Simone Biles made us feel normal to question our mental health - the heartwarming moments of Tokyo 2020
Biles pulled out of most of her events at the Tokyo Games having experienced what gymnastics calls the ‘twisties’ - and she inspired people around the world to discuss their mental health. There were astonishing acts of sportsmanship in athletics and swimming - Eurosport looks back at the best moments of the Olympics.
Simone Biles inspired many by talking about her mental health at Tokyo 2020
Simone Biles was already a global superstar before the Tokyo 2020 Olympics - but more than ever, her reach goes well beyond sport - without doing anything spectacular on the gymnastics mat or apparatus. It was one of the Games’ defining moments, as were some astonishing demonstrations of sportsmanship.
The American, arguably the greatest of all time in her sport, pushed the discussion of mental health to the front of the news agenda by opening up about how she was feeling after pulling out of the team competition.
Biles was dealing with what gymnastics calls the ‘twisties’ and said she had to put her mental health first. The pressure on her was enormous. She was the biggest name in Team USA’s squad and there was an expectation that she would clean up in all her events. In the end, she only completed one - and gained widespread praise for coming back to claim bronze on the balance beam.
It opened up a discussion on mental health, not just in sport, but especially for young people. Other athletes followed in speaking openly about how they were feeling, like England cricketer Ben Stokes. As a black, extremely successful American woman, Biles was always a role model, especially since opening up about the abuse she suffered from former team doctor Larry Nassar. But now she had become an advocate for people to look after themselves.
'Biles is back!' - Gymnastics superstar with stunning beam routine for bronze
“Speaking out on mental health, I knew that I could have the possibility of becoming an advocate for that. But it wasn't my goal. It's not what I really wanted," Biles told Olympics.com.
It remains to be seen whether she will be back for Paris, but it seems if she will not be, it will be something she will be at peace with, saying in the same interview: "I've accomplished more than my wildest dreams. So dream big, then dream bigger after that."
Extraordinary moments of sportsmanship in track and field
Athletics can often be about bravado and ego - but Tokyo showed some off the sport’s heartwarming other side with some iconic Olympic moments.
The high jump final will not be forgotten. Qatar’s Mutaz Barshim and Italy’s Gianmarco Tamberi are good friends out of competition, but fierce competitors. An fascinating competition went on and on - the bar was quite literally being raised to astonishing levels and against the odds, the pair kept clearing them.
'Let's have one each!' - Amazing moment Barshim and Tamberi decide to share high jump gold
They were shattered - and then came what was arguably the most heartwarming moment of the Games. Instead of going higher, Barshim asked an official if they could share the title. The judge, looking slightly baffled, replied with “it’s possible”. A nod from Barshim, and Tamberi had lept on his good mate, sparking wild celebrations from the pair of them. Olympic triumph is hard to match - two athletes with so much fondness for each other sharing that moment and having the time of their lives was special to watch.
On the track, once events start to allow athletes to run out of a lane, the greatest fear is being tripped up. It is impossible to count the amount of times one rival has ended the race of another - sparking anger and blame. The opposite happened in Tokyo.
In the semi-finals of the 800m, favourite Nijel Amos caught the heel of the up and coming American Isaiah Jewett, ending both of their challenges for the medal race. After a brief moment of disappointment, they shook hands, embraced and picked themselves up to jog arm in arm across the finish line. Success is often defined by the Olympic Games - but this moment will be hard to match for either of them.
There was an Olympic farewell for Allyson Felix, who became the outright women’s record holder for athletics medals by winning 4x400m relay gold and 400m bronze - taking her total to 11, having secured her first at Athens 2004.
The fact that she was in Tokyo competing was extraordinary in itself given that in 2018, she was diagnosed with preeclampsia, which threatened not only her life but that of her then unborn child. Camryn is now a healthy child - and one of the moments of the Games actually came when Felix returned home, in an emotional video reuniting with her daughter.
Compassion in the pool
Tatjana Schoenmaker was mobbed after breaking a world record
Image credit: Getty Images
South Africa’s Tatjana Schoenmaker produced arguably the moment of the swimming programme, partly because of her brilliant performance, but also because of how well it went down with her rivals.
She stunned even herself by setting a new world record in the 200m breaststroke, breaking a time which has stood since 2013, and was immediately surrounded by team-mate Kaylene Corbett and Americans Annie Lazor and Lilly King to provide what was probably one of the best images of the Games.