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Sport Heroes transcend gold medals: The power of kindness displayed at the Tokyo Olympics

03:40  25 october  2021
03:40  25 october  2021 Source:   usatoday.com

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There is much more to the Olympics than gold medals, global fame and cutthroat competition. 

Athletes from all over the world are displaying ultimate acts of kindness, from sharing accomplishments to giving each other pep talks to crossing the finish line together.

These moments, which have not only been captured by the spectators of the show, are also being embraced by those on the stage themselves.

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As talks about mental health have circulated among the athletes, so have opportunities to uplift each other during the stressful times at the Tokyo Olympics.

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Here are some powerful acts of kindness displayed by athletes:

US and Botswana runners walk across finish line together after fall 

a man and a woman walking on the court: Isaiah Jewett, of the United States, and Nijel Amos, right, of Botswana, shake hands after falling in the men's 800-meter semifinal at the 2020 Summer Olympics, Sunday, Aug. 1, 2021, in Tokyo. (AP Photo/Jae C. Hong) ORG XMIT: OATH669 © Jae C. Hong, AP Isaiah Jewett, of the United States, and Nijel Amos, right, of Botswana, shake hands after falling in the men's 800-meter semifinal at the 2020 Summer Olympics, Sunday, Aug. 1, 2021, in Tokyo. (AP Photo/Jae C. Hong) ORG XMIT: OATH669

American runner Isaiah Jewett took a deep breath. Entering the final curb of the men's 800-meter semifinal race, determined to finish in the top two and make it to the finals, he was in a prime position to achieve his goal.

"I took a deep breath, I was like 'Okay, there's opportunity to do this. Let's do this,'" Jewett told USA TODAY. 

That is when the unexpected happened. When Jewett got to the turn, Botswana runner Nijel Amos tripped him from behind. 

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"It was shocking at first because I didn't even believe it was me even though I was on the ground. I was like, 'Wait, what just happened?'", Jewett said. "I felt so upset."

For Jewett though, showing good sportsmanship was far more important than winning a medal. Growing up, he was exposed to the world of anime, which he says taught him valuable lessons such as never giving up and always finishing a race.

His Instagram bio has the motto "#1 Hyperactive Knucklehead Ninja," a reference to the popular anime show "Naruto." In one episode, Naruto throws his arm around his friend Sasuke to help him walk. 

Mutaz Essa Barshim talking on a cell phone: Mutaz Essa Barshim (QAT) and Gianmarco Tamberi (ITA) share the gold medal men's high jump on August 2, 2021, during the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Summer Games at Olympic Stadium. © Kirby Lee, USA TODAY Sports Mutaz Essa Barshim (QAT) and Gianmarco Tamberi (ITA) share the gold medal men's high jump on August 2, 2021, during the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Summer Games at Olympic Stadium.

That is exactly what Jewett did with Amos.

"I just saw that he was devastated, and I immediately shut off how I was feeling. I know I couldn't help him in any way but I wanted to help the best way I could. and I feel like that's what heroes do," Jewett said.

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After the trip, Jewett got up and helped Amos to his feet. Amos apologized for his mistake, and Jewett put his arm around his competitor. 

"Hey man, let's, let's finish this race, we're not done yet. Let's finish it together," Jewett told Amos.

Together, they crossed the finish line.

"It's okay to have rivals but it's also important to show sportsmanship. It's also important to show that you're a hero. That's the way you show your hero by picking each other up and finishing the race together," Jewett said. "We'll get another battle, yes, but it's also important to finish what we started, and helping each other out along the way."

High jump athletes share gold medal 

Qatar's Essa Barshim and Italy's Gianmarco Tamberi had been friends for more than a decade after meeting at the world junior championships in Moncton, New Brunswick, in 2010. They were more than just friends though; they were each other's support system.

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"We keep in touch a lot," added Tamberi. "We call each other a lot – every 10 days, something like that."

It was no surprise that when these two competitors were on the field of the men's high jump at the Tokyo Olympics, they were thinking of each other in one of the two events at the Olympics where athletes can tie.

Barshim and Tamberi both cleared 7 feet, 9 1/4 inches during the race and happened to fall short of clearing the same height, on the same number of attempts. 

"If no jump-off is carried out, including where the relevant athletes at any stage decide not to jump further, the tie for first place shall remain," reads Rule 26.8.4 of the technical rules for World Athletics, the international governing body for track and field.

Barshim and Tamberi decided to share the gold medal, hoping that their sportsmanship shows the world that sports doesn't have to be cutthroat. 

“I know for a fact that for the performance I did, I deserve that gold. He did the same thing, so I know he deserved that gold,” Barshim told the Associated Press. “This is beyond sport. This is the message we deliver to the young generation.”

Japanese surfer helps translate question for competitor 

a man and a woman standing in front of a cloudy sky: Brazil's Italo Ferreira, center, gold medal, Japan's Kanoa Igarashi, right, silver medal, and Australia's Owen Wright, bronze medal, pose for photographers in the men's surfing competition at the 2020 Summer Olympics, Tuesday, July 27, 2021, at Tsurigasaki beach in Ichinomiya, Japan. © Francisco Seco, AP Brazil's Italo Ferreira, center, gold medal, Japan's Kanoa Igarashi, right, silver medal, and Australia's Owen Wright, bronze medal, pose for photographers in the men's surfing competition at the 2020 Summer Olympics, Tuesday, July 27, 2021, at Tsurigasaki beach in Ichinomiya, Japan.

Kanoa Igarashi of Japan made history when he became one of the first athletes to receive a medal in surfing which made its official debut at the Tokyo Olympics.

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Igarashi was aiming for gold, but ended up getting silver instead, losing to Brazilian surfer Italo Ferreira on the beach where Igarashi grew up surfing.

But on the world stage, where Igarashi could have said nothing at all, he decided to use his knowledge of Portuguese to translate a question asked by an official to Ferreira. 

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

The official also thanked Igarashi for his help.

'This is Olympic spirit' 

a person sitting on a bed: Claire Michel of Belgium is assisted by Lotte Miller of Norway on July 27, 2021, after the finish of the women's individual triathlon competition at the 2020 Summer Olympics, in Tokyo, Japan. In an extraordinary Olympic Games where mental health has been front and center, acts of kindness are everywhere. The world’s most competitive athletes have been captured showing gentleness and warmth to one another — celebrating, pep-talking, wiping away each another’s tears of disappointment. © David Goldman, AP Claire Michel of Belgium is assisted by Lotte Miller of Norway on July 27, 2021, after the finish of the women's individual triathlon competition at the 2020 Summer Olympics, in Tokyo, Japan. In an extraordinary Olympic Games where mental health has been front and center, acts of kindness are everywhere. The world’s most competitive athletes have been captured showing gentleness and warmth to one another — celebrating, pep-talking, wiping away each another’s tears of disappointment.

Norwegian athlete Lotte Miller crossed the finish line to the women's individual triathlon competition, and feeling fatigued, sat down on the bench with a couple of other competitors.

On the big screen in front of her,  Miller saw Belgium athlete Claire Michel, who was in last place, trying to finish the race.

"My heart just sank. I really, I could just kind of feel the pain and the frustration, and she was in between smiling and on the verge of tears," Miller told USA TODAY. "And she was a couple of 100 meters off the finish line, and she was walking trying to run, and obviously just really fighting to get to the finish line."

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Miller says that she was talking with the other racers about how amazing Michel was in finishing the race.

"Wow, what an amazing woman. You know the way she's doing this, it's giving us goosebumps because she could obviously just have, you know, quit the race, but she decided not to and that was a really big accomplishment," Miller said. "Because what she was doing, she was doing it for herself."

When Michel broke down in devastation after finishing the race, Miller said she automatically went into care mode, wanting to give a hug to Michel. Miller says Michel has had a tough couple of years, including having a knee injury. 

"This was a fight, just get to the Olympics, and she's fought so hard the last couple of years, and we've all noticed it. Everyone that's around her and that you know has been a part of the sport, knows what she's been through," Miller said. 

"And also the fact that the Olympic spirit is all about, you know, perseverance through the tough times. And also the fact that she does care so much about others."

"This is Olympic spirit, and you've got it 100%," Miller told Michel.

Contributing: Tom Schad of USA TODAY, Associated Press

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Heroes transcend gold medals: The power of kindness displayed at the Tokyo Olympics

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