The Olympic Games have been a little different this year, considering there are no fans in the stands and it’s happening a year later than planned. But it’s still been one hell of a ride.
History has been made during the competitions – Hidilyn Diaz won Philippines’ first ever gold, for example. But aside from the wins, we’ve looked behind the scenes to find the most inspirational stories of the games so far.
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A teaching assistant crowdfunded to get to the Olympics – and won gold
Bethany Shriever won an Olympic gold medal for Team GB and became the first British medalist (along with Kye Whyte) in the sport since it was introduced in 2008. But the road to get there wasn’t an easy one.
After the 2016 Rio Games, the government cut funding for women BMX racing. Bethany was determined to get to the Olympics, so crowdfunded, took up a part-time job as a teaching assistant, and covered her own training costs. She managed to crowdfund £50,000, after not receiving funding from UK Sport. “To win a medal, let alone a gold medal, I’m over the moon,” she said, after her win.
“It’s a bit surreal, it’s a bit mad… It’s just amazing, I can’t believe it.”
Tom Daley shared a powerful message to the LGBT+ community
The British diver and his partner Matty Lee won the men’s synchronised 10-metre diving event at the Tokyo games. After four Olympic Games and two bronze medals, it was Tom’s first time taking home a Gold. During his speech after the win, he said: “I feel incredibly proud to say I am a gay man and also an Olympic champion.
“I hope that any young LGBT person out there can see that no matter how alone you feel right now, you are not alone and that you can achieve anything. There is a whole lot of your chosen family out here ready to support you.”
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Laurel Hubbard made history
Laurel Hubbard, from New Zealand, became the first ever transgender athlete picked to compete at an Olympics. Officials selected her for the women’s weightlifting team for Tokyo 2020, after qualifying requirements were recently modified.
“I am grateful and humbled by the kindness and support that has been given to me by so many New Zealanders,” Hubbard said in a statement issued by the New Zealand Olympic Committee.
Laurel, 43, became eligible to compete after the International Olympic Committee changed its rules, which allowed transgender athletes to compete as a woman if their testosterone levels were below a certain threshold.
Simone Biles prioritised her mental health
US gymnast Simone Biles withdrew from the Olympic team finals and women’s all-around event to focus on her mental health. Afterwards, Simone explained on social media she’s enduring a phenomenon known as ‘twisting’, which can affect a gymnast’s spatial awareness.
“For anyone saying I quit, I didn’t quit, my mind and body are simply not in sync as you can see here,” she wrote. “I don’t think you realise how dangerous this is on a hard/competition surface. Nor do I have to explain why I put health first. Physical health is mental health.”
GB gymnast Max Whitlock, praised the move, telling Sky Sports News: “She’s incredible and I think what she’s done out here shows a lot of strength. That’s probably one of the hardest things for her to do. It’s really difficult.”
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Two friends decided to share an Olympic gold medal
Two high-jumpers – Italy’s Gianmarco Tamberi and Mutaz Barshim from Qatar – drew first place after competing. Considering they’re also good friends, the pair were told they could have a “jump off” to find the ultimate winner. But Mutaz asked if they could, instead, share the gold medal. They were told it was possible.
“I still can’t believe it happened,” he said. “Sharing with a friend is even more beautiful. It was just magical.”
A 13-year-old won a gold medal
Momiji Nishiya, from Japan, won gold in the skateboarding street event. Skateboarding is an Olympic sport for the first time this year, and it has introduced several teenage athletes along with it. Momiji neat another 13-year old (Rayssa Leal from) Brazil, who won Silver. Not bad for her first year of being a teenager, eh?
Image credit: A. Ricardo / Shutterstock