No fans were allowed and the strict COVID-19 regulations meant that nobody knew how the Tokyo Games would turn out. After 33 sports were represented and 11,000 athletes got their chance, the 32nd Summer Olympics are over.
These are some highlights of all 17 days.
The specter COVID-19 dominated the opening ceremony. There were no spectators inside Olympic Stadium, but many protestors out. Though the show contained many of the hallmarks of opening ceremonies past – the parade of nations, the musical numbers, the dance routines – it was a scaled-down event that was more somber in tone. Naomi Osaka, a tennis player from Japan was chosen as the first to light the torch. Before the ceremony began, archery, rowing, and shooting competitions were underway. Soccer and softball were introduced earlier in week.
The Russian women’s team beat Japan 21-18 in the Olympic debut of 3×3 basketball. Two of the first pool games won by the U.S. were wins 17-10 against France and 21-9 over Mongolia. Emma Weyant, a swimmer, won the 400 IM heat by a record 1.73 seconds. She easily beat Katinka Hosszu, a two-time World Champion and Olympic gold medalist in 2016, as well Mireia Bellmonte who took bronze at the Rio event. Iranian Javad Foroughi won the men’s air pistol gold and became his country’s first medal winner in a shooting event. The win was not without controversy. The U.S. government later claimed that Foroughi was part of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps.
The U.S. earned its first medals of the Games with Chase Kalisz and Jay Litherland finishing 1-2 in the men’s 400 IM. Overall, the U.S. won six medals in the pool across four events, which USA TODAY Sports columnist Christine Brennan called the best opening day ever for USA Swimming. The U.S. men’s basketball team lost to France 83-76, breaking a streak of 25 consecutive Olympic wins. Lee Kiefer, a 27-year-old medical student and fencer from Kentucky, became the first American to win gold in women’s foil. Skateboarding made its debut at the Olympics and Jagger Eaton won bronze for the U.S. in men’s street while Nyjah Huston, the highest-paid skateboarder in the world, finished seventh.
Competing under the banner of the Russian Olympic Committee due to sanctions against the country’s doping program, the Russian team won the gold medal in men’s team gymnastics for the first time since 1996. Artur Dalaloyan was one of the team’s members. He had just strained his Achilles three months prior. British star Tom Daley, competing in his fourth Olympics, finally gets his first gold medal in the 10-meter synchronized platform diving. Teenagers swept the podium in the women’s street skateboarding final, with 13-year old Momiji Nishiya of Japan taking the gold. Ariarne Titmus from Australia beat Katie Ledecky, the American skateboard star. Dean Boxall was inspired by her hip-thrusting performance and made it a viral success.
July 27, 2008
Reigning women’s all-around champion Simone Biles delivered a huge jolt to the Games when she pulled out of the women’s team final after one rotation on the vault, citing a case of the “twisties” and sparking a broad conversation about athletes and mental health. Russia came out on top to claim the gold medal. This ended the U.S. dominance of softball since 2012. In the first softball gold medal awarded since 2008, Japan beat the U.S. 2-0. Lydia Jacoby (17 years old) was the new American swimming champion. She defeated Lilly King, reigning Olympic gold medalist in 100m breaststroke. The race was captured in Seward, Alaska by residents. Naomi Osaka lost a shocker in the third round to Marketa Vondrousova, 6-1, 6-4, deflating a lot of the hype around the women’s tennis event.
The U.S. took the first women’s 3×3 basketball gold medal, defeating the Russians in the final 18-15 and the French team 18-16 in the semifinals. All four members of this team were on the WNBA rosters. Japan’s Daiki Hashimoto became the youngest winner of the men’s gymnastics all-around at 19, carrying the torch from two-time gold medalist Kohei Uchimura. Ledecky quickly won her favorite event, the 1,500-meter, freestyle. She did this just over an hour after winning the 200. It was the first time women had contested the 1,500 in the Olympics. It was won by Erica Sullivan, who finished 4.07 seconds ahead.
With Biles cheering her on, 18-year-old Sunisa Lee became the fifth straight American gymnast to win the women’s all-around, narrowly beating Brazil’s Rebeca Andrade, who made history of her own as the first Latin American to medal in this event. With a population of roughly 34,000, San Marino became the smallest country to win an Olympic medal when Alessandra Perilli won a bronze in women’s trap shooting. Caeleb Dessel won the 100-meter freestyle with an Olympic record time of 47.02 seconds. He was then able to share a touching moment on television as NBC sent him to a video conference in Florida. Ledecky’s spectacular anchor leg in the 4×200 freestyle relay secured a silver for the U.S. as heavily favored Australia came in third.
After a 12 year hiatus baseball returned to the Olympics. The U.S. opened the Olympics with an 8-1 victory over Israel. Connor Fields won the 2016 men’s BMX gold medal. His front wheel collided with the back of the leader during a semi-final heat. This caused a crash that left him in 2nd place. He also suffered a brain hemorhage and a fractured lung. After a five day stay, Fields was discharged from hospital. Number one in world tennis. 1 Novak Djokovic, who won the first three Grand Slam events of the year and was trying to add his first career gold medal, was upset by Germany’s Alexander Zverev in the semifinals despite leading by a set and a break.
Jamaica swept the podium in the women’s 100-meter dash with Elaine Thompson-Herah taking the gold just as she did in Rio in 2016. Ledecky backed up her 1,500 win by defending the 800-meter gold she won in 2016. Dressel continued his remarkable march through the Olympics, beating his own world record in the 100 butterfly by .05 seconds. Djokovic, who had lost the bronze medal match against Pablo Carreno Busta in the 100 butterfly, pulled out due to fatigue and injuries. At the Olympics, the mixed relay triathlon was introduced. The U.S. took silver after Great Britain.
Italian Gianmarco Tamberi was joined by Qatari Mutaz Essa Barshim in one of the most heartwarming moments at the Olympics. The long-time friends decided to split the gold medal for high jump and not have a jump off to determine who the winner. Men’s 100-meter favorite Trayvon Brommel surprisingly failed to qualify for the final, which was won by Italian Lamont Marcell Jacobs with American Fred Kerley taking second. After winning a silver medal in the women’s shot put, Raven Saunders raised her arms in an X on the medal stand, saying it was in support of “oppressed people.” The IOC initially said it would investigate the act for a potential violation of rules against demonstrations but suspended it when her mother passed away two days later. Dressel finished off his Olympics with two more gold medals – five total – by winning the 50-meter freestyle and helping the U.S. set a world record in the 4 x 100 medley relay. Xander Schaffele takes a leap of faith to make par on the 72nd golf hole and win the gold medal for golf. C.T. Pan of Chinese Taipei won bronze in a seven-way playoff.
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Biles did not compete in floor exercise. Jade Carey was American hopefuls and took home the gold medal. She had previously finished eighth in the vault final after she fell. After three empty Olympic trips, Vanessa Ferrari of Italy took silver. She became the second woman under 30 to earn a medal in gymnastics in the past 15 years. Canada beat the U.S. women’s soccer team for the first time since 2001, winning 1-0 in the semifinals on a penalty kick in the 75th minute. Jasmine Camacho-Quinn, a South Carolina native who ran under the Puerto Rican flag, edged out Kendra Harrison in the 100-meter hurdles and set an Olympic record to deliver the island’s second-ever gold medal.
Biles, possibly for the final time at the Olympics was back in competition and she won the bronze medal with her balance beam routine. Rai Benjamin from the U.S. ran a remarkable 400m hurdles final. Karsten Warholm, of Norway won by.23 seconds. Warholm also broke his world record. Athing Mu (19-year-old New Jersey girl) won gold in 800m, while Raevyn Rodgers, the United States, took third. Thompson-Herah completed the sprint double for the second straight Olympics with a commanding win in the 200 while Gabrielle Thomas took bronze. The U.S. men’s basketball team was locked a tight game with Spain in the quarterfinals but pulled away at the end for a 95-81 win. Tamyra Mensah-Stock, who grew up in the Houston area, became the first Black woman ever to win gold in wrestling in the 68kg freestyle.
Sydney McLaughlin, 22, set the world record for 51.46 seconds in the 400m to defeat 2016 gold medalist Dalilah Muhammad. The U.S. finished 2-3-4 in the men’s 200 with Kenny Bednarek winning a surprise silver medal and Noah Lyles taking the bronze. Erriyon Knighton (the promising 17-year old), finished in fourth place and declared that he will be an important force in 2024. Richard Torrez from Tulare in Calif. beat Kamshybek Kunkabayev (Kazakhstan) in the semi-final and gave the U.S. their first medal since Riddick Bowle in 1988.
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The U.S. took the top two spots in the men’s shot put with Ryan Crouser logging three throws that would have beat his 2016 Olympic record, the longest measuring 76 feet, 5½ inches. Grant Holloway, the heavy favorite in the 110-meter hurdles, admitted to nerves in the last stages of his race and settled for silver, just five-hundredths of a second behind Jamaica’s Hansle Parchment. Nathaniel Coleman won the first-ever medal for the U.S. in the new sport climbing competition, taking silver in the men’s combined final. Nevin Harrison (a Seattle teenager) won the 200-meter canoe sprint gold medal. No. 1 Nelly Korda shot 62 in the second round of the women’s golf competition to take a four-shot lead. Helen Maroulis was the first female American wrestler to earn two Olympic medals. She added bronze in the freestyle 57kg to her 53kg gold.
Allyson Felix was the second American track and field athlete with 10 Olympic medals, winning a bronze in 400m dash. This is her first Olympic appearance as a mother. The American men’s 4×100 relay team had a bevy of errors and didn’t make it out of qualifying, drawing sharp criticism from U.S. track icon Carl Lewis, who called it “completely unacceptable.” The U.S. hasn’t medaled in the event since 2004. Dan Gable Steveson won a remarkable gold medal in the freestyle wrestling final at 125kg. On the verge of defeat with 10 seconds remaining, he scored three takedowns in a row to flip the match and defeat three-time world champion Geno Petriashvili of Georgia. April Ross and Alix Kulineman won gold in beach volleyball, winning all four rounds.
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The U.S. men’s basketball team defeated France in a dramatic final, 87-82, to extend its streak to four consecutive gold medals. Korda won the American gold sweep of golf by winning at 17-under. The U.S. women’s water polo team won its third consecutive gold medal, beating Spain 14-5 in the final. Japan won the baseball gold medal, defeating the U.S. by 2-0. The U.S. men’s track team finally got its first gold medal in Tokyo in the 4×400 relay, and the American women won that event as well finishing nearly four seconds in front of Poland as Felix took home her 11th medal. Molly Seidel took home the bronze medal for her third marathon. Sifan Hassan of the Netherlands completed the “distance double,” winning the 10,000 meters on top of the 5,000-meter gold she won earlier in the Games. Also, she won bronze in 1,500.
The U.S. women’s basketball team beat Japan 90-75 to win its seventh consecutive gold medal and the fifth straight for teammates Sue Bird and Diana Taurasi. Jennifer Valente took home her second gold medal of the Games in the women’s omnium indoor cycling event. Shortly thereafter, the U.S. defeated Brazil 3-0 in women’s volleyball to claim a 39th gold of the Tokyo Games, edging past China for the most of any nation. In volleyball, the U.S. hadn’t won any gold medals before. Tokyo Games officially closed with the closing ceremony.