Yesterday marked the end of the 2020/2021 Olympic Games in Tokyo. While I am sad to see them go, I’m sure my sleep schedule is very grateful. There were a lot of nights spent staying up late on the couch, watching hours and hours of recorded events, cheering—sometimes screaming—on not only Team USA, but all of the Olympians that worked so hard to get there.
I lived for the stories of where and what brought a particular athlete to the Olympics, and the delight their families took in watching them compete—even if they had to do it from home. There is something so special about the Olympics. It brings people together all over the world to appreciate and celebrate sports, and the amazing things the human body and human spirit can accomplish.
The Tokyo Olympics introduced four new sports this year: surfing, skateboarding, karate and sport climbing. Of these, my family, and especially my brother, was most excited to watch sport climbing. As an avid and gifted climber himself, it was clear how thrilled he was to not only watch the best of the best compete, but to see his passion celebrated at an elite level and introduced to people all over the world.
The schedule of events was a little hard to follow from California, as Tokyo is 16 hours ahead. Thus, I filled my DVR, taping anything and everything I could find, and would sift through my recordings at the end of each day. But when it came time for the sport climbing to start (which was Tuesday morning PST) my brother made it clear that he wanted to watch at least one of the finals live. On Tuesday 8/3, the men competed in the qualifying round and the women followed on Wednesday. Then, on Thursday, the men competed in the final round, with the women to follow on Friday. So, with Saturday as a recovery cushion, we decided to watch the women’s sport climbing final on Friday morning. Mind you, they started at 1:30 am.
So, at about 10:30 p.m. Thursday night, my sister, Natalee, and I drove to our parents’ house, where we got comfortable on the couch and caught up on the primetime coverage from that day. Then my brother, Troy, and I ensured that everything was set up to watch the climbing before we all set an alarm for 1:20 a.m. and went to sleep.
Earlier in the day, I had taken an hour nap in preparation for what I knew would be a late night, and that, in combination with the excitement of the women’s final (which featured American Brooke Raboutou) buzzing in my mind, made it difficult for me to fall asleep. I lay there on the living room couch, perpendicular to my sister who slept in the recliner, still but not sleeping. Come about 1:15 a.m. though, just before Troy walked back into the living room from his bedroom, I could feel the pull of deep sleep just beyond my reach. But I pushed it away, sat up, and turned on the television. My brother took his place next to me, his hands anxious and ready to mime the holds he might use to complete the climbs; my mom wiped her eyes and stood up, and then walked into the kitchen and turned on the oven—she was making 1:30 a.m. cinnamon rolls; and my sister sat her seat up straight and clapped her hands.
We were ready.
The first round of competition was speed climbing. Eight women, strong and incredibly talented, powered up the rock wall, racing in pairs. We were excited, but very aware of the time of night, so our cheers were kept to whispers, but they remained passionate.
The second round of competition was bouldering. Inside this second discipline, there were three boulder problems the climbers had to solve, and they were each given four minutes for each try. I’ll admit, by the third round, which started at about 3:45 a.m., we were all starting to fade. We always perked up and came to attention when Brooke was climbing, but we were all long past our prime of pulling all-nighters, so as the sunrise snuck closer, our bodies couldn’t help but ask, wtf are you doing?!
By the time the bouldering ended, it was about 4:20 a.m. and the final round of competition didn’t start until 5:10 a.m. So, we turned off all the lights, returned to our designated snoozing spots, and knocked out. This time however, when my brother came in after his alarm went off, I felt confused. I felt upside down. My body was begging, pleading to stay asleep. But we sat back up, reasoning that the summer Olympics only happen once every four years, and this was the first year rock climbing had ever been a part of it. Plus, there’s no telling where life will lead us before the 2024 games in Paris. So while we were tired, we were together and that was reason enough to sit back up, turn the television back on, and head into the final round of competition: lead climbing.
In the end, American climber, Brooke Raboutou, didn’t metal, but, like all of the women competing, she put on an incredible show of talent and determination. I gained so much respect for climbers and their ability to push their body to its absolutely limit. To hold on by literal fingertips and to try again and again and again.
As the sun peaked over the horizon, my sister and I got back in our car and headed home. It was about 6:00 a.m. and the morning commuters were already on the road. Once home, we would collapse back in our beds for a couple hours and then go to work. And even though my eight-hour workday felt like a 90-hour work week, even though at one point I got emotional over a FedEx label, even though I had to go for a three mile walk at 7:00pm just to stay awake long enough to not ruin my chances at a good night’s sleep, it was all worth it.
In a way, I felt like it was our Olympic moment of the games, and it is something I will always remember.
See you next time, Olympians, and as always, you are amazing.