Rooting for the underdogs is always rewarding.
We all know the big names of the Olympics. The gold medalists have returned to the stage but there are some newcomers that we haven’t heard about. Some who have just started in the sport they have won. Whether it’s increased representation at the Games or the addition of new sports, there have been many interesting developments in the games this year. But the true spirit of the Olympic Games has always been about amateurs competing against the giants. Here are some athletes you might not have known about but need a movie to showcase their achievements at the Tokyo 2020 Olympics.
[Hero/Feature Image: Tokyo 2020 via Instagram]
This mathematician turned cyclist pulled off one of the biggest shocks in Olympics history. Anna Kiesenhofer was a novice cyclist only turning pro in 2017. Although she chose to remain an independent cyclist and not join a professional team, she turned heads as she emerged victorious in front of the grand stage.
Representing Austra in the 2020 Tokyo Olympics, this underdog rode solo to the finish line. Kiesenhofer had calculated everything from her nutrition to racing strategy and stuck to her plan. Her name will be one of the books and her story is one to remember.
Another historical Olympic athlete, Hidilyn Diaz, became the Philippines’ first ever Olympic gold medallist. The weightlifter won in the women’s 55 kg category. Diaz placed first above China and Kazakhstan.
Although this win was a win for her, it was also a win for all of the Philipines. This dream is something she worked hard on with the pandemic nearly ruining it for her. Left with nothing to train with, Diaz had to work with what was available. Lifting water bottles on the edge of bamboo sticks, she put in the work and achieved the gold medal.
Hachimura is a professional basketball player currently signed with the Washington Wizards. Though the Japanese basketball team is not one you frequently hear about, he has become the face of this underdog team. Not only that but he had the honour to be one of the flag bearers at the opening event.
The Japanese basketball team has not been sent to the Olympics since the 1970s, and this year marks their first comeback. There is an immense amount of pressure to take part in an Olympics event and could take a toll on one’s mental health. But Hachimura rose to the occasion while each player on the team carried one another. Though they were defeated by Slovenia, we will still be watching the other games just to see where this athlete ends up.
Representing the Olympic Refugee Team this swimmer fell in love with the sport that saved her life. The story of her fight and her survival alongside her family has captured the hearts of many. Mardini’s family left Syria in an overcrowded and broken dinghy. She and her sister got out on each side of the boat and swam for hours on end until they made it to the Greek island of Lesbos. They walked for days until they reached Germany, their current country of residence.
Mardini first made an appearance at the Rio 2016 Olympics and this year became the flag bearer for the Refugee Olympic Team. She is changing the world as a UNHCR Goodwill Ambassador. In this year’s Tokyo 2020 Olympics she swam in the women’s 100m butterfly. This year she placed 3rd, winning a bronze medal but we know she’ll be back for gold.