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Covering a Weird Olympics – The New York Times


The New York Times staff at the Tokyo Olympics reflected on moments that will stay with them from a Games undercut by the pandemic but filled with emotional twists.

When a great athlete earned an event victory, the culmination of years of practice, dedication, and sacrifice, there was some polite applause from a few scattered volunteers or maybe a shout from a coach. Not the roar of a packed stadium excited by the spectacle they had witnessed.


But at the BMX cycling, one man tried to overcome that. Kye Whyte of Britain had just won a silver medal, and he paused to watch the women’s event. His teammate, Bethany Shriever, had two years before turned to crowdfund after her state financing was cut. Now, as Shriever surged ahead of the other competitors, Whyte became a one-man cheer squad, shouting his approval and punching the air as she raced to the line. He lifted her in a bear hug when she won, as joyful about her gold as his own silver.

“Bethany Shriever is absolutely the flipping best,” he said afterward. With their masks, coronavirus protocols, and oceans of empty seats, the Olympics lacked some of their familiar joy. Whyte managed to bring it back, at least for a moment.


It was the women’s 3-meter springboard diving semifinal and my first time watching the sport live. Apart from an obvious belly flop, it was hard to tell how the judges could make the fine distinctions between all of these athletes whose twists, midair somersaults, and slicing entries into the pool looked so impossibly tricky to me.

Then for her final dive, Pamela Ware of Canada stepped to the edge of the board and simply jumped, feet first.

Five years of training, persisting through a pandemic, following restrictive protocols to travel to Tokyo, all ending with a 0.0 score on her last attempt. What must she have been feeling? I watched as she bolted out of the water, her coach trailing behind her. She dipped into a tub in the corner of the aquatics center, her back to the pool. My heart went out to her. I hope she gets another chance.


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