The 50 best USA Summer Olympic moments of all time


The Tokyo Olympics are practically upon us, and loads of recollections are certain to be made for American athletes. As we rejoice these Video games, it is time to look again at 50 of the best, or most notable, Summer season Olympic moments involving athletes from the USA.


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Double the dominance (1912)

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It was on the fifth-ever Summer season Olympics at Stockholm in 1912, when the good Jim Thorpe confirmed simply how versatile an athlete he was. He gained twin aim medals within the decathlon (a file 8,413 factors that stood for greater than virtually twenty years) and the newly unveiled pentathlon. Based mostly on his total efficiency on the 1912 video games, Thorpe, in line with Olympic lore, was the primary to be dubbed the “Biggest Athlete within the World.” In years since Thorpe was stripped of these medals — thus nullifying the very fact he is first Native-American Olympic gold medalist — by the Worldwide Olympic Committee for a questionable novice standing.


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Excessive schooler Robinson quicker than the remaining (1928)

High schooler Robinson faster than the rest (1928)

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Hailing from southeast suburban Chicago and a pupil on the famed Thornton Township Excessive College in Harvey, Unwell, train-chasing Betty Robinson was one of many first nice monitor phenoms in U.S. historical past. In simply her second-ever race at age 16, Robinson matched the world file within the 100 meters. She finally certified for the 1928 Summer season Video games at Amsterdam and have become the primary lady to win the 100 on the Olympics. She additionally earned silver as a member of the 4×100 relay crew.


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Age nothing to Gestring (1936)

Age nothing to Gestring (1936)


The 1936 Summer season Olympics in Berlin may be recognized for that historic, breakout second by a sure legendary American star. Nevertheless, there have been additionally different notable performances by U.S. athletes throughout the Video games. Close to the highest of the checklist was 13-year-old diver Marjorie Gestring, who shocked many across the sport within the U.S. by qualifying for the Video games. Together with her victory within the 3-meter springboard diving competitors, Gestring grew to become the youngest athlete to win gold on the Olympics. 


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Stephens’ smashing efficiency (1936)

Stephens' smashing performance (1936)


It is also price noting that the 1936 Video games featured a feminine double-gold winner for the USA. Her identify was Helen Stephens, and her declare to fame from these Video games was unseating reigning champion and world-record holder Stanisława Walasiewicz of Poland, to win the 100 meters — in a swift 11.5 seconds. She then anchored the American 4×100 relay crew to a gold-medal efficiency. Stephens’ interplay with German dictator Adolf Hitler was fairly entertaining, as effectively.


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Owens reveals up Hitler (1936)

Owens shows up Hitler (1936)



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Candy (double) diving sweep (1948)

Sweet (double) diving sweep (1948)

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Possibly it wasn’t a significant shock that the USA dominated the diving competitors on the 1948 Olympics in London. It was one of many premier occasions for the People on the time, so that they put themselves in a fairly good place for achievement on the Video games. The U.S. swept the three medal spots in each the boys’s and ladies’s 3-meter springboard occasion, and likewise went 1-2, respectively, within the 10-meter platform. Bruce Harlan, Sammy Lee, Vicki Draves, and Patsy Elsner every gained two medals apiece.


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Wilma has the need (1960)

Wilma has the will (1960)

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The good Wilma Rudolph obtained her first take a look at of Olympic success in 1956 by successful a bronze medal as a part of the American 4×100-meter relay crew. Nevertheless, it was the 1960 Video games at Rome the place Rudolph earned the title of the “quickest lady on this planet.” She took house gold in each the 100 and 200 meters, and likewise within the 4×100 relay. All superb accomplishments for somebody who handled pneumonia, scarlet fever, and polio in her early years.


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Rafer’s exceptional run (1960)

Rafer's remarkable run (1960)

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The will to compete was sturdy with Rafer Johnson throughout the decathlon in 1960 in Rome. After incomes a silver medal within the occasion 4 years earlier at Melbourne, Johnson discovered himself in a duel for gold with Taiwan rival C.Ok. Yang. It got here right down to the 1,500-meter finale, the place each had emptied the tank simply to cross the end line. Johnson did not need to win however wanted to remain inside 10 seconds of Yang’s time to earn gold. He was even nearer. Yang gained the occasion, however Johnson was shut behind and dropped his head on Yang’s shoulder when he had completed, along with his vitality spent and gold achieved.


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The Child named Cassius (1960)

The Kid named Cassius (1960)

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Earlier than he was Muhammad Ali, Cassius Clay was a relative unknown boxer on the worldwide stage. Positive, Clay was a promising pugilist in his house state of Kentucky and gained an AAU nationwide championship, nevertheless it was his efficiency on the 1960 Olympics in Rome that really gave the world a glimpse of the greatness that was to come back. Clay gained gold within the light-heavyweight division and didn’t cease from there. 


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Mills goes the space for upset (1964)

Mills goes the distance for upset (1964)

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Practically a half-decade later, Billy Mills’ unbelievable victory within the 10,000 meters on the 1964 Olympics in Tokyo continues to be thought of one of many largest upsets within the historical past of the Video games. Mills was an unknown commodity and positively not thought of a menace to Australia’s Ron Clarke, the undisputed favourite within the race. Nevertheless, on the ultimate lap, Mills kicked into excessive gear for the burst of his life to outlast Clarke and set an Olympic file along with his successful time of 28:24.4. Mills stays the one American to win the ten,000.


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That is 4 for Oerter (1968)

That's four for Oerter (1968)

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In 1956, Al Oerter was the shock winner of the discus competitors in Melbourne. Nevertheless, it proved to be the beginning of a historic run for the American. By 1968, at age 32, Oerter was nonetheless a contender on the worldwide scene and making an attempt to grow to be the primary track-and-field Olympian to win 4 consecutive golds. Oerter, although, wasn’t favored at Mexico Metropolis however managed to prime favored teammate Jay Silvester with an Olympic-record throw of 64.78 meters.


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Fosbury “flops” to gold (1968)

Fosbury "flops" to gold (1968)

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Not solely did the legendary Dıck Fosbury win the excessive leap on the 1968 Video games in Mexico Metropolis, he primarily re-invented, or revolutionized, the occasion along with his famed “Fosbury Flop.” In easy phrases, Fosbury was the primary excessive jumper to make use of a backward, format maneuver to clear the bar. That method rapidly grew to become copied worldwide and, clearly, is the popular methodology of clearing the bar within the current day. 


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Beamon’s massive leap (1968)

Beamon's big leap (1968)

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The historic accomplishments on the 1968 Summer season Video games at Mexico Metropolis did not finish with Al Oerter or Dıck Fosbury. Bob Beamon’s efficiency within the lengthy leap on the Video games stays one of many nice particular person accomplishments in Olympic historical past. The favourite to win the occasion at Mexico Metropolis, Beamon not solely prevailed however shattered the world file along with his leap of 8.90 m (29.2 ft). His historic hop stood because the file for practically 23 years and stays the mark to beat in Olympic competitors.


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Fists of protest (1968)

Fists of protest (1968)

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There’s arguably no extra highly effective picture than that of American sprinters Tommie Smith and John Carlos standing on the medal podium, every with one black-gloved fist raised following the 200-meter race and whereas the “Star Spangled Banner” performed on the 1968 Mexico Metropolis Video games. The Black Energy salute from Smith, who gained gold, and bronze-medalist Carlos each drew inspiration and condemnation — relying on one’s political viewpoint. If there was ever a doubt sports activities and politics had been intertwined, it was put to relaxation on Oct. 16, 1968.


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Munich basketball debacle (1972)

Munich basketball debacle (1972)

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Spitz’s sensational seven (1972)

Spitz's sensational seven (1972)


The U.S. basketball loss and Israeli athlete bloodbath overshadowed some constructive moments of historic proportions on the Munich Video games in 1972. None greater than the seven gold medals American swimmer Mark Spitz gained at these video games. He particular person gold within the 100-meter freestyle, 200 free, 100-meter butterfly, 200 fly, and as a member of the 4×100-meter free relay, 4×200 free relay, and 4×100 medley relay. Spitz’s record-medal depend for a single Video games lasted 36 years.


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The unique “Dream Group?” (1976)

The original "Dream Team?" (1976)

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We’ll get to USA Basketball’s “Dream Group” from 1992 in a bit. However arguably, the unique U.S. Olympic dream lineup got here in 1976 with the nation’s boxing squad that was full of future legends. “Sugar” Ray Leonard, brothers Leon and Michael Spinks, Leo Randolph and Howard Davis every gained gold. In the meantime, Charles Mooney took house a silver, and John Tate earned bronze. Leonard and the Michael Spinks’ are Corridor of Famers and Leon Spinks beat Muhammad Ali for the heavyweight title in 1978. 


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Jenner earns iconic standing (1976)

Jenner earns iconic status (1976)

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Earlier than he transitioned to Caitlyn Jenner and determined to run for Governor of California, Bruce Jenner put forth one of many nice Olympic performances of all time along with his gold-medal successful effort within the decathlon on the 1976 Summer season Video games. Jenner, who set private bests in eight of the ten occasions, rallied from second place after Day One to win the grueling occasion with a world-record rating of 8,618 factors. Jenner grew to become a nationwide icon, and there are most likely nonetheless some who’ve his Wheaties’ field on show within the man cave.


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Extra boxing dominance (1984)

More boxing dominance (1984)


Sure, 14 “Jap Bloc” international locations, most notably the Soviet Union and East Germany, boycotted the ’84 Summer season Video games in Los Angeles. Nonetheless, the People made essentially the most of that scenario to dominate the Video games with 174 whole medals — 83 golds. The U.S. boxing crew may need been the very best crew that competed at these Video games, and a few declare it is even higher than the vaunted ’76 squad. Led by Pernell “Candy Pea” Whitaker, Mark Breland, Frank Tate, and Tyrell Biggs, the U.S. gained 9 gold medals, a silver and one bronze from some child named Evander Holyfield.


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Griffith lays her Olympic basis (1984)

Griffith lays her Olympic foundation (1984)


There have been loads of particular moments for the U.S. throughout the 1984 Video games, however Florence Griffith’s star was among the many brightest. After ending second on the U.S. Olympic monitor and subject trials within the 200 meters, Griffith Joyner wasn’t essentially favored to medal within the occasion on her Olympic debut. Nevertheless, favored teammate Evelyn Ashford pulled out of the race with an harm and Griffith earned silver. Setting the stage for much more greatness 4 years later. 


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Benoit battles method to gold (1984)

Benoit battles way to gold (1984)

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A little bit greater than two weeks earlier than Joan Benoit was to run the marathon on the U.S. Olympic trials, she underwent arthroscopic knee surgical procedure. No massive deal. Benoit recovered in time to win the occasion and then declare the primary Olympic gold medal awarded within the ladies’s marathon. It was one other groundbreaking second for a U.S. monitor and subject crew that gained 40 medals — 16 golds — on the 1984 Summer season Video games on its house soil. 


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Fairly the debut for Lewis (1984)

Quite the debut for Lewis (1984)



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Retton vaults into historical past (1984)

Retton vaults into history (1984)


Also referred to as “America’s Sweetheart,” dynamo Mary Lou Retton is answerable for one of the crucial memorable particular person performances in Olympic historical past. A made-for-prime-time second, Retton rallied to grow to be the primary American lady to win the Olympic gymnastics all-around title. She did so with a banged-up knee and excellent 10s in her closing two workout routines — the ground train and the vault. Retton’s exuberance and unforgettable smile upon nailing the touchdown on back-to-back vaults have been captured in time. Along with the all-around gold, Retton gained two silvers (crew occasion, vault) and two bronze (uneven bars, ground train) medals.


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Bionic Biondi (1988)

Bionic Biondi (1988)


When Matt Biondi‘s Olympic swimming profession ended, he was an 11-time medal winner — eight of which had been gold. His best Olympic second got here throughout the 1988 Summer season Video games in Seoul. Biondi gained a exceptional 5 gold medals — 50-meter freestyle, 100 free, 4×100-meter freestyle relay, 4×200 free relay, and 4×100 medley relay at these Video games. That will be spectacular by itself. However Biondi went one step additional by setting a world file within the 50 and as a part of all three relays. For good measure, Biondi additionally gained silver within the 100 butterfly and bronze within the 200 free at Seoul.


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Louganis back-to-back (1988)

Louganis back-to-back (1988)

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“Flo-Jo” goes for extra (1988)

"Flo-Jo" goes for more (1988)



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Gained it by that a lot (1992)

Won it by that much (1992)


Gail Devers was a two-time gold-medal winner on the 1996 Atlanta Video games, however her best particular person Olympic second got here 4 years earlier in Barcelona. In one of the crucial aggressive 100-meter races within the historical past of the Olympics, 5 runners discovered themselves a part of a photograph end — formally inside 0.06 seconds. In the long run, nonetheless, it was Devers who edged Jamaican Juliet Cuthbert for the gold.


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“The Dream Group” dominates (1992)

"The Dream Team" dominates (1992)


With a roster that included Michael Jordan, Larry Chook, Magic Johnson, and Charles Barkley, the U.S. males’s basketball crew ought to have been given their gold medals effectively earlier than the 1992 Summer season Video games. The People dominated each recreation as anticipated, with its closest margin of victory coming by 38 factors versus Puerto Rico within the semifinals. They beat Venezuela 80-47 within the gold-medal contest. Barkley averaged a team-leading 16.3 factors — one in all seven gamers averaging double-figure factors.


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Ali’s touching torch second (1996)

Ali's touching torch moment (1996)



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Johnson’s golden double delight (1996)

Johnson's golden double delight (1996)

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A 200- and 400-meter double is a grueling activity for even the elite sprinters on this planet. Nevertheless, the good Michael Johnson made it look simple on the 1996 Summer season Video games in Atlanta. Sporting his gold monitor sneakers, Johnson grew to become the one male athlete to win each the 200 and 400 in the identical Olympics. If that wasn’t sufficient, he posted a world-record 19.32-second time within the 200. 4 years later on the Sydney Video games, Johnson repeated as 400 Olympic champion. 


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Kerri can do it (1996)

Kerri can do it (1996)


After severely injuring her ankle on an earlier vault, Kerri Strug had no time to wallow. Not with the first-ever American Olympic gymnastics crew title inside their grasp. Hobbled, however not completely hampered, Strug delivered one of many gutsiest performances in U.S. Olympic gymnastic historical past by sticking her vault touchdown lengthy sufficient to safe a rating that clinched the crew gold for the U.S. The picture of U.S. coach Béla Károlyi carrying Strug out for the medal ceremony stays a piece of Olympic iconography. 


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One final golden second (1996)

One last golden moment (1996)


Some 12 years faraway from his dominant Olympic debut on the 1984 Summer season Video games, Carl Lewis was prepared for an virtually equally memorable swan tune in 1996 — additionally on American soil at Atlanta. Lewis didn’t win 4 golds within the 1996 Video games at Atlanta, however he did full a quite spectacular feat. With Lewis’ considerably surprising first-place end within the lengthy leap in ’96, he grew to become simply the third athlete to win gold in the identical occasion at 4 consecutive Olympics.


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Williams’ sisters win doubles gold (2000)

Williams' sisters win doubles gold (2000) TODAY NETWORK

A day after Venus Williams gained singles gold throughout the ladies’s tennis competitors at Sydney in 2000, she teamed up with sister Serena to simply dispatch Netherlands’ pair Kristie Boogert and Miriam Oremans, 6-1, 6-1, to win doubles gold for the USA. With Venus and Serena every saying they won’t participate on this summer season’s Tokyo Video games, it is time to get a bit nostalgic.


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Wilkinson’s unbelievable win (2000)

Wilkinson's improbable win (2000)


Discuss perseverance. Six months earlier than the 2000 Summer season Video games in Sydney, Laura Wilkinson broke her foot. She nonetheless wasn’t absolutely recovered throughout qualifying for the Sydney Video games. After the primary of her 5 Olympic dives on the 10-meter platform, Wilkinson was sitting in eighth place. Nevertheless, that wasn’t sufficient to maintain her down. She re-focused, began nailing her dives, and transferring up the standings. It got here right down to her closing dive, a two-and-a-half somersault with a one-half twist. Wilkinson nailed it and China’s Chinese language Li Na completed poorly, opening the door for Wilkinson’s Olympic gold.


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Sheets, U.S. stun Cuba (2000)

Sheets, U.S. stun Cuba (2000)


With legendary Los Angeles Dodgers skipper Tommy Lasorda working the present, USA baseball made a seemingly unbelievable run to the gold medal on the 2000 Sydney Video games. Cuba was the undisputed gold normal in worldwide baseball, and after the U.S. rallied for a 3-2 semifinal win over South Korea, the 2 groups met with a gold medal on the road. Within the best recreation within the historical past of USA Baseball, Ben Sheets tossed a three-hitter and the People shocked mighty Cuba with a 4-0 victory.


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Rulon guidelines the day (2000)

Rulon rules the day (2000)

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When speaking concerning the best upset within the historical past of the USA’ participation within the Summer season Olympics, the identify Rulon Gardner tends to be close to the highest of the checklist. When Gardner confronted dominant Russian Aleksandr Karelin within the gold-medal match of the 130 kg division, he was hardly given an opportunity. Karelin hadn’t misplaced a world match in 13 years or allowed some extent in six years, however the upstart Gardner delivered the efficiency of his life to shock the Greco-Roman wrestling world and win gold.


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Patterson ends all-around drought (2004)

Patterson ends all-around drought (2004)


Twenty years after Mary Lou Retton vaulted her approach into worldwide fame to win the ladies’s gymnastics all-around on the 1984 Los Angeles Video games, Carly Patterson grew to become the primary American to repeat the feat. In truth, many Olympic historians imagine Patterson’s accomplishment at Athens may be extra spectacular contemplating the ’84 Video games had been boycotted by the Soviet Union and its vaunted gymnastics program. Patterson additionally introduced house two silvers (crew, stability beam) from Athens.


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USWNT digs deep for gold (2004)

USWNT digs deep for gold (2004)

Martin Rose/Bongarts/Getty Photos


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An Athens’ appetizer (2004)

An Athens' appetizer (2004)


Michael Phelps laid the inspiration for his Olympic swimming dominance on the 2000 Video games in Sydney, regardless of not even successful a medal. The expertise was ok. So, when he returned to the Olympic stage as a 19-year-old at Athens in 2004, Phelps was able to command the pool and begin the hype machine. He gained eight whole medals in 2004 and matched a file with six golds (100-meter butterfly, 200 fly, 200 medley, 400 medley 4×200 freestyle relay, 4×100 medley relay).


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Coughlin’s large medal haul (2008)

Coughlin's massive medal haul (2008)


Olympic success is not at all times measured by the kind of medal one wins. Positive, all Olympic athletes attempt for gold, however swimmer Natalie Coughlin loved one of many best particular person moments in American historical past at Beijing in 2008 — and he or she completed first simply as soon as. Coughlin grew to become the primary U.S. lady within the fashionable Olympic period to win six medals at a single Video games. Whereas she grew to become the primary feminine to win back-to-back golds within the 100-meter backstroke, Coughlin additionally earned two silvers (4×100 freestyle relay, 4×100 medley relay) and three bronze medals (100 free, 200 medley, and 4×200 free relay).


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Transfer over Mark (2008)

Move over Mark (2008)


Michael Phelps’ true second of Olympic greatness got here in 2008 in Beijing. These had been the Video games that cemented and outlined his legacy on the identical time. Along with his eight gold medals on the Video games, Phelps topped Mark Spitz’s 1972 mark of seven. 5 of these first-place finishes got here individually and the opposite three as a relay members. Maybe most spectacular about Phelps’ efficiency at Beijing, was that he set — or as a part of — seven world-record swims. He needed to accept an Olympic file within the 100-meter butterfly.


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Lezak’s relay rally (2008)

Lezak's relay rally (2008)

Jeff Gross/Getty Photos


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Teen Shields golden in ladies’s boxing debut (2012)

Teen Shields golden in women's boxing debut (2012)

Alberto Pizzoli/AFP/GettyImages

In the course of the 2012 Video games in London, ladies’s boxing made its quite long-awaited debut on the Olympic program. One of many three gold medals at these Video games went to American Claressa Shields. At 17 years of age, Shields beat Russia’s Nadezda Torlopova within the gold-medal match to assert the middleweight division and make historical past on the identical time. Shields was one in all two American’s to earn a boxing medal in 2012.


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Teen Ledecky shatters file (2012)

Teen Ledecky shatters record (2012)


On the London Video games in 2012, Katie Ledecky went from a promising 15-year-old American swimmer to an Olympic celebrity virtually in a single day. In her first worldwide competitors, Ledecky gained the 800-meter freestyle, gorgeous the world in a race she wasn’t anticipated to win. Discuss a coming-out occasion. However, Ledecky dealt with all of it with poise and charm and opened the door for much more greatness 4 years later.


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Douglas makes all-around historical past (2012)

Douglas makes all-around history (2012)


Gabby Douglas, 16-years-old on the time, broke floor in London in 2012, when she grew to become the primary African-American feminine gymnast to win the Olympic particular person all-around. It was a breakthrough of kinds within the sport, particularly in the USA. Including to the enjoyable and recollections, Douglas and her American teammates additionally completed first within the crew competitors. Douglas and the U.S. ladies’s repeated a crew of gold-medal winners 4 years later.


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“Sisterhood” sweep (2016)

"Sisterhood" sweep (2016)


The U.S. Olympic crew loved large success on the 2016 Rio Video games, successful 121 whole medals, together with 46 gold, to steer all nations. One of many extra monumental, but seemingly less-talked about moments, for the American got here within the ladies’s 100-meter hurdles. For the primary time in U.S. Olympic historical past, the People swept the medal run with Brianna Rollins first, Nia Ali second and Kristi Castlin ending third for the bronze. “It is like a sisterhood,” Rollins proclaimed. “suppose that it’s simply excellent to be part of this complete black woman magic motion.”


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Manuel the magnificent (2016)

Manuel the magnificent (2016)

Rob Schumacher/USA TODAY Sports activities

There have been a number of traditionally and culturally vital triumphs within the historical past of the Summer season Olympic Video games. Among the many most noteworthy is Simone Manuel’s victory within the 100-meter freestyle on the 2016 Summer season Video games. With that win (really a tie with Canada’s Penny Oleksiak). Manuel grew to become the primary feminine African-American swimmer to assert particular person gold. To not point out, set each an American and Olympic file.


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Ledecky outdoes herself (2016)

Ledecky outdoes herself (2016)


If Olympic followers thought Katie Ledecky stole the present as a promising 15-year-old in 2012, she blew the roof off Rio’s aquatic heart in 2016. Her 4 gold medals (200-meter freestyle, 400 free, 800 free, and 4×200 relay) and a silver (4×100 relay), plus two world information within the course of, made her essentially the most embellished feminine on the Rio Video games. She’ll search for a 3rd consecutive gold within the 800 at Tokyo this summer season.


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Sensational Simone (2016)

Sensational Simone (2016)

Grace Hollars/USA TODAY Sports activities

From one Simone to the opposite. Simone Biles may be the most well-liked energetic, American Olympian on the planet. She’s personable and assured. To not point out she’s a fairly good gymnast. Biles’ 4 gold medals (all-around, crew, vault, ground train) on the 2016 Rio Video games had been essentially the most ever by a U.S. ladies’s gymnast at a single Olympics. It additionally marked the primary time since Romania’s Ecaterina Szabo in 1984 that any gymnast gained gold 4 occasions at a single Video games.


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Phelps’ swan tune (2016)

Phelps' swan song (2016)


Discuss going out in model. In his fourth and closing Olympic competitors at Rio in 2016, Phelps gained 5 gold medals (200-meter butterfly, 200 medley, 4×100 free, 4×200 free, 4×100 medley) and a silver (100-meter butterfly). When he hopped out of the pool for the ultimate time at Rio, Phelps solidified himself as essentially the most embellished Olympian within the historical past of the Video games — Winter or Summer season — with 28 medals. Of that whole, 23 had been of the gold selection.

Jeff Mezydlo has written about sports activities and leisure on-line and for print for greater than 25 years. He grew up within the far south suburbs of Chicago, 20 minutes from the Mascot Corridor of Fame in Whiting, Ind. He’s additionally the proud father of 11-year-old Matthew, aka “Bobby Bruin,” mascot of St. Robert Bellarmine College in Chicago. You’ll be able to comply with Jeff at @jeffm401.


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