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A wonderful challenge: reflections on the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games


The Olympic rings on display in Tokyo Bay to promote the 2020 Summer Olympics. (Photo by Dick Thomas Johnson. Image obtained from Wikimedia Commons ).

It is wonderful what human beings can do when they set their minds to it. The Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games demonstrate that people can achieve admirable achievements, far beyond what we could have imagined, far above the problems caused by natural disasters and the coronavirus pandemic.

Due to COVID-19 protocols, the medals were presented to the athletes on a tray, rather than having them placed around their necks by a dignitary. (Photo by Image obtained from Wikimedia Commons ).

Many times it seems that we cannot achieve what we want. We forget the great value that comes with the process of continuing to try. The path we take to get to what we long for is the most wonderful thing in our lives. All this effort is seen in the organization of these Olympic Games that many of us thought would be impossible to carry out.

In these difficult times, only Japan could have made the Olympic Games a reality with such efficiency, quality and human touch, with the incalculable value of the presence of the athletes who prepared and competed in Tokyo. They all proved to be great winners, with or without medals.

Not all of us can become Olympic athletes, but those who do become valuable role models. They teach by example. They have had a motivation and a clear objective. They have known what they wanted and have worked hard to get it. They have taken care of their bodies and minds with healthy lifestyles. They have trained with discipline, perseverance, a lot of work and a lot of sacrifice. And now more than ever, with a lot of study and a lot of technique.

A good athlete is not born, he is made

Coming to compete well prepared, giving your all, is the demonstration of an athlete's excellence. Know how to compete well, with yourself and with others. Knowing how to win, like Mutaz Essa Barshim, from Qatar, and Gianmarco Tamberi, from Italy, who shared the gold medal by reaching 2.97 meters in the high jump. Knowing how to lose, with sadness in your eyes, but with dignity, as the Russians did when they lost the gold medal to France in volleyball. Knowing how to overcome failures and continue despite them as the Peruvian Angelo Caro did during his skateboard competition. Knowing how to retire when you have to as the young American gymnast Simone Biles did. Knowing how to go beyond injuries and recover to move forward. Never give up.

Personal development, teamwork and mutual trust is seen in team competitions. I marveled at the synchronization, with high quality and grace, in the diving of the Chinese pair and artistic swimming of the Russian team, without underestimating the presentation of the other teams that also did wonderfully.

Olympic sports associated with youth

A young Peruvian-Japanese skateboarder—nephew of the author, Joakin Goto—inspired by the athletics of the Olympic Games.

In these Olympic Games I became interested in watching the surfing and skateboarding competition because of my nephews Hiro and Joakin. It is interesting to see how what we considered a hobby for children and adolescents is considered an Olympic modality.

Skateboarding deserves to be in the Olympic Games. The young people demonstrated that it requires skill and talent, but above all concentration, control and courage, as well as a lot of practice and creativity. With skateboarding, young people show that, if you want and if you can, age should not limit your worth.

And now at the Paris 2024 Olympic Games, young people will be able to marvel at breakdancing.

The author's nephew, Hiro Carreño Nakachi, surfing in Peru.

athlete at school

The Olympics made me remember my days as an “athlete” in Jishuryo and at the María Alvarado school. I don't remember much about my classes, but I do remember the excitement of sports competitions. There should always be physical education in schools.

I can't compare myself to the outstanding Nikkei athletes like Teresa Toyama and Juan Hasegawa who ran in the Pan American Games of that time, but I had the opportunity to compete at the La Unión Stadium. I was able to run in the relay race against Colegio José Gálvez and La Victoria. Jishuryo competed “to the death” with José Gálvez. Sometimes we won and sometimes we lost.

The author and her high school volleyball team.

During the first years of high school I ran for the Santa Beatriz Club and then for Motobu. Our coach was Eichan Maruyama. He picked us up every day at 4 in the morning to go train at the National Stadium and dropped us off at home at 7 am to then go to class. I remember that I always ended up doing the third relay, the curve, which frankly seemed very stressful to me. He couldn't determine how far away the other competitors were.

Eichan taught us that you can be fast, but to run well you have to train. Training with consistency, with discipline, hard work and a lot of sacrifice, improves a person's abilities and chances of competing well. The process of being a good athlete is as important or even more important than winning a medal. The athlete is not born, he is made.

The other teacher who had the most influence on who I am now was Miss Opal Meier, our American coach. Despite my small stature, he promoted my training to join the María Alvarado school athletics team in the sports competitions at the Markham and Roosevelt international schools.

In the volleyball championships against the national schools he made me play as a setter. Yes you can, when you want to, and when there is someone who believes in you and takes the work to make it a reality. I'm sure every athlete in the Olympics has someone like that.

Renowned professional scientists and athletes at Tokyo 2020

Do you know that there are at least seven Olympic athletes who are scientists?

  • American Gabby Thomas is a Harvard neurobiologist and bronze medal sprinter.
  • Charlotte Hym is a neuroscience doctor from France and skateboarder.
  • Hadia Hosny, with a master's degree in biomedicine and member of the Egyptian parliament, competes in badminton.
  • Anna Kiesenhofer, from Austria, is a doctor in mathematics and a gold medal cyclist.
  • Louise Shanahan, from Ireland, is a quantum physics scientist and runner.
  • Nadine Apetz, from Germany, with a master's degree in neuroscience, competed in Olympic boxing.
  • Andrea Murez, from Israel, a biologist and future doctor, excelled in swimming.

These incredible women show that you can be a great professional and a great athlete.

Some final thoughts

The marathon race never ceases to amaze me. It shows what human beings are made of when they set their minds to it. It's not just winning, it's not giving up the race despite the pain and heat, it's being able to reach the finish line, exhausted but satisfied, even if it's in last place. Being able to achieve this must be the most wonderful feeling.

The Olympic Games are the only times, in my opinion, when countries apparently come together, coexist and compete without a war. This shows that it is the rulers who promote conflicts and wars, not their people. We should find ways to make sanctions apply directly to the rulers, and not to their people, who suffer the most from their misguided objectives.

The bouquet of Olympic victory

The image that will last in our memory for a long time will be the athletes on the podium with their medals and their Olympic victory bouquets in their hands. The bouquet has a very special significance. It has eustomas and Solomon's seals from Fukushima, sunflowers from Miyagi, gentians from Iwate and aspidistra from Tokyo. These flowers are grown in areas affected by the Great Earthquake and tsunami that occurred in 2011 in northeastern Japan.

The eustomas of Fukushima represent their hope for reconstruction, the sunflowers come from the slope of a hill in Miyagi planted by the parents of the children who died there while taking refuge from the tsunami, the gentian has the indigo blue color, emblem of the Tokyo Olympic Games , and the dark green aspidistra which is the flower of Tokyo.

Many may not know the feeling and emotion that goes with these bouquets. With this bouquet, Japan expresses its gratitude and recognition to the athletes who, overcoming the major problems of the pandemic, made an effort to reach the Olympic Games in Tokyo and showed the results of their effort and determination. Japan wants to show its joy for what they have achieved, express its gratitude for the effort they have made and share with the athletes the joy of having carried out an Olympic Games that almost everyone thought were impossible, expressing its good wishes for the future .

Having faced the challenge, not just aspiring to achieve it, but working hard and tenaciously to achieve it, can result in something incredibly wonderful. Congratulations to all the athletes and Japan. Thank you for offering us hope, solidarity and some exciting moments of peace.


© 2024 Graciela Nakachi Morimoto

athletics COVID-19 Japan Japanese Peruvians Olympic Games (2020, Tokyo, Japan) Olympics Peru running skateboarding sports
About the Author

Graciela Nakachi Morimoto was born in Huancayo, Peru. At the age of four, her parents decided to live in Lima. She studied at the Jishuryo Japanese Primary School and at the “María Alvarado” secondary school. With a scholarship from Randolph-Macon Woman's College in Virginia (USA), she obtained a Bachelor of Arts (BA) degree with a major in Biology. She studied Human Medicine and Pediatrics at the Universidad Nacional Mayor de San Marcos (UNMSM) and completed a Master's degree at the Universidad Peruana Cayetano Heredia. Fellow in Pediatrics at the University of Kobe, Japan, she worked as a pediatrician at the Policlinico and the Centenario Peruano Japonesa Clinic. She was an intensivist pediatrician in the Pediatric Intensive Care Unit (PICU) and head of the Emergency and Critical Areas Department at the National Institute of Children's Health (INSN) in Lima. She is a Senior Professor at the UNMSM Faculty of Medicine. Fond of reading, music and painting.

Last updated December 2023

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