Tokyo 2020: When pocketing the silver medal was not the right thing to do

For Team Great Britain boxer Ben Whittaker there was no joy in winning a silver medal. Covid-19 protocols dictate that each medal is brought to the winners on a tray and then the athlete wears it around the neck themselves. But the 24-year-old, who lost the men’s light heavyweight boxing final at the Kokugikan Arena to 2016 Rio champion Arlen Lopez of Cuba, stored the silver medal in his pocket rather than place it around his neck. The disappointment of losing the final in a split decision weighed more than the joy of achieving something not many get to do – standing on an Olympic podium, a glittering medal around the neck, as the national flag is hoisted a short distance away. He later realised what he missed.

“I was doing it for everybody at home and I felt like a failure. At the time, I should have put this beautiful silver medal around my neck and smiled because this is not just for me, it’s for the country,” he said to reporters after the match, the silver medal glistening from around his neck during the interaction.

“Please accept that I wasn’t trying to be disrespectful to anyone. I wasn’t trying to take the shine away from Arlen’s moment, but it hurt me so deep, and I felt so embarrassed. I will look back on it later and think ‘what was I doing?’ When I look back in a few years, it will probably feel like a great achievement, but I was so upset that I couldn’t enjoy it.”

The 24-year-old, who stands at a commanding 6-foot-3, tried to use his reach to jab and keep Lopez at bay. But the Cuban, who was aiming to defend his title, brought his experience to the fore. This was a loss the Brit will remember, but for the right reasons – becoming an Olympic medallist. But it’s clear – through a quick glance of his social media account – that he doesn’t forget the losses very easily. His September 2019 pinned tweet, posted after his third-place finish at the World Championships says, “Bronze Medal, not satisfied and very disappointed but it will make me hungrier for Tokyo.”

Mao at Tokyo

Mao Zedong, the late Chinese leader, made an appearance at the Olympics, via pins worn by two Chinese cyclists. The red and gold pins with the silhouette of Mao worn in the medal ceremony has triggered the International Olympic Committee to investigate a potential breach of regulations. The badges are a potential violation of Rule 50 of the Olympic charter, which bans “political, religious or racial propaganda” at Olympic venues.

The pins that once were the omnipresent symbols of Mao’s three-decade rule were on the track suits of the cyclists, Bao Shanju and Zhong Tianshi. Mark Adams, an I.O.C. spokesman, said that the committee had asked China’s Olympic delegation to explain the incident.

“They have also assured us already that this will not happen again,” Mr. Adams said. During his rule, Mao had used sports, and in particular swimming, as a political tool. “Swimming is fighting against nature. Toughen yourself up in the rivers and sea,” Mao reportedly said. He had been advocating sports since he was young. Now, 45 years after his death, Mao is still causing ripples in the most international sports tournament of them all.

Sleep-watching Harry Porter

In the early days of his international career, 200m gold medallist Andre de Grasse was an insomniac. He tried every trick in the book, including counting numbers backward to coax sleep. He could not. He then sought over-the-counter magnesium pills to relax his mind and body. But of late, he has fished a more natural, healthier way—to watch something light on Netflix. “Just something light, with not much action because that will stimulate my mind too much. I just try to watch something that’s boring that I’ll fall asleep to, that has a lot of talking,” he told Complex CA, a Canadian magazine. None that puts him to sleep more often than Harry Porter, though. “No offense to Harry Potter—it is a good movie, I love it—but sometimes it has a lot of talking. The movie’s like three hours long, and then sometimes there’s a lot of talking, so that helps me fall asleep,” he says.

Saunders bereaved

A day after Raven Saunders won a silver medal in the shot put, her mother died. She was at an Olympic watch party in Orlando. The mother had spoken to Raven, who in the past has gone through depression with suicidal thoughts. The death has resulted in the International Olympic Committee pausing its investigation into Saunder’s podium demonstration. “The IOC obviously extends its condolences to Raven and her family,” IOC spokesman Mark Adams said Wednesday. “Given these circumstances, the process at the moment is fully suspended.”



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