Welcome to the latest edition of The Journal. This time around, we have an all women edition with a diverse range of topics in store. Frances Cowell addresses the right to vote and why so many wish to curtail it. Elina Morhunova is talking future energy sources and how we can use them in the modern world while Bárbara Matias provides us with an in-depth analysis on vaccine sharing across the continents. Daniela Cantir shares her love for podcasting and describes the difficulty of being a women in this growing industry while in this article, Melanie Jones reviews what has been one of the most captivating Olympics ever. 

So without further ado, let’s get started shall we?

The Olympics is a place full of triumph over adversity; never more so than Tokyo 2020.  The event may have taken place 12 months later than planned, along with face masks, lateral flow tests and lack of spectators, but we can be grateful it took place and did not disappoint.

The Olympics, along with great personal journeys and victories, always brings controversy and the ‘wokeness’ of 2021 guaranteed headlines from the word go, especially given that Tokyo 2020 launched off the back of beach handball’s Euro 2021 tournament when the Norwegian women’s team had been fined €150 each for wearing tight fitting skimpy shorts instead of bikini bottoms.  Of course it is laughable, who in their right mind in this day and age could think it acceptable to fine the Norwegian women?  Inevitably the debacle was going to roll on and lead to scrutinising of women’s beach volleyball teams heading for Tokyo, despite shorts and longer garments being permitted.

Olympians are entertainers and beach volleyball is arguably one of the best sports for escapism… Oh, to live life on the beach by the sea, playing volleyball and have a sun kissed body with not a care in the world. It is fair to say beach volleyball players have always been celebrated for their honed and toned bodies, both male and female.  The sport is fun and makes good viewing, but it is the physiques of the athletes and the traditional backdrop of sun and sand that have historically made it one of the most popular Olympic sports, drawing people in to watch and then enjoy the spectacle of the game.

Tokyo was hot.  With 35°C and scorching sand, who can blame or question the women’s beach volleyball teams for choosing to wear bikinis. The men’s beach volleyball teams appeared overdressed in the heat and may well have preferred to have been provided with skimpier attire; long shorts and baggy tops looked like they belonged on the basketball court rather than the beach.

Team USA’s Alex Klineman and April Ross secured the women’s gold, beating Australia in the final.  It is sad that the female beach volleyball gold medallists’ achievements were overshadowed by the bikini versus shorts debate, athletes and coaches instead of answering questions about their journey and success in Tokyo found themselves explaining why female beach volleyball players may choose to wear bikini bottoms and perils of chafing when playing volleyball in shorts on sand.

I think everyone on this planet should be proud of their body, no matter how perfect or blemished it may be and they should be allowed to show it off or hide it away, albeit I imagine that may prove challenging on the Olympic stage. London’s Olympic gold heptathlete, Dame Jessica Ennis-Hill, has spoken in detail about how uncomfortable she felt at the height of her career performing in ‘knickers’.  I think it is fair to say how much or how little athletes choose to cover their bodies should be entirely their decision as long as they are not naked or gaining an unfair competitive advantage; they should be given kit in which they are comfortable without fear of wardrobe malfunction.  The reality is the Olympics are a celebration of the human body and what it is capable of.  Whether one is a marathon runner or a 109kg+ weightlifter, as an athlete they are celebrated for their skill and physique, whatever they wear, as the German gymnasts proved when performing in Tokyo in their unitards.

Athletes at the Olympic Games are in their prime.  They work hard to get the bodies they have and their task is a spectator sport where a twitch of a muscle can be examined and dissected.  Of course, the pressure and scrutiny of the event can become too much, as it appeared to be for US gymnast Simone Biles at the start of the Games. She wisely withdrew from early rounds of competition while educating the world on the twisties and blazing the way to make it clear there is no shame in saying ‘I’m feeling wobbly and today just wasn’t my day, or it was all just a bit too much, I need some time out.’  The Tokyo Games was made all the sweeter by the comeback of Biles on the final day of gymnastics where she pulled off a stunning performance on the beam to claim bronze.

An athlete making it to the Olympics is always a personal victory, which it appears in Covid times athletes recognise more than ever; to walk away with a medal in 2021 was the icing on the cake.

After 15 months of social distancing and copious amounts of hand gel while going in and out of lockdown, it feels like there is a new awakening that I believe was best demonstrated in the skate park.

Skate boarding’s introduction to the Olympics in Tokyo produced a podium of young Generation Zs, all three born in the Land of the Rising Sun.  19 year old Sakura Yoszumi took gold, 12 year old Kokona Hiraki silver and GB’s 13 year old Sky Brown bronze. The total sum of the podium’s ages added up to the grand total of 44!

The young people celebrated and consoled fellow competitors at the end of each others’ runs with no concern of being outperformed, thus ousted off the podium, out of the medals.  The future is bright.  Skateboarders really do live and breathe the mantra, ‘It’s the taking part that matters.’  They appear wise beyond their years, realising there is more to life than an Olympic medal. They are also blessed in managing to avoid all contention when it comes to attire, where, thankfully, in skateboarding it is all about cool, baggy pants.

Featured image by Harrison Haines on Pexels.

Melaine Jones
Melanie Jones is a UK based sports journalist.

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