by Kaneesha Maken ‘25
Published Nov. 4th, 2021
Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the 2020 Tokyo Olympic games were disappointingly postponed until the summer of 2021. While the waiting period made the usual expectations for the games even higher, incredible performances and new twists made the 2020 Games some of the most memorable in recent memory.
The gap between male and female athletes present at the games saw a noticeable drop this year as 49% of participants were women, and for the first time ever, all 206 NOCs had at least one male and one female representative. In the Paralympic Games, there were a total of 4,402 athletes, 1,853 of which were women. Both numbers are new records in terms of the gender balance of the two events.
In the Paralympics, American women won 61.5% of total U.S. medals and 62% of U.S. gold medals. Swimmer Jesica Long won six medals including a gold in the women’s SM8 200-meter individual medley in which she clocked a time of just 2 minutes and 41 seconds.
“Although we are still some way short of gender parity, we are heading in the right direction with the number of women competing at the Paralympics almost doubling since the Sydney 2000 Paralympics,” said International Paralympic Committee president Andrew Parsons, showing hope for further change while also recognizing the improvements made to gender equality throughout the last two decades.
The oldest competitor in this years’ games was 66-year-old Australian equestrian athlete, Mary Hanna. “I don’t know what else to do with myself,” she said. “I’ve been doing this for so long now. Look, riding’s one of those amazing sports where you can do it no matter what your age is, or your gender.”
The youngest athlete in this year’s games was 12-year-old Hend Zaza, a table tennis player from Syria. She beat Austria’s Liu Jia who is more than three times her age, putting herself on the map as a prodigy with immense skill for her age.
After everything that’s happened in the last eighteen months, it was great to have a bit of normalcy again. The Olympics are a prime example of what happens when people from all different backgrounds come together with a single vision: to celebrate human resiliency.