Tokyo Olympics Were ‘More Challenging’ Than Expected

  • Alex Morgan won an Olympic bronze medal with the US Women’s National Team in Tokyo this summer.
  • The star told Insider that she’ll cherish the medal, but her experience was more challenging than she expected.
  • “It was just a really different Olympics,” Morgan said.

Alex Morgan came home from Tokyo with a bronze medal, but her Olympics experience wasn’t what she had hoped. 

The US Women’s National Team superstar told Insider that the color of the medal wasn’t the only disappointment to come out of the games. Her time in Tokyo, Morgan said, “was a lot more challenging, both physically and mentally” than she’d anticipated.

Alex Morgan.

Morgan reacts during the USWNT’s game against Sweden at the Tokyo Olympics.

Jack Gruber-USA TODAY Network

Morgan spent 35 days away from her 15-month-old daughter to chase gold at the Olympics, only to return with bronze, and the pandemic fundamentally changed the nature of the games.

“To not have the atmosphere of  a true packed stadium and playing in front of fans, we just weren’t able to experience the Olympics feel,” Morgan said while promoting her partnership with pet food brand Stella & Chewy’s. 

“As much as I will cherish the bronze medal,” she added, her Olympic appearance “just wasn’t the experience that I had initially thought.”

The prolific striker has already experienced the dream scenario at the Olympics. In 2012, a 23-year-old Morgan scored three goals — including a 123rd-minute game-winner — and tacked on five assists en route to a gold medal with the USWNT. The remarkable showing catapulted the budding star to near-instant fame and kickstarted a fruitful career with the national team.

Alex Morgan celebrates her gold medal at the 2012 London Olympics.

Morgan celebrates her gold medal at the 2012 London Olympics.

Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

In Morgan’s next Olympics showing in 2016, the USWNT suffered a shocking quarterfinal loss to Sweden, falling short of their glorious run four years prior. Still, Morgan got to experience the entirety of the games — the Olympic Village, the local offerings in Rio de Janeiro, and more. In Tokyo this year, however, she and her teammates weren’t afforded the same luxuries.

“I love the Olympics for being a part of something bigger than just your soccer team and we didn’t really — we weren’t able to go to other events,” Morgan said. “We weren’t able to really see other athletes.”

“So it was just a really different Olympics,” she added.

Alex Morgan dribbles during the semifinal match of the Tokyo Olympics.

Morgan dribbles during the semifinal match of the Tokyo Olympics.

Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

Still, Morgan spoke highly of her team’s resilience following a shaky start in Tokyo. She and her teammates lost 3-0 to Sweden — the same squad that delivered the USWNT’s quarterfinal elimination in Rio.

But they rebounded with a six-goal showing against New Zealand — one of which came from Morgan herself — and then tied Australia to advance to the knockout stage. After that, the US narrowly escaped the Netherlands in penalty kicks in the quarterfinals, then lost a heartbreaker against Canada — the eventual gold-medal winner. In the end, they bounced back for a thrilling 4-3 victory over Australia to secure the bronze.

Alex Morgan dons her bronze medal at the Tokyo Olympics.

Morgan dons her bronze medal at the Tokyo Olympics.

Naomi Baker/Getty Images

“Honestly, in the moment, coming back from losing the semifinal match to winning the bronze medal was a really low low to coming back up to a high,” Morgan said. “It wasn’t the high of winning a gold, but the fact that we were able to turn it around in three days and come home with something was important.”

Going forward, the USWNT will undoubtedly look different, given the departure of team legend Carli Lloyd and the potential retirement of superstar Megan Rapinoe. Still, Morgan said she doesn’t anticipate “huge turnover” for the team heading into the 2023 World Cup, which is now the USWNT’s main focus.

Megan Rapinoe Alex Morgan

Morgan and Megan Rapinoe celebrate a USWNT gold at the 2019 World Cup.

John Walton/EMPICS/PA Images via Getty Images

“You look at the next big tournament, which is the World Cup, and we have two years.” Morgan said. “People ask when you start preparing for that, and you start now … You start talking about it, you start making every decision based on it.”

“As great as the Olympics was, and as much as we’re proud of the bronze medal, we look forward now,” she added.

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