Mary Hannigan: The Tokyo 2020 Olympics - in their words

From Paul O’Donovan to Rory McIlroy - here are the best soundbites to come out of Japan

Karsten Warholm of Norway celebrates after winning the Men’s 400m Hurdles final in a world record time. Photograph: Valdrin Xhemaj/EPA

Karsten Warholm of Norway celebrates after winning the Men’s 400m Hurdles final in a world record time. Photograph: Valdrin Xhemaj/EPA

 

“I wouldn’t think it’s that big of a deal, winning the Olympics. People get too excited about it, in my opinion. I’m not going to be going around Skibbereen thinking I’m better than anybody else. Okay, I probably will for a while, but they’ll knock me back handy enough if I do get carried away.” - The ever-chilled Paul O’Donovan after he and Fintan McCarthy struck gold.

“She was making mad grunting noises, like ‘whooooooooh’, and I was like, ‘oh my God, what is this?’ And she was smiling at me and sticking out her tongue. I was just smiling back, as if to say, ‘look, it’s all fun and games until my hand gets lifted’.” - Kellie Harrington after getting her hand lifted following her quarter-final victory over Algeria’s Imane Khelif.

“A lot of time I’ve been asked about the perfect race, I said it didn’t exist, but this is the closest I’ve ever come. Crazy!” - Karsten Warholm on his stunning 45.94 world record run in the 400m hurdles final.

“If you would have told me that I was going to run 46.1 and lose, I would probably beat you up and tell you to get out of my room.” - A gobsmacked Rai Benjamin after the American finished second to Warholm.

“An out-of-place finger, that’s all it took to knock me off the horse - they’re the fine margins in this game, it’s brutal.” - Rhys McClenaghan after his medal hopes ended in the pommel horse final when he fell after losing his balance.

Fintan McCarthy and Paul O’Donovan were gold medallists in Tokyo. Photograph: Danny Lawson/PA
Fintan McCarthy and Paul O’Donovan were gold medallists in Tokyo. Photograph: Danny Lawson/PA

“We left it a bit late, didn’t we?” - Emily Hegarty after she, Aifric Keogh, Eimear Lambe and Fiona Murtagh left their charge for bronze a bit on the last-gasp side.

“Hakuna Matata! It means ‘no worries for the rest of your days’. That’s what I say, and that’s what the Lion King says.” - Kellie Harrington after securing herself at least a bronze after that quarter-final win.

“Did you see that? He didn’t get a full mouthful. Luckily he had his mouthguard in and I was a bit sweaty.” - New Zealand’s David Nyika after Moroccan Youness Baalla attempted to nibble on his ear during their heavyweight boxing bout.

“I celebrated a lot, I am very happy to be an Olympic champion. But this morning I went to bed at five so I was tired going into the race.” - Morocco’s Soufiane El Bakkali explaining why he didn’t finish his 1,500m heat - he was partying hard after winning gold in the 3,000m steeplechase.

“I wanted the Olympic Games to be for myself. I came in and felt like I was still doing it for other people. That just hurts my heart that doing what I love has been kind of taken away from me to please other people.” - Simone Biles after withdrawing from the finals of the individual all-around competition, citing mental health worries.

“I feel a little bit dead inside. Obviously I’m glad I came away with an Olympic medal, but it’s not the colour I trained for. I might paint it when I get home, no one has to know.” - Britain’s Bianca Walkden, the world number one, after being beaten in the very last second of her semi-final against South Korea’s Lee Da-bin, before going on to win bronze.

Tokyo 2020

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“Can we have two golds?” - Qatar’s Mutaz Essa Barshim asking an Olympic official if he and Italy’s Gianmarco Tamberi could skip a jump-off in the high jump and have a gold each. Which is precisely what happened.

“Holy shit.” - Australian swimmer Ariarne Titmus on seeing on the big screen that she had beaten the legend that is Katie Ledecky in the 400m freestyle final.

“Go faster.” - Caleb Shepherd, the cox for the New Zealand women’s rowing eight team, on what advice he shouted at them while they raced to silver. Shepherd made history in Tokyo by becoming the first man to ever win an Olympic women’s medal.

Italy’s Gianmarco Tamberi and Qatar’s Mutaz Essa Barshim shared the high jump gold medal. Photograph: Richard Heathcote/Getty
Italy’s Gianmarco Tamberi and Qatar’s Mutaz Essa Barshim shared the high jump gold medal. Photograph: Richard Heathcote/Getty

“I can finish the match, but I can die - if I die, who will take responsibility?” - Russian Daniil Medvedev to the umpire during his tennis quarter-final against Fabio Fognini, during which he struggled with the intense heat.

“I came here thinking this was my chance to win a gold medal, but it wasn’t to be. I’m proud of myself for managing to make it to three, but I can’t see myself going for another. I’m pretty happy I don’t have to live off salad anymore. I’m looking forward to a normal life.” - Annalise Murphy after bowing out of Tokyo having missed out on a place in the Laser Radial medal race.

“I’m disappointed in every loss, but I feel like this one sucks more than the others … I think it’s maybe because I haven’t played in an Olympics before and for the first one to be here was a bit much.” - Japan’s Naomi Osaka, who lit the Olympic cauldron during the opening ceremony, on her third round defeat in the tennis competition.

“Fourth sucks. It was less than a beer can. I definitely need a gin or two after this.” - Australia’s Matthew Denny after missing out on a bronze by just five centimetres in the discus.

“We were just about to get the ‘Wanted’ signs up and post a reward for their return, but I’m pleased to report they are back home. I understand they enjoyed a pleasant holiday in Deutschland.” - Australia’s chef de mission Ian Chesterman after the team’s life-sized mascots - an emu and a kangaroo - went missing from the Oz section of the village …. and were found in the German area.

“I’ve got about 15 thoughts, and 13 of them would get me into a lot of trouble. It is a huge mental drain to go through the year knowing that I’m swimming in a race that’s probably not clean, and that is what it is.” - American swimmer Ryan Murphy after he was beaten in to second by Russia’s Evgeny Rylov in the 200m backstroke.

“How unnerving our victories are for [SOME]. You have to be able to lose. The old hurdy-gurdy has again started up the song about Russian doping. English-language propaganda, oozing verbal sweat in the Tokyo heat. Through the mouths of athletes offended by defeats. We will not console you. Forgive those who are weaker. God is their judge. And for us - an assistant.” - The Russian Olympic Committee’s response to Murphy.

“The depth across Irish rowing is phenomenal at the minute, it’s absolutely brilliant to see. Someone said to me the other day, ‘if you throw a stone in Skibbereen, you’ll probably hit an Olympian’.” - Former Olympian Tim Harnedy on Skib’s take-over of the rowing world.

“It’s not just another golf tournament - it’s something much bigger than that. I didn’t realise that until I got here. I’ve never tried so hard in my life to finish third.” - Rory McIlroy, who missed out in a seven-man play-off for bronze, on his change of heart about competing in the Olympic Games.

“As my brother says, the last mile is never crowded, that’s the way it does feel sometimes. It does feel very lonely, but that’s the difference, to be able to hold on in there and keep it going.” - Kellie Harrington after reaching the Olympic final.

“The South Koreans’ eyes are narrow, so I can’t understand how they can see the ball moving back and forth.” - Greek commentator Dimosthenis Karmiris during the table tennis clash of fellow Greek Panagiotis Gionis and South Korea’s Jeoung Young-sik. He was promptly sacked by state broadcaster ERT.

“Get the camel drivers! Get the camel drivers!” - The German Cycling Federation’s sporting director Patrick Moster’s instructions to his rider Niklas Arndt as he was chasing competitors from Algeria and Eritrea in the time trial. Moster was promptly sent home.

Kellie Harrington with her gold medal. Photograph: Bryan Keane/Inpho
Kellie Harrington with her gold medal. Photograph: Bryan Keane/Inpho

“The images and captions were intended to make it easier for the viewers to understand the entering countries quickly. However we admit that there was a lack of consideration for the countries concerned …. it is an inexcusable mistake.” - South Korean television channel MBC on their choice of images and captions to accompany the parading nations in the opening ceremony - eg Ukraine was represented by a picture of Chernobyl, Italy by a pizza, while Ireland’s caption read “Whiskey and Beer, Natural Scenery”.

“I have never done a real job, I have never even applied for a job. My mom is finally happy with my life choices, bro. It’s taken that long for her to acknowledge what I do with my life. That’s probably the best thing I’m taking out of this, that my mom finally goes, ‘Wow!’” - South African Dallas Oberholtz on making it to the Olympics at the ripe old age of 46 (around 103 in skateboarding years).

“As you come around, you just see a big guy’s butt. I noticed four or five horses really taking a spook to it.” - British rider Harry Charles on a giant statue of a Sumo wrestler beside the 10th obstacle on the showjumping course giving the horses the heebie-jeebies.

“Before the 5,000m I didn’t even care. I was so tired. Without coffee I would never be Olympic champion.” - The Netherlands’ Sifan Hassan on winning gold in the 5,000m final just 12 hours after winning her 1,500m heat - having fallen with 400m to go and being left with considerable ground to make up.

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