Without the roar of the crowd, the Tokyo Olympians seek the spirit

Beloved American gymnast Sam Mikulak flipped the parallel bars, stuck the landing and blew a kiss towards the camera. Those who watched the men’s Olympic gymnastics competition on television at home knew they had seen magic. ” Wonderful ! Exclaimed the broadcast announcer. “Wow, that was fantastic!” But all around Mikulak, the expanses of wooden benches meant to accommodate thousands of people were mostly empty. Cheers erupted from a far corner of the stands, where Simone Biles and the rest of the women’s team screamed as loud as lungs could muster to break through the eerie calm of the pandemic Olympic site.

In the arenas of Tokyo, athletes accustomed to feeding on the deafening roar of the crowd seek new ways to experience Olympic excitement. They root as hard as they can. Some try to imagine fans at home in their living room, hunched over television screens. They blow up playlists in the backstage workout rooms. The lucky few allowed to compete with headphones keep their phones in their pockets, listening to songs with a beat to replace the thrill of applause.

But others were surprised to find the silence motivating – like another day at the gym rather than the most prestigious competition on Earth. For them, emptiness numbs their nerves and allows them to concentrate fully on their sport. “It’s pretty cool,” said Mikulak, a three-time Olympian whose routine on the parallel bar helped him advance to the finals. It hardly looks like an Olympics to him, he said, but when he blocked that landing and heard his own team cheer, it felt like enough. ” We created our own bubble. We had our own cheer section, ” he said. ” We created our own atmosphere. This is what we thrive in, supporting each other. ” The next day they reciprocated. The American men’s gymnastics team stood at the back, waving an American flag and shouting for their female counterparts before the stadium fell silent again, like the others scattered across Tokyo. At the Sea Forest Waterway rowing site, the stands which stretch for nearly 2,000 meters (yards) are empty until the finish line. Events are so calm that the rowers can hear the ripple of their own wake and the flapping of hundreds of national flags whipping in the breeze on the shore. Which is usually a swollen crescendo of chants and an adrenaline rush over the last 250 meters to the finish line replaced by the labored breathing that tears their lungs apart. “When you cross the line and it hurts, and you feel like you’re going to pass out and you can’t hear America!” USA !, ‘chant it hurts a little more,’ ‘said ÚS rower Ellen Tomek, competing in her third Olympics and remembering people rooting far from her home. “Everyone cheers us on, but when you’re hurt and sad and can’t look for your mother in the stands, it sucks.” Other athletes are also trying to capture the energy of these fans at home. , absent here but always somewhere in the world to encourage them.

Japanese gymnast Mai Murakami said she was thrilled her home country hosted the Olympics as she hoped many of her admirers could see her perform in person. When even Japanese citizens were barred from attending, it was devastated.

“I get the influence of the crowd and that motivates me,” she said through an interpreter. The silence shook her, she said, and she made a mistake in her performance on bars. This is my first experience without a crowd so I have never had this experience before. I couldn’t imagine what it would be like, so I tried not to have any emotion. ” She tried to imagine her fans watching on TV and on computers, applauding her from all over town. . It brought comfort.

Brazilian beach volleyball player Ágatha Bednarczuk won a silver medal ahead of her home country in 2016. These Olympics, she said, are very different. ” In Brazil, we had the greatest support. There were many, many people cheering on us, and here we had silence, ” she said, tracing a flat line with her hand. “We have to put our emotion into the game because we cannot receive emotion from them. For me it is very important to play with emotion, so I had to bring it from within. ” Many say they remember that they were successful here – at the Olympics, a dream for many despite extraordinary odds, including a pandemic that killed millions and postponed the Games, and for a time threatened to sink them entirely.

“I think the Olympics are enough in themselves,” said Greek water polo goalkeeper Emmanouil Zerdevas. “It’s a little sad, but this is my first time at the Olympics, so I’m always happy to be here. On the silent skateboard site, American skater Jagger Eaton found a mood booster in the phone that he occasionally fished out of his right pocket while competing to change the music. Skateboarders, unlike other athletes, are able to close the silence by wearing headphones while they compete. Eaton chose rapper Dusty Locane’s aptly named “Rollin N Controllin” as the soundtrack to embark on skateboarding’s very first Olympic event, The Men’s Street.

“It got me in the game,” said Eaton, who struggled to skate in front of an empty crowd. “That’s why I wear headphones. When I wear headphones, I can create my own hype. ” AP SSC SSC

(This story was not edited by Devdiscourse staff and is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)

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