Team USA maintained their traditional place at the top of the Olympic medal table, although it took a late run of medals – and the help of a Welsh boxer – on the final day in Tokyo to lift them above China.
The US had entered Sunday with two fewer golds than China but victory for Jennifer Valente in the women’s omnium and a seventh successive title for the women’s basketball team – arguably the greatest dynasty in Olympic history – put the two countries level on 38 golds each. The Americans then edged ahead after they beat Brazil in the women’s volleyball final. China could have equalled the US gold tally in the women’s middleweight boxing final but Great Britain’s Lauren Price easily beat Li Qian on a points decision.
The hosts, Japan, finished with 27 golds, the most they have ever won at an Olympics, to end the Games third in the medal table – the same position as when they were held in Tokyo in 1972. Great Britain were fourth, with 22 golds, down from the 27 they won in 2016 but still one of the team’s most successful Olympics.
The media in the US tends to rank nations by total medals won rather than golds. The US won by that method too with 113 total medals to China’s 88.
Sunday’s victories ended a mixed Games for the US. Although they finished top of the medal table, their traditional domination in swimming and athletics was challenged. For the first time since 1980, when the Americans boycotted the Moscow Olympics, the US men’s track team failed to win an individual gold. In the pool, the US were pushed by strong performances from Australia and Great Britain.
However, their 39 golds bettered their total at five of the past eight Summer Olympics. The last time a nation other than the US topped the medal table was in 2008 when hosts China won 48 golds to the Americans’ 36.