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The 2020 Tokyo Olympics and Paralympics came to an end on Sept. 5 after 30 days of athletic competition. As they said goodbye to an event that was years in the making, many of those who took part shared their emotions with the media.

The word we were most likely to hear when it came to how the athletes were feeling was 嬉しい (ureshii, happy). 「僕たちが積み上げてきたバスケットボールをしっかりと結果として証明できたことが何よりも嬉しい」(Boku-tachi ga tsumiagete-kita basukettobōru o shikkari to kekka to shite shōmei dekita koto ga nani yori mo ureshii, Above all, I’m happy that we could demonstrate [the level of] basketball that we’ve built up by our results), said 22-year-old wheelchair basketball player Renshi Chokai. He also used the phrase 何よりも (nani yori mo, above all/ more than anything), to help express his satisfaction with competing.

Yuto Horigome, a 22-year-old gold medalist in the men’s skateboarding street event, said, 「もうすごいシンプルなんですけど、本当にすごい嬉しいです」 (Mō sugoi shinpuru nan desu kedo, hontō ni sugoi ureshii desu, I know it’s really simple to say, but I’m very happy). One thing to note about Horigome’s words here is that, technically, he should have used すごく嬉しい (sugoku ureshii, very happy), since すごく is the adverbial form of the adjective すごい (sugoi, great). He’s not incorrect, however, since すごい is often used instead of すごく in Japanese conversation. For more formal situations, it is better to use すごく.

Similar to 嬉しい are words that convey a feeling of happiness and delight but with a slightly higher level of excitement, such as 幸せ (shiawase, happiness). Paralympic athlete Mami Tani, 39, used this word after completing the triathlon. 「苦しいなりにここまで積み重ねてきたものに悔いはないので、幸せな気持ち」 (Kurushii nari ni koko made tsumikasanete-kita mono ni kui wa nai node, shiawasena kimochi, Though the journey was tough, I don’t regret what I have achieved by today, so I feel happiness), she said, using 幸せ in its adjective form of 幸せな (shiawasena, happy).

Moving away from words that directly translate as “happy,” some athletes expressed joy in other ways. After winning a gold medal in baseball, beating a strong showing from the Americans, Japanese player Hayato Sakamoto said, 「ホッとした気持ちが一番。夢だった金メダルを獲れて感無量です」 (Hotto shita kimochi ga ichiban. Yume datta kin medaru o torete kanmuryō desu, That feeling of relief is the best. I am delighted beyond words to have won a gold medal, which was my dream).

Two terms that deserve a second look here are 感無量 (kanmuryō) and ホットした (hotto shita). 感無量, is short for 感慨無量 (kangai muryō), which itself is made of two words: 感慨 (kangai, deep emotion/ being deeply impressed) and 無量 (muryō, vast/ immeasurable). However, the dictionary defines 感無量 as はかり知れないほど身にしみて感じること (hakari shirenai hodo mi ni shimite kanjiru koto), which in English could be akin to being so deeply impressed that you can’t articulate your feelings. Yukiko Ueno, 39, a softball player, simply stated, 「もう本当感無量です」 (Mō hontō kanmuryō desu, Honestly, I have no words) after winning her second gold medal since Beijing 2008.

ホットする (hotto suru) is an onomatopoeic word that indicates relief and sounds like a big sigh. It’s often used in the past tense, as in PCR検査で陰性だったのでホッとした (pī-shī-āru tesuto de insei datta node hotto shita, The PCR test was negative, so I’m relieved).

While some athletes expressed their joy, others expressed their disappointment with the word 悔しい (kuyashii, regrettable), a common reaction in a country that encourages humility. For instance, even though 32-year-old wheelchair track athlete Tomoki Sato won two gold medals in the 400- and 1,500-meter T52 category (T52 is where “athletes use their shoulder, elbow and wrist muscles for wheelchair propulsion”), he’s not yet satisfied.

「世界記録の更新もこの新国立の舞台で一緒に達成できなかったことがまず、非常に悔しい」 (Sekai kiroku no kōshin mo kono shinkokuritsu no butai de issho ni tassei dekinakatta koto ga hijō ni kuyashii, First and foremost, it’s regrettable that I couldn’t break the world record, too [in addition to winning a gold medal], here at the Olympic Stadium), he said.

Takefusa Kubo, a 20-year-old soccer player, expressed his frustration in losing the bronze medal game against Mexico, saying, 「今までサッカーだけやってきてこんなに悔しいことはない」 (Ima made sakkā dake yatte-kite konna ni kuyashii koto wa nai, Having played soccer up till now [my whole life], there’s nothing more frustrating than this).

Similar to 何よりも, the term こんなに〜ことはない (konnani ~ koto wa nai) or これほど〜ことはない (kore hodo ~ koto wa nai) indicates the utmost feeling of one’s emotional state. Kubo feels as if there has been nothing more disappointing in his life, for example. Hopefully, he’ll have the occasion to say これほど幸せなことはない (kore hodo shiawasena koto wa nai, there’s nothing more joyous than this) sometime soon.

The adjective 悔しい isn’t the only way to convey feelings of remorse and regret. Akiyo Noguchi, 32, won a bronze medal at the Games and was, in my opinion, a bit hard on herself when she told the media, 「もっともっといいクライミングをお見せしたかった」 (Motto motto ii kuraimingu o o-miseshitakatta, I wish I could have demonstrated better climbing). By adding the 〜たい (~tai) ending to a verb, we can express desire. Using the past tense, 〜たかった (~takatta), allows us to express something we wanted to do, which is equal to saying “I wish I could have” in English. Thanks to the pandemic, some of us might be saying 開会式は見に行きたかった (kaikaishiki wa mi ni ikitakatta, I wish I could have gone to see the opening ceremony [in person]).

However they choose to describe the experience, there is one phrase that serves as a congratulatory sentiment whether you’ve completed a triathlon, a Japanese exam or a normal day at work, and that’s お疲れ様でした (otsukaresama deshita, great job).

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