14/04/2024

Nicola McDermott, Jason Kenny and Simone Biles were names on everyone's lips at the Tokyo Olympics Photo: Australian Olympic Team - Twitter, Tokyo 2020 - Twitter, Tokyo 2020 - Twitter

From records to sought after medals, Tokyo 2020 may be one for the history books. We've covered the A-Z of the Tokyo 2020 Olympics.

Tokyo 2020 will be one for the history books, with records broken, athletes at long last winning medals that have eluded them previously and athletic success with the backdrop of a pandemic after a year delay it has been an Olympics to remember.

The Inner Sanctum takes you through the two and a half weeks that was Tokyo 2020, complete from A-Z.

A is for Aussie HQ. Much different to previous years, each nation’s Olympic Team was set up in their own dedicated area of the Olympic Village, designed to limit movement and interactions.

Australian HQ was decked out with green and gold colours for that home flavour, complete with kangaroo and emu statues outside the tower’s entrance.

Indoor and outdoor relaxation spaces and athlete lounges provided spaces to rest between events while a kitchen space and cafe area was set up where athletes could grab snacks and stay hydrated. 

To keep Aussie athletes fit, a dedicated gym was designed as well as a room with ice baths to cool down and recover. The bedrooms were simple two-person rooms and had great views of Harumi Port Park.

B is for Bring on Brisbane. In the days before the Games were opened in Tokyo, it was announced that Brisbane would host the XXXII Olympiad in 2032. 

A sporting-mad nation will be hosting its third Games, and its second in 32 years. Sydney 2000 was one of the most successful Games ever, and Brisbane has already put in plans to put that to the test and to run the most sustainable Games ever, for both the Olympics and the Paralympics.

Expect plenty more news to come from the Australian delegation as planning hits full swings, and Australia hopes to bring in a swag full of medals at the home Games.

C is for Cycling madness. The cycling provided plenty of thrills throughout the Olympics, starting with the Women’s Road Race on the opening weekend. A massive miscalculation by the peloton let Anna Kiesenhofer (AUT) stay away as a breakaway and take the gold medal away from the favourites. 

The Men’s Time Trial may have been dominated by Primoz Roglic (SLO), but the race for the minor medals came down to seconds as the last riders came in. Despite Mathieu Van Der Poel’s stack at the start of the MTB, he was overshadowed by the carnage of the BMX racing, where a number of riders suffered serious injuries. 

But nowhere was there more excitement than Izu Velodrome, where records fell, riders fell, and then more records fell. The Team Pursuits in particular showed plenty of speed and excitement. 

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D is for Dear Diary… Nicola McDermott captured the hearts of the nation on the last Saturday of Tokyo 2020 as she battled it out with Mariya Lasitskene (ROC) and Yaroslava Mahuchikh (UKR) for a spot on the high jump podium. Her positivity and persistent smile were outwardly infectious to watch.

After every jump, McDermott returned to the sidelines where she would take straight back to her notebook. As revealed on social media afterwards, she gives herself a rating for every jump on various categories out of 10, continuing to push herself to improve.

Every Australian held their breath as McDermott ran up to the bar on her second attempt at 2.02 metres. As she sailed clean over, the rejoice shone through on her face, clear as day.

E is for Everybody’s welcome. Tokyo 2020 marketed itself as the most gender-equal Olympics of all time. But it wasn’t just about the welcoming of an equal number of competitions between men and women.

The Australian Olympic Team was a primary example sending the highest number of Indigenous athletes to an Olympic Games this year, of those 16, three were medal winners and several others finished in the top five of their respective competitions.

It wasn’t just the celebration of Indigenous Australian athletes that was huge at the Olympics this year, it was the participation and success of out LGBT+ athletes.

From the first openly transgender athletes getting the opportunity to compete at the Olympics by way of weightlifter Laurel Hubbard and the Canadian Women’s Football Team’s midfielder Quinn.

To athlete’s thriving in their competitions and getting to make a statement about who they are for the world to see.

F is for Friendship. Tokyo should surely go down in the history books as the wholesome Olympics. 

With the world in the midst of a pandemic, athletes competing in front of no fans and having to follow strict isolation protocols, you could be forgiven for thinking it would be coldly received. 

You’d be wrong, though. As wrong as possible. What we saw was the triumph of the human spirit.

In its first year, skateboarding led the way as competitors visibly cheered each other on and congratulated each other on their successful runs. 

We saw Aussie Matt Denny with a sign attached to him saying ‘Brandon Starc’s roommate’ as he watched his good mate compete for a High Jump medal. 

It was impossible not to be touched by the spirit of friendship in Tokyo. 

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G is for Guess who’s back? The Tokyo 2020 closing ceremony wasn’t the first time Aussie Sailor Mat Belcher carried a flag in a closing ceremony. 

When Belcher was asked to carry the Australian flag after winning gold in the Men’s 470 race, it was a nice little call back to London 2012 where his former 470 partner, Malcolm Page carried the Olympic flag at the closing ceremony. 

With Brisbane being named as the host city for the 2032 Olympics, it was also a nice call having a Queenslander carrying the flag for the final time in Tokyo, reminding everyone where the Olympics will be in 11 years.

H is for Human. Simone Biles said it best, ​​”People have to realise that, at the end of the day, we’re humans, we’re not just entertainment.”

In sport, we sometimes forget that athletes are human and place unfair expectations on them. 

Biles changed the conversation in Tokyo and reminded everyone that while she might be the GOAT she is also human and because she was dealing with an issue regarding mental health she was within her right to withdraw.

Peter Bol echoed a similar sentiment just days later saying “We’re just human at the end of the day.”

This served as a reminder that came up many more times throughout Tokyo 2020 that whilst we were watching athletes perform what seems like superhuman feats, they are just as human as any of us.

I is for Interview Gold. After competing in an event, adrenaline is running high, and sometimes post-match interviews produced some of the rawest moments of human emotion and let the athletes personality shine through. 

People quickly learned when Australians came on tv, to go for the mute button after Kaylee McKeown let out a ‘f— yeah’ after winning gold. 

But that shouldn’t take away from the truly golden interview moments of Tokyo 2020. 

Peter Bol captured the hearts of a nation not just for making the 800m final, but for his post-race interview where thanked his home country and gave an important reminder to all. 

“To Australia I’m thankful, and to everyone in Australia because we’re just human at the end of the day. We inspired the whole nation and that’s the goal.”

J is for Just a number. One of the key themes throughout the Tokyo Games was that age is certainly no reflection of ability and it was showcased in a number of ways and through one Aussie in particular. 

Andrew Hoy became Australia’s oldest ever Olympian in 2020 at the ripe old age of 62 and at his eighth Olympics, he showed everyone why age is no deterrent, taking home an individual bronze medal. 

From Hoy’s heroics to the still-in-school skateboarders, you did not have to look far for inspiration at Tokyo 2020 where it was proven that anyone of any age can achieve the ultimate. 

Australia was a prime example as both the country’s oldest competitor (Hoy) and youngest competitor (Mollie O’Callaghan) were able to make it onto the podium. 

K is for Knittin’ for Great Britain

Footage of Tom Daley was all over social media as the diver knitted his way to Olympic gold and bronze for Great Britain. 

Diving already has a lot of waiting around and with pandemic protocols in place there was even more downtime in Tokyo, so Daley got busy. The 10m Platform specialist was seen at every diving session with his knitting needles and wool, working away at different masterpieces. 

While his pouch for the synchronised 10m platform gold medal was clever, his Team GB cardigan was the statement piece every athlete wanted in their wardrobe from Tokyo. 

L is for Lighting the cauldron.

All eyes were on the final moments of the opening ceremony as the world waited to see who would light the Olympic cauldron. In the final step in the global journey to Tokyo, the honour of officially opening the Games was bestowed upon Japanese Tennis star Naomi Osaka. 

In her first appearance since withdrawing from the French Open in early June, Osaka received the flame from children who have grown up in areas affected by the Tohoku earthquake and tsunami.

She then ran up the staircase and lit the Olympic flame. It immediately became an iconic image, the world number two standing in front of the spherical cauldron representing her country, her culture and opening a Games unlike any other.  

M is for Medal Count. There were reports prior to the Olympics that Tokyo 2020 would be Australia’s most successful games since Beijing 2008. Not a hard feat after London and Rio where many felt that Australia underperformed.

With 46 medals being attached to Australia on the Medal Tally it’s easy to say the Australian athletes sent to Tokyo exceeded everyone’s expectations.

It’s easy to start at the top with gold, of the 340 Olympic Gold Medals on offer Australia won 17 of them, putting us comfortably in sixth on the Medal Tally.

This equalled Australia’s best performance from Athens 2004, blowing the eight golds from London and Rio out of the water, quite literally, with 15 of the 17 coming from sports in or on the water.

The water events didn’t quite have the stranglehold on the silver medals however, with only three coming from the swimming pool, while hockey, beach volleyball, athletics and equestrian were all somewhat unexpected places Australia picked up medals from.

And then there’s the 22 bronze, each as meaningful as gold and silver with many firsts being attached to those bronze medals, be it the Boomers clinching their first medal or Melissa Wu at long last standing on the dias as an individual 13 years after her synchronised medal in Beijing.

N is for No bed-hopping. The COVID Olympics faced its single greatest challenge in the Olympic Village, where the time-honoured tradition of horizontal bedroom gymnastics was strictly off limits – due to hygiene protocols.

Rumours swirled that the cardboard bed frames each athlete had been given was to dissuade any tempted individuals from sharing a bed. That was later disproved, but it has been confirmed that 14 condoms were gifted to individuals on arrival at the Olympic Village. 

The catch? The latex was for commemorative purposes only, and should be taken home as souvenirs, organisers announced.

We can safely assume each and every one of the 160,000 Tokyo 2020 condoms were not used for their created purpose.

O is for Oi Oi Oi Hockey Stadium. Aussie Aussie Aussie Oi Oi Oi!

Hockey takes the cake as Australia’s most successful team sport, with both teams topping their respective pool tables, and advancing to finals. 

The Hockeyroos unfortunately were eliminated in the quarterfinals after a one goal loss to India, but they did place fifth after their dominant, undefeated run in the group stage. Over six of their games, they only conceded two goals, scoring 13 themselves. While they didn’t have a shot at a medal, they certainly made a nation proud. 

As for the Kookaburras, they finished with four wins and a draw to take them into a quarterfinal against the Netherlands, which went down to the wire. Winning 3-0 on a shoot-out, they locked in a place in the semi-finals where they comfortably put away Germany to earn a place in the Gold medal match. 

Unfortunately, they devastatingly lost the gold medal match, but they still claimed silver for what was an excellent Olympics campaign.  

P is for Penalty shootout pain. The battle for football and hockey gold at Tokyo 2020 wasn’t without plenty of heartbreak when penalty shootouts were called upon to decide the outcomes.

In the women’s football gold medal match between Sweden and Canada, scores were locked at 1-1 after 120 minutes. In penalties, at 2-1 Sweden looked likely to win. Fortunes changed when Canada’s Deanne Rose stepped up and scored before teammate Julia Grosso had the team celebrating with her next spotkick.

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Australia and Belgium contested for men’s hockey gold, a one-all scoreline confirming an even battle. In the shootout, the Hockeyroos’ first shot was saved, then each team traded goals until Belgium’s Alexander Hendrickx scored the winning goal, a Vincent Vanasch save sealing the win.

https://twitter.com/7olympics/status/1423247283290787846

Q is for Queens of the water. There’s just something about Aussies and the water. We can’t seem to stay away from it, and Games after Games the aquatic events are our strongest suit.

It was our female athletes who led from the front, with half of our gold medallists winning a women’s event on the water. The 4x100m freestyle relay team, including Bronte Campbell, Cate Campbell, Emma McKeon, Meg Harris, Mollie O’Callaghan and Madi Wilson got the pool off to the perfect start with a world record gold.

Chelsea Hodges, Ariarne Titmus and Kaylee McKeown further added to the Australian women who found gold in the pool.

The women’s four topped the podium in rowing, while Jess Fox can finally hang that elusive gold around her neck. Let’s not forget the Stingers, our women’s water polo team, who finished fifth amongst a strong pool of nations.

R is for Rose Gold vibes only. It became the mantra of the Boomers at Tokyo 2020; Gold Vibes Only. Talk of the Australian Men’s Basketball Team winning its first-ever medal was one of the storylines of these Games, but this squad of 12 was aiming higher. Every interview and every social media post referenced playing for Gold. 

With the team’s eventual victory over Slovenia in the Bronze Medal match, that mantra became #RGVO – Rose Gold. It was a medal for the 11 Olympic Teams that preceded these Games, and the series of fourth-place finishes the teams have endured dating back to Seoul 1988.

Most importantly, it set the standard and culture that the likes of Patty Mills and Joe Ingles have been applying to this group since Beijing 2008. A medal – for this team – is now the expectation. Bring on Paris 2024 #GVO.

S is for Starting out. As with any Games, there comes the addition of new or returning sports to the Olympic program. At Tokyo 2020, surfing, skateboarding, sports climbing and karate made their debuts, as well as 3×3 basketball, with softball and baseball being reinstated.

By incorporating many of these sports, it was the intention of the IOC for greater inclusion and more gender-balanced opportunities. As well, it was hoped that the Olympic Games could capture and captivate a younger demographic, something that will extend into Paris 2024 also.

Attracting curious viewers from the outset, each of the sports gained a legion of new fans but more importantly, it now provides a new pinnacle for athletes to work towards in their dedicated sports going forward.

T is for Tribute to Japanese culture. Every four years, a country gets to demonstrate the best of its culture on the world stage.

Japan hadn’t hosted the Games since 1964, and the host nation wasn’t about to let this opportunity go to waste. It kicked off with a bang at the Opening Ceremony, with a stunning playlist of orchestrated video game tunes from Super Nintendo classics to modern hits.

The jumps at the equestrian events were lavishly decorated with Japanese art, with traditional oni masks, sumos (which were rumoured to be spooking the horses!), sakura blossoms, and a tribute to the famous ‘Great Waves off Kanagawa’ by Hokusai.

With the mighty and iconic RX-78-2 Gundam overlooking the sports climbing walls, the athletes couldn’t resist throwing in a few anime references of their own.

U is for Unprecedented Olympic achievements. Tokyo 2020 was the place of some historic feats. Jason Kenny (GBR) and Emma McKeon (AUS) both became the most prolific Olympic medal winners for their respective countries. 

Men and women competed against one another on the track and in the pool in some of the most exciting relays the Olympics has seen, and nobody will forget the drama of Sifan Hassan’s three medals, in the 1500m, 5000m and 10,000m. 

Perhaps the most impressive of all the achievements of Tokyo was the Olympics itself. Never before has the Olympics been so affected by a pandemic, and it ran with incredible success despite the pandemic, as athletes, volunteers and officials adhered to the protocols needed to get through the Games. 

V is for Volunteers. Amidst the commotion of an unusual, pandemic-affected Games, the volunteers were a point of familiarity. 

Smiling through their masks they radiated kindness, supporting every athlete of every nation through the fortnight of competition. Without spectators, the lovely, generous and welcoming people of Japan were the very best fans the athletes could ask for. 

Often in scorching conditions, they performed their roles just as well the athletes did their events – cheering in the stands to raking the long jump pit, translating and driving between venues all day and night. 

W is for We’re having a Barty, someone bring the Peers.

We thought it might come in the singles, then in the women’s doubles. But finally, Ash Barty got her Olympic debut medal, with partner John Peers in the mixed doubles. It came in the most bizarre of circumstances after the world eagerly anticipated two first seeds on the same court.

Novak Djokovic – who was just beaten in an upset by Pablo Carreno Busta in the bronze medal match – was due back on court to play the bronze medal mixed doubles match with partner Nina Stojanovic. 

Eagerly anticipated, the match never eventuated because Djokovic retired beforehand, citing an injury sustained in the previous match.

Anti-climatic, but nonetheless elating, Barty and Peers claimed the bronze and Australia’s first tennis medal since Atlanta 1996.

X is for BMX-cellence. With BMX Freestyle making its debut at Tokyo 2020, Australia’s two-time World Champion and two-time National Champion rider Logan Martin suited up in the green and gold.

In the seeding event, Martin finished first when the average of his two runs was calculated. Scores of 91.90 and 90.04 across his two rides contributed to an overall score of 90.97 meaning he’d be the last of the 10 competitors to ride in the final.

Martin entered the final and lead at the end of the first run, earning a 93.30. Still leading at the time of his final run, he rode a short victory lap not worried about a score as Martin had already assured gold for himself and Australia.

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Y is for yrubdarB (Reverse Bradbury). In the 2002 Winter Olympics, Steven Bradbury etched his name into Australian folklore as every other competitor in his race fell, leaving him to skate through to a gold medal. 

Winning from an impossible position due to the failure of others then became known as ‘doing a Bradbury’.

Tokyo 2020 brought us the reverse Bradbury as Sifan Hassan hit the deck, falling down after contact from another runner, leaving her in last place. 

Through sheer determination, she bounced back to her feet, hurled herself back towards the pack of runners and finished in first position. 

Hassan would go on to become the first person to medal in the 1500m (bronze), the 5000m (gold) and the 10,000m (gold) all in the same Olympics.

Z is for Zoom Olympics 

With more than half of Australia in lockdown for large portions of the Olympics if we wanted to enjoy Tokyo 2020 together we’d have to do things a little bit differently.

A lot of people already bond over the Olympics and sport in general and while going down to the pub was not an option for a lot of us in the era of covid we did have a new trick up our back pocket to watch the Games together.

This was using video calling apps like Zoom to watch Tokyo 2020 together in the comfort of our own homes whilst still getting to react to and celebrate events despite being unable to enjoy them together in person.

It was an unusual method but it meant people were able to share in the Olympic Games together regardless of the restrictions placed upon many of us.

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