The Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games came to a close after 17 days of sporting excellence from the world’s elite athletes. We take a look back at some of the New Zealanders’ key moments.

No captionClockwise from top: Lisa Carrington, Ellesse Andrews, the men’s rowing eight and Tom Walsh. Photo: Photosport Ltd 2021


Tokyo 2020 will be forever etched into New Zealand sporting history due to Lisa Carrington’s gold medal winning efforts that saw the Ōhope-raised canoeist become the country’s most successul Olympian.

Kicking things off with a dominant display in the K-1 200m event, Carrington set the tone for the rest of her Olympic campaign.

What was so obvious about the way she took on the event was just how much faster, stronger and powerful she looked from the beginning of her races, asserting her dominance seconds after the start siren sounded.

The 32-year-old had little time to celebrate as just an hour later she raced in the women’s K-2 500m final alongside Caitlin Regal.

After recording an Olympic best time in the semifinal, the pair came into the medal event as favourites going on to combine superbly to finish the race almost a second ahead of the chasing pack to break the Olympic record yet again.

The next day it was time to head back into her individual discipline for the K-1 500m event, where she managed a clean sweep of the heats.

Smiling ear to ear as she crossed the finish line Carrington set herself apart with her third gold medal of the Olympics and the fifth of her career as well as one bronze.

Lisa Carrington. Olympic Gold Medal K1 500. New Zealand. Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games Canoe Sprint at the Sea Forest Waterway, Tokyo, Japan, Thursday 5 August 2021. Mandatory credit: © Steve McArthur / www.photosport.nzNew Zealand canoeist Lisa Carrington won three gold medals at the Tokyo 2020 Olympics. Photo: PhotoSport / Steve McArthur

Spotlight on women

Tokyo 2020 proved to be an impressive year for New Zealand’s female athletes who won 11 medals – eclipsing the nine won by our male athletes.

Among the medallists were familiar names such as veteran shot putter Dame Valerie Adams, golfer Lydia Ko and rower Emma Twigg.

Twigg won the hearts of New Zealanders as she showed true grit to win gold in the women’s single sculls final in dominant fashion – her first medal in her 13-year-long Olympic career.

After her gold medal winning performance, Twigg told Sky Sport she could not believe it had finally happened.

“Honestly to anyone that has had a little bit of failure just keep at it. If you believe you can do something and you know your worth then the world’s your oyster.

“I feel like this is fate and here we are, it’s an amazing feeling.”

No captionEmma Twigg, Lydia Ko and Dame Valerie Adams Photo: Photosport


Two-time gold medallist Adams proved the value of experience, winning the bronze medal and coming close to second place despite being the oldest competitor in the final.

Meanwhile in the golf, Ko claimed her second Olympic medalwinning bronze at the end of a tense competition which saw her finish on 16-under-par just one shot behind gold medallist American Nelly Korda.

Ko’s medal extended New Zealand’s record breaking medal haul to take the tally to 20 overall – two more than our previous best effort at Rio in 2016.

Ko’s grandmother died last week and the golfer dedicated her bronze medal to her memory.

Meanwhile, new faces also emerged with Ellesse Andrews, Brooke Donoghue, Hannah Osborne and more taking their place on the podium for the first time.

Firsts for Kiwi athletes

This year’s Olympics saw New Zealand’s team reach a number of first time milestones and also a range of historical firsts.

Dylan Schmidt with his bronze medal at Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games Trampoline Gymnastics at the Ariake Gymnastics Centre. Tokyo, Japan, Saturday 31 July 2021. Dylan Schmidt Photo: Steve McArthur/Photosport Ltd 2021


After becoming the first New Zealander to be selected to the trampoline event at Rio 2016, Dylan Schmidt went one further this time around winning bronze to become the first ever Kiwi medallist in the event.

David Nyika won New Zealand’s first Olympic boxing medal in the 21st century picking up a bronze medal after he lost his semifinal bout against the ROC’s Muslim Ghadzimagomedov.

In the men’s football tournament, the Oly Whites qualfied for their first ever quarterfinal at the Olympics after Chris Wood guided them through the group stage.

In a strange sequence of events, the men’s shot put event became the first event to experience an exact repeat of the podium finish from the last Olympics in Rio.

New Zealand’s Tom Walsh finished in the bronze medal positionwhile America’s Joe Kovacs and Ryan Crouser finished in second and first place respectively.

Marcus Daniell and Michael Venus won New Zealand’s first ever Olympic medal in tennis with a 7-6 6-2 win over Americans Austin Krajicek and Tennys Sandgren in the men’s tennis doubles bronze medal final.

Daniell and Venus became the first New Zealanders to win an Olympic medal in the sport since Anthony Wilding won singles bronze in 1912 at the Stockholm Games competing for Australasia.

New Zealand Olympic surfers Ella Williams and Billy StairmandNew Zealand surfers Ella Williams and Billy Stairmand Photo: RNZ / Maja Burry


A number of new sports were introduced to the Tokyo Olympics with surfing, skateboarding, karate, sport climbing and 3×3 basketball all making their debut.

New Zealand were represented in two of these new events with surfers Ella Williams and Billy Stairmand making history as the first Kiwis to compete in Olympic surfing.

As well, 30-year-old Aucklander Andrea Anacan became New Zealand’s first ever competitor in the karate kata event.

Single sculls gold medallist Emma Twigg, the champion NZ men's eight and women's eight silver medallists on the final day of the Olympic rowing programme in Tokyo.Single sculls gold medallist Emma Twigg, the champion NZ men’s eight and women’s eight silver medallists on the final day of the Olympic rowing programme in Tokyo. Photo: Steve McArthur/Photosport Ltd 2021

Rowing’s golden day

New Zealand’s most successful day of the Tokyo Games came on Day 7 when the New Zealand rowing squad took home three medals in the space of just over an hour.

First to the podium was Twigg, followed by the women’s eight, with Grace Prendergast and Kerri Gowler joining the boat off the back of their gold medal winning performance in the coxless pair. They won New Zealand’s third silver medal of the games.

In the final event of the Olympic rowing programme, the men’s eight stunned pundits to win gold – the first time New Zealand had won the event since the Munich Olympics in 1972.


Both New Zealand rugby sevens teams progressed to their gold medal finals convincingly.

However, it was the Black Ferns who took home the top prize at this year’s games overcoming the Russian Olympic Committee, Great Britain, Kenya, Fiji and the France in the final to claim their first ever gold medal.

After losing to Australia by just seven points in the Rio 2016 gold medal final, the win represented redemption for the side.

Portia Woodman during New Zealand v ROC, Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games Rugby Women's Quater Final match at Tokyo Stadium, Tokyo, Japan on Manday 30th July 2021.
Mandatory credit: @ Kenji Demura / www.photosport.nzPortia Woodman on a break for the Black Ferns sevens in their match against the Russian Olympic Committee. Photo: Photosport Ltd 2021


Meanwhile, for the All Blacks sevens squad their tournament symbolised a major improvement on their disappointing Olympic debut in Rio 2016 where they placed 5th after being knocked out in the quarterfinals by Fiji.

But it was the Flying Fijians who once again dashed their hopes of securing their long awaited gold medal, defeating the All Blacks 27-12 in the gold medal match.