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Press Release08 Aug 2021


Record figures at Tokyo Olympics highlights global reach of athletics

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Allyson Felix, Jodie Williams and Shaunae Miller-Uibo in the 400m final at the Tokyo Olympic Games (© Getty Images)

World Athletics President Sebastian Coe has hailed the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games and the people of Japan for allowing the dreams of the world’s athletes to come to life at what has proven to be the most globally successful edition of the Games for athletics.

A record 83 teams reached finals in Tokyo, highlighting the global reach of the sport, with 43 teams featuring on the medal podium and 23 of those winning gold.

Some 70 per cent of athletes only get one chance to compete at the Olympic Games and in Tokyo athletes made the most of the opportunity under the most challenging circumstances.

Coe thanked Japan and the Tokyo 2020 Organising Committee for providing the best possible platform on which the sport’s stars could shine. Over ten days of competition, three world records, 12 Olympic records, 28 area records and 151 national records were set in these history-making Games.

“To the people of Japan, we know the hardship you have endured and continue to endure in the face of this global pandemic," Coe said.

“We owe you a massive debt of gratitude for your gracious hospitality, your professionalism and your friendship. You really have been simply the best and we thank you unreservedly.”

The tally of 43 countries on the medal table is the biggest in athletics for more than 20 years, underlining the diversity and depth of talent in the sport. Across all Olympic sports at the Tokyo Games, 93 teams earned medals, so almost 50 percent of those achieved their dreams in athletics.

For 12 teams – Bahamas, Bahrain, Botswana, Burkina Faso, Ethiopia, Grenada, Jamaica, Kenya, Morocco, Namibia, Puerto Rico and Uganda – athletics was their pathway to the Olympic podium.

In total, athletes at the Games covered a combined distance of 2,045,750 metres in track events and 10,737km in road events. Field eventers threw a combined distance of 1508 metres and jumped a combined distance of 2490 metres.

The Tokyo Olympic Games was also the highest quality major event in history, as per the competition performance rankings:

SCORE - EVENT
197115 - Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games
196457 - World Championships Doha 2019
195953 - Rio 2016 Olympic Games
194547 - World Championships Beijing 2015
193426 - World Championships London 2017

Burkina Faso and India make history

More than 100 countries have now won Olympic medals in athletics, after India and Burkina Faso won their first medals in the Tokyo stadium, courtesy of superb performances by javelin star Neeraj Chopra and triple jump ace Hugues Fabrice Zango.

With a throw of 87.58m, Chopra became the first Indian to win an Olympic gold in athletics.

Zango, meanwhile, soared 17.47m to claim bronze in the triple jump, making his nation the 100th to join the Olympic athletics medal list.

US women play starring role

With 26 medals, the US team topped the medals table, and of the seven gold medals won by the team, five were claimed by women.

Sydney McLaughlin was one of the three athletes who set world records in Tokyo, winning the 400m hurdles in 51.46. Norway’s Karsten Warholm also set a new world standard in the men’s 400m hurdles (45.94) as did Venezuela’s Yulimar Rojas in the triple jump (15.67m).

Meanwhile Allyson Felix became the most decorated female track and field athlete in Olympic history with 11 medals, after winning gold in the 4x400m relay and bronze in the individual 400m. The 35-year-old American, who has attended five consecutive Olympic Games, has seven gold medals to her name.

The strength in women’s events was also apparent across the board, with 55 per cent of the national records at the Tokyo 2020 Games being set in women’s disciplines.

Engaging and inspiring

While the platform was set for many record-breaking performances, the Tokyo 2020 Games will also be remembered for its surprise results, close contests, next generation breakthroughs and moments of fair play.

Among the new stars who shone on the global stage were teenagers Athing Mu and Keely Hodgkinson, who claimed respective gold and silver in the women’s 800m at the age of just 19.

Fourteen athletes under the age of 23 won medals, six of them gold, to underline the exceptional talent coming through the sport.

Meanwhile, one of the most heart-warming moments of the Games came in the men’s high jump when Qatar’s Mutaz Barshim and Italy’s Gianmarco Tamberi – friends and rivals who battled the same career-threatening injury to make it to Tokyo – decided to share the gold.

All of these moments helped to engage and inspire fans around the globe. World Athletics’ social media channels (Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and TikTok) received 14 million engagements during the duration of the Games, and content on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and YouTube receiving 155 million impressions.

For the first time, World Athletics also provided a second screen experience – Inside Track Tokyo 2020 – which enabled fans to join celebrities, experts and families online as they shared their reactions live while following the excitement of the Games.

World Athletics

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