THAT Filipino gymnast Carlos Yulo, the reigning world champion, failed to advance to the floor exercise finals doesn’t make sense in my fantasy. I was so confident that at Tokyo 2020, he was on his way to joining the gymnastics ranks of Vitaly Scherbo, Alexei Nemov and Sawao Kato.
Late Saturday, our gold-medal hopes were dashed when Carlos also didn’t qualify in the all-around. All is not lost, though, as he clinched a spot in the vault finals. Epke Zonderland (Netherlands), the 2012 high bar champion, and Japan’s Kōhei Uchimura, considered to be the greatest male gymnast of all time, also stumbled in their bids.
Maybe Tokyo’s changing climate and rising temperatures (and Covid scare) impacted Carlos’ health and performance? The Games of the XXXII Olympiad is said to be one of the hottest in modern times. Or, maybe, he was distracted by all the hotness emanating from the physical perfection of the world’s best athletes? Three Latin words make up the Olympic motto: citius, altius, fortius—or faster, higher, stronger. What’s Latin for sexier?
There are 11,656 athletes from 206 National Olympic Committees at Tokyo 2020, and these deserve to be on Mount Olympus:
- MEGAN RAPINOE (USA). According to Outsports, at least 163 out LGBTQ athletes are competing at the Tokyo Summer Olympics, by far a record, more than all the previous Summer Olympics combined. The list includes our own skateboarder Margielyn Didal and the first trans, weightlifter Laurel Hubbard of New Zealand. Soccer has the most number at 40, and the most famous being Megan, the cover girl for June/July of Harper’s Bazaar US and a Victoria’s Secret spokesmodel. (See also Finnish flag-bearer, swimmer Ari-Pekka Liukkonen, and British diver Tom Daley.)
- RICHARLISON (Brazil). He plays as a forward for English Premier League club Everton and the Brazilian national team that won the 2019 Copa América. Latin America has the hottest and freshest football talents: Brazil has Douglas Luiz, Paulinho and Daniel Alves, Mexico has Sebastian Cordova, Honduras has Denil Maldonado and Argentina has Adolfo Gaich.
- NAOMI OSAKA (Japan). The newest cover girl of Sports Illustrated’s swimsuit issue, along with Fil-Am trans model-actress Leyna Bloom and rapper Megan Thee Stallion, the tennis superstar lit the cauldron to signal the opening of the Games. She is the first Asian, male or female, to achieve the world No. 1 ranking, and a gold medal will seal her legendary status.
- PITA TAUFATOFUA (Tonga). The taekwondo fighter (and hottest flag-bearer) has a goal: to build free exercise facilities for the kids of Tonga and the Pacific. Famously topless at the opening, his look carries meaning. The skirt: “For the rights and dignity of all—we may look and think differently, but we are all a part of the same cloth. There is more that unites us than divides us.” The skirt ornaments: “For the oceans—may we look after you the way you look after us.” The necklace: “For those we lost—you will always be a pearl in the safety of our hearts.”
- ALEX ABRINES (Spain). Twelve countries at the Games have current and former NBA talents on their national rosters. Spain, the 2019 world champion, has Marc Gasol (Lakers) and Pau Gasol (2001-2019), and Alex, who played in the NBA in 2016-2019.
- NATALIYA GONCHAROVA (ROC/Russia). Because of doping issues, Russia is branded as Russian Olympic Committee with no flag and no anthem at the Games. Nataliya, born in Ukraine but playing for Russia, is a standout in a sport that boasts towering women. At 6 feet 5 inches, you can’t miss her powerful presence in the court.
- EBONY MORRISON (Liberia). My all-time favorite Olympic Kit was designed by Japanese designer Issey Miyake for Team Lithuania at the 1992 Barcelona Games. A far creative cry from this year’s kits by Ralph Lauren for USA, Armani for Italy, Ben Sherman for UK and Lacoste for France. Liberia, however, was a veritable runway for Telfar by Liberian-American Telfar Clemens. The New York-based brand showed its signature unisex one-shouldered tanks, shirtdresses and tracksuits with the Liberian star and in bold graphics. Ebony, a 100m hurdler, serves Black Girl Magic in her athletic gear. (Team Philippines was by House of Laurel.)
- CAELEB DRESSEL (USA). Sports Illustrated hails him as “The Swimming Machine” who, as the “heir to Michael Phelps, runs like a wideout and jumps like an NBA forward, and in the water he combines smooth technique with raw power.”
- ALICA SCHMIDT (Germany). When the track-and-field star was named the “Sexiest Athlete in the World” by Australian magazine Busted Coverage, she reportedly said: “I do not know why I got this title. Sport comes clearly first.” Being “great,” the Puma spokesmodel said, means “being kind and being humble.” And she offers this nugget: “Cherish other people’s success instead of being jealous of what they have accomplished. Your values, beliefs and expectations form your attitude. Bring on everything ahead and set your standards high.”