The Big Ten Conference enjoyed its finest performance at a single Olympic Games at the recently-complete 2020 Summer Olympics in Tokyo, Japan, as athletes with Big Ten ties set conference records by earning 51 total medals and 22 gold medals during the 17-day competition.
All 14 Big Ten member schools had an athlete win at least one medal in Tokyo, also a first in conference history.
This year’s results surpass the previous Big Ten records for total medals and gold medals in a single Olympiad, set at the 2016 Rio Games when conference-affiliated athletes collected 47 medals (including 19 golds). In addition, during the past four Summer Olympics, the Big Ten has posted record-setting total medal counts each time, starting with 30 at the 2008 Beijing Games and 35 at the 2012 London Olympics.
No fewer than 43 Big Ten competitors combined to earn the 51 medals at this year’s Tokyo Olympics, representing eight different National Olympic Committees (NOC) — Canada, Great Britain, France, Hong Kong, Italy, Netherlands, San Marino and the United States. Another 18 coaches and staff from Big Ten institutions helped individuals or teams from four NOC to medals (Hong Kong, Japan, San Marino and the United States), but technically these individuals do not receive Olympic medals themselves.
Of the 43 Big Ten medalists at this year’s Olympics, 26 were women (60.5%), who earned 31 of the Conference’s 51 medals (60.8%) and 13 of its 22 golds (59.1%). A Big Ten female athlete was also chosen as the United States flag bearer at the Closing Ceremonies on Aug. 8, with former Purdue All-American and four-time Olympic javelin thrower Kara (Patterson) Winger selected for the prestigious honor by a vote of her fellow Team USA Olympians.
I will have more on this story in a future print edition of the Decatur Tribune