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Olympians have long been celebrated for their athletic ability as only thousands across the globe are selected to compete in the series of games every four years. But during the Tokyo Games — the first Olympics that have taken place since the inception of TikTok — some competitors are being thrust into the spotlight via social media, giving fans a rare look into the lives of these elite athletes.
American rugby player Ilona Maher is just one of a handful of athletes already gaining millions of views with content created in just the first week at the Olympic Village. Even before competing in her team's first game on Wednesday, she had won gold for most relatable content on TikTok.
Her first viral video while at the Olympics was about the infamous cardboard beds that all athletes in the Olympic Village are sleeping on in the name of sustainability.
And while her humor certainly shined, as she did a series of tests with her teammates to see how sturdy the beds really are, that was just the beginning of Maher's viral fame. Now, with over 537,000 followers and counting, the rugby player is quickly becoming people's favorite source for Olympic entertainment and behind-the-scenes coverage.
Maher also joked about sexual tension at the Olympic Village, making videos about the "tall foreign demigod" athletes. And while many outsiders seem to think that the athletes all know each other, Maher's honesty about the goings-on at the village makes her even more relatable.
"So this is the side of the Olympics we never thought we'd see," someone commented on Maher's post.
Another wrote, "I still can't get over that I'm seeing LITERAL OLYMPIANS post about flirting and food on TikTok."
Luckily for those loving the content, Maher isn't the only one creating it. Others like American rugby player Cody Melphy, Australian diver Sam Fricker and Japanese fencer Kaito Streets have also gone viral for their behind-the-scenes look into the Olympic Village, whether giving tours of the grounds or highlighting specific amenities that spectators have never gotten the opportunity to see until now.
Streets also joined others in displaying their fandom of some of the best-known athletes at the games, including Naomi Osaka and Simone Biles.
"I feel like the olympics are a huge class trip," someone responded to Downs' post. Another said, "Omg Olympic ppl are real ppl and that's so insane to me."
Both Downs and Maher responded to users fascinated over Olympians' use of TikTok, let alone the fact that these athletes have a sense of humor.
"I swear I'm normal," Downs captioned his video. Maher made her own with the caption, "Olympians are people too."
"Guys, we're just like you. We're people, you know, we're funny," Maher said in her video. "But we just happen to be really good at sports."
Still, American gymnast Suni Lee and British diver Tom Daley are making sure that people don't forget their athletic ability side as they both shared videos on their TikToks with the gold medals they've already won from the games.