With the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games wrapped up, we think it's a great time to delve into some of the amazing human-stories that always accompany the superhuman feats of athletes.
Tokyo 2020 was the most gender-balanced game of all time, nearly 49% of the athletes competing are female.
It's the perfect time to talk with your little one about sports, games, winning and losing gracefully and the importance of competition within our society.
This list is, of course, far from exhaustive. There are so many amazing role models to find at the Olympic Games. We at Meland love to watch and be inspired by these super-human athletes and their very human stories.
Simone Biles - Gymnastics
It would be hard to overstate the pressure on Olympians.
The level of competition that they face as the Olympic Games are broadcast on live, international TV. The superstars of the event, like 3-times world champion Simone Biles, face an extra level of scrutiny and excitement from fans.
Biles took an incredibly brave move early in the games, pulling out of a number of events as she wasn't in the right mind. 'Twisties', is what gymnasts call a mental block, like 'yips' in golf or 'the wall' in running.
Being able to make such a decision, during such an important event, takes an amazing level of self-awareness as well as a supreme level of confidence.
There's an important lesson for adults and children alike in Simone Biles's confidence in knowing when not to complete.
Later during the games Biles returned to the competition and won a bronze medal in the Beam and a silver in the Artistic Team All-Around.
Biles displayed what is the pinnacle of what we can learn from sport, confidence, self-awareness and finally, the will to compete. These are the attitudes we want to instil in our children, and what we hope to encourage through play.
Simone Biles has shown what it takes to be a world-class athlete. Knowing one's limits, knowing one's body and mind, and finally, being able to marshal oneself in the face of huge pressure and criticism to still match up against the world's best. “I’m not the next Usain Bolt or Michael Phelps. I’m the first Simone Biles,” Biles once told supporters.
Momiji Nishiya - Skateboarding
Skateboarding has debuted as a discipline at Tokyo 2020. The competitors at the Ariake Urban Sports Park in Tokyo will compete in Park and Street versions of the sport.
On the third day of the games, Momiji Nishiya became the the first women's gold medalist in the sport. At just 13 years old, Nishiya is the youngest medalist from Japan and the third youngest gold medalist in history.
Skateboarding seems to be dominated by youth at this year's games. Alongside Momiji Nishiya on the podium, silver medalist Rayssa Leal is also only 13 years old.
Momiji showed the fearlessness and finesse required to compete and win at such a difficult sport on the world stage.
Making Olympic history as Japan's youngest, the third youngest ever and the first gold in women's skateboarding is an incredible list of accolades for someone who was born less that a year before the Beijing games in 2008.
Lydia Ko - Golf
South Korean born, New Zealand raised Lydia Ko took the women's golf world by storm when, at just 14 years old, she won her first major tournament (the New South Wales Open).
She has gone on to break a number of other 'youngest' records including the youngest player to win a US LPGA Tour event at 15, and the youngest to capture a major at the 2015 Evian Championship at 18.
Though somewhat quiet for the past few years, Lydia Ko is no stranger to Olympic Golf. Ko took home a silver medal at the 2016 games in Rio - the first time golf was included in the Olympics in over 100 years.
Lydia Ko took home the bronze medal from Tokyo 2020 after losing a play off to Japan's Mone Inami after the pair drew.
Naomi Osaka - Tennis
Finishing the Olympic torch's tour and lighting the cauldron that will blaze throughout the games this year, Naomi Osaka is one of the most memorable athletes at this Olympics. Currently ranked second in the world by the WTA, Osaka is truly an icon.
With a global background - Japanese and Haitian parents, born in Japan and raised in the United States, Osaka has captured the imagination of many tennis and non-tennis fans alike.
Due to her personal style and her large following on social media, Osaka is one of the most marketable athletes at the Olympics. She's outspoken when she needs to be, courageous and an incredible athlete, a great role model for any child.
Nelly Korda - Golf
One of this year's golf favourites at the Olympic Golf is world number one Nelly Korda. Team USA's Nelly Korda and older sister and Jessica Korda got off to a scorching start at the Kasumigaseki Country Club, playing in heat reaching 111 degrees on the first day.
The Kordas are a family of athletes, along with Nelly Korda and Jessica Korda, their father Petr Korda was a former number 2 ranked tennis star, and younger brother Sebastian Korda is ranked 45th in tennis today.
Nelly has managed to shine within a family of superb athletes. Playing a game that is as much about control, mental strength and finesse as it is about physical strength. Seeing such strong competitors at the women's Olympic golf this year is sure to be great for the sport and for aspiring young athletes everywhere.
Nelly Korda took home the gold medal in Women's Golf at the Tokyo 2020 games.
Sue Bird - Basketball
Starting out as the hot favourite for her fifth straight gold medal this year (a record she now shares with teammate Diana Taurasi if successful), Sue Bird of the WNBA Seattle Storm, is a veteran of the Olympics and a well-loved competitor.
Bird was selected by her fellow athletes to carry the U.S. flag at the opening ceremony along with baseball player Eddy Alvarez. Bird found out she was to bear the flag for Team USA during a practice with her Olympic team. She immediately told everyone there that is was because of the team, not just herself as an individual.
Though it has its standout individuals, basketball is a team sport and so is a great way for kids of all ages to learn about cooperation and graciousness. Sue Bird and Team USA took home gold for a 7th consecutive games in the Women's Olympic Basketball at Tokyo 2020.
Allyson Felix - Athletics
10 medals over five Olympic Games, Allyson Felix is an amazing athlete whose story of the birth of her son in 2019 captivated sports fans.
Specialising in 400m sprints (though with a gold in 200m at the London Olympics), Felix won her first Olympic medal in Greece in 2004.
Tokyo was the first Olympics since the premature birth of her daughter. Felix discussed the experience of becoming a mother while being a world-class athlete with ESPN.
She talked about having to fit in the pregnancy between training seasons and ultimately, the unpredictability of becoming a mother when compared with the regimented, planned lifestyle of a professional athlete.
Allyson Felix took home a bonze medal for 400 meters at Tokyo.
Helen Glover - Rowing
Described as "the mother of all comebacks", Helen Glover decided to make a bid for the Olympic team only this year (2021) after 4 years of retirement and 3 children.
Glover jokes that her bid was a lockdown project gone too far, when she returned to competitive rowing in April, winning the European Championships.
With a gold medal at London 2012 and another at Rio 2016, Glover and her partner Polly Swann had ambitious goals for Tokyo.
Ultimately the pair ended up coming fourth in their event, however Glover's story of coming out of retirement, and juggling a young family in lockdown while returning to the incredibly competitive world of Olympic rowing is truly an amazing one.
Katie Ledecky - Swimming
There are few athletes on Team USA that were are well-known as Katie Ledecky. The swimming phenom had so much hype before Tokyo 2020. Having won her first Olympic gold medal at the age of 15 during London 2012, Ledecky landed on the world-stage with a bang.
At Rio 2016, she took home 5 gold and one silver, as well as breaking two world records during the Games.
At Tokyo 2020, Ledecky didn't disappoint, winning two gold medals and two silvers for Team USA. A huge feat for anyone, let alone someone who received the media attention and positive predictions Ledecky got before the games.
Ledecky has dominated long-distance freestyle like no other athlete has. She has shown incredible discipline in a gruelling event.
During the Tokyo games, she became the oldest Olympic gold medalist despite being only 24 years old.
Following her win at the 1500m freestyle event at Tokyo, Ledecky gave an interview in which she talked about her inspiration.
The 1500m final followed her 5th place result in the final of the 200m (the lowest position she'd achieved at an Olympic final). Despite the additional pressure of the 200m result,
Ledecky focused on what good her medals have done in the past, mentioning "visiting children's hospitals and wounded warriors" with her golds. This was where she said she found her strength.
Megan Rapinoe - Soccer
Captain of both the US national/Olympic team and the National Women's Soccer League's OL Reign, Megan Rapinoe is one of the most recognisable soccer global players.
Rapinoe deserves the recognition she receives. During the 2019 FIFA World Cup, she received the Golden Boot award as the top scorer of the tournament and the Golden Ball as the the overall best player of the tournament. During the final of that tournament, which Team USA won, Rapinoe became the oldest player to score in a World Cup final and was made player of the match.
Tokyo 2020 saw Team USA take home bronze. Rapinoe was again a leading figure of the team, scoring twice against Australia in the bronze medal match.
Megan Rapinoe is also a presence off the pitch, using her position to become a vocal spokesperson for a number of important issues including gender-equality in pay and respect for LGBT and minorities in sports.
Find Inspiration in Sport
Tokyo 2020 was, as all Olympics, so full of inspirational stories and amazing athletes. We at Meland love the opportunity to speak with our little customers about inspirational stories. It's not only the world-class athletes that should take something away from the Olympics.
We can all marvel at the Tokyo 2020 athletes' shared achievements, be awed by their incredible and hard-won prowess, and finally be inspired by their all-to-human stories of struggle. Start your little one's exploration with a Meland Golf Set or a Meland Basketball Set.
Paris 2024 here we come!