U.S. Olympic team dominates Rio 2016 with total of 121 medals
The achievements of the U.S. team at the 2016 Rio Olympics has led some to conclude that these athletes have been the best ever assembled for the Olympics. The United States has earned over 1,000 gold medals throughout Summer Olympic history, a feat accomplished by no other nation.
Rio 2016 saw many U.S. Olympians excel above their competition in unprecedented fashion. The performances of swimmers Michael Phelps and Katie Ledecky, and gymnast Simone Biles have been at the center of attention.
Phelps, who retired after the 2012 Olympics in London after a dismal performance, trained over the last two years to succeed in Rio and reclaim the throne of Olympic swimming. Before Rio 2016, Phelps was already considered one of the greatest Olympians of all time; he owned the record for most gold medals and most medals overall in Olympic history. Phelps’ dominance was once again on display, winning five gold medals, including his fourth straight gold in the 200m individual medley and one silver medal. Adding to his career stats, Phelps has now amassed a whopping 28 Olympic medals, with 23 gold to his name over a span of five Olympics. Although Phelps has said that he will not be back for the 2020 Olympics, there is speculation that this performance will give him the desire to keep swimming.
Ledecky was heavily favored in her races coming into the Olympics, but she exceeded expectations by how easily she dispatched her opponents. Not only did she surpass her world record in both the 400m and 800m, but she also demolished the competition while doing so.
Even in the 200m, where Ledecky is not as distinct as in long distance races, she still managed to finish a quarter of a second in front of Swedish silver medalist Sarah Sjostrom. She joined Debbie Meyer as the only woman to win three individual freestyle races in one Olympics, as they both swept the 200m, 400m and 800m freestyles.
In the 800m final, she beat her own world record for the fifth time and finished over 11 seconds ahead of the second place finisher. She was so far ahead of her competitors that commentators joked that she was drying off by the time her competitors were finishing the race.
Ledecky left Rio with four golds, including another in the 4x200m freestyle relay and a silver in the 4x100m freestyle relay. She is only the third American in history to win four gold medals in a single Olympics. In individual races, Ledecky has never lost a major international final, showing her reign over the competition.
Biles, another favorite leading up to Rio 2016, did not disappoint. She won four golds and one bronze for the United States in women’s gymnastics, becoming the fourth U.S. female gymnast to win five medals in one Olympics. She is also only the fourth female gymnast to win four gold medals and could have been the first to win five if not for her stumble during the balance beam play.
Biles, however, came roaring back on the floor exercise by perfectly executing her signature move, “the Biles,” which includes a double layout with a half-twist and a blind landing.
The U.S. women’s rowing team established itself as one of the greatest teams in history by winning their third gold medal in a row and their 11th major international title in a row. That type of consistent performance is rarely ever seen in any sport and marks the first time it has ever been seen in U.S. sports. But, because rowing has lost the intense following it once had, the team is an unsung dynasty having won 11 championships in a row with different team members.
Ashton Eaton, the defending gold medalist and holder of the world record in the decathlon, tied the Olympic Record in winning his second consecutive gold medal. Although he did not perform at his best because of injuries incurred over the last few months, Eaton led the field for nearly the entire competition.
While no longer given much spotlight, the winner of the decathlon is crowned the greatest athlete in the world because of the difficulty of completing 10 events in a period of two days. Eaton now retains that title and is only the third person in Olympic history to win the decathlon twice in a row.
This was an Olympics of firsts. After pulling off a shocking upset in the 100m freestyle, Simone Manuel became the first African-American swimmer to win an individual gold medal, setting an Olympic record in the process. Manuel won another gold in the 4x100m medley relay and received two silver medals too.
Gwen Jorgenson, a former tax accountant at EY, won the gold medal in the women’s triathlon, becoming the first American to win the triathlon in the Olympics since it first ran in 2000. In the 2012 games, Jorgensen suffered a flat tire on the biking leg of the race, leading her to a 38th place finish.
Helen Maroulis won the United States’ first gold medal in women’s wrestling after defeating three-time defending champion Saori Yoshida of Japan in the 53-kg weight class.
With a bronze medal in women’s team sabre, Ibtihaj Muhammad became the first American wearing a hijab to not only compete in the Olympics, but also to win a medal.
In the first golf competition at the Summer Olympics since 1904, Matt Kuchar won the bronze medal with a fantastic eight-under in the final round of the competition.
Rio 2016 will go down as one of the greatest athletics displays in U.S. history. Although some of its best athletes may not be back for the 2020 games, there is no reason to worry about the United States’ future success considering the number of teenage Olympians just starting out their career during these Olympic games.