10 Goosebump Moments So Far from the Tokyo Games!

By Ashlee Buhler 

We’re officially at the halfway point of the 2020 Tokyo Olympic Games and so far, it’s been a wild, unpredictable ride. Tears have been shed, history has been made, and lifelong dreams have been realized. With Prelims, Team Finals, and All-Around Finals in the rear-view mirror, we wanted to reflect on some of the top moments from the Games so far. 

Here are 10 moments that gave us goosebumps or made us smile!

Bronze for Great Britain

While most of the world was focused on the battle for gold and silver between the United States and the Russian Olympic Committee, the women from Great Britain went under the radar and rallied from a weak performance in the Qualification round to win the team bronze. It was the kind of competition that had you on the edge of your seat. In the last rotation,  it all came down to the final routine between Italy and Great Britain. Italy sat third in the rankings heading into the final rotation, where they were set to compete on beam. Meanwhile, Great Britain was in fifth behind Japan and was headed to bars. All eyes were on Jessica Gadirova, Alice Kinsella, and Amelie Morgan, who delivered clutch performances on bars and outscored their qualifying routines by over a point. In the end, the trio, along with Jennifer Gadirova, had made history by becoming Great Britain’s first team since 1928 to win an Olympic team medal. 

Belgium Advances 

The Belgian women’s gymnastics team had the performance of a lifetime during the Qualification round in Tokyo and advanced to the team final in fifth place. The deal was sealed even before beam anchor Maellyse Brassart went up to do her routine. Previously, the team’s best finish was 11th which just so happened to be during the team’s first trip to the Olympic Games in 1948.  Two-time Uneven Bar World Champion Nina Derwael will look to continue the history making for Belgium as she fights to win the first Olympic medal for a Belgian female gymnast in the event finals on Sunday. 

Lee Continues The Legacy 

A golden dynasty that began with Carly Patterson back in 2004 lives on with Sunisa Lee 17 years later. Lee became the fifth consecutive U.S. gymnast to win the coveted Olympic All-Around title after a stunning performance marked by grace and grit. It’s not the outcome anyone predicted heading into the Games, but Lee seized the moment, performed with an unwavering amount of confidence, and ultimately had the meet of her life when it mattered most. Now, her name will forever be associated with an exclusive group of U.S. gymnasts who brought home the sports most prestigious honor: Mary Lou Retton. Carly Patterson. Nastia Liukin. Gabby Douglas. Simone Biles. Suni Lee.

Sportsmanship Showcase  

Coming into Tokyo, nobody could have predicted that this would be the outcome for Simone Biles. The reigning Olympic Champion and four-time gold medalist from Rio started strong in Qualifications, qualifying to every final despite having some “off” performances. After balking on her vault midair in team finals, Biles withdrew from the competition. She withdrew from the All-Around final as well, forfeiting the opportunity to defend her title. Biles is currently dealing with the twisties—a mental block where a gymnast suddenly loses their ability to track where they are in the air. It can take weeks, if not months to overcome and if the gymnast lands wrong while competing, the impacts can be life alternating. However, despite her own personal struggles, Biles has embraced her role as team cheerleader and has been seen in the crowd cheering on her fellow teammates on both the men and women’s side. During the All-Around final, Biles could be heard loud and clear cheering on the ROC’s Angelina Melnikova during her beam routine. After the All-Around final, Biles posted a video of the new Olympic All-Around Champion Suni Lee with the caption “the queen has arrived.” Through it all, Biles has remained supportive and gracious. Not once has she complained about her circumstances, proving furthermore that being the GOAT is about more than what you accomplish on the competition floor. 

ROC Domination 

It’s safe to assume that fans of Russian gymnastics are pleased with the way the Tokyo Olympics began. It all started with the men’s team final, which included a gutsy performance from Artur Dalaloyan who competed in Tokyo just three months after tearing his Achilles. After a doping scandal left Russia banned from the Olympics, athletes in all sports who weren’t connected to the scandal joined forces to compete under the Russian Olympic Committee (ROC) flag. The scandal hasn’t stopped the athletes from feeling the pride as they compete with heart and soul on the competition floor and bring home medals. The ROC men won the team gold medal—the first time the Russian men have been on the top of the podium since 1996. On the women’s side, the ROC kept the golden streak going. The last time Russian women were atop the medal podium in a team competition was 1992 as part of the Unified Team. In Tokyo, it was the first team title for a completely Russian women’s team. 

Andrade Makes History 

The women’s All-Around final from Tokyo is a day that will be placed in the history books for Brazilian gymnastics and could inspire generations of gymnasts for years to come. Rebeca Andrade made an incredible comeback from three (yes three) ACL tears to win the silver medal in the All-Around. Andrade is the first Brazilian Olympic medalist for women’s gymnastics as well as the first gymnast from South America. Andrade could continue to make history with two more medal opportunities (vault and floor) still to come. 

Fighting Four 

The gold medal team streak for team USA may have ended in Tokyo, but the U.S. women did not go down without a fight. When Biles stepped out after the first rotation, Jordan Chiles, Suni Lee, and Grace McCallum had to step up. Although McCallum was slated to compete all four events, Chiles was only supposed to do vault and floor, while Lee was only supposed to do bars and beam. Even if they weren’t warmed up physically or mentally in the moments before to do the other events, if they wanted a medal, they had no choice. These are the moments the years of training, the endless hours and repetition, and questioning why taking one more turn in practice was necessary, truly paid off. Under tremendous pressure, the trio of Chiles, Lee, and McCallum rose to the occasion, fought hard until the end, and won the silver medal. With determination and grit, they performed beautifully; refusing to succumb to the pressure. In the end, they shined brighter than any gold medal could. 

Daiki Wins Gold 

There’s a new Japanese king in men’s gymnastics and his name is Daiki Hashimoto. Just like any other aspiring gymnast in Japan, Hashimoto grew up watching the great Kohei Uchimura. Now he is continuing the legacy he built. In his first Olympics, Hashimoto, age 19, became the youngest man to ever win the Olympic All-Around title. We suspect he’s only just get started.

Number One Fan  

After a grueling extra year of training to prepare for these Games and having to travel to Tokyo without their families due to the COVID-19 pandemic, all these athletes need is a little love and support. In a viral video, Hoda Kotb from The TODAY Show showed a tremendous display of support for Suni Lee during her floor routine in team finals that was reminiscent of Aly Raisman’s parents watching their daughter compete in London in 2012. 

One Step Closer  

Alec Yoder came to Tokyo to do one thing: pommel horse. And so far, he has delivered. Yoder went lights out in qualifications, earning himself a spot in the event final with a fourth-place finish, and has a real shot at fulfilling his dream of earning an Olympic medal. Ireland’s Rhys McClenaghan, who qualified to the final in second, tweeted his approval of the field of finalists, including Yoder.

Photos by Ricardo Bufolin for Inside Gymnastics

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