Skip to main content

Tokyo Olympics Recap: Top Inspirational Moments of the Games

After more than a year-long delay, the much-anticipated Tokyo Olympics proved to be worth the wait. The Games delivered inspiring moments, incredible athletic feats, and unforgettable performances. For some athletes, the Tokyo Olympics served as the main stage where they could finally demonstrate years of hard work and training. For others, it allowed them to realize a childhood dream. Above all, the Olympics shows the world how to come together, persevere, and succeed no matter the outcome. Here is a look back on some of the moments from the Tokyo Olympics that will be in the minds of fans for weeks to come.

Molly Seidel’s childhood Olympic dreams come true

Team USA marathoner Molly Seidel won the bronze medal in the Tokyo Olympics marathon. She is the first American woman to podium at this event since Deena Kastor won bronze in 2004, and to top it off, it was only her third marathon ever! She stunned running greats like Des Linden, who know first-hand how difficult it is to succeed in the marathon with such little race experience. Molly surprised the world with her performance in the event given her lack of marathon training, but she showed everyone that determination and the will to win can carry anyone to the finish line! Seidel seemed to have an unbreakable mindset from an early age too, proving that it is never too early to start dreaming big!


A gold-medal-worthy group hug

Skateboarding made its Olympic debut in Tokyo and delivered masterful performances, particularly from young athletes. Thirteen-year-old Momiji Nishyia of Japan took home the gold during the women’s street event, making her one of the youngest athletes to win an Olympic gold medal. British skateboarding sensation Sky Brown also won bronze in the women’s park event at 13-years-old, rounding out an all-teenage podium.

Our favorite moment, though, was an incredible display of sportsmanship: Japan’s Misugu Okamoto fell on her final run but was immediately embraced by her fellow competitors. Moments like these remind us that sports, and the Olympics, are about coming together and supporting one another.


Young superstar Erriyon Knighton shines in the 200m

All eyes were on Erriyon Knighton in the men’s 200m qualifying heats at the Tokyo Olympics. After incredible races during the U.S. Track & Field trials, including two in which he bested favorite Noah Lyles, it was clear that Knighton was a young underdog to look out for. He cruised through his qualifying heats in the 200m to secure his spot in the final and ultimately landed just outside the podium in 4th place. Not bad for a 17-year-old!

He’ll undoubtedly be one to watch in Paris 2024.


Athing Mu wins the 800m for the first time in half a century

Team USA’s Athing Mu dominated the 800m event at the Tokyo Olympics from the very start. At just 19 years old, she led just about every qualifying race and flew through to the final. She flew to her first Olympic gold medal and broke an American record in the process with a time of 1:55.21, beating Ajee Wilson’s 2017 record by four-tenths of a second!

Her win gave Team USA its first gold medal in the 800m event in 53 years. Madeline Manning-Mims, the former champion from 1968, was eager to give Mu her crown.

Mu's family was even able to watch live as she ran her historic gold-medal race, and their reaction makes the moment even more priceless!

And Mu wasn’t done after the 800m event: she joined the 4x400m relay “dream team” of Sydney McLaughlin, Allyson Felix, and Dalilah Muhammad to close out her first Olympics with a second gold medal.

One gold medal with two times the fun

After a men’s high jump final that was nothing short of impressive, two men were left vying for the gold medal position. Mutaz Essa Barshim of Qatar and Gianmarco Tamberi of Italy were about to take part in a jump-off to decide the gold when the officials granted Barshim’s request for the two athletes to share the gold medal. Tamberi was delighted, and the stunning moment of sportsmanship was capped off with two incredibly emotional gold medal celebrations.


Nicola McDermott writes her Olympic dream into existence

Australian high jumper Nicola McDermott won silver at the Tokyo Olympics after clearing a personal best and breaking an Australian record height of 2.02m. Viewers may have noticed McDermott writing in a notebook after each attempt. She shared with fans that she writes down how each jump feels, what techniques she can improve on for the next attempt, and she gives an overall rating of each jump.

McDermott has combined writing with her love of high jump for a long time too. An old poem of McDermott’s resurfaced in which she details her childhood dream of becoming an Olympian. Nine-year-old McDermott would be so proud to know her artful words became a reality!


Lydia Jacoby is Alaska’s first Olympic swimming champion

Perhaps the biggest underdog story of the Tokyo Olympics was 17-year-old Lydia Jacoby. Jacoby won gold in the 100m breaststroke in a field that included defending Olympic champion and world-record holder Lilly King and 200m breaststroke gold medalist Tatjana Schoenmaker of South Africa. After a powerful surge to the finish, even Jacoby herself was surprised to look up at the scoreboard and see her name in the gold-medal position. 

Jacoby entered the Tokyo Olympics as the first swimmer from Alaska to ever qualify for the Olympic Games. She left as the first Alaskan to win gold in swimming. Jacoby’s hometown of Seward, Alaska erupted with pride over her gold-medal race, making her winning moment that much sweeter.


Xander Schauffele carries out his dad’s Olympic dream of gold

Xander Schauffele’s Olympic dream didn’t begin in childhood, nor did it develop during the early stages of his golf career. Instead, it started with his father, whose own dreams of winning Olympic gold were stripped away suddenly after a car accident. After a strong second-round, Shauffele entered the final round as a medal contender and held on in a tight battle to clinch the gold by one stroke.

He dedicated his gold to his father in an emotional and heartfelt interview, making his victory even more special.


USA Gymnastics displays ultimate resilience in unforgettable Olympic performances

Perhaps one of the most compelling stories from the Tokyo Olympics revolved around the Team USA women’s gymnastics team. After some missteps in the team all-around event, gold-medal favorite Simone Biles announced that she would step out of the competition out of concerns for her own safety as well as the medal chances of the rest of her team. The women pulled through despite the loss of Biles and ended up winning silver in the event.

Not only did Biles miss the all-around event, but she also ended up not competing in her other highly anticipated individual events: vault, floor, and uneven bars. Instead, she took the time to regroup, deciding to focus on and advocate for mental health while cheering on her teammates as they continued competition.

Despite the disappointment of Biles stepping back from the events at the Tokyo Olympics, she opened up the door for her teammates to shine. MyKayla Skinner, who fell short of qualification for any individual events, was able to take Biles’ place in the vault apparatus and won silver in an incredible comeback story.

Jade Carey had an impressive comeback of her own. After stumbling during the vault event, she put on the performance of her career to win gold in the floor exercise. The golden moment was made even more special when Carey got to share the emotions in real-time with her dad (who is also her coach!).

Perhaps the brightest star was Suni Lee. Suni shined in the individual all-around event, with astounding performances on the uneven bars, beam, and floor to win Olympic gold. A lot of pressure was put on Suni after Biles announced her departure, but she certainly rose to the occasion. She also shared her emotional winning moment with her dad, who was instrumental in her gymnastics journey.


Biles did make a triumphant return to the Tokyo Olympics stage, winning bronze in the balance beam final. Her performance in Tokyo was an incredible symbol of strength and perseverance, and it stands out as one of the best moments of the Olympic Games.

If you can see her, you can be her

The women of Team USA won an impressive 66 of the United States’ 113 total medals. Their performances were strong, thrilling, and inspiring, and there were many moments in which the athletes took the time to remind young female athletes that anything is possible. USA Softball legend, Cat Osterman, wanted all young girls watching her silver medal game to never stop dreaming.


A post shared by On Her Turf (@onherturf)


Tamyra Mensah-Stock made Olympic history in wrestling, becoming the first black female to win a gold medal in the sport. Her win was made even more meaningful when she realized what it meant for other young girls like her who aspire to Olympic greatness.

We know these amazing women have inspired so many young athletes to go after their dreams, and we hope to see those hopefuls in the future Olympic Games!

Did the Tokyo Olympics inspire you or your child to try a new sport? SportsEngine has all the tools you need to get started on your sports journey. Find the perfect club, league, clinic, or camp for you here.

Tags in this article

2020 Summer Olympics SportsEngine