First Take: Tokyo Olympics 2020
Photo Credit: teamusa.org
The Olympics just finished up (Raise your hand if you watched!), but we at Ready, Set, Gold! were curious about how the Olympics went for our athletes. So we chatted with Olympic artistic swimmer Anita Alvarez about her experience including what her favorite part was!
- First, let’s talk about having fun! What was your absolute favorite part of the Olympics?
I think my favorite part was probably the whole atmosphere of the Olympic Village and just the idea that, after such a difficult year and a half, the whole world was now coming together, and we were uniting through sport (which was pretty powerful)! Every athlete there had gone through different challenges and struggles during this time. From all over the world, all different cultures and backgrounds, yet we were there, TOGETHER.
It is also really cool just to see the variety of athletes. All different shapes and sizes, all different personalities/styles from sport to sport, yet we are all there in the same place and each and every person you see, walk past, talk to…is the BEST in their sport and country. INSANE!
- What was it like not having any spectators present, and how do you feel it affected your performance?
This is one thing about the Olympics that I was most surprised by! I didn’t expect it to be that weird since we as athletes train day in and day out without spectators. We train when nobody knows we are training, and we practice “performing” our routines to empty stadium chairs and poolside walls every day! The strangest part for me was the 30 or so seconds before our routine began. Walking out on the stage as the only two swimmers from the US there, (no remaining team members to be chanting “U-S-A, U-S-A, U-S-A” from the stands), being able to hear ourselves count our steps and pre-music moves/setup was a little intimidating! I felt like I (and everyone else) could hear myself quietly breathing as we were holding our first pose before the loud music started. It almost didn’t feel like I was about to dive in and compete in the Olympic Games…but then I’d look up and realize the massive cameras were still everywhere moving all over in front, behind, to the side and up above me, and I was staring and the Olympic Rings displayed all over the pool!
Luckily for our sport, even though we don’t have any spectators in the stands, we are still performing for judges who will then score and rank us. So at least we could still swim and try and connect with that “audience” directly in front of us.
All in all…once we dove in and began swimming our routines, you don’t really think about, or notice, those things and the fact that not having an audience there completely slipped my mind!
- How did COVID change your expectations of the Olympics?
There was a lot of talk about how these games would not be the Olympics we all knew (mostly if this was not our first time around and we had something to compare it to) just because of COVID protocols and being limited to what we can actually do and experience there. I preferred to go in open minded and with no expectations for the event. It was for sure going to be a different experience, but that is what made it cool and exciting! Being a part of an Olympic Games like NO OTHER was going to be extremely special and unique, and I was honestly looking forward to just that!
Of course, there was a whole new level of safety measures and precautions that we needed to have while there, but I had been living life like that for over a year at that point, so it wasn’t that new for me. I tried not to have any big expectations for these Olympics, but rather just be present and aware of everything I was immersed in, and was going on around me, and embracing/enjoying 100% of the experience. Because in the end…this will be an Olympic Games that goes down in history, and I felt beyond lucky to be right on the inside of that.
- If you could change anything about your experience at the Olympics, what would it be, and why?
Honestly, I wouldn’t change much of anything. I am extremely grateful for having this opportunity at all and appreciate every second I got to spend there…good or bad! If I had the chance to change anything, it would only be to have been able to be in Japan and the Olympic village for longer than we were. We had about 8 or 9 days there, which were primarily spent training/competing, so there wasn’t much time to relax and enjoy everything around us once the pressure and stress was off.
The other thing I would change is to be able to go watch other sports/events. At these games we weren’t able to get tickets to other events, and our credentials didn’t allow us to get on buses to other venues other than our own. We were fortunate though to share a venue with swimming and diving, so we could go and watch those events!
Oh! One more thing is that I wish my parents/family were able to travel to Japan and watch me compete live like they were able to do in Rio. They have supported me so much in my Olympic journey, and, just like the reward of all of my hand work is being to compete in the Olympics, I believe they deserve the Olympic experience as well (for all of their time, energy and dedication put in to helping me get there).
- Did you like the opening or closing ceremony better? Tell us one thing you would love to see added to it!
Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to walk in opening or closing ceremonies this year! Our competition fell in the middle-end, and we had to leave Japan within 48 hours of competing! I also didn’t get to participate in the opening ceremonies in Rio in 2016. It is still a dream of mine to walk the tunnel into the stadium with the massive Team USA delegation. Fingers crossed for Paris 2024!
Anita, thank you so much for chatting with us! We love your energy and are so happy you had such an amazing Olympic experience!
It’s always great seeing countries unite and watching world-class athletes compete in so many different sports (even new and exciting ones like skateboarding)! The Summer Olympics will be back in four years (which, when you think about it, isn’t that long). It’ll be fun to start thinking about which Ready, Set, Gold! athletes will be participating!
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