2020 Tokyo Olympics makes history for the United States


Ayaana Pradhan

The United States had a successful run at the 2020 Tokyo Olympics

Grace Davidson, Sports Editor

This year’s Olympics had heart-stopping, gut-wrenching, and tear-inducing moments. Statements were made, records broke, and countless wins for hundreds of skillful athletes. The COVID-19 pandemic has set the world back, but the rescheduled 2020 Tokyo Olympics was a way to show progress in hopes for a brighter future. 

The United States had a successful run at the Olympics this year. In total, the U.S. brought home 39 gold medals, 41 silver medals, and 33 bronze medals. The United States won more medals than any other competing country this year. It would be difficult to highlight each athlete’s accomplishments during this year’s summer games and there were many. Focusing on the performance of the U.S., these are the most memorable highlights of the games. 

One of the most notable and relatable breakthroughs was a mental health statement made from a sport notorious for unhealthy stigmas, gymnastics. Simone Biles, one of America’s sweethearts, was able to use her status in the sports world to voice her concerns about mental health, specifically her own. Biles withdrew from the all-around team final at the 2020 Olympics to focus on her mental health and started a very important conversation about athletes’ mental wellbeing. USA Gymnastics supported Bile’s decision to back out. This allowed the Russian Olympic Committee (ROC) to snatch gold after the first event ending the United States decade-long reign. 

Even though Bile’s backed out, she did win silver in the teams all-around. In the face of Bile’s withdrawal, Sunisa Lee made her breakthrough scoring gold for the U.S. in the Women’s Artistic Individual All-Around. At 18 years old, Lee was able to get from her home state of Minnesota to the Tokyo Olympics representing her family as a first-generation prodigy. Bile’s commented that she was “beyond proud” of Lee for placing gold.

Other wins came from women’s basketball, who scored their seventh straight gold over Japan (90-75). The women’s team have been dominating the court Olympic after Olympic proving they have what it takes to compete against the worlds best and dominate. The men’s basketball team followed suit winning their fourth gold in a row against France (87-82). However, It was not smooth sailing for the men’s team. France led early on in the final game and the U.S. was disjointed at times. The team made a notable recovery around the third quarter which allowed their offense to penetrate France’s solid defense that had been blocking baskets all game. 

A history-making moment came from American surfer, Carissa Moore. Moore was the first woman to ever win gold in surfing at the Olympics. At 18 years old, Moore became the youngest world champion surfer and 10 years later, made history at the Olympics. 

The United States women’s volleyball team was breaking boundaries, winning their first gold medal at the Olympics against Brazil. Not only did they win, but they dominated, crushing Brazil 3-0 (25-21, 25-20, 25-14). It was teamwork that paved the way for this first-ever win for the U.S. -one of the most unforgettable moments that occurred at the Tokyo Olympics. 

The United States did not win everything though, one of the biggest downfalls coming from women’s soccer. The team was hoping to break a record themselves, being the first to get an Olympic gold after a World Cup win. However, they were defeated by Canada. Canada then went on to win their first gold ever in the sport. In the end, the U.S. team got bronze after defeating Australia. 

The match between Canada and the U.S. was frustrating, to say the least. Alyssa Naeher, who has played for the U.S. in the past and proved to be a very consistent goalie, was injured twenty-two minutes into the semi-final match. Losing a key component to the team led to their downfall. After a penalty kick, Canada was able to weave their way to the goal and score on substitute goalie, Adrianna Franch. This one goal was enough to last till the clock ran out. This was particularly disappointing for long-time player Carli Lloyd. This would be Lloyd’s fourth Olympic game and her last. Despite this loss, the United States Women’s International Soccer Team (USWNT) has an incredible legacy that will continue onto their next match-up. 

Another sport that fell short at the 2020 Olympics was men’s track and field. They failed to place for a solo gold for the first time ever at a fully attended Olympics. Noah Lyles had a particularly tough run, but the reality is he was only 50 milliseconds behind the gold-winning score. In track, the smallest amount of time, or the tiniest misstep stands in between winning or failing. Olympic athletes can feel pressured to win gold for the country they are representing, which is often an overlooked aspect of competing in the Olympics. 

New pressures came with competing during a global pandemic. To meet regulations and ensure the safety of Olympic athletes, of which there were 11,656, Tokyo built a secluded peninsula deemed the Olympic village. Olympic villages are not new, but the norms and precautions that are taken inside of them are. Athletes were already testing positive for COVID-19 before the Olympics commenced. Not to mention Tokyo’s cases were increasing. Athletes had to take saliva tests every day to ensure safety. 

On a positive spectrum, the Olympic Village was a trending theme on the popular social media platform TikTok. Athletes showcased their rooms, including new cardboard, eco-friendly beds. The athletes also had fun interacting with different countries and athletes with pandemic restrictions. The Olympic cafeteria provided a plethora of food options stemming from dozens of different cultures and countries. Athletes have commented that the village is like a “giant college campus.” Housing so many people in one place certainly has its challenges and the rooms resemble college dorms. 

Wait, there is more! The Olympics are not completely over, or at least the Paralympics are not. The Paralympics allow athletes with physical disabilities to compete. So far the U.S. has won 25 gold medals, 28 silver medals, and 20 bronze medals. The women’s wheelchair basketball team is on to the semi-finals after a win over Canada (63-48). They will face China today (Sept. 2) in the semi-finals. Women so far have won 66 percent of the United States medals in the Paralympics so far. The Paralympics themselves are set to finish up on Sept. 5, this Thursday. 

The United States has a powerful lineage of amazing and respected athletes that go on to crush records, make history, and win gold. This Olympic and Paralympic season has proved to live up to every expectation and its downfalls only make the athletes work harder and become stronger. Over 600 athletes represented the United States for the Tokyo Olympics and every one of them represented the U.S. courageously while showcasing their incredible athletic talent. The next summer Olympics will be held in Paris, France in 2024.