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2020 Tokyo Olympics: US Tops Medal Tally, China Second, Host Japan’s Best Performance Ever

Prakash Gogoi
Prakash covers news and politics for Vision Times.
Published: August 9, 2021
The USA topped the medal tally at the Tokyo Olympics, with China coming in at second.
The USA topped the medal tally at the Tokyo Olympics, with China coming in at second. (Image: diego_torres via Pixabay)

The 2020 Tokyo Summer Olympics has drawn to a close, and America clinched the top spot in the medal tally. At 113 medals, the United States significantly outperformed second-ranked China with 88 total medals. The Russian Olympics Committee (ROC) came in third with 65 medals. Host Japan was ranked fifth with 58 medals, just behind Great Britain with 65 medals.

In terms of gold medals, the U.S. came in first with 39, with China in a close second with 38. Japan came in third with 27 gold medals, while Great Britain and the ROC ranked fourth and fifth.

The majority of Team USA’s medals were won by women. 66 out of the 113 medals, or 58.4 percent, were won by female athletes, the highest number of medals won by American women in a single Olympic event. Back in the 2012 London Olympics, women won 55.8 percent of America’s medals. The 2020 Olympics was the fourth consecutive time that women outnumbered men in the medal tally.

“What an awesome testament to the hard work of these incredible athletes and to those strong women who paved the way before them… We are so proud,” U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Committee CEO Sarah Hirshland told USA Today.

According to Olympic gold medalist Donna de Varona, one of the key factors in the success of American women at the Olympics is Title IX, which was signed into law by Republican President Richard Nixon in 1972. Title IX mandated equal treatment for girls and women in sports, opening the door for increased female participation.

“Without Title IX, I don’t think that I would be here. I firmly believe I wouldn’t be where I am without my experience playing college sports at USC. It taught me so much and I am extremely grateful for all the women and men who came before me that fought for my right to compete at college and have my education paid for,” April Ross, member of the American Olympic team that won gold in women’s beach volleyball at the Tokyo Olympics, said to the media outlet.

China and Japan

Although China secured second place in the Olympic tally, the country’s athletes faced flak from citizens. At the mixed doubles table tennis tournament, the Chinese won silver after losing to Japan in the finals and had to make a tearful apology to their countrymen. Table tennis is a sport that China usually dominates in, and some critics said losing to Japan meant that they “failed the nation.”

“To these people, Olympic medal tables are real-time trackers of national prowess and, by extension, of national dignity. In that context, someone who fails at a competition against foreigners has let down or even betrayed the nation,” Dr. Florian Schneider, director of the Netherlands’ Leiden Asia Centre, said to BBC.

Another controversy arose with Chinese cycling sprint champions backtracking after wearing badges featuring the silhouette of Mao Zedong. The players promised that such an incident would never happen again. The Olympic Charter prohibits any propaganda on the basis of religion, race, or politics. Chinese Communist Party (CCP)-run Global Times, which had celebrated the display of Mao in an article, quickly deleted the post.

Host nation Japan secured its highest medal tally in history with 58 medals, eclipsing its 2016 Rio Olympics performance with 41 medals. An article published by NPR analyzing Olympic medal wins found that athletes from host countries usually have an edge over foreigners, winning more medals than they would otherwise.

One reason for this phenomenon is that foreign athletes travel and perform in countries that have a different environment and time zone than theirs, which affects their performance. Another reason is they receive tremendous support from the home crowd.

“When we compete at home, we’re comfortable. We’re familiar with our surroundings, and that gives us some confidence. We know our course. We know the stadium we’re performing in. We know the crowds that are there are generally cheering, hopefully, for us to do well,” Tim Baghurst, director of FSU COACH athletic coaching center at Florida State University, said to the media outlet.