The Tokyo Olympics was exactly what the world needed to give everyone a glimmer of hope, inspiration, reason for celebration or a distraction from the daily COVID grind. Neither the virus or the empty seats were going to stop the amazing athletes from giving it their best and take a shot at Olympic glory.
Apart from a spectacular show of the human spirit, sportsmanship, friendship, and unity, personally it was the back stories of these incredible individuals that touched me most. There is a saying in Chinese “One minute on stage is 10 years of effort behind the scenes” and this is no better exemplified than at the Olympics.
Behind all the breath-holding wins, personal bests, Olympic and World records is countless hours of practice, sacrifice, heartbreak, and setbacks.
Hidilyn Diaz, Gold Medallist Women’s Weightlifting 55 kg
Diaz won the first ever Olympic Gold for Philippines with a clean and jerk of 124 kg and then lifting 127 kg, setting an Olympic record in the women’s weightlifting 55 kg at the Tokyo Olympics.
This result was 13 years in the making. As a promising 17 year old, Diaz debuted in her first Olympics in Beijing 2008 where she finished 11th. In London 2012, a devastating DNF (Did Not Finish) after three failed attempts was a massive disappointment, and led to question her athletic career.
Fortunately, through hard work and perseverance, fighting back a swamp of criticism and a major injury, she picked herself up and won Silver in the women’s weightlifting 53 kg category in Rio 2016, making her the first Filipino women ever to win an Olympic medal.
Before her victory in Tokyo, Diaz was stuck with Malaysia with her team, away from her family, for months due to COVID lockdowns. There she had no gym to practice in but that wasn’t going to stop her. She improvised and created lifting sets out of jugs of water and bamboo sticks!
Quan Hongchan, Gold Medallist Women’s 10m platform
Having just turned 14, the minimum age for Diving, Quan Hongchan is the newest diving sensation after winning the 10m platform gold in Tokyo – her first major international competition mind you.
Delivering three perfect-10 dives, her performance was nothing short of astonishing. Not only did she win Gold, she broke the last Olympic record by a decisive 18.5 points set in 2008, finishing with an overall score of 466.2 points, all at such a tender age.
Quan comes from a humble, rural family in China. Her mother was involved in a traffic accident and suffered a serious injury. Her family has had to spend all their savings to treat her and in interviews, Quan mentioned that making more money to treat her mother’s illness was her motivation for diving.
Since joining the provincial team in 2018, Quan spends most of her time at her sports boarding school, doing 120 dives a day and is only able to visit home twice a year. With no money to spare, she has never been to amusement parks or zoos.
Quan’s story apart from proving once again practice makes perfect, is a good reminder to kids to be grateful and appreciate what they have.
The Olympics is full of inspiring stories, many of which represents important life lessons that every child and every adult should learn and be reminded of. Here are our top 5:
#1 Believe in yourself
Don’t get stuck in a fixed mindset. Instead remain positive, dream big and believe that you have the potential to achieve your goals. Treat failures and setback as a learning experiencing, something to prepare you for future successes.
#2 Success means not giving up
Ask any Olympic athletes and they can all probably tell you something about the sacrifices they’ve had to make, injuries they’ve endured or moments of self-doubt to eventually get to the Olympics. A feat not possible if they had given up.
Not giving up however doesn’t mean repeating the same thing in the same way repeatedly. Albert Einstein defined insanity as “doing the same thing, over and over again, but expecting different results”. Diaz, Quan and fellow athletes don’t stop learning from their experiences and are determined to continually refine their skills and techniques to improve themselves.
#3 Planning and preparation
The race for Gold may be over in 9.80 seconds (just enough to tie one shoelace for the average person) but it was years of preparation and planning that got the athlete there. It was no accident. So set your goals and plan deliberately to make achieving it attainable.
#4 Learn to handle victory and defeat with grace
There are only three winning medals in the Olympics. And for many life situations, there too can only be one winner. There is only one vacant job position, one scholarship or one lead role in the school musical. Losing is no shame when you have given it your best and both accepting victory and defeat with grace is an important lesson.
When Chen Long, the reigning men’s badminton singles Gold medallist from Rio lost to Viktor Axelsen, they congratulated each other and exchanged t-shirts – a classy example of great sportsmanship.
Even if the athletes are competing in an individual sport, there is an entire entourage that supports them, coaches, physical trainers, medical staff, sponsors, family members. It is important to recognise their support.
Ariarne Titmus’ coach Dean Boxall is a prime example of how invested a coach is in their athlete’s success. He became an ‘instant icon’ after his wild celebration when she won Gold in the women’s 400m freestyle.
The CEO may be the one getting the praises from shareholders when the business reports a record profit year, but a true leader knows that he/she couldn’t have done it alone, it took exceptional teamwork.
We’ll have to wait till 2024 for the next Olympics in Paris but don’t delay teaching your kids these valuable life lessons. Just like the Olympics athletes, we all need courage, persistence, and resilience to turn our dreams into reality. Last but not least, thank you Tokyo, organisers, volunteers and athletes, for being a beacon of light during difficult times.
Don't forget to give this article a like if you enjoyed reading it and sign up to Likable's mailing list so you never miss a new post + you'll get 5% off your first order!