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All The Olympic Firsts That Happened In The First Week Of Competition

Sunisa Lee of the U.S. poses with her gold medal after winning the women's all-around final at the Tokyo Olympics on Thursday.
Laurence Griffiths Getty Images
Sunisa Lee of the U.S. poses with her gold medal after winning the women's all-around final at the Tokyo Olympics on Thursday.

Updated July 30, 2021 at 9:59 PM ET

This year's Olympic Games has been an event unlike any other before it. The ongoing pandemic has changed so much, most noticeable being the ban on spectators with even families barred from attending. Still, despite these difficulties, athletes are blazing trails and making history.

San Marino became the smallest country to ever medal


The first week was a whirlwind for San Marino, a tiny country in Southern Europe with a population of only 34,000. (To put it into perspective, consider that Wyoming, the U.S. state with the smallest population in the country, has around 580,000 residents). When Alessandra Perilli earned a bronze medal in women's trap shooting on Thursday, San Marino became the smallest country to ever medal at the Games. Perilli's medal is also the first-ever Olympic medal for San Marino.

The Philippines won its first gold in nearly 100 years

The first week of the Olympics was also a big deal for the Philippines. Weightlifter Hidilyn Diaz won the gold on Monday, a first for her country despite nearly 100 years of participation in the Games. And if that weren't note-worthy enough for you, she also set an Olympic record in the process, lifting a combined weight of 224 kilograms, or around 493 pounds, across two lifts.

Turkmenistan had a major first as well

Fellow weightlifter Polina Guryeva made history for her country, too: her silver medal is the first Olympic medal Turkmenistan has earned since gaining independence from the Soviet Union.


Bermuda ended a 40-year wait

This week saw Bermuda win its first ever gold medal at the Games. Flora Duffy earned the top spot in women's individual triathlon on Tuesday, making her home island proud. It was no easy feat, either: the individual triathlon involves open-water swimming, biking and running. Duffy's win came more than 40 years after Bermuda took home its last Olympic medal: a bronze for heavyweight boxing in 1976.

Swimmer Katie Ledecky continued her reign

Katie Ledecky lived up to expectations and became the first female swimmer to earn six individual gold medals over her career with a win in the 800-meter freestyle.

Gymnast Sunisa Lee made history

Gymnast Sunisa Lee made her hometown of St. Paul, Minn., proud when she won gold at Thursday's individual all-around competition. But even before winning gold, she'd already made history as the first Hmong American to represent her country on the U.S. Olympics team, and her supporters were moved to tears after her monumental win.

Surfer Carissa Moore entered the record books — again

American surfer Carissa Moore became the first woman to win an Olympic gold medal in her sport on Tuesday. However, she's clearly no stranger to making history, after having been named the youngest world champion in surfing when she was 18 years old.

It was a major year for LGBTQ representation

This Olympics also saw the inclusion of the first ever openly non-binary athlete, Alana Smith, an American skateboarder. Their goal for the Games was "to be happy and be a visual representation for humans like me," they said in an Instagram post.

Quinn, a member of the Canadian women's soccer team, is one of the first openly transgender athletes to compete in the Olympics. Of such a huge achievement, they said they feel "optimistic" that more change is coming. Alongside Quinn is Chelsea Wolfe, a BMX rider who is the first openly transgender athlete to compete on Team USA. New Zealand weightlifter Laurel Hubbard was also the first trans athlete to ever qualify for the Olympics and will make her debut on Monday.

It's a big year for LGBTQ representation in the Games: there are more openly LGBTQ athletes at the Tokyo Games than in any Olympics before, according to Outsports. And they've won medals at a rate that would outpace lots of countries.

We saw the debut of new sports

The Tokyo Games saw the inclusion of four entirely new sports and the return of two that hadn't been featured for over a decade. Softball and baseball returned to the Olympics after 13 years, while skateboarding, surfing, sports climbing, and karate made their Olympics debut.

It's not an easy process to make the cut for the Olympic Games; plenty of popular sports don't land a spot on the program. It was quite a victory for skateboarding in particular, which had already struggled historically to be categorized as a sport.

Thanks to the inclusion of skateboarding, Japan hit a new milestone: 13-year-old Momiji Nishiya, who earned the top spot in women's street skating, is now her country's youngest gold medalist.

Lots and lots of new world records were set

Rowers Grace Prendergast and Kerri Gowler, hailing from New Zealand, set a new world record on Thursday during the women's pair semi-final after having their previous world record beaten by a pair from Greece earlier that day. New Zealand rowers have excelled in their sport during the Games: Emma Twigg took home the gold in single sculls rowing on Thursday and set an Olympic record while she was at it. Her win is also the first time New Zealand has ever medaled in this event.

Greece also had monumental success with rowing. Stefanos Ntouskos won gold in the men's single sculls event on Thursday – the first ever rowing gold for Greece —and a new world record for Ntouskos.

Australian Emma McKeon set two Olympic records: during the 100m freestyle final and again during the women's 50m freestyle semi-finals. She also helped the Australian team set a new world record during the women's 4x100m freestyle relay.

We saw the most goals scored in water polo ever

The Netherlands beat South Africa 33-1, setting a record for most goals scored in a water polo match at the Olympics. South Africa had suffered a 29-4 defeat by Spain just days earlier.

For the U.S. water polo player Maggie Steffens helped her team win against the Russian Olympic Committee and, in the process, set a record of the most goals scored by an individual player in the event's history with 49 goals.

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