Seems like I’m hearing a lot of people saying how good the Tokyo Olympics were. There are a few saying the best for many years. There’s a sense of wonder that comes with that. Going into the games you had to wonder if it was sensible to go ahead with Covid still ravaging Japan. Expectations beyond that were pretty dim.
Yet, here we are, glowing in the aftermath of an inspiring, friendly Olympics. For me, it’s the most I’ve enjoyed it since Sydney or Athens. It’s hard to credit given there were no crowds, but the competition was great and the vibe pulsed with something more human than more recent Olympics. This was the Olympics we needed, but we didn’t know it until it happened.
I’ll go away with some absolutely fantastic memories. The coverage is pretty partisan wherever you go, so most of my memories are related to my own country, Australia, though not all.
I’ve already written about Jess Fox and how inspiring she was. But then the 10,000-metre performance by Australian, Patrick Tiernan, roused the whole nation. He didn’t win. In fact, he finished down the rankings in the end after running a fine race. But that’s the thing. With only a few hundred metres to go, he collapsed on the track. He got up and went again, and collapsed again. Runners passed him as he got to his feet once more and slowly made his way to the finish line.
For me, that’s much more inspiring than any world record. The guts and determination he showed seemed to me what the Olympic spirit is all about: to strive to do your best.
On the women’s side, it was great to see Sifan Hassan, the Dutch runner, win a couple of gold medals and a bronze. In one heat she tripped and fell, then got up a long way behind to charge after the pack and beat them.
Then there was the staggering 400-metre hurdles race won by the Norwegian smashing his own world record.
Then there was the decathlon and a great moment. Ash Moloney was in the bronze medal position as long as he ran a good 1500 metres, one of his lesser events. To the rescue came his teammate, Cedric Dubler, who could be seen exhorting Moloney on. It worked. Moloney got his second win and won his bronze. A long way behind, the man who sacrificed himself for Moloney, could be seen with his arms raised in triumph knowing that Ash had made it. It was a beautiful, selfless act. Doing a Dubler, they’re calling it. As for Ash, we’re going to hearing a lot more about him.
Then there were the Boomers. This is just a lovely, epic tale a long time in the making. Finally, after many attempts and much sweat and toil by generations of Australian basketballers, we finally got the medal we’ve long deserved.
I don’t know if there’s a more admired Australian than Patty Mills. Nor a better Australian. He led the way, scoring 42 points in the game against Slovenia to take us to victory. The outpouring of emotion afterwards was unprecedented. To see so many great names in tears afterwards was enough to melt the hardest heart. I love these guys. They’re of great character and determination. They’ve created a culture I think, unparalleled, and very Australian.
I like us winning gold medals, but what I like more is being proud of the people who represent us. Skill, speed, endurance, and so on, are fine attributes, but finer still are good sportsmanship, spirit, teamwork, determination and selfless sacrifice. These are the gold medal values we should never forget.