Setting Records, Winning Golds: Standout Moments of the 32nd Olympics

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Photo courtesy of usatoday.com

Minnesota’s Suni Lee stepped up for the women’s gymnastics team and won a gold medal after Simone Biles stepped down. Lee will compete for Auburn University as a member of the Class of 2025.

Charlie Spungin, Copy Editor

On Aug. 8, the 2020 Summer Olympics wrapped up following 17 days of non-stop sporting events. Though taking place in 2021, the quadrennial event has still been dubbed the 2020 Summer Olympics despite the postponement due to COVID-19.

There were 339 total events through 33 total sports. Four sports made their debut at the Olympics: skateboarding, surfing, karate, and sport climbing. Baseball and softball made their return to the Olympics, last played in 2008. Beyond these five sports, 15 events made their debuts, including 3×3 basketball and several new mixed events like the 4×100 medley relay.

The following 10 teams had the most gold medals and total medals. The first number listed is the country’s number of gold medals, and the second is their total medals.

Russia was not permitted to compete at these Olympics due to a decision made by the World Anti-Doping Agency. Their athletes competed under the acronym ROC, which stands for Russian Olympic Committee. 

Swimming

The United States dominated swimming, earning a total of 11 gold medals and 30 total medals total in the events.

American Caeleb Dressel stood out not only in swimming but in the entirety of the Olympics, as he left Tokyo with five gold medals. He set Olympic records in the 50 m freestyle and 100 m freestyle, world records for the 100 m butterfly and 4 x 100 m medley relay (a team event). His last gold medal came from the 4 x 100 m freestyle relay (team event). He became the fourth male to win 5 swimming gold medals in a single Olympics.

The top female American swimmer was Katie Ledecky, who garnered 4 total medals (2 gold, 2 silver). Her gold medals came from the 800 m freestyle and the 1500 m freestyle. Her silvers were in the 400 m freestyle and the 4 x 200 freestyle relay (team event). 

However, the most dominant swimmer at this year’s Olympics was Australian Emma McKeon, who won 7 medals (4 gold, 3 bronze), the most medals ever won by a female swimmer in a single Olympics. She won gold and set Olympic records in the 50 m freestyle, 100 m freestyle, and 4 x 100 medley relay (team event). Her final gold medal came from setting a world record in the 4 x 100 freestyle relay (team event). Her bronze medals were in the 100 m butterfly, 4 x 200 freestyle relay (team event), and 4 x 100 mixed medley relay (team event). 

There were other world records set in the swimming events. A group of four Chinese women set the world record for the women’s 4 x 200 m freestyle relay. South African Tatjana Schoenmaker set a new world record in the women’s 200 m breaststroke. Lastly, four swimmers from Great Britain established a new record in the mixed 4 x 100 m medley relay. 

Gymnastics

The United States didn’t dominate gymnastics as much as swimming, winning 6 medals compared to the 11 of China and 10 of the ROC. 

Regardless, the standout individual during the gymnastics events this year was American Suni Lee, who won 3 medals (1 gold, 1 silver, 1 bronze). The US earned silver in the women’s team all-around. She won bronze in uneven bars. The gold medal came in the biggest event of them all: the individual all-around. She finished 5th in vault, 1st in uneven bars, 2nd in balance beam, and 5th in floor en route to gold. 

Simone Biles, widely regarded as the greatest gymnast of all-time, removed her name from some of the events due to mental health issues. Some unfairly criticized her for “quitting on her country”, but it started a dialogue of the importance of mental health for athletes, something that had been highlighted months earlier by Japanese tennis player Naomi Osaka.

Athletics

Athletics has the most events of any sport in the entirety of the Olympics. The USA won the most gold medals with 7 and the most total with 26.

In the men’s events, there wasn’t any specific athlete who dominated the competition. An Olympic record was set in the 1500 m by Norweigan Jakob Ingebrigtsen. Additionally, another Norweigan, Karsten Warholm, set a record, this one a world record in the 400 m hurdles. A great moment took place in the men’s high jump. After tying, Italy’s Gianmarco Tamberi and Qatar’s Mutaz Essa Barshim both received a gold medal.

The women’s events were definitely more interesting than the men’s this year. In the women’s 100 m, not only was an Olympic record set by Jamaican Elaine Thompson-Herah, but Jamaica swept the event, winning both silver and bronze. That was one of the two sweeps throughout the entirety of the Olympics. Thompson-Herah won her second gold medal in the 200 m.

The Netherlands’ Sifan Hassan won gold in both the 5,000 m and 10,000 m. Kenya’s Faith Kipyegon set the Olympic record in the 1,500 m.

The women’s 400 m hurdles might have been the best event in the entirety of the Olympics. Two Americans won gold and silver in an excellent race that resulted in a world record. Sydney McLaughlin won gold, and Dalilah Muahmmed won silver. These two would team up in the 4 x 400 m relay, where the team would win gold by a whopping four seconds.

The United States’ Allyson Felix became the most American decorated track & field athlete in Olympic history. She won bronze in the 400 m and gold in the 4 x 400 m relay (team event). These two medals catapulted her to 11 over her career.

Venezuelan Yulimar Rojas set a world record in women’s long jump.

Others

While those are three of the major Olympic sports, there are over two dozen others. 

South Korea dominated archery, winning gold in four of the five events. The Chinese dominated badminton, winning a medal in each of the five events, and table tennis, where they won gold in four of the five events. France won gold in both men’s and women’s handball. 

The USA dominated basketball, winning gold in men’s basketball, women’s basketball, and women’s 3×3 basketball. American women Sue Bird and Diana Taurasi became the first two basketball players to win five gold medals at the Olympics. Americans Xander Schauffele and Nelly Korda won the gold medal in men’s and women’s golf. Additionally, the USA won gold in women’s indoor volleyball and women’s beach volleyball (Alix Klineman and April Ross). Ross has now won a gold medal, a silver medal, and a bronze medal in beach volleyball at the Olympics.

Switzerland had a podium sweep in women’s cross-country mountain biking. 

 

The 2024 Olympics are merely three years away due to the postponement of this year’s competition. They will take place in Paris, France. Breakdancing is set to be added, but baseball/softball and karate are going to be removed.