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Moments When Team USA Stars Went Viral At The Tokyo Olympics

By Santosh Venkataraman | Aug. 12, 2021, 6:30 p.m. (ET)

Tamyra Mensah-Stock celebrates after winning a gold medal at the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020 on Aug. 3, 2021 in Chiba, Japan.

 

Team USA enjoyed countless memorable scenes at the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020. Here are some of the “Viral Moments” that put the stories behind these magnificent athletes front and center for the world to see.

Family And Friends Send Suni Love From Afar

The astounding rise of Suni Lee surprised even herself, as she captured gold as the all-round champion for the most coveted medal in gymnastics — all as her family and friends cheered her on from a large watch party back home in Minnesota. Competing as the first Hmong American in Olympic history, Lee's father — who guided her as a child in backyard routines — became paralyzed in a freak accident two years prior to the Olympics. She punctuated her performance with a 15.300 on the uneven bars. Though her family couldn’t be with her in Tokyo, video from the watch party made clear that the positive vibes were flowing her way throughout.

 

 

Tamyra Mensah-Stock Makes History

Another athlete who overcame tragedy was wrestler Tamyra Mensah-Stock, who lost her father in a car crash as he was driving home after one of her high school matches. Mensah-Stock turned in a dominant performance in Tokyo, becoming the first Black woman to capture a wrestling gold medal, and making a heart-shaped gesture in his honor after her victory in the final.

 

 

The Dressel Family Knows How To Celebrate

The most unforgettable Team USA athlete may be Caeleb Dressel, with his incredible haul of five golds. His record sprint of 47.02 seconds in the 100-meter freestyle set off a wild celebration among his parents, wife and other family friends in Orlando, before the emotions poured out of the Floridian afterward in a video call with them set up immediately afterward by NBC. 

 

 

Carissa Moore Wins One For Hawaii

Entering the history books, surfer Carissa Moore she became the first woman to capture gold in her sport, which made its Olympic debut in Tokyo. As the lone ethnic Hawaiian on Team USA, Moore added another chapter to a glittering career that saw her become the youngest ever world champion 10 years earlier at the age of 18. 

 

 

Isaiah Jewett And Nijel Amos Finish Together

One of the most poignant moments of the Games came for 800-meter runner Isaiah Jewett, whose heel was clipped by Botswana’s Nijel Amos in their semifinal heat, putting both out of contention in the race. Rather than reacting in anger, Jewett and Amos helped each other up and crossed the finish line together, demonstrating exactly what competition is all about. “Regardless of how mad you are, you have to be a hero at the end of the day,” Jewett said. “Because that’s what heroes do, they show their humanity through who they are and show they’re good people.”

 

 

A Pep Talk Brings Out All The Emotions For Eddy Alvarez

The Tokyo Games were already shaping up to be emotional for Team USA baseball player Eddy Alvarez, a former speedskating silver medalist in the Winter Games who was chosen as Team USA’s male flag bearer for the Opening Ceremony (marching alongside Sue Bird). Making it even more so was the surprise talk with his Miami-based family immediately after, with tears flowing as his wife, father and mother all told him how proud they were of him. In baseball’s first Olympic appearance in 13 years, Alvarez and Team USA won a silver medal.

 

 

All Of Seward, Alaska, Cheers On Lydia Jacoby  

No talk of what “broke the internet” for Team USA is complete without the story of Alaska’s swimming star Lydia Jacoby, who won gold in the 100-meter breaststroke. Yet it was the scene of a room full of Jacoby’s friends and family going nuts half a world away in Seward, Alaska — a town of 3,000 residents — as the teenager completed her remarkable comeback that will be remembered just as much in embodying the spirit of these particular Olympic Games. Jacoby, who also won a silver medal in the 4x100 medley, was the first swimmer from Alaska to make Team USA.

 

 

TikTok Stars of Team USA

When Team USA stars weren’t entertaining us in competition, they provided plenty to talk about on social media. Numerous athletes increased their profile tremendously in becoming stars on TikTok. 

Ilona Maher

The rugby player from Burlington, Vermont, became a sensation with her red, white and blue bucket hat as she highlighted life in the Olympic Village. Maher, who doubles as a registered nurse, put forth a hilarious video of her and other athletes performing various activities on the infamous cardboard beds, including CPR and yoga, as well as one about the food on offer. 

 

@ilonamaher

Testing out the cardboard beds at the Olympic Village #beastbeautybrains #olympics #cardboardbeds #tokyoolympics #usarugby #japan #athletes #rugger

♬ original sound - Ilona Maher

 

Kendall Chase

Her introductory rowing video drew over 550,000 likes with more than 2,300 comments, and developed into a three-part series. Chase also used the platform to educate and entertain about her fellow LGBTQ community. 

 

@kennychase25

The chaos has landed in Hawaii ppl watch out🌴 #tokyoolympics #teamusa #usrowing #rowing #olympics #sports #row #erg #fyp #PepsiApplePieChallenge

♬ Quirky - Oleg Kirilkov

 

Erik Shoji

The two-time Olympian and his aptly named account, “thelibero,” titled after his position, could be counted on for terrific content. Shoji posted numerous videos about the food at the U.S. training center during the Games, and his most famous work was an impromptu “shimmy” contest among volleyball teammates in the weight room. 

 

@thelibero

Shimmy contest! #olympics #LeadWithLove #tokyo2020 #tokyo2021 #usavolleyball #dance #dancing #shimmy

♬ original sound - Erik Shoji

 

Women’s Gymnastics

When Simone Biles withdrew from the team final, the other members of the “Fighting Four” — Suni Lee, Jordan Chiles and Grace McCallum — saw even more attention come their way. Lee and Chiles are noted TikTok fans, and this trio created a dance routine that went viral, and they later showcased it during an appearance on the “Today” show. 

 

@jordanchiles

@todayshow always dancing @sunisalee_

♬ Cognac Queen - armins ✨crispy✨ body

 

Santosh Venkataraman

Santosh Venkataraman is a freelance contributor to TeamUSA.org on behalf of Red Line Editorial, Inc.

Related Athletes

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Eddy Alvarez

Baseball
Short Track Speedskating
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Caeleb Dressel

Swimming
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Isaiah Jewett

Track and Field
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Lydia Jacoby

Swimming
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Tamyra Mensah-Stock

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Carissa Moore

Surfing
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Ilona Maher

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Grace McCallum

Gymnastics
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Sunisa Lee

Artistic Gymnastics
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Jordan Chiles

Artistic Gymnastics
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Kendall Chase

Rowing