For many athletes just being at the 2020 Tokyo Games could be reason enough to be inspirational. In a year like no other, many athletes had to find new and creative ways to train in quarantine times. The athletes in Tokyo proved they could overcome just about anything, creating some of the most inspirational moments of the Games.
Some moments are inspirational because they embody the Olympic spirit. Others are inspirational because they're about an individual accomplishment or changing the game. These moments will hopefully stand the test of time and be remembered for many Olympics to come.
Trying to pick just a few moments was a tough task, but below are 10 of the most inspirational moments from the last two weeks of competitions in Tokyo, in no particular order. Some honorable mentions that could just as easily be in the list are MyKayla Skinner's silver win despite being packed to leave, Japanese siblings Abe Uta and Abe Hifumi winning gold on the same day, and injured gymnast Danusia Francis performing her uneven bar routine, despite being too injured to seriously compete.
Simone Biles puts mental health first
Simone Biles shocked the world when she withdrew from the team all-around competition. However, afterwards she perhaps stunned reporters and followers alike when she didn't hide from the fact that she withdrew for mental health concerns. She could've hid behind press releases or team spokespersons, but instead the athlete marched to the podium and openly discussed why her mental health was important. It was a move that fellow athletes around the world applauded and respected. Biles could've given in to being the "face of the Olympics" but instead stood up for what was best for her.
Later, she'd return for the beam individual final after working through a dangerous case of the "twisties", which causes an athlete to lose where they are in the air. She also later revealed that her aunt unexpectedly passed away during the Games. Needless to say, the 24-year-old handled everything with grace and did what most others could or would not do, especially in the high-pressured gymnastics world.
Biles would later comment, "people have to realize that at the end of the day we're humans, we're not just entertainment." It was a move that could perhaps inspire future generations of athletes to fight the stigma of mental health and speak up if something isn't right for them.
Mutaz Essa Barshim and Gianmarco Tamberi share gold
In the moment seen around the world, Qatar's Mutaz Essa Barshim and Italian Gianmarco Tamberi are seen talking to an official. Both jumpers had cleared 2.37m without missing a jump. According to Olympic rules, the gentlemen could've elected for a jump off. Instead, Barshim can be heard asking if the two jumpers have two golds. When Tamberi realizes what had happened, he leaps in Barshim's arms. The two have said that while fierce competitors, the two men have become friends over the years. Both were coming back from potentially career-ending injuries so the gold really meant that much more to each of them. Both jumpers truly embodied the spirit of the Games.
The moment is even better when you hear the excitement of the Italian broadcasters.
Isaiah Jewett helps Nijel Amos finish the race
Amos and Jewett were a favorite to advance in the men's 800m race. In the final 200m, it appeared Amos accidentally hit Jewett's legs causing both men to fall. Even though both were dejected, Jewett got up and immediately hugged Amos. The two finished the race well-behind the rest of their heat.
Afterwards, it was actually determined Jewett was at fault so Amos was advanced by the referees to the final. The Botswana runner would finish the final in 8th. While Jewett's Olympics ended early, he came away with the moral win, by keeping his cool and making sure both men finished the race.
Sifan Hassan never gives up
Dutch runner Sifan Hassan could've easily given up when she tripped in the women's 1500m preliminary race. She hit the track on the last lap and it seemed like she'd miss out on advancing. Hassan didn't miss a beat, popping up off the track, she immediately goes into sprint mode.
She goes from last to first in 62 seconds. It's a great lesson in never giving up. Hassan would go on to win bronze in the event and would win two gold medals in the 5,000m and 10,000m distance.
Allyson Felix becomes the most-decorated U.S. track and field athlete
When the U.S. women won the4x400m relay, Felix officially became the most decorated American Olympic track and field athlete of all time, with 11 Olympic medals. She had already became the most decorated female Olympic track and field athlete when she won her 10th Olympic medal, a bronze, in the 400m race. All this after becoming a mom and being told she wouldn't run as fast.
At 35, Felix has said this will be her last Olympics, as she has given all she has to the sport. She wants to continue to advocate for female athletes, especially moms.
Dressel gives his gold medal to Brooks Curray
In order for Caeleb Dressel to earn his five gold medals of the Games, he had to win the men's 4x10m freestyle relay first, perhaps one of the more uncertain races on his docket. In order to stay fresh with his busy schedule, teammate Brooks Curray swam the preliminary heats in Caeleb's place, something that is a common practice for athletes with heavier schedules. However, what's not common, is that immediately after receiving his gold medal Dressel found Curray in the stands and tossed him the medal. Afterwards, Dressel remarked, "I had the easiest job last night out of everyone here, I got to watch it on TV, so I felt like (Brooks) deserved that a little more than me."
View social media post: https://twitter.com/USASwimming/status/1419514883884806150?s=20
What makes it so special is that Curray would've eventually gotten a medal for his part in the relay, however, Dressel wanted to make sure he could celebrate that night as only final swimmers are allowed on the podium for the medal ceremony.
At the end of the day, both swimmers proved they're the ultimate teammates with Curray keeping Dressel fresh for his heavy competition schedule and Dressel for not forgetting who made the gold possible.
Austrian cyclist Anna Kiesenhofer stuns everyone
All the odds were stacked against Anna Kiesenhofer, she entered the women's road race ranked over 200th in the world. She went to the Olympics without a coach, without another teammate in the race and had given up professional riding to become a mathematician.
It meant she had no one to help her, and if she wanted to win, she had to take a lead in the race and not let it go. Dutch rider Annemiek van Vleuten and her teammates were heavy favorites to win. She pulled off arguably one of the biggest upsets of the 2020 Tokyo Games and didn't give up when it seemed impossible. Kiesenhofer's pure determination proves no matter the task, if you don't give up, anything is possible.
Elaine Thompson-Herah pulls off historic double-double
The Jamaican runner earned three gold medals at the Games, but it's her two golds in the women's 100m and 200m races that really is inspirational. When she won the 200m by 28-tenths of a second, she became the first woman to win the 100m/200m double at the same Olympics two times. She defended both her titles from 2016.
Her time of 21.53 seconds makes her the second fastest woman of all time in the event. She also set a new Jamaican record in the distance.
Swimmers celebrate Schoenmaker's world record
Americans Lilly King and Annie Lazor proved you can be happy for your competitors when they finished second and third to South Africa's Tatjana Schoenmaker in the women's 200m breaststroke. Of course ever swimmer wants to win, but the duo seemed more excited for Schoenmaker than for themselves. It was a moment seven plus years in the making. The 200m record was set in 2013, which is part of the reason the trio celebrated so hard together.
After the race Lazor said, "It's just an incredible race... to see someone finally crack 2:19, we've all been working towards that I think, to see someone like her do it, she's just a great person."
These swimmers showed the world it's not always about winning, but about recognizing greatness inside the pool.
View social media post: https://twitter.com/NBCOlympics/status/1420925281959821319?s=20
Chusovitina proves age is no deterrent in gymnastics
In a sport where anyone north of 25 is considered a senior citizen, Oksana Chusovitina proved that only you can decide what you are and aren't able to do because of your age. At 46, she was more than twice the age of her average competitor when she competed on vault in her eighth Olympics. While she didn't qualify for the finals, she did receive a standing ovation from her competitors, which shows how much of an inspiration she was by just being there.
She made her Olympic debut in 1992, where she won gold with her team. She also won an individual silver medal in vault in 2008. While she said she would retire before, it seems like the mother and wife is ready after Tokyo.