When Sha’Carri Richardson was disqualified from competing in the 100 meters at the Olympics in Tokyo because she smoked weed to cope with a loss in the family, the backlash was widespread.
How dare this Olympics – already marred for a variety of reasons – whack itself in the foot again by robbing this year’s Games of a charismatic personality that American (and international) viewers would have fell in love with.
Not only that, but another of the planet’s most recognizable sports personalities also announced prior to the flame being lit on Tokyo’s Olympic cauldron that she too would not travel to Japan for the Games.
Liz Cambage announced prior to the start of this year’s Olympics that she would not travel with the rest of the Australian Opals to Japan in an effort, she says to protect her mental health. Cambage mentioned that with coronavirus cases on the rise again and the entire Games being played in a fanless bubble that this was the decision she came to.
In Cambage’s case, her announcement came on the heels of Basketball Australia looking into an altercation that occurred between her and Nigerian players in an exhibition matchup prior to the Tokyo Olympics.
Recently, an earth-shattering announcement occurred involving Simone Biles when she announced that she would be pulling out of the women’s team gymnastics final. The official reason given for why Biles is pulling out is for a medical reason, but everyone understands that she needs time to herself to get herself right mentally.
Biles is doing the same thing that Naomi Osaka did when she pulled out of the French Open because she did not want to be subjected to mindless, probing questions from a press that probably spends more time watching football highlights in one day than it does tennis highlights in one year.
As much as we laud the athletes that make it to the Olympics every few years, we must remember that there is still a human being that just happens to perform very athletic acts. That is what Osaka reminded us of and what Biles is reminding us of again.
We are only in the first few days of these Olympic Games and Tokyo 202(1) is already looking like it will finish off of the medal stand. The Japanese people were not keen on hosting these Olympics in the middle of a pandemic and with spectators absent from venues, our guess is they are especially unhappy now about still having to play gracious hosts to a very expensive two-week party they are unable to even attend.
Let us not even get started about how draconian NBC is in treating Olympic highlights like secret government codes. Let us not even get started about how Tokyo’s Olympics has a much more bland “Look of the Games” than did Rio five years ago and even London’s back in 2012. Let us not even get into how enthusiasm for the Olympics is very low because the world is less concerned about beating Korea in table tennis and more concerned about beating Covid-19 at … well, everything.
There will be unforgettable moments that come out of these Olympics as there are at every Games. And for the next two weeks, many of us will forget how much of a debacle Tokyo’s Games are because we will be neck deep in Olympic events. But in a sense, Cambage and Richardson may have won the Olympics without having to set one sneaker in Japan because they are not dealing with all of the mess surrounding these Games.
Biles, as was the case with Osaka and as was the case with Cambage, do not owe us any explanation. But perhaps missing out on these Olympics as was the case with Cambage and Richardson was not the worst of things. After all, are Olympians even paid for their efforts at the Olympics?
We become heartbroken when we hear news like what is happening with Biles – or what happened to Richardson or what happened with Cambage. Why? Because the Olympians are the best part of the Olympics – unlike those in suits who think they are bigger than those athletes people actually tune in to see.
Maybe we should feel for those athletes still competing in Tokyo – because it appears Cambage, Richardson and others may have simply dodged being role players in this year’s episode of the five-ring circus.
An episode that has a very sinister antagonist in the form of coronavirus.