By Dion Fetalvero

For 17 straight days, the entire population was glued to their television screens and mobile devices as we witnessed the Olympic flames reignite our torches of hope and passion. In a world that has fought multiple battles and disarray, we gather together to culminate our athletes and delegations as they bask in Olympic glory and fame.

As this year’s theme suggests, we sports fans, enthusiasts and athletes alike are “Faster, Higher, Stronger – Together.” Despite not being a part of the games, we are still united by our emotions as we connect with the stories and challenges that have shaped the competition, as well as the individuals that sacrificed all of their might and strength just to be there – in the Olympic stage.

It’s crazy how in every four years, we are delighted with the spectacle – that is the quadrennial meet. Beyond sports and recent events, who would’ve thought that we can learn so many valuable lessons and concepts that are also applicable to our day-to-day lives. In great sporting fashion, here are some of the best moments and lessons that surely made a mark in this year’s Olympics!


Worth the Weight (Wait)

With the unexpected Corona Virus Disease pandemic that shook the world into a storm of fear, pain and misery, the Olympic Games was also severely affected by the dramatic change of events. As a result, the Tokyo Olympiad was postponed for a year and it was not even expected to continue this summer.

Despite this, the International Olympic Committee and the Japanese government continued with their plan of action – which is to resume the games in a safe manner that will follow all of the health protocols and guidelines set by the organizing group. In the time of the announcement, both committees received a large amount of scrutiny and backlash. However, with the recent success of the games, there was one main verdict in everybody’s minds and hearts – it was worth it!

Amidst the challenges that we face in our lives, we should continue to chase our dreams and passions whatever the outcome be at the end of the day. This is evident by the results of the Summer Games and the victories of the Olympic athletes that went through a lot just to clinch an Olympic medal.

One of these examples is Filipino weightlifter Hidilyn Diaz, who won the Philippines’ first-ever gold medal in the history of the Olympic Games. The Zamboanga-native literally and figuratively carried the weight and challenge, despite the lack of funding and services that are provided to her. Instead of just quitting and leaving her dreams unfulfilled, Diaz fought and persevered – in what has been years in the making.

Hidilyn Diaz wearing her gold medal, saluting the flag she raised for the Philippines in the 2020 Tokyo Olympics in the women's weightlifting event (Photo from Getty Images)

Shatter New Heights

Despite the lack of sporting competitions in different fields and apparatus, in this edition of the Olympic Games, we saw many World and Olympic records that were shattered in one setting. These records and remarkable feats were driven by the craft and mastery in their respective tracks, as well as the pursuit of excellence in their passions.

A great example of these record-breaking achievements is the women's 4x200-meter freestyle relay. The top three racers: China, Australia and the United States shattered the world record paces in the highly-anticipated finale of the event. Team China, composed of Junxuan Yang, Muhan Tang, Yufei Zhang, and Bingjie Li remained victorious and clocked a world record time of 7:40.33. Their incredible feat will remain a memory that will be cherished in future generations.

Another remarkable event that happened in the Olympics is the incredible performance of the athletes that bagged their delegation’s first-ever medal in the quadrennial meet. Burkina Faso, Turkmenistan and San Marino bagged their first-ever medal in the meet. While, Philippines, Bermuda and Qatar won their first Olympic gold.

Triple jump athlete Hugues Fabrice Zango of Burkina Faso raising the flag of his nation as he brings them the very first Burkinabe medal in the Olympics (Photo by Michael Steele, Getty Images)

If you feel like you have reached your peak in your skills and talents, remember that you can still strive to be the best version of yourself and shatter the records and achievements you have already conquered. Through one’s dedication and continued strive for excellence, we can do more and be more.

Nothing is Impossible

Martin Luther King Jr. once said, “If you can't fly then run, if you can't run then walk, if you can't walk then crawl, but whatever you do, you have to keep moving forward.” If you are sad and you feel very hopeless in life, you have to keep moving forward, in the belief that nothing is impossible. These next athletes just did that and showed us the strength and skills to defy expectations – to do the unimaginable.

Sifan Hassan carrying the Netherlands flag after snatching the gold despite stumbling in the middle of her race (Photo by JapanTimes.Co)

In the last lap of the athletics women’s 1500m semifinals, Dutch racer Sifan Hassan stumbled to the ground after failing to avoid the collision in front of her. With the surprising events, many of us have thought that this is the end for Hassan’s medal chances – but no, the track and field athlete stood up and continued running. She exerted all of her effort, she ran and she won the race. Later on, the athlete bagged two golds and one bronze in the entirety of the Games.
Carlo Paalam’s story is also an inspiring adventure worth noting. In his weight division, the Filipino boxer was not a favorite to place in the podium, only ranking 12th worldwide. However, Paalam defied the expectations after beating reigning champion Shakhobidin Zoirov of Uzbekistan. The Olympic silver medalist was a former scavenger from Cagayan de Oro and used boxing as a tool to gain income. Now, he is one of the best in the world.
Hassan and Paalam’s stories are incredible tales of perseverance and determination. Despite the hurdles that we face, we should continue to fight our hearts out because life is filled with multiple obstacles and challenges that may knock us down and drag us to the ground. But remember, life continues and we have to move on.

Mental Health Matters

Athletes face a large amount of pressure, after being in the spotlight of the Olympic stage. For decades, we fail to address the effect of pressure on the athletes, as well as the athletes’ mental health – which is just as important as physical health. This changed with this year’s Olympics – with a new and engaging discussion about the mental health of the athletes.

Simone Biles, a multi-Olympic medalist and gymnast made a huge step for these discussions, after her decision to not compete in her apparatus finals because of her mental struggles – the “twisties” as referred to in gymnastics. In a statement given by the all-around champion, she said, “We're not just athletes. We're people at the end of the day and sometimes you just have to step back.”

Simone Biles holding her bronze medal in the balance beam event, gymnastics (Photo by Mike Blake, Reuters)

It is refreshing to see that we are now able to discuss our own mental struggles and how we cope with our situations. Just as Biles said, “We have to protect our minds and our bodies and not just go out and do what the world wants us to do.”

Happiness can be Shared

In a display of sportsmanship and camaraderie, Mutaz Barshim of Qatar and Gianmarco Tamberi of Italy, made headlines after sharing their Olympic gold medal in the men’s high jump finals. The pair tied for first place after clearing 2.37 meters, and failing to surpass the Olympic-record height of 2.39 meters. Instead of doing a jump-off to settle the first and second place, the pair decided to share it instead.
This move is described by the Qatari athlete as "Beyond sport […] This is the message we deliver to the young generation." Despite all circumstances, the pair let down their ego and showcased to the world how we possess the ability to share our joy and achievements with another person or athlete.

Gold medalists Gianmarco Tamberi of Italy (left) and Mutaz Essa Barshim of Qatar (right) shared the top podium after the men's high jump at the Tokyo 2020 Olympics. 

A similar occurrence happened in the men’s decathlon wherein Cedric Dubler of Australia, physically and mentally helped his compatriot Ash Moloney to bag the coveted-bronze medal of the event. After two days of different fields, Moloney stood in medal contention with just the 1500m race left to spare. However, the athlete needed to surpass his personal best in order to secure the bronze.
With no hesitation, Dubler sacrificed his own standings just to help his mentee win the medal that he deserved. He shed a lot of encouragement and yells in the field and dictated the pace for Moloney to follow. In the end, the pair celebrated when Moloney eventually sealed the podium finish.

Overall, the Olympics has always been a phenomenon for everyone to enjoy, learn and celebrate. The Olympic Games is not just about sports and competitions because it also encompasses the challenges, the stories, the feats and the inspirational messages that makes it unique.
With this year’s Games coming to a close, may we find solace knowing that we learnt a lot from our athletes and delegations. May we use the Olympics as a tool to reignite our passion and to fulfill our dreams and aspirations with others – because we are #StrongerTogether.