First Time for Everything: The Many Ways History Was Written at Tokyo 2020

Many world records were broken at the Tokyo Games (in part thanks to a very fast track) and a number of new sports and variations were introduced.

But beyond the more obvious first (yes, the pandemic Olympics), there was a dizzying array of other achievements and milestones.

Japanese premieres

Team Japan had high hopes for Tokyo 2020, and they exceeded them in many ways. From surprise wins to long-awaited victories, the Games saw the hosts win big. Here are some of the most memorable:

Japan’s first Olympic boxing champion Sena Irie slaps Nesthy Petecio of the Philippines. | REUTERS

Sena Irie’s gold medal in boxing in the featherweight category was special for a number of reasons. Not only did she beat 2019 world champion Nesthy Petecioin of the Philippines by unanimous decision, but she also became Japan’s first Olympic boxing champion. It also made Irie the first medalist in Tottori Prefecture, one of only two to have been without a medalist in his hometown, before the start of the Games. This left only Okinawa without a medal, a situation which was quickly corrected by Ryo Kiyuna, who won the world’s first men’s Olympic gold medal in karate, a martial art native to the islands.

For many Olympians, the Games were a family affair. (In fact, there were 28 siblings at this year’s event). This can be best illustrated in Japan by two groups of siblings who competed this year. the Kawai Sisters both won gold one day apart in women’s freestyle wrestling, while the judoka Hifumi and Uta Abe became the first siblings in Olympic history to win gold medals on the same day.

Baseball made a brief comeback at the Tokyo Olympics this year, and Samurai japan took full advantage, winning their first gold medal in one of the country’s most cherished hobbies. The closest they had come before that was a silver medal at the 1996 Atlanta Games. But perhaps more extraordinary was the rise of the Japanese Women’s Basketball Team. They were the second shortest team in the competition, but they had the highest three-point shooting percentage of all. In the end, they lost gold to the Americans, but even a silver medal was a first for the Japanese men’s and women’s basketball teams.

Another first Olympic gold medal for Japan was table tennis, a sport that China has dominated since its introduction to the Olympics in 1988. Looking at medal statistics in this sport is almost scrolling a channel. unbroken red flags, as China had won nine of the ten medals ever awarded. It changed slightly when Jun Mizutani and Mima Ito pulled off a thrilling shake-up in the mixed doubles final on July 26.

The youngest Japanese medalist in history: Kokona Hiraki, 12 years old |  REUTERS
The youngest Japanese medalist in history: Kokona Hiraki, 12 years old | REUTERS

Japan has also cleaned up skateboarding, one of the new entries at this year’s Olympics. From the sport’s very first Olympic gold medal, local talent carved out the lion’s share of the podium. Among them was the silver medalist Kokona Hiraki, who, at age 12, became both the youngest medalist in Japan and the youngest medalist of any country since 1936.

While all of these victories are special in themselves, perhaps one of the most memorable was that of Japan’s eighth-ranked fencing team edged the Russian Federation for gold in the eppe event. Not only was this a surprise, but it also pushed Japan to surpass its highest gold record of 16, set in 1964 – the last time Tokyo hosted the games.

National premieres

The United States and China may have dominated the medal rankings this year, but the awards column continues to diversify, with new countries reaching the podium for the first time.

First gold medalist for the Philippines: weightlifter Hidilyn Diaz |  REUTERS
First gold medalist for the Philippines: weightlifter Hidilyn Diaz | REUTERS

For example, weightlifter Hidilyn diaz made history by winning The Philippines his first gold medal. Her record lifting of 127 kilograms in the clean and jerk category became even more exceptional when she admitted to reporters that it was her first time lifting that amount.

With a population of 34,000 inhabitants, the country of San Marino became the smallest nation to win an Olympic medal when Alessandra Perilli won bronze in the women’s trap shooting event. Its victory brought Bermuda out of the status of a smaller nation. Few days ago, Flora Duffy had won the island nation its first triathlon gold medal.

Bronze medalist Alessandra Perilli from San Marino |  REUTERS
Bronze medalist Alessandra Perilli from San Marino | REUTERS

At the other end of the population table, India is home to 1.3 billion people, but has won relatively few medals for a country of its size. But at the Tokyo Games, the world’s second most populous nation won its first gold in track and field when Neeraj Chopra threw the javelin to 87.58 meters, earning her the top spot on the podium.

The Middle Eastern nation of Qatar made a similar story when Fares El-Bakh won the country’s very first gold medal in weightlifting. Shortly afterwards, compatriot and high jumper Mutaz Essa Barshim won the second when he agreed to share the gold with Italian Gianmarco Tamberi in one of the most heartwarming moments of the Games.

Despite its humble beginnings, Yulimar Rojas broke the world record for the women’s triple jump, becoming the first Venezuelan woman to win an Olympic gold medal and only the third Venezuelan to win a medal.

Last but not least is Hugues Fabrice Zango of Burkina Faso. His bronze medal in the men’s triple jump was the first medal the country has ever won, which certainly won him the welcome of a hero upon his return.


The 2020 Olympics will also be remembered for opening the door to more diversity and inclusiveness. Here are some examples of the performance seen at the Tokyo Games.

The first openly transgender woman to compete in the Olympics: Laurel Hubbard from New Zealand |  DOUG MILLS / THE NEW YORK TIMES
The first openly transgender woman to compete in the Olympics: Laurel Hubbard from New Zealand | DOUG MILLS / THE NEW YORK TIME

In New Zealand Laurier Hubbard, we saw the first appearance of an openly transgender woman competing in the Olympics, but it was a Canadian women’s team soccer midfielder named Quinn who was the first trans, non-binary athlete to win a medal. Overall, the 2020 Games were much more LGBTQ friendly than the last time the city hosted the Olympics.

In the United States, many hailed the rise of the gymnast Sunisa Lee, the first American Hmong to represent the country. And represent what she did, coming home with a gold, a silver and a bronze.

Gold medalists Jun Mizutani and Mima Ito wave their medals during the mixed doubles table tennis victory ceremony.  |  REUTERS
Gold medalists Jun Mizutani and Mima Ito wave their medals during the table tennis mixed doubles victory ceremony. | REUTERS

The IOC also claimed that it was the most gender-balanced Olympic Games on record, with women making up almost 49% of the 11,000 athletes – up from 45.6% at the Rio Games in 2016. The Games 2020 Olympics will also be recalled for expansion. mixed competitions. Seven sports have added mixed events to their list this year, including track and field, swimming, shooting, judo and table tennis. In total, men and women competed side by side in 18 events. While there is still work to be done, it was a welcome step in the right direction.

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