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Eight of the Most Heartwarming Moments in the Olympic Games So Far

Some really, really feel-good stories for your feed.
By Concrete Playground
July 30, 2021
By Concrete Playground
July 30, 2021

If sport is escapism in its simplest form — the 2020 Summer Olympics couldn't have come at a better time. For all of us following along from the pub or the couch (sorry Sydney), the ultimate demonstration of human accomplishment delivers a much-needed sense of belonging and shared experience.

In between staggering feats of athleticism, competitors from every corner of the world have given us countless inspiring tales all delivered with neverending grace. So, our writers' have recapped eight of the most heartwarming, unmissable moments of the Tokyo Olympic Games so far.


SUZ TUCKER: Editorial Director

Moment: Oksana Chusovitina, representing Uzbekistan in gymnastics.

I write this from an at-home standing desk — because I've somehow injured my back doing nothing. Meanwhile, Oksana Chusovitina is a 46 year old woman who, this week, competed in her EIGHTH consecutive Olympic Games (the first was Barcelona in '92) in a sport where the majority of participants are under the age of 20. This veritable sporting icon competed in vault before announcing her retirement from the sport. I pulled a hammy just watching her. A legend.


MELANIE COLWELL: Branded Content Editor

Moment: Jian Fang Lay, representing Australia in table tennis.

If you've read or watched the news at all this past week, you'd be aware of the major Aussie success stories at the games so far. We're dominating in swimming and Jess Fox finally got her hands on the gold medal that had eluded her for many years. They're dubbed champions. Legends. Heroes. And rightly so — they've earned it. But there is another athlete that should be getting just as much praise and recognition: Jian Fang Lay. The 48-year-old table tennis player may not have won any medals (yet) but she is competing in her sixth consecutive Olympic Games — one of only two Australian women to do so. Talk about grit and determination. As someone whose experience with table tennis begins and ends with a few successful games of beer pong (the more you drink, the better you play and you can't convince me otherwise), Jian's speed, coordination and instinct is a marvel to witness. She is an underrated QUEEN.


ELLEN SEAH: National News & Features Editor

Moment: Thomas Daley, representing Great Britain in diving.

Very occasionally, the democratic nature of sport fosters moments that stretch far beyond a league, a game, or a medal. Tom Daley's post-dive media interview was one such moment. Sporting a plain black mask, with adrenaline still pumping from his first Olympic gold medal win, Daley told media reporters about the struggle and pressures he's faced as an LGBTIQ+ athlete, with the grace and confidence that would put most to shame.

"I came out in 2013 and when I was younger I always felt like the one that was alone and different and didn't fit in. There was something about me that was always never going to be as good as what society wanted me to be," Daley said, in response to a reporter's question about there being more openly out LGBTIQ+ athletes than any other Olympic Games before. "I hope that any young LGBTI person out there can see that no matter how alone you feel right now, you are not alone. You can achieve anything."

Daley and his synchronised diving partner, Matty Lee, sat between silver medal Chinese athletes Cao Yuan and Chen Aisen and bronze medal Russian divers Alexander Bondar and Viktor Minibaev. Gay marriage is not legal in either Russia or China.


LIBBY CURAN: Staff Writer

Moment: Ariarne Titmus, representing Australia in 400m freestyle (and Dean Boxall's reaction).

Life can start to feel a little light on excitement when you've been churning through lockdowns like it's an Olympic sport. Heck, some days, putting proper pants on seems deserving of a hearty pat on the back. So, imagine the pure motivation that would come from having a personal cheerleader that gets as wildly ecstatic about your triumphs as Ariarne Titmus' coach was following her women's 400m freestyle win. Dean Boxall's joyfully OTT reaction to his charge's gold medal moment has become an instant meme and for good reason — we're talking buckets of unbridled enthusiasm and some very passionate hip thrusts. Ok, so you might not be in the running to take home any gold medals for Australia yourself. But whatever little thing you need to muster up motivation for this week, chuck Boxhall's now-famous cheer routine a watch and I reckon you'll feel ready to take on the world.


SARAH WARD: Associate Editor

Moment: All the new sports.

The only sport I'm obsessively passionate about will never reach the Olympics, even when Brisbane hosts them in 2032. Australia would obviously win gold if Aussie Rules did ever make the cut, though. If there was a way for us to win silver and bronze at the same time, we probably would as well.

Still, there's something inherently joyous about new sports being introduced to the Olympics, even if it's not my beloved form of football. All those athletes who've just had their dreams come true merely by even being able to compete at that level, and all those kids who might now turn their childhood passions into a medal-winning profession — it's nothing short of inspiring.

Surfing and skateboarding obviously fall into that category this year, and the fact that many of the winners so far have such moving stories behind them, or happen to be 13-year-old girls kick-flipping their way to glory, is flat-out excellent.

Also a delight: seeing baseball join the fold in Tokyo. Having witnessed first-hand just how beloved baseball is in Japan — complete with the souvenirs to prove it — it's clear how meaningful an inclusion this is.


CORDELIA WILLIAMSON: Branded Content Manager

Moment: Bronte Campbell, Cate Campbell, Emma McKeon and Meg Harris, representing Australia in the 4 x 100-metre freestyle relay.

Despite my current opinion of the International Olympic Committee (IOC) and really feeling for Japan right now, I am (somewhat selfishly) loving watching the Olympics. I listened to journalist Kieran Pender on a recent 7am episode, 'Front row seats to the world's biggest experiment', and he describes the Tokyo Games as a paradox. On the one hand, it is "deeply problematic" that the IOC has forged ahead, and it is reasonable for us to say 'who cares' when we look at the broader context. But also, as Pender states: "Sport is powerful, sport is important…[and] these games will bring joy, particularly to those in lockdown". This pretty much sums up how I feel as a veg out on the couch watching these superhumans dive, sprint, jump and backflip on the screen. 

One moment where all my neg energy dissipated, however, was while watching Bronte Campbell, Cate Campbell, Emma McKeon and Meg Harris absolutely slay in the pool in the women's 4 x 100-metre freestyle relay final. Beating your own world record by three seconds is bloody great. But for me, someone who doesn't really watch sport nor have much (if any) national pride, it was seeing these incredible women celebrate the team's efforts, not just themselves, and present each other with their gold medals that got me like a punch in the guts. Heartwarming stuff right there.

Seriously looking forward to catching more pool action, particularly diving and artistic swimming. And the pentathlon — it blows my mind that individuals can be skilled in so many (and some random) sports.


BEN HANSEN: Staff Writer

Moment: Hidilyn Diaz, representing the Philippines in weightlifting.

While I've been yelling at my screen consistently over the last week as the Ollyroos upset Argentina, the Boomers continue their winning streak and we dominate in the pool. The moment that brought the biggest smile to my face was weightlifter Hidilyn Diaz winning the Philippines its first first-ever Olympic gold with an Olympic Record lift. Weightlifting is already a wildly impressive sport, but Diaz's face of relief when she lifts her first place-winning weight turning to overwhelming joy was so touching.


NIK ADDAMS: Branded Content Manager

Moment: Owen Wright, representing Australia in surfing.

I know absolutely nothing about surfing. I don't even understand what one is supposed to do when one surfs. And while I was initially drawn in by the handsome Brazilian men (whatever gets you tuned in, right?) what I do know is that — after quickly Googling the rules to try and make some sense of what I was watching — I felt like I was riding every single wave with Owen Wright, Australia's first surfing medallist. The word 'inspirational' is thrown about quite a bit in sporting discourse, but his story is one that truly merits that term — having to relearn how to walk and surf after a horror brain injury just six years ago. The post-surf interview with his beautiful family showed just how much this one meant — and I hope his son Vali got an extra scoop of ice cream to celebrate, too.


Top image: IOC, supplied.

Published on July 30, 2021 by Concrete Playground


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