Tokyo Olympics: Best of the Best

Pandemic or no pandemic, spectators or no spectators, the show went on at the Olympics in Tokyo. Several stars ensured that the Games was a success, the coronavirus notwithstanding. Sportstar picks the brightest stars from the second-half of the Tokyo Olympics.

Tokyo 2020 Olympics - Athletics - Women's 100m - Final - OLS - Olympic Stadium, Tokyo, Japan - July 31, 2021. Elaine Thompson-Herah of Jamaica crosses the finish line first to win the gold medal REUTERS/Pawel Kopczynski/File photo SEARCH "BEST OF THE TOKYO OLYMPICS" FOR ALL PICTURES. TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY.   -  REUTERS

Elaine Thompson-Herah

On August 3, Elaine Thompson-Herah found herself blocked temporarily from posting on Instagram. She had shared videos of her medal-winning races from the Tokyo Olympics. The International Olympic Committee owned the telecast rights exclusively and was rather strict about them. That was perhaps the only thing that didn’t go right for Elaine in Tokyo, where she ruled the track. The 29-year-old Jamaican’s domination of the women’s sprint was complete. She took the gold in 100m, 200m and the 4x100m relay. She set a new Olympic record in the 100m, clocking 10.61, beating the previous mark of 10.62 set by Florence Griffith Joyner in 1988. The late American sprinter, by the way, is the only woman who has ever run faster than Elaine. She had won the golden double in sprint in Rio, too. But Jamaica could only take silver in the 4x100m relay. This time around, she dealt only in gold.

WATCH: Best of Olympics: Celebrating sportsmanship at Tokyo 2020

Lamont Marcell Jacobs

Italy's Lamont Marcell Jacobs celebrates as he crosses the finish line to win the men's 100m final at the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games.   -  AFP

 

Lamont Marcell Jacobs became the first athlete after Usain Bolt to win the men’s 100m at the Olympics — the showpiece event of the Games — since 2004. That alone would have made the 26-year-old Italian one of the biggest stars in Tokyo. But he did more. He clocked an impressive 9.80s to become the first from his country to win the event at the Olympics. He was also the first European to do it after Linford Christie of Great Britain in 1992. Then he helped Italy win its first ever men’s 4x100m relay gold. Jacobs was initially a long-jumper and in 2016, he was Italy’s national champion in the event.

READ: Double Olympic champion Jacobs will not compete again until 2022

He said frequent injuries forced him to focus on sprint. A rather wise decision it has turned out to be. After springing a surprise in the 100m final, he said: “It was my childhood dream to win an Olympic Games (medal), and obviously, a dream can turn into something different, but to run this final and win it is a dream come true.”

Charlotte Worthington

Britain's Charlotte Worthington competes in the cycling BMX freestyle women's park final at the Ariake Urban Sports Park during the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games.   -  AFP

 

Freestyle BMX cycling made its Olympic debut in Tokyo. And what a spectacular debut it turned out to be. Few sports provided as many breathtaking moments as this event did. Charlotte Worthington was one of the cyclists who made watching freestyle BMX an exciting experience for sports fans around the world. The 25-year-old Brit used to support her biking career with the income she got from cooking Mexican food at a restaurant. Along with other cyclists in Tokyo, she must have won the sport new fans. She took the gold in absolutely stunning fashion, too — with a 360-degree backflip. No woman had ever done that in a competition. Worthington, suspended in the air upside down on her bike with her hair flying out of her helmet, provided one of the most enduring images from Tokyo, in fact. And she had to beat a tough field and the three-time World champion Hannah Roberts of the United States.

Cao Yuan

Yuan Cao of Team China competes in the Men's 10m Platform Final on day fifteen of the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games at Tokyo Aquatics Centre.   -  Getty Images

 

One of the highlights from the diving competition in Tokyo was the men’s 10m platform. The battle for the gold was intense between Great Britain’s Tom Daley and the Chinese duo of Cao Yuan and Yang Jian. A sensational 4.5 somersault from Yang created a new Olympic record for the highest scoring dive, but that would prove only good enough for the silver in the end. The gold was won by Cao, a historic one at that. He became the first-ever diver to win gold in three different events at the Olympics. He had won the gold in the 10m synchro at London and the 3m springboard at Rio. Before the gold at Tokyo, he had also won a silver, in the 10m synchro. The 26-year-old, in fact, has the medals in all the colours, having taken the bronze in 3m synchro at Rio.

Stephanie Labbe

Canada's goalkeeper Stephanie Labbe blocks a shot in a penalty shootout during the women's final match against Sweden at the 2020 Summer Olympics.   -  AP

 

Shortly after Canada won its first-ever women’s football gold at the Olympics, the country got a new Minister of Defence. Or so said Wikipedia. Somebody with a nice sense of humour had edited the page of Canada’s goalkeeper Stephanie Labbé and changed her position into the National Minister of Defence. A little later, Canada’s real Minister of Defence, the Punjab-born Harjit Sajjan, tweeted: “From one MND to another, thank you for defending the flag and for helping bring home this long awaited gold.” Labbe’s defence of the Canadian goal was undoubtedly one of the main reasons why her team finished as the champion, ahead of the likes of the United States, France, the Netherlands and Sweden. In the final against Sweden that went to sudden death, the 34-year-old brought off two saves to give Canada an Olympic gold in women’s football after the bronze in the last two editions. It was Labbe’s composure and skills while facing the penalty kicks that helped Canada avoid defeat in the opening match against Japan and defeat Brazil in the shoot-out in the quarterfinals. Then she played her role to perfection in Canada’s shocking 1-0 victory against four-time World champion United States.

Kevin Durant

Kevin Durant of Team United States bites his gold medal during the medal ceremony for Men's Basketball at the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games at Saitama Super Arena.   -  Getty Images

 

Kevin Durant began the Tokyo Olympics as the second highest scorer of all-time for the United States basketball team. By the time the Games were over, he had become the highest scorer, breaking the record of Carmelo Anthony. It was his third Olympic gold. At Tokyo, he was on fire. In the closely-contested final that saw the United States beating France 87-82, the skipper top-scored with 29 points. He came close to breaking his own shared record of the highest scorer in a men’s final at the Olympics.

READ: Durant signs contract extension with Brooklyn Nets till 2026

 In 2012 and 2016, he had scored 30. He finished the competition in Tokyo with 124 points; he was also the Most Valuable Player at Tokyo. Later it emerged that the 32-year-old had signed a four-year extension to his contract with Brooklyn for $198 million. He is likely to spend some of that money for charitable work. The Kevin Durant Charity Foundation has been doing commendable work for years.

Allyson Felix

Allyson Felix of the United States in action during the women's 4 x 400m relay final at the Tokyo Olympics.   -  REUTERS

 

Allyson Felix’s great Olympic sprint began in 2004. She won a silver in the women’s 200m at Athens. She retained that medal four years later at Beijing, where she also added a gold, in the 4x400m relay. In London 2012, she took the gold in the 200m and the 4x100 and 4x400m relays. At Rio, there were golds in both the relays again plus a silver in the 400m. So she came to Tokyo with nine medals and a genuine chance to overtake the legendary Carl Lewis’s record as the USA’s most decorated track-and-field athlete at the Olympics. By winning the 4x400m relay gold and the 400m bronze the 35-year-old sprinted past Lewis. She also became the most successful female track-and-field athlete at the Olympics. Eleven medals, including seven golds, is a record that will take some beating. When you add her 18 World championship medals, 13 of which are gold, you get the full picture of one of the brightest stars in world sport of our time.

Julio Cesar La Cruz

Julio Cesar La Cruz of Cuba celebrates his win against Muslim Gadzhimagomedov of the Russian Olympic Committee.   -  REUTERS

 

Three months before the Olympics kicked off, Julio Cesar La Cruz said, “I always train for gold. That is my goal.” He was perfectly on target at Tokyo. The 31-year-old Cuban boxer won his second Olympic gold and became one of the select few to win two different weight classes. He defeated Brazil’s Abner Teixeira to win the heavyweight class. Five years ago in Rio, he had won the light heavyweight category. He was a bit lucky though that the Tokyo Olympics was postponed; at the time of the original schedule of the qualifiers, he was down with chickenpox. But the four-time amateur World champion had overcome even bigger challenges. Back in 2014, he was shot in the hip during a robbery attempt at his hometown of Camaguey. He is already thinking of winning a third Olympic gold. “Going to Paris and winning (a third gold medal) is one goal that can be achieved,” he said. He knows a thing or two about achieving his goals, of course.

Jordan Larson

Jordan Larson of the United States in action during the final against Brazil at the Tokyo Olympics.   -  REUTERS

 

The United States has been one of the most dominant teams in women’s volleyball at the Olympics after making its debut in 1984. From the nine Olympics before before Tokyo, the US had won three silver and two bronze medals, but never the gold. Jordan Larson, the teams’ captain, knew the Tokyo Games would provide an excellent opportunity to win that elusive gold. For her, this would be the last opportunity. The 34-year-old outside hitter didn’t allow the pressure to get the better of her as her team played one knock-out fixture after another. Fittingly, in the final against Brazil, which the US won in straight sets, it was she who scored the final point. After becoming part of the teams that won the bronze in Rio and silver in London, she could finally take home the Olympic gold. And she had led her talented team from the front right through a memorable campaign in Tokyo. She was also named the Most Valuable Player.

Andrew Hoy

Andrew Hoy of Team Australia riding Vassily de Lassos celebrates with the bronze medal after the Eventing Individual Jumping medal ceremony.   -  Getty Images

 

Culcairn is a small town in Australia with a population of about 1,500. Andrew Hoy was born there. The town actually sports a sign that says ‘Culcairn the home of Andrew Hoy’. The board, the equestrian found on a visit to the town from his base in the UK in 2019, was beginning to fade. “I thought I (would) have to do something to make sure they change it,” he said. What he could do was, of course, to add to his Olympic medal tally. He already had four, including three golds. He won two more medals at Tokyo — silver in team eventing and bronze in individual eventing. What makes his feat singular is that he did it at the age of 62. He thus became the oldest medallist at Tokyo. This was his eighth Olympics. He is in no mood to dismount from his horse, Vassily de Lasso, though. He has hinted that the 2032 Olympics is on his mind.