympian and two-time Olympic medallist stated his plans to make a comeback at the Paris Olympics in 2024. As for now, we hope that he gets all the rest he needs and to spend some quality time with his loved ones.

5. Simone Biles makes a stand on the importance of mental health

Photography: @Simonebiles

If there’s anything we learned from this 24-year-old Olympian, it’s that one’s mental health shouldn’t be sacrificed at any cost. As a result of the pressure that she faced at the arena and from a medical condition called ‘twisties’, Simone decided to withdraw halfway from the women’s all-around and midway from the team gymnastics. However, she decided to come back and compete in the beam competition and shocked the world when she nabbed the bronze medal. “I wasn’t expecting to walk away with a medal. I was just going out there, doing this for me and whatever happens, happens,” shared Simone in an interview.

6. It’s okay for two athletes to share the gold medal

Photography: @Gianmarcotamberi

The beauty about sports is that we’re able to see how different athletes give and take for the greater joy of everyone. This was clearly seen when Italian high-jumper Gianmarco Tamberi and Qatar’s Mutaz Barshim decided to share their gold win after reaching 2.37 metres in the finals and declining a jump-off to determine the ultimate winner. All it took was for Mutaz to ask a simple question of, “Can we have two golds?” – which was approved by the Olympic officals. As Gianmarco captioned his winning photo, “We made history! Sharing such a beautiful moment with a friend is the best feeling ever. We passed through the worst together, we got up together and now, we even won together!” Is there anything else that’s more heartwarming than this?

7. Yulimar Rojas breaks two records with one stone

Photography: @Yulimarrojas45

Filled with determination, Yulimar fully focused on breaking Ukrainian former triple jumper and long jumper, Inessa Kravets’ world record, as she explained in an interview. “I was looking for it. I knew we had that distance in my legs to get it today. I was failing a bit but the last jump was one to give everything and it was like that,” she said. Hats off to the 25-year-old Venezuelan athlete who not only broke the world record by reaching 15.67 metres in the triple jump but was officially named the first woman in her country to bring home a gold medal from the Olympics too!

8. Sifan Hassan proves to the world that giving up isn’t in her dictionary

Photography: @Sifanhassan

In the 28-year-old’s middle- and long-distance runner’s book, there’s no such a thing called rest until she’s achieved her goals! Representing the Netherlands, the Ethiopian-born Sifan remained resilient despite falling over another athlete who tumbled on the ground but picked herself up and continued the race until she came in first at the 1,500 metres qualifying round race. By the time she reached the 65th and final lap, Sifan was reported to have a seized-up neck and she could hardly turn her head and barely breathe, but all her hard work had paid off when she went home with a total of three Olympic medals – two golds and a bronze. In an interview, Sifan explained how relieved she was with her performance and that she could finally sleep!

9. Charlotte Worthington becomes the first winner at the freestyle BMX racing

Photography: @Chazworther

While the BMX racing event was officially introduced at the Olympics in 2008, this was the first time we all witnessed the freestyle category come to life. The 25-year-old gold winner, Charlotte used to work as a chef at a restaurant to support her biking career in the past. Unlike other athletes who started training at a young age, Charlotte only started to seriously train when she was 20 after receiving funding from British Cycling. To finish her game, Charlotte made history by landing a 360-degree backflip in the competition!

10. Allyson Felix’s fight for women empowerment was well rewarded

Photography: @Allysonfelix

As the saying goes, “Build an empire with the same bricks that were thrown at you” – Allyson proved to the world that only you can make your dreams come true. The 35-year-old Olympic athlete, activist and mum from the US broke the record of being the first female track and field athlete to win seven gold medals at the Olympics over the years, and a total of 11 medals with her most recent win. After her dispute with Nike who wanted to reduce athletes’ pay if the women on contracts became pregnant and having gone through preeclampsia, a pregnancy complication that can be life threatening, Allyson decided to start her own brand of shoes called Saysh. At the Tokyo Olympics, she completed the 4x400-metre relay with her teammates and won gold while wearing the Saysh ‘0.07 Spike’ – how cool is that?!

11. Tom Daley reveals his love for knitting

The internet went crazy when 27-year-old British diver, Tom was spotted knitting while he cheered on the divers at the women’s 3-metre springboard final. As many were curious to find out what he was up to with his yarn, Tom revealed on his other Instagram account that he knitted a little medal case to keep his gold win safe – one that he bagged from the men’s synchronized 10m platform diving! In another post, he showcased a cardigan to remind himself of the Tokyo Olympics, and how learning to knit and crochet has helped him through the event. Tom also voiced his intention to raise money for The Brain Tumour Charity after losing his dad to brain cancer in 2011.

12. When it comes to sports, age doesn’t matter

All eyes were on 12-year-old Kokona Hiraki from Japan and Hend Zaza from Syria who were the youngest participants at the Tokyo Olympics. Kokona started skateboarding when she was only five and by the time she was 10, she had already won her first silver medal at the 2019 X Games! This round, she walked home with a silver medal from the women’s park skateboarding event with the best score of 59.04 and is today the youngest Olympic medalist in 85 years. On the other hand, Hend started playing table tennis at the age of five and won the Western Asia Olympic Qualification tournament last year after defeating 42-year-old Lebanese player, Mariana Sahakian. Unfortunately, she lost to Austria’s Liu Jia this time but another door has opened up for Hend as she’s been invited to train in China in September.

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