Editorial: September 2021

This July and August, my teenage son and I – along with millions of other people online – spent a lot of time watching the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games. My son himself competes in summer athletics, so we were pretty eager to see who would take out the 100m sprint in the first games since Usain Bolt’s retirement.

While we watched a lot of athletic events (and interestingly, no swimming), there were so many other wholesome, tear-jerker moments. Watching Australia’s Logan Martin win the first ever Olympic Gold for freestyle BMX was pretty cool, mostly because his stunts were so impressive, but the girls skateboarding was incredibly heart-warming. Three teenage girls (aged 13, 13 and 16) won gold, silver and bronze; two of them from Japan, with the silver medallist from Brazil. Their skills are clearly amazing, and seeing their genuine support and respect for each other was my first 2020 Olympic ‘this is the heart of the event’ moment. And there were more.

I didn’t think it would be possible to be on the edge of my seat during a high jump event, but the men’s competition proved me wrong there. Gianmarco Tamberi from Italy, and Mutaz Barshim from Qatar, shared a gold medal after reaching a tie. Rivals in competition, but friends in life – the excitement from these two when they agreed to share was unreal to watch. It moved so fast that I actually didn’t really understand what was happening at first, so I was grateful for the commentary.

And of course, watching WA’s own Peter Bol run in the 800m final was a highlight. Often referred to as the ‘two-lap sprint’, my son knows just how gruelling this event can be.  Originally from Sudan, Peter did Australia proud coming fourth in the final after being the first Australian to qualify in more than 50 years.

By the time you read this the games will be well and truly over, with the Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games also just coming to a close. Prior to this year’s event, I was sceptical that it should be happening at all – it just didn’t seem right with so much COVID-19 in the air. But actually, it was like a big global hug, watching athletes come together from all over the world to perform at their peak in sport and friendship.

While the stands were almost empty due to the pandemic, for a little while the Olympics brought those of us around the world with access to watch into a space of awe over what felt like the best that sport can give us.

Heather Dowling,

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