A Look Back at The Most Memorable Gold Medal Winners from the 2021 Tokyo Olympics

For those who keep up with not just this blog but the Pro Talk sports page on Facebook, you’d know a poll was conducted on who had the most memorable and possibly gold medal performances on the rescheduled summer olympics in 2021. Each voter was given the option to pick the three headlined events they remembered and liked most. There were many choices to vote for and some surprised Wesley and I.

A year later, Wesley and I reminisced on what stood out in the 2021 Tokyo Olympics and what we are still talking about after memories were refreshed previously in Eugene, Oregon the past few weeks.

Who the voters chose

The Men and Women’s basketball teams dominating play for gold medals each

The first choice makes a lot of sense. Both the U.S. women’s and men’s basketball teams dominate Olympic play/conversation regardless of the year. 2021 was no different. The women again went undefeated and tore through Japan and Australia to win gold. Looking back at the game, it’s fitting Brittney Griner got the start at center in the championship round in what might be her last internationally televised game and Sylvia Fowles played the last minute of the round to conclude her Olympic career.

The men had a different yet exciting series of events. They lost to France in the preliminary round, sparking conversations about team chemistry, coaching and who should or should not be starting. It was all word salad as they won the next two rounds by 20 or more points. In the championship round versus France, the U.S. pulled away in the second half securing a well earned and hard fought gold medal. Despite more competition from several European teams and Australia, there was no doubt who would win the number one spot when talent depth and determination came into focus.

Elaine Thompson-Herah’s Dominant Double-Double Gold Medal Performances

There aren’t too many track and field athletes who not just dominate, but have incredible headlining Olympic events cycle after cycle, year after year. Jamaica’s been blessed with runners that defy this narrative going back decades with Usain Bolt and Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce. It’s why the eruption of Elaine Thompson-Herah to start the 2020s is just as if not more impressive.

Thompson-Herah won gold in the 100M, a feat that’s impressive considering the depth of quality sprinters in different countries. She cruised to an easy victory. She then dominated the 200M for another gold (more on her other gold medal later). That’s not something you hear every four years.

Even rarer, she did it back-to-back, becoming the first woman sprinter to win a double-double at consecutive Olympics.

Elaine Thompson-Herah is featured and was chosen by both Wesley and Justin. Neither have enough praise for how phenomenal her performances are, despite a nagging leg injury that plagued her Eugene races.

Jamaica’s Women’s 4x100M relay on Independence Day

(From left to right) Elaine Thompson-Herah, Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce, Shericka Jackson and Briana Williams celebrate an iconic gold medal on Jamaica’s Independence Day in 2021.

The third gold medal for Elaine Thompson-Herah might be one of her most treasured. Along with revered female sprinter Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce, Shericka Jackson and Briana Williams made up a dangerous 4x100M relay team that dusted the competition. Re-watching the race, it’s safe to say that event was unfair to the other women who worked to get to the final round.

Even sweeter for all four ladies was the win coming on the 59th anniversary of Jamaica’s independence. Combined with the sprinting performances from one Elaine Thompson-Herah mentioned above, you could say the island still relishes a golden year topped with record-setting races.

Wesley’s Choices: Sydney McLaughlin Breaks her own record to win Gold in 400m Hurdles.

Sydney McLaughlin has been the big name in women’s track and field since her dominant Olympic gold medal events.

Sydney McLaughlin was on a roll coming into the 400m finals, already making history in previous events alongside 400m counterpart Dalilah Muhammad.  The two traded victories in a series of races, each capturing records respectively against one another.  The Olympic stage was set for both women to officially break the tie.  It seemed inevitable that another record-breaking performance would be needed for victory with these two titans clashing with all the marbles on the line.  A record-breaking performance was exactly what McLaughlin delivered. She surpassed her previous time of 51.90 by finishing with a whopping 51.46 to take the crown of queen of the 400m hurdles.

Allyson Felix and all her medals

Another track athlete I could not go without mentioning was all-time great Olympic Champion Allyson Felix.  In her fifth and final Olympic appearance Felix put a stamp on her track and field legacy capturing her 11th medal in her illustrious career.  This mark put her ahead of Carl Lewis making her the most decorated athlete in track and field U.S. history.  After starting a family, Felix came into the Tokyo Olympic trials and added onto an already impressive resume to earn her a top 3 spot in my mention for this year’s best Olympic performances.

Before I go with my final pick for who I think had the greatest performance in this years Olympics I will make a few honorable mentions.

         Athing Mu/800m Gold

         Yuto Horigome/Mens Street Skateboarding Gold

         Momiji Nishiya/Womens Street Skateboarding Gold

         Sakura Yosozumi/ Women’s Park Skateboarding Gold

         Karston Warholm/Mens 400m Gold (WR 45.94)

Elaine Thompson-Herah’s Dominant Double-Double Gold Medal Performances

Finally, there’s the best and the one that stood out most. It has to be for Elaine Thompson-Herah.  They called it a double-double due to the fact Elaine won gold in both 100m and 200m in consecutive Olympic events against some of the toughest competition of all time. There was no doubt who was the dominant runner of 2021s track and field events despite the many great runners (sprinting and distance running included) involved. Thompson-Herah stood out roaring her way to Olympic record books with a 10.61 in the 100m sprint. 

Justin’s Choices: Rebeca Andrade’s Captivating Gymnastics Performances

This was one of the few performances that doesn’t just stand out to me when first seen, but still is something I go back and watch a year later. Rebeca Andrade’s performances in the all-arounds, floor routine and vault were some of the most special events to watch this lifetime. The only reason she didn’t win gold in both floor routine and all-around performances was because she used too much power in her legs to land, adding deductions when her feet went out of bounds.

Regardless, Andrade’s performances were some, if not the most popular interactions on Twitter AND Facebook. Astonishing compared to how Jamaica fared in track, the U.S. dominated in basketball and volleyball, and how the Russians became a major storyline.

The most important part of her performance wasn’t just the attention, it’s what may happen to Brazil’s national gymnastics team in the future. After having both legs operated and worked on after muscle tears, Andrade is still a talking point for her performances in Brazil alone. Look for more black Brazilians especially to take part in gymnastics when the 2028 Los Angeles Olympic games roll around.

Elaine Thompson-Herah’s Dominant Double-Double Gold Medal Performances

Wow. Both the voters and Wesley were on the same page. This year in Eugene, Jamaican sprinter Shericka Jackson dominated in both the 100M and 200M. One might say Shericka knew she had to step her game up with how Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce and Elaine Thompson-Herah have made their names in the sprinting field. Elaine’s 2021 performances were that special.

Thompson-Herah said in interviews after there were still things she had to fix and improve on. That’s scary considering how she made easy work against all of her opponents. Despite leg injuries this year, Thompson-Herah was considered dangerous and someone to watch.

Last but not least, Elaine Thompson-Herah won a third gold in a stacked 4x100M relay race. She was track and field’s 2021 most valuable runner.

The U.S. Women’s 4x400M relay where Allyson Felix surpassed Carl Lewis for most medals for a U.S. track athlete

There was no doubt in my mind what the first two choices would be. The third was tricky because of all the history being made with Suni Lee and Jade Carey, Cuba and Japan taking home their highest number of medals, and how dominant the U.S. men’s and women’s basketball teams were. This choice came down to what would be the most memorable not just one year from now, but five to ten years later. That easily came down to the U.S. women’s 4x400M relay team, which featured the top four U.S. runners closing out the relay races.

It was documented this would be Allyson’s last race in the international Olympic events. For fans and analysts like me, she’s been running since our teenage days at minimum, so it was a big deal for all of us watch her close out her career with not just a gold medal, but breaking Carl Lewis’ record for most medals of ANY U.S. Track and Field athlete all-time.

This year she retired after her last round of events in Eugene. While she performed well, no one’s forgetting how good that relay race to close out in Tokyo was and how high expectations will be the next few games for women’s track in the U.S.


A Truly Heartfelt Passing

Sports deaths are common every year, but some deaths stand out more than others. Recently the great basketball icon and social justice champion Bill Russell passed. It’s been felt how huge the loss is in the United States. Not even a week later, iconic play-by-play broadcaster Vin Scully passed the second of August.

I don’t usually write about passings not because it’s related to on-going sports seasons or games, but because most deaths are covered in depth, there’s no need to tell anyone something new. This case is different because it’s a personal one.

For those who don’t know me off of this site, I majored in sports broadcasting when i went to college and minored in journalism. My parents worked in broadcasting at some point in their lives, and they wanted me to be in the business, encouraging me at a young age. When asked in middle school what I wanted to be for a major project, i chose play-by-play announcer or commentator. One of my references used was Vin, who was and is mostly known for calling baseball games for the Los Angeles Dodgers.

Vin found a perfect balance between story-telling and calling plays. Colorful vocabulary and simple words. Attention to details and letting the audience think. It’s what makes him to this day the best baseball play-by-play announcer many U.S.ians have heard over the decades.

The best part about Vin was knowing when to cherish historical moments and let others shine. Many in broadcasting are the complete opposite, and it alienates a lot of audiences and employees. These attributes made me believe I could one day be my own type of announcer and broadcaster while sticking to a lot of the same points Vin casually mastered or used without question.

I will never measure up to Vin’s career for many reasons, but his influence and inspiration led me down a sports path i’m well determined to grow, learn, write, talk and shine brightly on. Many sportscasters spoke on how his influence and how his career got them into sports careers, pushing them to be some of the best.

Vin Scully passed and transitioned at an age many of us dream of attaining, surrounded by those who loved him whether he knew or not. It’s true he left this world a better place but he also made the sports world a desired place to be regardless of how boring it could be at times. I am now reminded that before I hit thirty years old, many fans, analysts and children with aspirations of having the life as a sports analysts will be looking towards those in the business right now, wanting to be us decades down the line. A legacy is determined by those who remember the ones who pass, and right now, there are large shoes to fill.

One of Vin’s classic calls is the play breakdown of former Atlanta Brave Hank Aaron (44, white) breaking Babe Ruth’s all-time home run record. It’s touching how the moment was reserved fully for the Atlanta great, who’d broke a record many thought would stand a longer period of time.