Even with the 2020 Summer Olympics in Tokyo postponed until July 23 – Aug. 8, 2021, we can still get excited about seeing the best athletes in the world in action compete for gold. But other than the athletes themselves, there’s likely no one who’s anticipating the games more than the competitors’ parents — who always seem to end up in a category of their own during the games.
It seems safe to say that the parents of Olympic athletes have probably been showing out for their kids since the first modern games were held in Athens in 1896, but it wasn’t until somewhat recently that the trend of broadcasting mom and dad’s reaction to the world has jumped in popularity.
From overwhelming joy to nail-biting anxiety, Olympic parents’ reactions to the high and lows of their kid’s pursuit of glory run the gamut of the emotional spectrum. We mean, if you feel stressed or excited watching a particular athlete compete, the intensity of their parents’ emotions must be through the roof.
Here are five of the best Olympic parent reactions of all time.
Mikaël Kingsbury’s parents’ excitement is contagious
As the parents of Canadian freestyle skier Mikaël Kingsbury watched him take home gold in the men’s moguls final at the 2018 Winter Olympics in PyeongChang, for both the crowd assembled at the finish line and those watching at home, their elation was palpable.
In fact, their excitement was so contagious that CBC News reporter Devin Heroux couldn’t resist live tweeting out their emotional journey.
“I’m right beside Kingsbury’s mom and dad. You can sense their nerves. I watched his dad close his eyes and clasp his hands together in the air before his son’s last run. What drama in the mountains,” he wrote, later adding, “His parents knew it. They sensed it. Their son’s golden moment. I was rolling when he crossed the finish line. They went crazy.”
Aly Raisman’s parents can’t stop squirming
While U.S. gymnast Aly Raisman seems to live by the motto “never let them see you sweat” while performing her gravity-defying gymnastics routines, the same can’t be said for her parents, who wear their emotions right on their sleeves. Raisman’s mom and dad, Lynn and Rick Raisman, became instant Olympic celebrities when NBC first caught their anxious shouting and squirming on camera during the 2012 Summer Games in London.
But it wasn’t until the 2016 Games in Rio de Janeiro that their nervous antics reached their viral peak. The couple appeared so stressed out during their daughter’s all-around final performance that one viewer went so far as to launch a GoFundMe campaign to get them a relaxing spa day.
“We’ve seen their enthusiasm, stress, and commitment — now they deserve some time to relax and unwind,” wrote organizer Berkley Rothmeier.
Both mom and dad couldn’t sit still in their seats and looked to be barely able to watch the uneven bars, beam and floor routines that earned their daughter a silver medal (she was second only to fellow Team USA gymnast Simone Biles in individual scores).
Chloe Kim’s dad is her biggest fan
One of the best parts of watching U.S. snowboarder Chloe Kim win gold at the 2018 Winter Olympics in PyeongChang was getting to see the unbridled joy on her dad’s face — and the homemade sign he brought along to cheer her on.
As Kim prepared to hit the halfpipe, her dad, Jong Jin Kim, could be seen in the crowd holding up a laminated sign that read “Go Chloe!” with a big heart drawn in the corner. Kim proceeded to make her dad proud by earning the near perfect score of 98.25 points out of 100 on her final run.
Following Chloe’s win, Jong Jin told reporters that his daughter’s success was his American dream. “When I came to the United States, this was my American hope,” he said in Korean. “Now, this is my American dream.”
Michael Phelps’ mom thinks he won gold
Over the course of Michael Phelps’ four unforgettable Olympics, his mother, Debbie Phelps, was always one of his most ardent supporters. And the passion she had for her son’s success was never more clearly on display than in the moments following his .05-second loss to Chad Le Clos in the 200 butterfly at the 2012 London Games.
Initially thinking that Michael had come out on top in the race, Debbie was seen screaming and throwing her hands up in celebration — only to be told by her two daughters that he had actually gotten second. After looking to the scoreboard for confirmation, Debbie’s expression rapidly turned from one of shock to dismay.
It was a disappointing moment for sure, but as we now know, Phelps would go on to win a total of 28 Olympic medals (23 of them gold), setting the record for the most medal wins by any Olympic athlete ever. All’s well that ends well.
Zara Phillips gets a royal reception
As a member of Team GB’s equestrian team at the 2012 London Games, Zara Phillips became only the second British royal to ever compete in an Olympics. The other? Phillips mother, Princess Anne, the Princess Royal, who was afforded the unique opportunity of awarding her daughter a silver medal following the team eventing final.
Instead of the formal handshake she gave Phillips’ teammates at the medal ceremony, Princess Anne placed her hands on her daughter’s shoulders and pulled her in for a kiss on both cheeks. As far as public displays of royal affection go, it doesn’t get much better than that.