Remembering Tokyo 2020: Athletic greatness on show despite threat of COVID-19
Updated: 2021-12-31 08:08:02 KST
2021's Tokyo 2020 was an Olympic Games like no other.
Its puzzling name gives away the unprecedented circumstances that were behind it: the COVID-19 pandemic, a one year delay and no fans in the stands.
Despite no spectators, though, athletes from around the world gave it their all, fighting through Japan's extreme summer heat, to etch their names into sports history.
A new Olympic champion in the 100 meter dash was born as Lamont Marcell Jacobs opened the post-Usain Bolt era.
Jamaica's Elaine Thompson Herah also wowed crowds with her own blazing sprints while American swimmer Caeleb Dressel claimed five gold medals to cement his place among the sport's all-time greats.
Team USA gymnast Simone Biles, meanwhile, reminded the world that superstars are also human that they can succumb to immense pressure when not in the right mental state of mind.
For South Korea, though, it was in Tokyo that the national archery team, already the world's best for decades now, reached new heights.
Gwangju's very own An San swept all three of her events to claim Olympic archery's first ever triple crown and become the first South Korean to win three gold medals at a single Summer Games.
And right beside her in the newly introduced mixed team event was seventeen year old prodigy Kim Je-deok, who, fueled by his signature cheer, won two gold medals himself.
"I yelled 'Fighting ' to overcome the pressure and tension, to get rid of the nervousness. Before I began my first event, I asked my coach if it would be okay to shout 'Fighting ' out loud and he was fine with it, even telling me to do it with more confidence. So I think I yelled it even louder and more often at Tokyo 2020."
Fencing and gymnastics also saw the rise of new Olympic champions but this year's Games certainly wasn't Korea's best performance on the grandest stage shockingly failing to win a single gold in both taekwondo and judo two sports the country has always excelled in.
That didn't stop Korean athletes from displaying true sportmanship though.
"claiming the gold medal was all I'd ever dreamed of, so losing was tough. But Wolf's tears of joy moved me. I could tell how hard he had worked to get to that gold medal moment. Had it been me who won, I probably would've shed tears as well."
The Games presented a number of touching storylines from women's volleyball legend Kim Yeon-koung's last Olympic hurrah to the introduction of the country's next swimming icon in eighteen-year-old speedster Hwang Sun-woo and Andre Jin Coquillard's ambitions of taking rugby mainstream in Korea by representing his newfound home.
"It was a no-brainer for me. I wanted to be Korean. Now I finally saw a way through sport that I could finally become a Korean citizen."
All in all, Tokyo 2020 shined just bright enough to overcome COVID-19's shadow.
Nearly half a year later, the world now awaits the Beijing Winter Olympics coming February another platform on which world athletes will be gunning for sporting greatness.
Han Seong-woo, Arirang News.