With our heads clouded by COVID and our psyches slowly accepting reopening thanks to the vaccines, I think all of us were taken aback by the sudden normalcy of the trials for the July 23 start of the Summer Olympics in Tokyo.

It was only in the last few days that I noticed the background noises — first of my husband watching track and field events and gymnastics (the latter being his least favorite), and the second the background sounds. And by background noises I mean the banging of those bouncy mats of floor routines. The squeaks of pommel horse routines. The sharp bang, like the sound of a diving board, of the vault.

Most of all, however, it's the sound of cheers, oohs, aahs, gasps and claps that strikes my heart. I love it. Last year, I was vaguely freaked out by the fake crowd noises in strikingly empty sporting venues. But I saw the point. Dead silence was equally disturbing. Now, the sounds of the Olympic trials are real, spontaneous and strikingly normal. Yes, there are still masks. And that makes me happy, too. Why risk years of hard work with too much cockiness?

NBC Sports, Olympic Channel: Home of Team USA, NBCOlympics.com and Peacock are getting record audiences for the U.S. Olympic Trials for swimming, diving, track and field and gymnastics. Their coverage includes more than 85 TV hours, more than 50 of which are in primetime, the most-ever for those combined Olympic Trials.

Northeast Ohio has a lot to cheer: As of this writing, athletes from Rocky River and Olmsted Falls have secured a visit to Japan. Rocky River native and The Ohio State University junior Adelaide Aquilla landed a spot on the U.S. Olympic track and field team by finishing in third place Thursday in the shot put. Katie Nageotte of Olmsted Falls will be on the U.S. Women’s Pole Vault team. She had a vault of 16 feet, 2¾ inches at the Olympic Trials on Saturday.

Her vault was a personal best outdoors, and capped a five-year campaign to reach the Olympic Games after finishing fifth in the 2016 Trials.

I have always loved watching the gymnastics and the swimming. As a preteen and teen, I dreamed of being able to swing around on the uneven bars and land a perfect somersault on the beam. I took lessons at the old YMCA in Lakewood. My biggest feat was managing to give myself a black eye by helping disassemble a trampoline and have the bar I was dislodging bounce back and hit me in the face. It was a proud moment.

I am mesmerized by synchronized diving. The precision and timing are incredible. “Oh my god! No splash!” I’ve been known to spontaneously jump up on that one. Side note: My family mocks this love of diving. I think they put it somewhere in the same class as synchronized swimming. I’m not liking that sport, by the way. Too many comedy routines come to mind.

Olympic swimming also is a great spectator sport. I was deeply disturbed/mesmerized (that word again!) by the athletes’ Speedos in years past. Why didn’t water pressure or gravity make them fall? Seriously. Why? The new suits are more like shorts. I’m strangely disappointed. But glad. But disappointed.

The trials ended on Sunday. Now, I can’t wait for the opening ceremony on July 23. I’ve read that Japanese officials are having a difficult time getting volunteers and that audiences will be limited. But we can still sit in our living rooms and be amazed. A year late, but still amazed.

As they say, better late than never.

Contact this reporter at editor@westlifenews.com or 440-871-5797.

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