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My favourite part of the Olympics is everyone and their mother becoming an armchair expert in a sport they had never even heard of until approximately three minutes previously. From my own household you will hear such gems as “Ooh interesting, that combination of elements will certainly rack her up some points but that was a bit of a wobbly finish” from those of us not even gifted with the ability to touch our own toes.
This is how I felt yesterday watching Charlotte Worthington take home gold for Team GB in the BMX freestyle event. With tears in my eyes and a lump in my throat, I turned to my boyfriend and said: “Can you believe she didn’t just stop at the backflip 360 but also went for the wall ride? Such a gutsy performance!”
How many of us had watched BMX before this weekend, I wonder. But Worthington has now ascended to national heroine status. She was mocked at school for riding a scooter and not being “girly” enough, she became a chef to pay the bills, and now she is inspiring a wave of girls to ride and jump their way into the history books.
These Olympics that we weren’t expected to care about, the Olympics that many felt should not have even been happening, have taken us by surprise and stolen our hearts. There have been so many heart-warming images from the Games already: Adam Peaty triumphantly slapping the water after winning Britain’s first gold of the Games in the breaststroke, Kye Whyte hoisting Bethany Shriever into the air after their historic BMX silver and gold wins, and of course Tom Daley leaping into his partner Matty Lee’s arms after finally getting that gold he so rightly deserved (and then proceeding to knit a cosy for his medal because apparently having one skill isn’t enough).
The peculiarity of crowd-free stadiums have blessed us with an unexpected highlight: watching family and friends in athletes’ towns reacting to their wins. I’ve finally found my purpose in life — crying my eyes out watching people I’ve never met also crying their eyes out. It’s like an incredibly emotional episode of Gogglebox.
However some of the most memorable moments from these Games haven’t been the superhuman triumphs but moments of refreshing relatability. Athletes like Simone Biles, Naomi Osaka and Dina Asher-Smith have displayed strength of a different kind in their candour and honesty. Last night, two friends — Italy’s Gianmarco Tamberi and Mutaz Essa Barshim of Qatar— agreed to share a gold medal in the men’s high jump rather than settling the tie with a jump-off.
It has been a privilege to watch these intimate and authentic moments. In many ways, the Games have embodied the spirit that we have embraced during the pandemic: collectivity, opening up about mental health struggles and accepting that it is okay not to be OK.
Have you been enjoying the Olympics? Let us know in the comments below.