BY TESSA WEBB

For many reasons, Tokyo 2020 has been an Olympics like no other. For a start, there were questions over if it should even go ahead. But once it did, it bought all the drama and more that we have come to expect from the biggest sporting stage in the world. It would be impossible to name all the significant performances, let alone do them justice in my writing, so I want to highlight just three incredible women, who all happened to win bronze and show sport at its best; full of passion, grit, and meaning.

Dame Valerie Adams holds a photo of her children, Kimoana and Kepaleli after winning bronze.
Photo: The NZ Team via Facebook

Dame Valerie Adams has become a New Zealand icon, a consistent black singlet on the podium in a time where the representation of Aotearoa in athletics has been thin on the ground. The definition of longevity, Valerie is one of the only track and field athletes to have reached the World Championships at Youth, Junior, and Senior level, and been awarded seven NZ Sportswoman of the Year titles…in a row! Valerie’s performance in Tokyo was powerful not only in its result but also in the example which it set. “This means so much

more than winning my gold medals,” she said after the bronze. “I just really hope to inspire any athletes out there that if they want to become a mum they can do it and come back and still be at the top of their event.” It remains to be seen if she will be returning to Paris in 2024, but regardless Dame Valerie has already created a legacy of passion and excellence. Furthermore, her time in Tokyo isn’t over; she remains there to coach her sister, fellow shot putter Lisa Adams, at the Paralympics.

Lydia warms up for competition
Photo: The NZ Team via Facebook

Lydia Ko first captured Aotearoa’s attention when she won the LPGA at only 15. She then made her Olympic debut in 2016, where she earned silver. After experiencing meteoric highs at a young age, Lydia changed coaches. The adjustment to her game, coupled with outside criticisms, all while going through the regular struggles of growing up, saw her slip down the rankings. In Tokyo, she stepped up to the challenge despite personal tragedy after the passing of her grandmother earlier in the week. Ko has matured into an athlete who defines success by her criteria and achieves it through performing from a place of joy rather than pressure. “Ranking and results are secondary. They work themselves out. Being in contention and enjoying myself on the golf course is more important to me. I feel like when I’m having fun, I’m able to play better golf.” Lydia said to the New Zealand Herald

“I’m playing with freedom”. Unburned by others’ expectations, it’s so exciting to see her triumph.


Crossing the finish line after the race of her life
Photo: Shuji Kajiyama, The Associated Press

In an unpatriotic turn, I also want to highlight the bronze medal winner of the marathon, the USA’s Molly Seidel. In her first attempt at the Marathon, Molly qualified for the Olympics. The US media relished in sharing her story, emphasizing the fact that she was working as a barista as if she was an amateur who jogged onto the course and outran seasoned professionals. The reality of her story is far more interesting. Molly was a champion of the NCAA and throughout her career struggled with OCD and severe injuries, as well as missing the last Olympic trials to undergo eating disorder treatment. ”There were times where I didn’t know if I was ever going to come back. I remember being in treatment, talking with my therapist, and he was like, “You don’t have to do this anymore. You don’t owe it to anyone”… I remember sitting there thinking, “But I know that I’ve got more in me. I owe it to myself to keep going after this.” she told Meghan Hicks from IRunFar. It turns out, Molly had more in her than most, and in Tokyo, she ran an incredible race to place third in the sweltering heat of Sapporo. Those who have followed her journey celebrated her result for all she had to endure to get there. However, Molly has also shown her appeal to wider olympics

audiences. Her post-race interview where she told her family to “have a beer for her ” charmed sports fans around the world.

These three performances show women who define success differently. Their athleticism has given them a platform, but it is who they are as people that keeps me watching. When athletes like Lydia Ko, Dame Valerie, and Molly Seidel perform, they bring joy and inspiration to those who witness it, making their achievements all the more meaningful.

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