Gold standard: Ireland’s medal haul in Tokyo stands up to best the country has produced

Team Ireland have brought home four medals from Japan - including two golds

Ireland’s Fintan McCarthy and Paul O’Donovan rowed their way to gold in Tokyo. Photograph: Morgan Treacy/Inpho

Show me the medals. Gold medals preferably, them being the first and seemingly true measure of success on this Olympic stage every four years or in this case five, and for Team Ireland resulting in the best Games on one level since Los Angeles in 1932, with four medals in total.

That was the last time two different Irish athletes came away with gold medals – Dr Pat O'Callaghan in the hammer, and Bob Tisdall in the 400 metres hurdles.

Michelle Smith did win herself three gold medals in swimming in 1996, two years before she received a four-year ban for a doping offence, only in winning two gold medals here in Tokyo – first rowers Paul O'Donovan and Fintan McCarthy, then on Sunday here Kellie Harrington – it's the first time that Ireland has won two gold medals in two different sporting stages at the same Olympics.

That's good enough by most standards, and the final Tokyo 2020 medal table saw Team Ireland finish joint 39th overall, alongside Israel, who also won two gold and two bronze: Ireland's two bronze medals also came in rowing and boxing, thanks to the women's lightweight fours and boxer Aidan Walsh.

Kellie Harrington capped off a golden games for Ireland. Photograph: Bryan Keane/Inpho

In all, of the 205 competing nations from all and every corner of this world, a record total of 94 countries won a medal at Tokyo 2020, including Turkmenistan, San Marino and Burkina Faso – who all claimed their first Olympic medals.

For the seventh consecutive Games it was Team USA who finished top of the medal table at Tokyo 2020, winning 113 medals across 28 different sports. Including clinching 39 gold, 41 silver and 33 bronze medals.

Caeleb Dressel led the way among individual American gold medal winners with five racked up in the pool. Fellow swimmers Katie Ledecky, Bobby Finke and Zach Apple each won two gold medals, while track and field stars Sydney McLaughlin and Athing Mu also came away with two gold medals apiece. The US women's gymnastics team delivered a pair of gold medals, with a gold for Suni Lee in the individual all-around final and a gold for Jade Carey in the floor event final.

Boxer Aidan Walsh with his bronze medal earned in Tokyo. Photograph: Morgan Treacy/Inpho

China and hosts Japan were closest to matching the US gold medal haul, winning 38 and 27 respectively, while Britain ended up fourth, including 22 gold medals. Indeed Japan, Italy, Netherlands, Brazil, New Zealand, Chinese Taipei and Turkey also set new records for most medals secured at a single Olympic Games.

On medal ranking, based on medal totals, Ireland finished up 47th, but those two gold medals saw them top several other nations with strong Olympic ambitions including Ethiopia, Romania and the Ukraine.

It was the US gold in the women’s volleyball that took their overall gold medal tally to 39, after beating Brazil 3-0 on Sunday. It was the first gold medal in women’s volleyball for Team USA.

China had led the gold medal table for several days going into the final day of Olympic competition on Sunday, but the US closed the gap in the end. Wins on Sunday in Tokyo in women’s volleyball, women’s basketball and cycling gave the Americans the top prize.

Bronze medallists Aifric Keogh, Eimear Lambe, Fiona Murtagh and Emily Hegarty. Photograph: Naomi Baker/Getty

Due to the impact of the global Covid-19 pandemic, the medal table at the Tokyo Games was expected to be more unpredictable than normal. Hosts Japan will certainly be particularly delighted. After winning 41 medals in Rio, they jumped to 58, 27 gold in all, and third in the overall table.