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The Most Viral Moments of the 2021 Tokyo Olympics

viral moments tokyo olympics 2021
The 2021 Tokyo Olympics, for all its many problems, had no shortage of viral moments. Credit: Antonio Tajuelo/Wikimedia Commons/CC BY 2.0

The 2021 Tokyo Olympics have come to an end, but there was no shortage of viral moments produced by the Games prior to the closing ceremony on Sunday.

A unique year made for a special version of the games, with record-breaking athletic events, important dialogues — and even some “anti-sex” beds — all featuring in the list below.

Tom Daley’s knitting 

viral moments tokyo olympics
Tom Daley’s knitted Olympic Games-themed cardigan. Credit: Instagram/@madewithlovebytomdaley

Tom Daley, the 27-year-old British diver and Olympian, went viral during the 2021 Tokyo Olympics for being pictured knitting while watching the women’s diving final.

Although at first the public was taken by surprise by the gold medalist’s hobby, it soon became known that the legendary diver had a whole instagram account dedicated to it. Daley’s second account, named “@madewithlovebytomdaley,” chronicles his knitting and crocheting projects, making it clear that this has been a long-standing project for him.

On the last Thursday of the Olympics, Daley revealed the project he had been working on throughout the Games: a cardigan themed around the massive event. In the caption of his post showing the world what he had been working on, Daley explained his creation.

“When I got to Tokyo, I wanted to make something that would remind me of the Olympics to look back on in the future. I designed a pattern for the colour work that would signify everything about these games!” he stated.

A Joyous Tie for Gold 

viral moments tokyo olympics 2021
Mutaz Barshim and Gianmarco Tamberi celebrated their joint gold medal win. Credit: Instagram/@gianmarcotamberi

One of the most heartwarming moments in the Tokyo Olympics, which quickly went viral, was the choice of two high-jumpers to tie for gold rather than complete a tie-breaker.

Gianmarco Tamberi, of Italy, and Mutaz Barshim, of Qatar, made history when they decided to forego individual glory in the name of their friendship. The two high-jumpers both cleared a height of 2.37 meters (7.77 feet), but both failed to clear the next height of 2.39 meters (7.84 feet) on their first attempt.

In a huddle with Olympics officials, the pair were asked to move to a tie-break. However, Barshim had a better idea: what if the two friends could share the gold?

Tamberi instantly agreed that this would be preferable, and both athletes were seen jumping for joy and embracing following their shared win.

“I still can’t believe it happened,” Tamberi said. “Sharing with a friend is even more beautiful… It was just magical.”

Pink face masks as protest 

One of the most viral moments of the 2021 Tokyo Olympics came about when US fencers protested their teammates who has been accused of unproven allegations against him. Credit: Twitter/@bri_sacks

When the US men’s épée fencing team took the stage for their opening match against Japan, there seemed to be another, unexpected dimension to their coordinated outfits. Three of the four team members were wearing pink face masks, in a move which confused the public and journalists alike when the match first aired.

However, it soon became clear that the three members of the team wearing pink masks (Jake Hoyle, Curtis McDowald, and Yeisser Ramirez), were doing so as a form of protest. The fourth team member, Alen Hadzic, donned a black face mask.

The majority of the team was protesting Hadzic’s being allowed to compete in the Games due to the fact that he has at least three allegations of past sexual misconduct against him. None of the allegations have been proven as of yet.

Although multiple athletes spoke out against Hadzic’s inclusion on the team, he was still allowed to compete — although he was required to travel separately from the rest of Team USA, did not stay in the Olympic Village, and was forbidden from practicing with female teammates.

Second youngest Olympic gold medalist of all time

viral moments tokyo olympics 2021
Nishiya Momiji, the second-youngest Olympic gold medalist of all time. Credit: Twitter/@Japan_Olympic

Momiji Nishiya from Japan made history by winning the first-ever gold Olympic medal in the women’s category of street skateboarding. However, people’s memories of her win will likely be tethered to another fact about the skateboarder — her age!

Nishiya is 13 years old — only two months older than the youngest-ever woman to win a medal in the Olympics.

At first, the young Japanese athlete stumbled and did not manage to land properly during her first two tricks in the competition. However, her third and final trick was exceptionally skilful, which gave her the chance to finish with a score of 15.26.

Such a high score was enough to top the tally of 14.64 that was achieved by Rayssa Leal from Brazil, who finished second and earned the silver medal.

Greek athletes speak out

Theodoros Iakovidis
Theodoros Iakovidis’ brave statement revealed the shortcomings of the Greek state when it comes to athletics. Credit: Screenshot from YouTube/@EPT AE

Greek weightlifter Theodoros Iakovidis went viral when he spoke out during the Tokyo Olympics on the treatment of athletes by Greece.

In an emotional statement to the press after failing to qualify for the finals, Iakovidis expressed the difficulty of training and preparing for the sport with very little financial support from the state or from sponsors.

He revealed that he was paid only 200 euros a month from the Hellenic Weightlifting Federation while he was training, and he often couldn’t afford gas and had to go to practice on foot.

“I’m not crying out of sadness, because I seemingly didn’t perform well. I’m crying because its all finished. Unfortunately, I can’t perform at my 100% and have my head calm enough to train and be able to give out what is worthy of the flag that I wear.”

“Sorry if to some people it seems like I’m just running away from it all, but I have become really tired and I can’t take this situation anymore. It’s very sad to be embarrassed to go to the physical therapist because he won’t take your money because he knows that you don’t have enough. I can’t take it. I want to calm down and return to my family, to hug them and thank them,” the athlete expressed.

After his emotional statement to the press, Iakovidis received an outpouring of support from the Greek public and a number of prominent athletes in the country.

“Anti-sex” cardboard beds in the Olympic Village 

viral moments tokyo olympics 2021
The cardboard beds at the Tokyo Olympics were quickly labeled “anti-sex”. Credit: Twitter/@Paulchelimo

During a time when there are constant changes being made in our everyday lives because of the coronavirus, nothing seems out of the realm of possibility. However, Olympic athletes were understandably surprised when they arrived in Tokyo and noticed that their beds in the Olympic Village were made of cardboard.

They took to social media en masse, and the beds were quickly labelled “anti-sex,” by Twitter users.

Paul Chelimo, an American distance runner, speculated on Twitter that the beds were unable to support more than one person and were “aimed at avoiding intimacy among athletes.”

However, this turned out to be a case of “fake news”; it turns out that the beds were made of cardboard in order for them to be sustainable and recyclable, not for any other purpose. The company that makes them, Airweave, claims that they can hold up to 199.5 kilograms (440 pounds).

Simone Biles opens up about the importance of mental health 

Tokyo Olympics viral moments 2021
Simone Biles performing at the 2016 Olympics. Credit: Fernando Frazão/Agência Brasil/Wikimedia Commons/CC BY 2.0

Simone Biles, the star of the US artistic gymnastics team in Tokyo who is widely considered one of the greatest gymnasts of all time, prompted a global conversation about mental health following her withdrawal from multiple events in the 2021 Games.

Biles withdrew from group gymnastics events as well as her individual performances on the vault, floor and uneven bars following a bout of what many gymnasts refer to as “the twisties.”

“The twisties” is a phenomenon where gymnasts feel disconnect between their mind and body when hurtling through the air, and there are claims that they can be extremely dangerous. This is because gymnasts can lose their ability to sense where they are in a trick, and therefore may not be able to land safely on the floor.

Biles believes that her experience was brought on due to the psychological pressure to perform she was put under, as she has long been considered the most skilled gymnast of recent years and was expected to win up to six medals in Tokyo. Her withdrawal from multiple events, and subsequent triumphant return to the balance beam where she bagged a bronze medal, sparked a worldwide conversation about mental health in athletics.

Although the organizers of the 2020 Olympics needed to overcome multiple roadblocks in order for the Games to go ahead, they ended up producing enough viral and heartwarming moments to make the extra wait worth it.

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