Even under strange circumstances, the 2020 Summer Olympics have already delivered plenty of memorable moments.
Katie Ledecky and Ariarne Titmus Finally Face Off
It is common knowledge that Team USA’s Katie Ledecky is one of the greatest swimmers of all time, earning her first Olympic gold at the 2012 Games at age 15. Since then Ledecky had looked unstoppable, until now.
Ariarne Titmus’ nickname tells you everything you need to know about the Australian. The name “Terminator” was given to her due to her laser focus and emotionless demeanor when in the pool. Titmus established an international presence when she took home gold at the 2019 World Championships. But that medal comes with an asterisk in most people’s eyes, since Ledeckey was suffering from an illness during the competition.
The Terminator finally found her target in Tokyo. Titmus and Ledecky met in the 400m freestyle final at this year’s Games, and the Aussie proved that her World Championship victory was no fluke.
The race between the two great swimmers lived up to the hype, and then some. Ledecky held the lead up until the last 100 meters when the laser focus of Titmus manifested itself in an incredible comeback. Titmus took gold, besting Ledecky by less than a second, and handing the American her first major loss in the 400m race.
Ledecky eventually won her first gold medal of the Tokyo Games in the first ever women’s 1500 meter race, where she was heavily favored as she holds several records in the event. Titmus would claim a second gold in the 200m freestyle. Hopefully this new aquatic rivalry will be present in 2024 and beyond.
Hidilyn Diaz Earns Philippines’ First Olympic Gold Medal
Hidilyn Diaz set an Olympic world record with her final lift of 127 kg in the 55 kg weightlifting competition, but the weight she was carrying with her that day was much heavier. Diaz’ final lift would be for the first Olympic Gold Medal for her home country, the Philippines.
Diaz had not been to her country in months due to the COVID-19 pandemic. She was stranded in Malaysia, where she was training, and once the government closed down all gyms, Diaz was forced to train with water jugs and a bamboo stick.
Diaz’ emotions were on full display as the country’s first gold medal was draped around her neck. Now that she can finally return home, the people of the Philippines have guaranteed her a warm welcome. In recognition of her contribution to the nation, she was awarded $660,000 along with a house and a lot.
Teenagers Take Center Stage in Skateboarding Street
Two thirteen-year-olds collected medals in the debut of Women’s Skateboarding Street at the Olympics. Thirteen year old Momiji Nishiya of Japan became the sport’s first Olympic gold medalist. She was nearly bested by the Brazillian, Rayassa Leal, who is eight months her junior. Unlike Nishiya, Leal has been in the spotlight before. A video of her performing skating tricks in a blue fairy costume went viral back in 2015 when she was just seven years old, after it grabbed the attention of Tony Hawk.
This may not be the only time we see a teenager take home a medal for skating during these Olympics. Sky Brown of Great Britain recently celebrated her 13th birthday, and is one of the favorites in the Women’s Skateboard Park event that will take place on August 4th.
Lydia Jacoby is the Pride of Alaska
Seventeen year old Lydia Jacoby topped her own teammate, Rio gold medalist Lilly King, to win gold in the 100m breaststroke swim. In the process Jacoby became one of the youngest Team USA swimmers to win gold.
Jacoby hails from Seward, Alaska, a town with a population of 2,700 people, in a state that had never produced an Olympic swimmer. Only one Olympic-sized pool can even be found in the entire state. The citizens of Seward were ecstatic as they watched their hometown hero pull off the upset at a watch party at an Alaska Railroad Terminal.
Plum Leads Team USA to 3×3 Gold after Achilles Tear
Team USA took home gold in 3×3 basketball in the sport’s Olympic debut. The team is made up of four young WNBA stars: Stefanie Dolson, Allisha Gray, Jackie Young, and Kelsey Plum. The Americans dominated for the majority of the competition, only suffering one loss over nine games.
Much of the team’s success in the fast-paced sport can be credited to Plum. Plum, the all time points leader in NCAA history, scored 55 points over the nine games, the most in the tournament. She also scored the game-winning basket for team USA against China. This heroic performance came after Plum tore her achilles while playing for the 3×3 team in 2019. Team USA won gold exactly one year after Plum was able to walk again following her surgery.
Sunisa Lee Wins Gold in the Gymnastics All-Around
The gymnastics all-around events looked to be one of the more predictable events at this year’s Olympics. Then the reigning Olympic all-around champion, Simone Biles, withdrew from the competition, resulting in a chaotic final day of gymnastics.
Three gymnasts jockeyed for the top position on the leaderboard throughout the evening: Angelina Melnikova of the Russian Olympic Committee, Brazil’s Rebeca Andrade, and Suni Lee of Team USA. Andrade held a narrow lead after completing the vault and uneven bars.
The leaderboard shifted following the third event, the balance beam. Lee recovered swiftly after nearly falling off of the beam, and scored 13.833. Her beam routine combined with her uneven bars routine, which is rated as one of the most difficult in the world, was enough for her to take the lead. Lee’s win was secured after she scored a 13.700 on her floor routine, and Andrade stepped out of bounds twice during hers.
Lee’s victory made her the fifth consecutive American gymnast to win gold in the individual all-around. Andrade made history of her own as she became the first Brazilian gymnast to ever win a medal at the Summer Olympics. Lee will be heading to college with a gold medal; the eighteen year old has committed to Auburn and will begin there this Fall.
The 2020 Tokyo Summer Olympics continue through August 8th.