20 ways women made headlines in the second week of the 2020 Olympics

Posted at 12:04 AM, Aug 01, 2021

Editor's note: You will notice that this article is numbered. The main intention of the addition of numbers is not to rank these incredible athletes and their accomplishments, but rather to help readers track their progress within the article.

The first week of the Tokyo Olympics saw women break records, bring home medals and speak up about important issues like mental health and gender inequality. Week 2 packed just as much punch. Female athletes proved how powerful they could be with monumental moments everywhere from the track to the top of the diving platform. Here are 20 ways women have made headlines in the second week of the 2020 Games...


1. Thompson-Herah breaks Griffith-Joyner's Olympic record

The record Florence Griffith-Joyner set in the women's 100m at the Seoul Games stood for 33 years. The famed sprinter crossed the finish line at the 1988 Olympics with a time of 10.62, and no female Olympian had ever run faster until Elaine Thompson-Herah shaved one millisecond off FloJo's Olympic record with a 10.61 finish in Tokyo. Her first place finish led a Jamaican sweep that featured two-time champion Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce in second and Shericka Jackson in third. 

SEE MORE: Jamaica sweeps top three spots in women's 100m finals

2. Harrison wins first-ever gold for America in a women's canoe or kayak event

Simply paddling in a canoe without tipping over is challenge enough, but Nevin Harrison was doing a bit more than leisurely floating when she won the first-ever gold medal for an American in women’s canoe slalom or canoe sprint. The 19-year-old was the only racer in the women's C-1 200m to finish in under 46 seconds, recording a swift 45.935 en route to her first Olympic title. 

3. McLaughlin bests own world record in 400m hurdles

At the 2016 Games, Sydney McLaughlin was tapped as a rising star. She was 17 and the youngest athlete to qualify for the U.S. track and field team, but she wasn't quite fast enough to keep up with the rest of the field. Five years later, she returned to the Olympics and dusted her competition, breaking the previous world record she set in the process. McLaughlin finished the 400m hurdles in 51.46 to dethrone defending champion and teammate Dalilah Muhammad, who was a step behind and claimed silver. 

USA's Sydney Mclaughlin celebrates after winning the women's 400m hurdles final setting a new world record during the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games
USA's Sydney Mclaughlin celebrates after winning the women's 400m hurdles final setting a new world record during the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games at the Olympic Stadium in Tokyo on August 4, 2021. (Photo by Javier SORIANO / AFP) (Photo by JAVIER SORIANO/AFP via Getty Images)
AFP via Getty Images

4. Sanchez wins first karate gold in Olympic history

Karate made its Olympic debut at the Tokyo Games, and Sandra Sanchez of Spain won the first gold in the sport. Sanchez claimed the top spot in kata, which is a discipline that does not include fighting but rather requires competitors to perform precise demonstrations of karate techniques in front of a panel of judges. The "queen of kata," as she is known in the karate community, won her first world title in 2018 at age 37 and is now the eldest gold medalist from Spain at 39 years, 323 days old. 

5. Palmer ends American diving drought

A torn ACL couldn't Krysta Palmer off the podium after she nailed all five of her dives in the women's individual 3m springboard final. The 29-year-old picked up a bronze and brought home America's first medal in a women's individual diving event since Laura Wilkinson won gold at the Sydney Games in 2000. 

6. Garnbret climbs to historic gold 

Janja Garnbret was already considered the greatest female climber ever, but the 22-year-old made an even stronger case for herself bywinning the first Olympic medal ever awarded in the discipline. Sport climbing made its Olympic debut in Tokyo, and Garnbret was the only competitor of the eight finalists to top a boulder during the second phase of the event. She conquered two of the three boulder problems in the round and also ascended to the highest hold on the lead wall, 37+, to win two out of three disciplines outright.

Janja Garnbret of Team Slovenia during the Sport Climbing Women's Combined Final on day fourteen of the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games
Janja Garnbret of Team Slovenia during the Sport Climbing Women's Combined Final on day fourteen of the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games
(Photo by Tsuyoshi Ueda - Pool/Getty Images)

7. U.S. women's water polo completes three-peat

Winning an Olympic gold medal is hard enough, but the real challenge is defending it. Unless you're on the U.S. women's water polo team in which case pulling off a three-peat looks effortless and includes breaking some Olympic records along the way. Team USA downed Spain 14-5to keep the winning streak that started at the London Games alive, and Maggie Steffens surpassed the Olympic scoring record in the process.

8. American wrestlers bring home historic hardware

The U.S. totaled the most wrestling medals of any country at these Games with a final count of nine, and four of those were won by women. Tamyrah Mensah-Stock became the second American woman to win wrestling gold with a victory in the women's freestyle 68kg while Adeline Graybrought home a silver in the 76kg divisionSarah Hildebrandt and Helen Maroulis added a pair of bronze medals in their respective weight classes. 

SEE MORE: Mensah-Stock blazing the trail for Black female wrestlers

Global impact

9. Hubbard paves the way for transgender athletes at the Olympics

Lauren Hubbard, a weightlifter from New Zealand, is a pioneer for transgender athletes and blazed a new trail during the Tokyo Games. The 43-year-old became the first openly transgender woman to compete at the Olympics when she participated in the women's +87kg event. 

10. Ashram becomes first Israeli woman to win Olympic gold

You don't have to understand the technical aspects of rhythmic gymnastics to know that the routines Linoy Ashram performed were stunning. Her leaps and turns weren't just beautiful but also gold-medal worthy, as the Israeli gymnasts upset two of the top contenders in the event to claim her nation's first ever rhythmic gymnastics medal, Russian twins Dina and Arina Averina  were expected to finish 1-2 after both dominated every competition they entered in the lead up to Tokyo, but Ashram edged out Dina to take the top spot. As Olympic champion, Ashram is now the only Israeli woman to ever win an Olympic gold. She's also the third athlete from the nation to win gold and only the fourth woman representing Israel to win an Olympic medal of any color. 

Israel's Linoy Ashram competes in the individual all-around final of the Rhythmic Gymnastics event during Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games
Israel's Linoy Ashram competes in the individual all-around final of the Rhythmic Gymnastics event during Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games
(Photo by LIONEL BONAVENTURE/AFP via Getty Images)


11. Andrade is Brazil's breakout star of the Tokyo Games

Before the Tokyo Games, Brazil's only Olympic medals in artistic gymnasts had been won by men. Rebeca Andrade changed that when she won the nation's first medal in women's artistic gymnastics by finishing second in the all-around competition. But she didn't stop there — Andrade one-upped herself a few days later with a gold medal in the vault final. She competed two vaults that showcased nearly perfect form in the air and earned an average score of 15.083 to secure her spot atop the podium. 

12. Indonesian badminton duo becomes first unseeded pair to win women's doubles Olympic gold 

The path Greysia Polii took to Olympic gold was not a smooth one. She was disqualified from the badminton tournament in London and reached the quarterfinals in Rio, but she came out on top in Tokyo with partner Apriyani Rahayu. The Indonesian team took down China's Jia Yifan and Chen Qingchen in the final match to become the first unseeded pair to ever win gold in the women's doubles competition.

13. New Zealand women perform a spirited haka to celebrate rugby gold

After they lost to Australia in the gold medal game of the 2016 Olympics, the New Zealand Black Ferns performed an emotional haka that conveyed their disappoint. Five years later, the team found redemption in Tokyo where it defeated France in Rugby 7s to win gold. The women celebrated the victory with their version of the haka which is called ‘Ko Uhia Mai’, or ‘Let It Be Known.'

SEE MORE: New Zealand women's rugby team performs haka after gold win

standing apart from the rest

14. Felix wins 11th medal, becomes most decorated U.S. Olympic track and field athlete of all time

Allyson Felix was 18 when she won her first Olympic medal. It was a silver in the 200m at the Athens Games, and it was just the beginning. Seventeen years later, Felix ran the second leg on Team USA's title-winning 4x400m relay to capture her 11th medal and surpass Carl Lewis as the most decorated U.S. Olympic track and field athlete in history. The 35-year-old will be remembered for more than her hardware, though. Her legacy includes the work she's done as an advocate for female athletes who return to their sports after giving birth. Felix has spoken up on issues including contract protections for female athletes and racial disparities in maternal health care.

SEE MORE: Felix wins 11th medal, seventh gold on stacked 4x400m team

15. Romashina cements her legacy as greatest artistic swimmer in history

In artistic swimming, Svetlana Romashina is the gold standard. Her trophy case, which is bursting with 39 total medals from European championships, world championships and four Olympic appearances, includes neither silver nor bronze. Her resume is a list of one win after another, yet she rarely receives the recognition she deserves. In Tokyo, Romashina won golds in the duet andteam competitions while representing the Russian Olympic Committee to bring her career total to seven. That lucky number broke any medal-count ties and elevated her to become the most decorated artistic swimmer ever.

16. Saunders makes statement on shot put podium

Raven Saunders turned heads even before she won a silver medal in shot put due to her superhero themed mask and super villain themed hair, so the 25-year-old knew the world was watching when she raised her arms to form an "X" in a demonstration during the medal ceremony. She explained the "X" as "the intersection where all people who are oppressed meet," according to the Associated Press.

Raven Saunders of Team United States makes an 'X' gesture during the medal ceremony for the Women's Shot Put on day nine of the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games
Raven Saunders of Team United States makes an 'X' gesture during the medal ceremony for the Women's Shot Put on day nine of the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games
(Photo by Ryan Pierse/Getty Images)

17. Rapinoe, Lloyd lift Team USA to bronze

Megan Rapinoe was in top form during the bronze medal match against Australia, scoring an Olimpico — a goal directly from a corner kick — in the ninth minute before adding another goal in the 21st. Carli Lloyd also scored twice, netting the ninth and 10th Olympic goals of her career. The team entered Tokyo hoping to snag gold after its Rio run ended in the quarterfinals, but despite a semifinal loss to Canada, Team USA rebounded to go out with a 4-3 victory. 

18. Biles hits beam set in triumphant return to competition 

The balance beam final was Simone Biles' last chance to make the podium as an individual in Tokyo, but the motivation to compete didn't stem from a desire for a seventh Olympic medal. Instead, Biles just wanted the opportunity to perform on the biggest stage one more time after an experience with "the twisties" resulted in the four-time gold medalist withdrawing from previous events. After reworking her routine in a matter of days to replace her typical twisting dismount with a skill that she hadn't trained or performed in years, Biles nailed her beam set and earned a 14.000. The score was high enough to clinch the most decorated gymnast of all time a second Olympic bronze after she also finished third on beam in Rio.

SEE MORE: Simone Biles returns, wins bronze medal on beam

19. Quan holds a clinic on perfection during women's 10m platform final

It is quite possible that Quan Hongchan's performance in the women's 10m platform diving final was the best set of dives in Olympic history. The 14-year-old blew past the previous Olympic record of 447.70 points en route to her gold-medal total of 466.20, and she did so by executingtwo dives the judges deemed absolutely flawless. On her fifth dive, Quan also received a perfect scores from six out of seven judges. Her final score was over 40 points higher than the next closes competitor's. 

SEE MORE: 14-year-old Quan Hongchan delivers perfection on platform

20. Ross completes Olympic medal set

In her third Olympic appearance, beach volleyball player April Ross won a gold with partner Alix Klineman to complete the set she started back in London. The pair swept their Australian opponents, and Ross became the first beach volleyball player to win an Olympic medal with three different partners. She picked up a silver with Jen Kessy in 2012 and a bronze with Kerri Walsh Jennings in 2016.