When the Tokyo Games began, nobody could be certain how they would come off with no fans in the stands and strict COVID-19 protocols. But after 339 events in 33 sports and more than 11,000 athletes getting their shot at glory, the 32nd Summer Olympics have concluded.
Here are the highlights from all 17 days:
A most unusual opening ceremony took place under the specter of COVID-19, with no fans inside Olympic Stadium but several protestors outside. 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 was the first tennis player ever chosen to light the cauldron. Prior to the ceremony, competition got underway in archery, rowing and shooting. Softball and soccer began play earlier in the week.
The Russian women’s team beat Japan 21-18 in the Olympic debut of 3×3 basketball. The U.S. team would win two of its first games in the pool round, 17-10 over France and 21-9 over Mongolia. Swimmer Emma Weyant won her heat in the 400 IM by a whopping 1.73 seconds, easily beating the two-time world champion and 2016 Olympic champion Katinka Hosszu as well as Mireia Belmonte, who won bronze in the event in Rio. Iranian Javad Foroughi won the men’s air pistol gold and became his country’s first medal winner in a shooting event. But the win came with controversy. Foroughi was subsequently reported to be a member of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, which has been labeled a terrorist group by the U.S. government.
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. One of its members, Artur Dalaloyan, competed despite tearing an Achilles just three months earlier. 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. Australian swimmer Ariarne Titmus out-dueled American star Katie Ledecky in the 400-meter freestyle, inspiring her coach Dean Boxall to a hip-thrusting celebration that became a viral sensation.
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. Meanwhile, Russia scored a big upset to win the gold medal, ending the U.S. dominant reign since 2012. In the first softball gold medal awarded since 2008, Japan beat the U.S. 2-0. The U.S. was introduced to a new swimming star in 17-year-old Lydia Jacoby, who upset reigning Olympic champion Lilly King in the 100-meter breaststroke. Videos from her hometown of Seward, Alaska, where residents watched the race became a sensation. 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 players on the team are on 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 easily won her signature event, the 1,500-meter freestyle, just an hour after she finished off the podium in the 200. It was the first time women had contested the 1,500 in the Olympics. She won it by 4.07 seconds over teammate Erica Sullivan.
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. After winning the 100-meter freestyle in an Olympic record 47.02 seconds, Caeleb Dressel had a tearful moment on television when NBC put him on a video call with his wife Meghan back 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.
Baseball came back to the Olympics after a 12-year hiatus, and the U.S. team opened with an 8-1 win over Israel. Connor Fields, who won the 2016 gold medal in men’s BMX racing, was in second place during a semifinal heat when his front wheel caught the back of the leader, resulting in a multi-bike crash that resulted in a brain hemorrhage, a broken rib and a bruised lung. Fields was released from the hospital after a five-day stay. World tennis No. 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. After losing the bronze medal match to Pablo Carreno Busta, Djokovic pulled out of the mixed doubles bronze match citing injuries and fatigue. The mixed relay triathlon debuted at the Olympics with the U.S. taking silver behind Great Britain.
Italian Gianmarco Tamberi and Qatari Mutaz Essa Barshim produced one of the most touching moments of the Olympics when the longtime friends agreed to share the gold medal in the high jump rather than determine the winner by a jump-off. 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 Schauffele gets up and down for par on the 72nd hole to win the gold medal in golf. C.T. Pan from Chinese Taipei emerged from a 7-way playoff for bronze.
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With Biles not competing in floor exercise, her best event, Jade Carey carried American hopes and won the gold medal, recovering from an eighth-place finish in the vault final a day earlier when she tripped. Italian Vanessa Ferrari took the silver after three previous empty trips to the Olympics, becoming the second woman in her 30s to win a gymnastics medal in the last 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 returned to competition, likely for the last time at the Olympics, and nailed her routine on the balance beam, taking the bronze medal. Rai Benjamin of the U.S. and Karsten Warholm of Norway ran an incredible 400-meter hurdles final with Warholm winning by .23 seconds and smashing his own world record. Athing Mu, a 19-year-old from New Jersey, won the gold in the 800 meters while the U.S. also took third with Raevyn Rogers. 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.
In a highly-anticipated battle between two American hurdlers, 22-year-old Sydney McLaughlin set a world record of 51.46 seconds to beat 2016 gold medalist Dalilah Muhammad in the 400 meters. 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 a close fourth and announced himself as a force for 2024. Super heavyweight boxer Richard Torrez of Tulare, Calif., beat Kamshybek Kunkabayev of Kazakhstan in the semifinal and assured the U.S. of its first medal in that event since Riddick Bowe 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 19-year-old from Seattle, became the first American woman to win a gold medal in canoe sprint, taking the 200-meter race. World No. 1 Nelly Korda shot 62 in the second round of the women’s golf competition to take a four-shot lead. Helen Maroulis became the first woman in U.S. wrestling history to win two Olympic medals, adding a bronze in the 57kg freestyle to her gold from Rio in the 53kg.
Allyson Felix became the second U.S. track and field athlete to win 10 Olympic medals with a bronze in the 400-meter dash, competing for the first time at the Olympics 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 pulled off a miraculous gold medal win in the 125 kg freestyle wrestling final. 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. The beach volleyball team of April Ross and Alix Klineman, won gold without dropping a set in four elimination 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 made it an American gold sweep in golf, holding on in a tight final round to win by a stroke at 17-under par. The U.S. women’s water polo team won its third consecutive gold medal, beating Spain 14-5 in the final. Japan took the gold medal for the first time in baseball, beating the U.S. 2-0 in the final. 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 won the bronze medal in just the third marathon of her career. 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. She also took bronze in the 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. The U.S. had never won gold before in volleyball. The closing ceremony officially ended the Tokyo Games.
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