At the 2020 Tokyo Games, an impressive four different sports were contested at the Olympics for the first time: karate, surfing, sport climbing, and skateboarding. The only two nations to earn a medal in all four of them were Japan and the United States.
Olympic competitions can be broken up into a few different categories – events, disciplines, and sports. The events are the specific medal competitions, like the women’s 100m freestyle swimming race. Disciplines are more general such as track cycling (which was comprised of 12 different events in Tokyo). The highest tier belongs to sports, the general categories such as equestrian, wrestling, and gymnastics.
More than a dozen different nations earned medals in at least one of these sports, but only the host nation and the U.S. were able to find the podium in all four.
Japanese athletes took home three of the four medals in the debut of this sport. Yuto Horigome and Momiji Nishiya won the men’s and women’s street competitions, while Sakura Yosozumi took the top prize in women’s park. With Kokona Hiraki snagging a silver and Funa Nakayama winning bronze, Japan took home five of the 12 medals awarded to skateboarders.
The United States found the podium just once in the four skateboarding events. Jagger Eaton won the bronze medal in the men’s street event, giving Team USA its only piece of hardware from this sport’s Olympic debut.
The United States only won on medal in surfing at the 2020 Olympics, but it was a big one. Carissa Moore put up impressive numbers in all of her runs at Tsurigasaki Beach to win the gold medal in the women’s event.
The host nation of Japan took home one silver and one bronze during surfing’s debut. Amuro Tsuzuki defeated American Caroline Marks in the bronze medal match on the women’s side, while Kanoa Igarashi was the silver medalist in the inaugural men’s competition.
There were only six medals awarded during the Olympic debut of sport climbing, and Japan was the only nation to win two of them. With no Japanese men winning medals in the sport, Miho Nonaka and Akiyo Noguchi took home the silver and bronze medalists in the women’s competition.
For the United States, bouldering specialist Nathaniel Coleman held his own in the speed and lead portions of the event to win a silver medal, and give Team USA its only sport climbing podium finish.
Kata was key for Japan in terms of winning medals in the inaugural karate competition at the Olympic Games. The gold medal in men’s kata went to Ryo Kiyuna, the only competitor to score above 28 points. In women’s kata, Japanese karateka Kiyou Shimizu won the silver medal.
Despite entering a few athletes into some of the kumite events, the United States also found its karate success in the kata competition. Ariel Torres outscored his final opponent by a margin of 0.38 to claim a bronze medal in his – and the sport’s – Olympic debut.
Honorable mentions go out to Australia, who had athletes win in three of the four new sports in Tokyo (their sole karateka failed to advance to the semifinals), as well as Brazil and Spain which won podium placement in two of the four.
While the United States found success in these newer competitions, the nation still seeks its first medal finish in longtime Olympic sports such as handball (debuted in 1936), table tennis (debuted in 1988), and badminton (debuted in 1992).