Making History at the Olympics 2020: The New Olympic Sports and Athlete Firsts to Know

A non-exhaustive list of history-making accomplishments.

The Olympics 2020 are upon us, and with it brings a wide variety of athletes from all over the world showcasing skills that many of us could only ever dream of being able to perform.

In addition to physical feats, the Tokyo Olympics will also bring many firsts.

There will be four sports making Olympic debuts at Tokyo 2020: surfing, skateboarding, karate and sport climbing. It will also be the first Olympics where transgender athletes have qualified.

To get ready for the Games, which start on July 23, Teen Vogue has a list of notable Olympic “firsts” for you to follow online.

This story will be updated as the Games progress.

Trans Athletes Come to Tokyo

Laurel Hubbard

Hubbard, a weightlifter from New Zealand, made news as the first transgender athlete to qualify for Tokyo 2020 — and the Olympics in general. At 43, she is the oldest weightlifter who will be going to the Games, an achievement she almost missed out on due to an injury three years ago.

"I am grateful and humbled by the kindness and support that has been given to me by so many New Zealanders," Hubbard said in a statement after her qualification. "When I broke my arm at the Commonwealth Games three years ago, I was advised that my sporting career had likely reached its end. But your support, your encouragement, and your aroha [love] carried me through the darkness."

Chelsea Wolfe

Wolfe is heading to Tokyo as an alternate in BMX Freestyle for Team USA, making her the country's first openly trans athlete at the Games.

“I’m so excited and honored to keep working so I’m ready to shred in Tokyo in case I’m needed,” Wolfe, who will compete if one of the other two qualified riders drops out, said according to HuffPost.

Follow her on Twitter and Instagram to see her training.


Quinn is an Olympic medalist who captured a Bronze at the 2016 Games for Team Canada in soccer. This time around, they will head to Tokyo for the first time as their authentic self after coming out as transgender in 2020.

In an Instagram post, Quinn noted how complicated coming out can be:

“Coming out is HARD ( and kinda bs). I know for me it’s something I’ll be doing over again for the rest of my life. As I’ve lived as an openly trans person with the people I love most for many years, I did always wonder when I’d come out publicly,” they wrote, before sharing tips on how cisgender people can be better allies.

Will Team Canada improve on its Rio 2016 bronze medal performance in Tokyo? Follow Quinn on Twitter and Instagram.

History Made Before the Games

Alia Issa

The Refugee Olympic and Paralympic teams made their debut at the Rio 2016 Games and will take the stage again at Tokyo 2020. Issa, 20, will be the first woman to represent the Refugee Team in the Paralympics. She is a Syrian refugee who currently lives in Greece and will take part in the club throw.

“I would like to tell people that if they have a child with impairments like me, don’t keep them hidden at home. Encourage them to participate in sport,” Issa said, according to the UNHCR.

Suni Lee

When 18-year-old Suni Lee takes part in the all-around gymnastics competition for Team USA she will be doing so as the first Hmong American to make an Olympic Games.

In an interview with Elle prior to her qualification for Team USA, Lee’s father commented on her impending achievement. “It would be the greatest accomplishment of any Hmong person in the U.S. ever,” he said. “It will go down in history.”

But that’s not all. Lee was also the first gymnast to beat Simone Biles in any part of the all-around competition since 2013. Follow Lee’s journey on Twitter and Instagram.

Super Young Skateboard Trio

Skateboarding is making its Olympic debut in Tokyo 2020 and three young girls are pushing the boundaries of the youngest Olympians. (The sport doesn't have the age restrictions others do.) Kokona Hiraki will become Japan’s youngest Olympian at age 12, while Sky Brown (Great Britain) will become her country's youngest at age 13. Rayssa Leal (Brazil), also 13, is also expected to make waves, as she's ranked second in the Olympic street rankings, according to NBC Sports.

Janja Garnbret  and Tomoa Narasaki

Sport climbing is one of the sports to make its debut at Tokyo 2020, and Garnbret and Narasaki are the favorites to win gold in the women’s and men’s events respectively. Garnbret hails from Slovenia, while Narasaki will represent the host country Japan. Just make sure not to blink while watching either of their events as you may miss them.

Follow Garnbret's journey on Instagram, and Narasaki here.

Sakura Kokumai

Sakura Kokumai originally qualified for Tokyo 2020 before the COVID-19 pandemic shut down the sporting world, and she did so in the sport of karate, another Olympic debutant in Tokyo 2020. She was the first U.S. athlete to qualify for the sport. She has a shot at a medal in the kata discipline. Follow Kokumai on Twitter and Instagram.

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Want more from Teen Vogue? Check this out: Olympics 2020 Athletes to Know: Skateboarder Mariah Duran

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