Sunisa Lee’s gold is historic, but history was also made by the silver medalist
Brazil’s Rebeca Andrade wins the country’s first-ever all-around gymnastics finishing second on the podium.
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With her teammate Simone Biles cheering her on, 18-year-old American gymnast Sunisa Lee took home the gold medal in Tokyo 2020’s all-around women’s gymnastics competition.
The victory makes Lee the fifth consecutive American to take home gold in the all-around women’s competition at the Olympics, adding her name to a list of American gymnastics giants that include Biles (Rio 2016 champion), Gabby Douglas (London 2012 champion), Nastia Liukin (Beijing 2008 champion), and Carly Patterson (Athens 2004 champion).
Lee is also the first Asian-American gymnast to win gold in the women’s all-around. From the Twin Cities area of Minnesota, she was born into a Hmong family (hailing from Southeast Asia).
In addition to being the first-ever Hmong-American Olympic gymnast, Yahoo News also cited her as the first Hmong to ever win an Olympic gold medal.
Beyond Lee’s historic feats, the silver medalist in the all-around women’s gymnastics competition also made history.
By coming second on the podium, Rebeca Andrade brings home Brazil’s first-ever medal in the all-around women’s gymnastics competition.
For the 22-year-old, it had been a long road to Tokyo. In mid-2019, Andrade tore her ACL for the third time in four years. The previous times had kept her from competing in three of four World Championships she was eligible for.
As Reuters pointed out, it meant all of Andrade’s focus was on a triumphant return for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics, which were then canceled as the COVID-19 pandemic swept the world.
After training in Portugal due to restrictions in her own country, Andrade finally qualified for the rescheduled Tokyo Olympics after winning the all-around women’s competition at the 2021 Pan American Championships held in Rio.
When Biles announced her exit from the competition, Andrade became one of the favorites to take gold, but stepping out of bounds twice during her floor routine handed the top spot to Lee.
She was also not the only Brazilian woman to make history for her country on day six of Tokyo 2020.
In women’s 78kg judo, Mayra Aguiar won her third straight bronze medal at the Olympics, making her the only Brazilian woman to ever win three medals in one individual sport at the games.
Aguiar’s first bronze came in the 2012 London games and she replicated it in Rio in 2016 before doing so again in Tokyo.
Like Andrade, she also had major injury troubles early in her career. After competing in her first Olympics at the 2008 Beijing games, Aguiar suffered a severe knee injury that kept her from practicing judo for 10 months.
Later in her career, she would win the 78kg world championships in 2014 and 2017, in between her first two bronze medals. Before her latest Olympic bronze, Aguiar was already one of the most decorated judokas in Brazil’s history. It only adds to her legacy.
Another woman from Latin America seeking to cement her Olympic legacy at the Tokyo Games is Colombia’s ‘BMX Queen’ for the world, Mariana Pajón.
The 29-year-old from Medellin is chasing her third straight Olympic gold medal in women’s BMX racing. On day six, Pajón advanced to one of two semifinal groups after finishing first in every heat of her quarterfinal group.
At the 2016 Rio games, Pajón earned her title of ‘BMX Queen’ after taking home her second gold medal in a row, which also made her the first Colombian woman to win two Olympic gold medals. That year, she also became the first woman rider in the history of the sport to win every race she participated in on the road to gold.
Since then, her eyes have been set on Tokyo to complete the hat trick of gold medals, but the road there has not come without injuries. A crash in 2018 tore ligaments in her knee to add to 18 fractures she’s suffered throughout the course of her career.
"I'm feeling really confident," Pajón told Reuters after her quarterfinals heats. "I'm just grateful that I'm here again after everything I've been through."
Elsewhere for Team USA, swimmers Caeleb Dressel and Robert Finke took home golds in the 100m and 800m freestyle finals respectively, while the women’s 4x200m freestyle relay team won silver.
In women’s trap shooting, American Kayle Browning won a silver medal and the women’s fencing team fell in its bronze medal match against Italy.
Team USA grew its overall medal lead by seven on day six, with 38 total medals, but remains third in the gold medal tally, behind China and Japan. The U.S. has 14 gold medals while China and Japan have 15 apiece.
Second through fifth in total medals are as follows: China (31 medals), Russian Olympic Committee (28 medals), Japan (25 medals), and Australia (20 medals).