Rebeca Andrade became Brazil’s first WAG Olympic medalist, and then its first Olympic gold medalist days later
Athletes competing in women’s artistic gymnastics from 27 countries set, matched, or broke records for their nations at the Olympic Games in Tokyo, including some decades old.
I love following these achievements because it shows the rise of so many smaller programs, some of which – like Brazil – have spent the past 20 years slowly gaining ground on the international scene, while others – like Belgium – have jumped into prominence over the last five years.
This is so important for future growth, and whether a nation’s achievement is a first gold medal or the first time competing at the Olympic Games, this representation both introduces kids to the sport and shows them that big dreams are possible. It inspires them to try gymnastics, which in turn creates more developmental depth, which sets up these already growing programs for even more success in the future.
Below are all of those who made history for their countries in the sport.
Marina Nekrasova became the first gymnast from Azerbaijan to qualify for the Olympic Games, and set the program’s first records by finishing 19th on vault, 58th on beam, 70th in the all-around, 71st on floor, and 83rd on bars.
Nina Derwael single-handedly broke four records in Tokyo, including several of her own after she had previously broken three in 2016.
- Derwael’s 1st place finish and gold medal on bars was the first gymnastics medal for Belgium in the history of the Olympic Games. The previous record was Nina’s 12th place finish in 2016.
- In the all-around, Derwael finished 6th, breaking her own 19th place record from 2016.
- Derwael finished 12th in floor qualifications, breaking Rune Hermans‘ 24th place record from 2016.
- Derwael finished 15th in beam qualifications, breaking the 28th place record she and Laura Waem reached in 2016.
Together, the Belgian women – Maellyse Brassart, Lisa Vaelen, and Jutta Verkest in addition to Derwael – finished 8th in the team final, the team’s best finish in history. Prior to this, Belgium’s best finish as a team came in 1948, the country’s first time competing at the Olympic Games. This was also the first time Belgium earned a spot in the team final, which they achieved by finishing 5th in qualifications.
Rebeca Andrade broke two individual records in Tokyo, and tied a third.
- Her 2nd place finish and silver medal in the all-around was the first medal for Brazil in women’s gymnastics at the Olympic Games. The top all-arounder prior to Andrade was Jade Barbosa with her 10th place finish in 2008.
- Days later, Andrade finished 1st on vault to top the podium, making this the first gold for Brazilian WAG, and breaking Barbosa’s 7th place record from 2008.
- On floor, Andrade finished 5th in the final, matching Daiane dos Santos’ record from 2004.
Raegan Rutty became the first gymnast from the Cayman Islands to qualify for the Olympic Games, and set the program’s first records by finishing 80th in the all-around, 82nd on floor, 87th on bars, and 91st on beam.
Guan Chenchen finished 1st to take the gold on beam, becoming the third Olympic beam champion from China, following in the footsteps of Liu Xuan in 2000 and Deng Linlin in 2012.
Luciana Alvarado became the first gymnast from Costa Rica to qualify for the Olympic Games, and set the program’s first records by finishing 37th on beam, 51st in the all-around, 55th on bars, and 66th on floor.
The British women – Jessica Gadirova, Jennifer Gadirova, Alice Kinsella, and Amelie Morgan – also finished 3rd in the team final, winning the country’s first team medal since they last won bronze in 1928, the first time women’s artistic gymnastics was included at the Olympic Games.
Lihie Raz finished 15th on vault, breaking Valeriia Maksiuta’s 16th place record from 2012.
Vanessa Ferrari finished 2nd to win the silver medal on floor, breaking her own 4th place record which she set in 2012 and matched in 2016. This is the first medal for Italy at the Olympic Games since the women last won as a team in 1928.
Murakami Mai broke two records set by Japanese gymnastics legend Tanaka Keiko more than 60 years ago.
- On floor, Murakami finished 3rd to win a bronze medal, breaking Tanaka’s 4th place record from 1956. This was the first WAG medal for Japan since the team won bronze in 1964.
- Murakami also finished 5th in the all-around, breaking Tanaka’s 6th place record that she originally set in 1960 and then matched in 1964.
Farah Ann Abdul Hadi broke and set several records as Malaysia’s second WAG athlete at the Olympic Games.
- Abdul Hadi finished 74th on bars, breaking Yen Au Li’s 83rd place record from 2000.
- She was also the first Malaysian woman to compete all events at the Olympics, setting the program’s first records by finishing 64th on floor, 68th in the all-around, and 76th on beam.
Alexa Moreno finished 4th on vault, breaking Denisse Lopez’s 7th place record from 2000.
Ariana Orrego finished 65th on beam, breaking her own 67th place record from 2016.
Filipa Martins finished 17th on bars, breaking her own 54th place record from 2016.
The Russian women – Lilia Akhaimova, Viktoria Listunova, Angelina Melnikova, and Vladislava Urazova – finished 1st to win gold in the team final, becoming the country’s first Olympic team champions in the post-Soviet era. The Russians had previously won silver four times, in 1996, 2000, 2012, and 2016.
Barbora Mokosova broke two of her own records in Tokyo.
- Mokosova finished 37th on floor, an improvement from 59th place in 2016.
- On bars, Mokosova finished 38th, an improvement from 49th place in 2016.
Both WAG athletes for South Africa were the country’s first gymnasts to qualify to an Olympic Games on their own right instead of via continental representation berths. They also each broke two records apiece.
- Naveen Daries finished 18th on vault, breaking Antoinette Kuiters’ 83rd place record from 1960.
- Daries also finished 77th on floor, breaking Antoinette Kuiters’ 78th place record from 1960.
- Caitlin Rooskrantz finished 39th on bars, breaking Zandre Labuschagne’s 77th place record from 2004.
- Rooskrantz also finished 61st on beam, breaking Zandre Labuschagne’s 76th place record from 2004.
Both South Korean women competing in Tokyo broke records.
- Yeo Seo-jeong finished 3rd to win the bronze medal on vault, breaking Lee Hee-kyung’s 37th place record from 1992. This is the first medal for South Korean WAG in Olympic history.
- Lee Yun-seo finished 16th on bars, breaking Han Kyung-im’s 24th place record from 1988.
- In the all-around final, Lee finished 21st, tying Park Ji-sook’s record from 1988.
Milka Gehani became the first gymnast from Sri Lanka to qualify for the Olympic Games, and set the program’s first records by finishing 78th in the all-around, 80th on beam, 82nd on bars, and 84th on floor.
Jonna Adlerteg finished 12th on bars, breaking Karin Lindberg’s 25th place record from 1952.
Ting Hua-Tien broke the records on both of the events she competed in Tokyo as the first Taiwanese WAG athlete at the Olympic Games in more than 50 years.
- Ting finished 50th on beam, breaking Hong Tan-Kwai’s 77th place record from 1964.
- She also finished 63rd on bars, breaking Hong Tan-Kwai’s 81st place record from 1964.
The United States has finished 1st on every event currently contested in women’s artistic gymnastics, and two athletes in Tokyo added their names to the country’s history of gold medalists.
- Sunisa Lee finished 1st in the all-around, joining Mary Lou Retton (1984), Carly Patterson (2004), Nastia Liukin (2008), Gabby Douglas (2012), and Simone Biles (2016) as an Olympic all-around champion.
- Jade Carey finished 1st on floor, joining Aly Raisman (2012) and Simone Biles (2016) as an Olympic floor champion.
Article by Lauren Hopkins