At extraordinary Olympics, acts of kindness abound

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By Sally Ho | Associated press

TOKYO – A surfer jumping to translate for the rival who had just beaten him. Friends of the high jump agreeing to share a gold medal rather than go to a tiebreaker. Two runners falling into a tangle of legs, then helping each other to the finish line.

In an extraordinary Olympic Games where mental health has been the center of attention, acts of kindness are everywhere. The world’s most competitive athletes have been captured showing gentleness and warmth to each other – celebrating, speaking of encouragement, wiping away tears of disappointment from each other.

Japan’s Kanoa Igarashi was disappointed when he lost to Brazilian Italo Ferreira in their sport’s Olympic debut.

Not only did he miss his shot for gold on the beach where he grew up surfing, but he was also taunted online by racist Brazilian trolls.

The Japanese-American surfer could have simmered in silence, but instead he deployed his knowledge of Portuguese, helping to translate a press conference question for Ferreira onto the world stage.

The crowd laughed as they heard the cross translation and an official thanked the silver medalist for the help.

“Yes, thank you, Kanoa,” said beaming Ferreira, who is learning English.

FILE – In this file photo from August 1, 2021, Gianmarco Tamberi of Italy kisses fellow gold medalist Mutaz Barshim of Qatar after the men’s high jump final at the 2020 Summer Olympics in Tokyo. In an extraordinary Olympic Games where mental health has been the center of attention, acts of kindness are everywhere. The world’s most competitive athletes have been captured showing gentleness and warmth to each other – celebrating, speaking of encouragement, wiping away tears of disappointment from each other. (AP Photo / Matthias Schrader, file)

A few days later, at the Olympic stadium, the Italian Gianmarco Tamberi and the Qatari Mutaz Barshim found themselves in a situation they had spoken of but had never experienced: they were on an equal footing.

Both high jumpers were perfect until the bar was set at the Olympic record height of 2.39 meters (7 feet, 10 inches). Each failed three times.

They could have gone to the dam, but instead decided to share the gold.

“I know for a fact that for the performance I made, I deserve this gold medal. He did the same, so I know he deserved that gold, ”Barshim said. “It’s beyond sport. This is the message we are delivering to the younger generation.

After deciding, Tamberi slapped Barshim’s hand and jumped into his arms.

“Sharing with a friend is even more beautiful,” Tamberi said. “It was just magic.”

Isaiah Jewett of the United States and Nijel Amos, right, of Botswana shake hands after falling in the men’s 800-meter semi-final at the 2020 Summer Olympics on Sunday, August 1, 2021, in Tokyo. (AP Photo / Jae C. Hong)

Earlier on the same track, runners Isaiah Jewett of the United States and Nijel Amos of Botswana got tangled up and fell in the 800m semi-finals. Rather than getting angry, they helped each other up, hugged each other, and ended up together.

Many top athletes know each other personally from their time on the road, which can seem long, focused and intense – marked by career moments that may be the best or the worst of their lives.

These feelings were often magnified during the pandemic-delayed Tokyo Games, where there is an undeniable desire for normalcy and, perhaps, a new appreciation for seeing familiar faces.

Restrictions designed to prevent the spread of COVID-19 have prevented Olympians from mingling as they normally do.

Robin Hendrix of Belgium, left, kisses Hugo Hay of France after their men’s 5,000 meters at the 2020 Summer Olympics on Tuesday, August 3, 2021, in Tokyo. (AP Photo / Petr David Josek)

After a relentless three-set victory in Saturday’s beach volleyball round robin final at Shiokaze Park, Brazilian Rebecca Cavalcanti playfully poured a water bottle over the back of American Kelly Claes as ‘she was doing post-game interviews.

The US team had just beaten Brazil but the winners didn’t care, explaining that they were friends.

“I’m excited when quarantine is over so we can sit at the same table and go to dinner with them. But it’s a bit hard in a bubble because we have to be absent, ”said Sarah Sponcil, Claes teammate.

FILE – In this file photo from July 27, 2021, Carissa Moore of the United States competes in the race for the gold medal in the women’s surf competition at the 2020 Summer Olympics on the beach in Tsurigasaki in Ichinomiya, Japan. The first Olympic gold medalist in surfing, Moore, is the only native Hawaiian surfer at the Games. (AP Photo / Francisco Seco, file)

For her compatriot Carissa Moore, the pandemic and the restrictions that come with it have brought her closer to other surfers.

The reigning world champion said she usually goes to surfing competitions with her husband and dad. But all fans were banned this year, and Moore admitted she struggled without their reassuring presence in the early days of the Games.

Moore had flown to Japan with the U.S. team 10 days before the first round and quickly got used to living in a house with the other surfers, including Caroline Marks, whom Moore considered the woman to beat.

Moore said she didn’t know Marks well before the Tokyo Games, but on the night she was crowned the winner and Marks came fourth, her rival was the first to greet her.

“Having the USA Surf team with me was such a great experience bonding with them,” said Moore. “I feel like I have a whole different family after the last two weeks.”

After last week’s grueling women’s triathlon in Tokyo, Norwegian Lotte Miller, who placed 24, took a moment to give a pep talk to Belgian Claire Michel, inconsolable and slumped to the ground sobbing.

Michel came last, 15 minutes behind winner Flora Duffy of Bermuda – but at least she finished. Fifty-four athletes took the start of the race, but 20 were overtaken or abandoned.

“You are an (expletive) fighter,” Miller told Michel. “It’s the Olympic spirit, and you have it 100%.”


Associated Press reporters Pat Graham, Jimmy Golen and Jim Vertuno contributed. See more pictures.

Stephenie Mcpherson of Jamaica reacts as she is helped off the track following the women’s 400-meter final at the 2020 Summer Olympics on Friday, August 6, 2021, in Tokyo, Japan. (AP Photo / Francisco Seco)
Paula Ruiz Bravo of Spain, left, assists Anastasiia Kirpichnikova of the Russian Olympic Committee after completing the women’s swimming marathon at the 2020 Summer Olympics on Wednesday, August 4, 2021, in Tokyo. (AP Photo / David Goldman)
Mexican Jesus Angulo and teammate Luis Romo comfort Japan’s Takefusa Kubo after their bronze medal soccer match at the 2020 Summer Olympics on Friday August 6, 2021 in Saitama, Japan. (AP Photo / Gregorio Borgia)
Muslim Gadzhimagomedov of the Russian Olympic Committee, right, hugs New Zealander David Nyika after winning the 91kg heavyweight semi-final boxing match at the 2020 Summer Olympics on Tuesday August 3, 2021, in Tokyo, Japan. (AP Photo / Themba Hadebe)
Mohamed Katir of Spain and Paul Chelimo of the United States embrace each other as they finish in a men’s 5,000-meter race at the 2020 Summer Olympics on Tuesday, August 3, 2021, in Tokyo, in Japan. (AP Photo / Martin Meissner)
Belgian Arthur Van Doren comforts Spaniard Josep Romeu Argemi after Belgium won their men’s field hockey match at the 2020 Summer Olympics on Sunday, August 1, 2021, in Tokyo, Japan. (AP Photo / John Locher)
Luca Kozak of Hungary, left, helps Yanique Thompson of Jamaica, center, recover after both fail to complete a women’s 100-meter hurdles semi-final at the 2020 Summer Olympics , Sunday August 1, 2021, in Tokyo, Japan. (AP Photo / Charlie Riedel)
Great Britain’s Leah Julia Wilkinson, left, comforts Indian Deep Grace Ekka after Great Britain won their bronze medal match in women’s field hockey at the 2020 Summer Olympics on Friday August 6, 2021 , in Tokyo, Japan. Great Britain won 4-3. (AP Photo / John Locher)
Egypt’s Mahmoud El Wench, left, helps Brazilian Richarlison to his feet during a men’s quarter-final soccer match at the 2020 Summer Olympics on Saturday, July 31, 2021, in Saitama, Japan. (AP Photo / Silvia Izquierdo)
Laura Muir of Great Britain is kissed by a competitor after her second place finish in the women’s 1,500-meter final at the 2020 Summer Olympics on Friday, August 6, 2021, in Tokyo. (AP Photo / Petr David Josek)
Israeli Alon Leichman, left, and Dominican Julio Rodriguez embrace after a baseball game at the 2020 Summer Olympics on Tuesday, August 3, 2021, in Yokohama, Japan. The Dominican Republic won 7-6. (AP Photo / Matt Slocum)


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