The Tokyo Olympics were supposed to be a disaster — too much COVID and too few fans, mixed with the usual quota of money-grubbing Olympic officials, blown budgets for the host city and unneeded political posturing. The recently ended games were different, for sure. But once the athletes started doing their thing, those special Olympic moments pushed aside many of the distractions. University of Florida alum Caeleb Dressel dominating in the pool. Bradenton’s Nelly Korda winning gold in golf. A 12-year-old Japanese skateboarder — yes, skateboarding! — winning silver. San Marino — population 30,000 — becoming the smallest country to win an Olympic medal … and then winning another a day later. Hawaiian Carissa Moore bringing home gold in surfing’s Olympic debut. Kenya’s long-distance runner Eliud Kipchoge beating his male rivals in the marathon by 80 seconds, looking like he could easily do another 26.2 miles. And, of course, we all learned to fear the “twisties.”
Thanks for the memories. Here are a few more.
Sprinter Erriyon Knighton
At 17, the Hillsborough High School student was the youngest member of the U.S. track team since 1954. He blazed to a first-place finish in his 200 meter qualifying heat, before placing fourth, one place off the podium. He’ll be back.
Swimmer Bobby Finke
The Clearwater resident was so far behind in the 800 meter final that the American commentator nearly lost his breath calling Finke’s come-from-behind victory. An instant classic. And then Finke did it again in the 1,500 meter.
Sprinter Trayvon Bromell
St. Petersburg’s Bromell came to the Olympics as the odds-on-favorite to win the 100 meters. He missed out on making the finals by 1/1,000 of a second. He had battled back to elite form after several surgeries in the last few years.
Sprinters Allyson Felix, Athing Mu, Dalilah Muhammad and Sydney McLaughlin
The four women crushed the opposition in the 4x400 meter relay, helping Felix capture her 11th Olympic medal, the most of any American track star ever. Felix is a legend. After these Olympics, the other three showed they might rival her one day.
High Jumpers Gianmarco Tamberi and Mutaz Barshim
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The Qatari and the Italian were tied near the end of the men’s high jump. The good friends could move into a jump off, but Barshim asked an official, “Can we have two golds?” The official said yes. Watching Tamberi leap into Barshim’s arms in celebration was one of the iconic moments of the games.
Surfer Kanoa Igarashi
The Japanese-American lost the gold medal to Brazilian Italo Ferreira. But the Brazilian didn’t speak fluent English, so Igarashi, who speaks Portuguese, stepped up and translated a question at the news conference for him. Nice touch, Mr. Igarashi.
Cyclist Anna Kiesenhofer
The Austrian, who hadn’t been part of the pro circuit since 2017 and has a PhD in applied mathematics, wasn’t expected to win the women’s road race. In fact, the second-place finisher was so certain she had finished first that she celebrated like she had won gold — only to be told later that Kiesenhofer had finished 75-seconds ahead of her. Score one for the underdog.
Gymnast Simone Biles
The superstar suffered from what gymnasts call the “twisties” — the feeling of being lost in the air — and pulled out of several events. She handled it with class, even as too many couch potatoes questioned her grit. Try landing on your head after failing to pull off a double backflip, triple twist. Never done a double backflip, triple twist? Probably best to keep your critique to yourself.
Marathoner Molly Seidel
The American picked up a bronze medal in just her third marathon. That’s right. She had only competed at that distance twice before. But even better was her reaction. Sitting on a curb after the race, she broke down as she used a mobile phone to watch family and friends celebrating her race from Waukesha County, Wisconsin.
Editorials are the institutional voice of the Tampa Bay Times. The members of the Editorial Board are Editor of Editorials Graham Brink, Sherri Day, Sebastian Dortch, John Hill, Jim Verhulst and Chairman and CEO Paul Tash. Follow @TBTimes_Opinion on Twitter for more opinion news.