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Archive for July 25, 2021

July 25, 2021 — The upside-down Olympics

So, thus far, this has happened at the Games of the 31st Olympiad in Tokyo:

  • Two of the best men’s golfers in the world, Jon Rahm and Bryson DeChambeau, have withdrawn from the Olympics because of positive COVID-19 tests.
  • Ashleigh Barty, the world’s best female tennis player, lost her first-round singles match.
  • The U.S. women’s soccer team, your current FIFA World Cup champions, lost their first pool match 3-0 to Sweden.
  • The U.S. men’s basketball team was defeated by France in their opening game this morning.
  • Ahmed Hafnaoui, who was a Lane 8 qualifier for the 400-meter freestyle, won the race.
  • Simone Biles, widely regarded as the finest gymnast in history, failed to qualify in the uneven parallel bars after today’s preliminary exercises.

There’s been so many topsy-turvy developments in the first few days of these games, it’s not even a shock that the Argentina women’s field hockey team lost 3-0 to New Zealand, despite the fact that these teams are five teams apart in world rankings.

For athletes in these Games, the challenge isn’t just the physical, trying to be fastest in a pool or a track, or being able to put a ball into a goal or a basket. The challenge here is mental, trying to win contests in front of no paying customers, with a pared-down support staff, and no families — even young children.

It’s already gotten to be too much for some athletes, including a Paralympic swimmer named Becca Meyers. She has decided to opt out of next month’s Paralympics because the deaf and blind swimmer wouldn’t be able to bring along her mother, who is her primary caregiver.

The denial for accommodation has gotten the attention of some disability rights activists and even members of Congress.

“Athletes with disabilities are able to compete in a setting like the Paralympics because of personal care assistants,” Meyers says. “They help us navigate these foreign venues, from the pool deck, athlete check-in to finding where we can eat. But the biggest support they provide athletes like myself is giving us the ability to trust our surroundings – to feel at home for the short time we’re in this new, unfamiliar environment. I have repeatedly been told that I do not need my PCA whom I know and trust.”

I have a feeling stories like this will multiply, as well as the unexpected results of events in both the Olympics and Paralympics.