Acts of goodwill abound at an unprecedented Olympic Games where mental health has taken center stage. Celebrating, pep-talking, and wiping away one another’s tears of disappointment, the world’s most competitive athletes have been filmed expressing tenderness and warmth to one another.
When Kanoa Igarashi of Japan lost to Brazilian Italo Ferreira in their Olympic debut, he was devastated. Then, in a press conference on the world stage, Igarashi could have kept silent when Ferreira needed help understanding the Portuguese question. Instead, a Japanese-American surfer jumped in to translate for his opponent, who had just defeated him.
“Yes, thank you, Kanoa,” Ferreira said with a beaming smile.
In another act of kindness, two runners who, during their race, became entangled were seen to help each other to the finish line. It was during the 800-meter semifinals, American Isaiah Jewett and Botswana’s Nijel Amos fell. Rather than becoming enraged, they helped one another to their feet, wrapped their arms around one another, and completed the task together.
Days later, at the Olympic Stadium, Gianmarco Tamberi of Italy and Mutaz Barshim of Qatar were tied in the high jump.
Until the bar was raised to 2.39 meters, both high jumpers had perfect jumps (7 feet, 10 inches). Then each missed three times. They finally decided to share the gold medal rather than move to a tiebreaker.
“I know for a fact that for the performance I did, I deserve that gold. He did the same thing, so I know he deserved that gold,” Barshim said. “This is beyond sport. This is the message we deliver to the young generation.”
“Sharing with a friend is even more beautiful,” Tamberi said. “It was just magical.”
In another case, although the United States had recently defeated Brazil, Brazilian Rebecca Cavalcanti poured a bottle of water on American Kelly Claes’ back as she gave postgame interviews after a hard-fought three-set victory in the beach volleyball round-robin final on Saturday at Shiokaze Park. The winners laughed it off, claiming that they were friends.
“I’m excited when quarantine’s done so we can sit at the same table and go to dinner with them. But it’s kind of hard in a bubble because we have to be away,” said Sarah Sponcil, Claes’ teammate.
Norwegian Lotte Miller, who was placed 24th in the women’s triathlon, took a moment after the finish to speak some kind words to Belgium’s Claire Michel, who was inconsolable after finishing last and slumped on the ground, sobbing.
Michel had finished 15 minutes behind Bermuda’s Flora Duffy, but she had finished. The race started with 54 athletes, but 20 were either lapped or dropped out.
“You’re a [expletive] fighter,” Miller told Michel. “This is Olympic spirit, and you’ve got it 100%.”
They have been many athletes celebrating, encouraging one another, and wiping away many tears of disappointment.