The 2020 (2021) Summer Olympics in Tokyo are sadly over, but the good news is that, because of the COVID-19 delay, we get the 2022 Winter Olympics in Beijing in just 176 days (Friday, February 4) and the 2024 Summer Olympics in Paris are only three years away.
P.S. If you’re wondering, “Hey, weren’t the Olympics just in Beijing pretty recently?”, you are correct. Beijing hosted the Olympics in 2008. The difference is that those were the summer games and these will be of the winter variety, as mentioned above.
With the Games of the XXXII Olympiad in the rearview, it’s the perfect time to look back at the medal count and reflect on some historical facts and trends.
Below is the table for the final total medal count (top ten countries), which USA led in with 113 total medals.
Below is the table for the final gold medal count (top ten countries), which USA led in with 39 total medals.
GOLD MEDAL COUNT RACE
For those who were tracking the medal table throughout the Games, you likely noticed that America sustained a rather comfortable lead in the overall medal count but trailed China in golds. During the last week, China’s gold medal lead stayed in the 5-7 range.
I personally resigned myself to the fact that Team USA would win the total medal count but would lose the gold medal race. But the tide started to turn in the last two days, particularly as some of the team competitions began to wrap up.
April Ross and Alix Klineman won the women’s beach volleyball competition, giving Ross one medal of each color in her Olympic career. Next came Gable Steveson’s remarkable comeback, buzzer-beating win in the 125kg wrestling final, which ultimately paralleled what Team USA would do in the gold medal race down the stretch.
Even if you don't understand wrestling or how it works, you should watch this ending:
Nelly Korda held on late to win the gold medal in women’s golf, the American men won the basketball gold, the women’s water polo team won gold, Team USA grabbed the top of the podium in the 4x400 relay for both men and women, and then the women’s basketball team matched what the men had already accomplished.
From the time Korda wrapped up the golfing medal until the women’s basketball game ended, Team USA picked up six gold medals, while China added just two (men’s diving - 10m platform and women’s canoe double 500m). This surge was just enough to pull the Americans within one of China in the gold medal count – 37-38.
Then something quite unexpected happened – USA’s Jennifer Valente won gold in cycling in an event called omnium. Valente wasn’t expected to medal, much less bring him gold. However, in so doing, she brought her team into a tie with China for most gold medals – 38-38.
At that point, the Games had just seven more gold medals to award. China was involved in one of those, a women’s boxing match, while American had three more opportunities (women’s volleyball and two men’s boxing matches). If Team USA could win two of those gold medals, they would seal the comeback.
The problem was that Team USA had never won gold in women’s volleyball and both boxing matches were against formidable opponents.
Despite having never won Olympic gold though, the women’s volleyball team showed why they’re ranked No. 1 in the world in sweeping Brazil three sets to none. Updated gold medal count – USA: 39, China: 38.
The next gold medal opportunity was one of the USA boxing matches, an opportunity to clinch the gold medal victory. Unfortunately, Keyshawn Davis lost to Cuba’s Andy Cruz.
Next came China’s boxing match; their last chance for a gold medal and last chance to tie the USA. Team Great Britain’s Lauren Price came away with a unanimous decision which sealed the gold medal count victory for Team USA.
The one-medal, come-from-behind victory for America in the gold medal race was the smallest margin of victory in over 100 years. In the 1912 Summer Games in Stockholm, Team USA finished with 25 gold medals, edging out host country Sweden by one medal in the fifth Olympiad. The only other team the margin of victory was one gold medal was the first-ever Olympiad in Athens in 1896. Team USA once again edged out the host nation (Greece) by one medal, 11-10.
Here’s a table showing the differential between the top two countries in the gold medal race in every Summer Olympic Games:
The victory in this category for America means that Team USA has hauled in the most gold medals in three straight Summer Olympics and six of the last seven. 2008 in Beijing was the lone outlier.
America has led the gold medal count in 18 of the 29 Summer Olympiads held (this is the 32nd Olympiad, but three didn’t take place due to World Wars I and II), the most of any country. The only other country to lead the gold medal count in multiple years is the Soviet Union.
TOTAL MEDAL COUNT RACE
When it comes to total medals, Team USA has historically been slightly even more dominant than on the gold medal front. Of the 28 Summer Games that America has competed in (they boycotted the 1980 Moscow Games), they’ve literally never finished lower than third in total medals; and even that only happened once (Seoul, 1988). Astoundingly, that means that 27 of those 28 finishes have either been first or second place in the total medal count.
Not only did America win the gold and total medal count, but also the silver and bronze. They hauled in 41 silver medals, followed by China’s 32 and ROC’s 20. In the bronze medal race, the US had 33 medals to ROC’s 23, followed by Great Britain and Australia who each had 22.
As you’ll see in the table below, Team USA has finished first in total medals in each of the past seven Summer Games, dating back to Atlanta in 1996.
HOST COUNTRY MEDAL COUNT
Host countries often fare better than usual in the medal count in the Games they host. This year was no exception.
Japan had their most successful Olympic Games ever (Summer or Winter) in terms of medals won. They finished third overall in terms of gold medals won (27) and fifth overall in terms of total medals won (58).
Japan’s previous high for total medals was 41, set at the 2016 Rio games. The previous high for gold medals was 16, set at the 2004 Athens games.
LIST OF TEAM USA’S MEDALS | 2020 Tokyo Summer Games
- Women’s 3x3 Basketball
- Suni Lee – Women’s Gymnastics All-Around
- Jade Carey – Women’s Gymnastics Floor Exercise
- Men’s Track 4x400m Relay
- Women’s Track 4x400m Relay
- Ryan Crouser – Men’s Shot Put
- Sydney McLaughlin – Women’s Track 400m Hurdles
- Athing Mu – Women’s Track 800m
- Valarie Allman – Women’s Discus Throw
- Katie Nageotte – Women’s Pole Vault
- Men’s Basketball
- Women’s Basketball
- April Ross / Alix Klineman – Women’s Beach Volleyball
- Nevin Harrison – Women’s Canoe Single 200m
- Jennifer Valente – Women’s Cycling Omnium
- Lee Kieffer – Women’s Fencing Foil Individual
- Xander Schauffele – Men’s Golf
- Nelly Korda – Women’s Golf
- William Shaner – Men’s Shooting 10m Air Rifle
- Vincent Hancock – Men’s Shooting Skeet
- Amber English – Women’s Shooting Skeet
- Carissa Moore – Women’s Surfing
- Caeleb Dressel – Men’s Swimming 100m Butterfly
- Caeleb Dressel – Men’s Swimming 100m Freestyle
- Caeleb Dressel – Men’s Swimming 50m Freestyle
- Robert Finke – Men’s Swimming 1500m Freestyle
- Robert Finke – Men’s Swimming 800m Freestyle
- Chase Kalisz – Men’s Swimming 400m Individual Medley
- Men’s Swimming 4x100m Freestyle Relay
- Men’s Swimming 4x100m Medley Relay
- Lydia Jacoby – Women’s Swimming 100m Breaststroke
- Katie Ledecky – Women’s Swimming 1500m Freestyle
- Katie Ledecky – Women’s Swimming 800m Freestyle
- Anastasija Zolotic – Women’s Taekwondo 57kg
- Women’s Indoor Volleyball
- Women’s Water Polo
- Gable Steveson – Men’s Freestyle Wrestling 125kg
- David Taylor III – Men’s Freestyle Wrestling 86kg
- Tamyra Mensah Stock – Women’s Freestyle Wrestling 68kg
- Women’s Gymnastics Team Event
- Mykayla Skinner – Women’s Gymnastics Vault
- Fred Kerley – Men’s Track 100m
- Grant Holloway – Men’s Track 110m Hurdles
- Kenny Bednarek – Men’s Track 200m
- Rai Benjamin – Men’s Track 400m Hurdles
- Christopher Nilsen – Men’s Pole Vault
- Joe Kovacs – Men’s Shot Put
- Keni Harrison – Women’s Track 100m Hurdles
- Courtney Frerichs – Women’s Track 3000m Steeplechase
- Women’s Track 4x100m Relay
- Dalilah Muhammad – Women’s Track 400m Hurdles
- Brittney Reese – Women’s Long Jump
- Raven Saunders – Women’s Shot Put
- Duke Ragan – Men’s Boxing Featherweight
- Keyshawn Davis – Men’s Boxing Lightweight
- Richard Torrez, Jr. – Men’s Boxing Super Heavyweight
- Hannah Roberts – Women’s BMX Park
- Men’s Diving – Synchronized 3m Springboard
- Women’s Diving – Synchronized 10m Platform
- Equestrian Dressage Team
- Equestrian Jumping Team
- Kayle Browning – Women’s Shooting Trap
- Shooting 10m Air Rifle Mixed Team
- Nathaniel Coleman – Men’s Combined Sport Climbing
- Ryan Murphy – Men’s Swimming 200m Backstroke
- Jay Litherland – Men’s Swimming 400m Individual Medley
- Erica Sullivan – Women’s Swimming 1500m Freestyle
- Lilly King – Women’s Swimming 200m Breaststroke
- Regan Smith – Women’s Swimming 200m Butterfly
- Alex Walsh – Women’s Swimming 200m Individual Medley
- Women’s Swimming 4x100m Medley Relay
- Women’s Swimming 4x200m Freestyle Relay
- Katie Ledecky – Women’s Swimming 400m Freestyle
- Emma Weyant – Women’s Swimming 400m Individual Medley
- Triathlon Mixed Relay
- Katherine Elizabeth Nye – Women’s Weightlifting 76kg
- Kyle Frederick Snyder – Men’s Wrestling Freestyle 97kg
- Adeline Maria Gray – Women’s Wrestling Freestyle 76kg
- Simone Biles – Women’s Gymnastics Balance Beam
- Suni Lee – Women’s Gymnastics Uneven Bars
- Noah Lyles – Men’s Track 200m
- Paul Chelimo – Men’s Track 5000m
- Gabby Thomas – Women’s Track 200m
- Allyson Felix – Women’s Track 400m
- Raevyn Rogers – Women’s Track 800m
- Molly Siedel – Women’s Marathon
- Track 4x400 Mixed Relay
- Oshae Jones – Women’s Boxing Welterweight
- Women’s Cycling Track Team Pursuit
- Krysta Palmer – Women’s Diving 3m Springboard
- Men’s Fencing Foil Team
- Women’s Soccer
- Ariel Torres Gutierrez Men’s Karate Kata
- Shooting Mixed Team Trap
- Cory Juneau – Men’s Skateboarding Park
- Jagger Eaton – Men’s Skateboarding Street
- Ryan Murphy – Men’s Swimming 100m Backstroke
- Kieran Smith – Men’s Swimming 400m Freestyle
- Regan Smith – Women’s Swimming 100m Backstroke
- Lilly King – Women’s Swimming 100m Breaststroke
- Annie Lazor – Women’s Swimming 200m Breaststroke
- Hali Flickinger – Women’s Swimming 200m Butterfly
- Hali Flickinger – Women’s Swimming 400m Individual Medley
- Kate Douglass – Women’s Swimming 200m Individual Medley
- Women’s Swimming 4x100m Freestyle Relay
- Katie Zaferes – Women’s Individual Triathlon
- Sara Elizabeth Robles – Women’s Weightlifting +87kg
- Thomas Patrick Gilman – Men’s Freestyle Wrestling 57kg
- Kyle Douglas Dake – Men’s Freestyle Wrestling 74kg
- Sarah Ann Hildebrandt – Women’s Freestyle Wrestling 50kg
- Helen Louise Maroulis – Women’s Freestyle Wrestling 57kg
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