By Elina Banerji
“Faster, Higher, Stronger” - this was the inspirational motto of the 2021 Tokyo Olympics in which history was made, adversity was conquered, and norms were dared to be defied. These Olympics, falling after the pre-imminent global pandemic; COVID 19, provided relief, provided support and allowed us to truly embrace the beauty of sport and the cultivation of so much.
In fact, these Olympics go down in history as the most gender-balanced of any - with 48.8% representation of women, with the People’s Republic of China hosting the most women on their collective Olympic team, with an astounding 69% of women.
These Olympics were also the first Olympics in which a transgender athlete was permitted to compete, in which Laurel Hubbard, a weightlifter from New Zealand competed as an advocate and a member of the transgender community for the first time in the 125 years of the Olympics. He didn’t win, yet was proud to compete and set in place a path for many like him. He said “And, as such, I’d particularly like to thank the IOC, for, I think, really affirming their commitment to the principles of Olympism and establishing that sport is something for all people. It is inclusive. It is accessible.", and his influence has become widespread, sparking a movement of so much activism and celebration.
These Olympics also marked a breakthrough for the LGBTQ+ athletes competing, with 179 of them competing according to NBC, which is approximately triple the amount at the 2016 Rio Olympics.
At this sports-centric event, the first American athlete of Hmong descent won gold, with Sunisa ‘Suni’ Lee winning an all-around gold medal in artistic gymnastics.
For a small, impoverished country such as the Philippines, generally, the Olympics don’t highlight their sporting capabilities, yet this year, at the Tokyo Olympics, a Filipino athlete made history and contributed to breaking past gender norms in the sporting community. Hidilyn Diaz, the first athlete from the Philippines to win gold, won a gold medal in women's weightlifting, making history and leaving her mark on young and aspiring athletes. Not only does she leave a legacy in the Philippines, but her story is told all over the world, reaching news headlines, sparking a revolution.
These Olympics also allowed two other countries to win their first gold medals. The first instance of such was with fencer Edgar Cheung Ka-long, from Hong Kong, bringing home Hong Kong’s first gold medal since the territories handover to China in 1997, and this one medal, sent many young kids in Hong Kong to fencing school, excited for the future. The second instance was for Flora Duffy, who won Bermuda’s first gold medal ever, in the women's triathlon event. Bermuda, with such a small population, of only 65,000 people, was inspired by this woman’s drive, and her determination to get where she did and she truly paved the way for much more athletic-centric success from Bermuda.
Of course, to discuss the triumphs of the 2021 Tokyo Olympics, Emma McKeon’s name must be mentioned. McKeon, winning 7 medals at these Olympics, and 4 at the 2016 Olympics, becomes Australia’s most decorated athlete, with 11 medals in total, bypassing Liesel Jones and Ian Thorpe, both swimmers too.
These Olympics marked history, overcame adversity, and showed that we as global citizens of such a chaotic era can truly persevere to be faster, higher and stronger.