The Quick Report

15 Biggest Team USA Olympics Moments in History

The Olympics are a global competition, but the United States has made a habit of sending athletes who secure huge victories and take home heaps of gold medals. Here are the 15 biggest US Olympics moments from the past century.

Jesse Owens

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In 1936, Jesse Owens performed a task some thought impossible by winning four gold medals in track and field during a single Olympic event in Berlin. His outstanding performance as an African American was all the sweeter because it happened right in front of Adolf Hitler, incensing the dictator.

Wilma Rudolph

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In 1960 during the Rome Games, Wilma Rudolph showcased endurance beyond what some people thought possible. After surviving polio, scarlet fever, and pneumonia as a child, she trained tirelessly as a sprinter and eventually became the first American woman to win three gold medals during one Olympics.

Bob Beamon

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At the Mexico City Games in 1968, Bob Beamon did something incredible. He didn’t just take home the gold medal for long jumping, he broke the world record by two entire feet. Some have speculated that Beamon’s 29 ft, 2¼ in jump was partly aided by the high altitude of Mexico City. Whatever the reason, Beamon’s performance remains the Olympic record even though Mike Powell broke it in a non-Olympic setting in 1991.

Miracle on Ice

people playing ice hockey
Photo by Markus Spiske via Unsplash

The 1980 Winter Olympics took place in Lake Placid, New York. You know what happened next. A team of mostly amateur or minor league US hockey players triumphed over a Soviet team that was made up of professionals. The “Miracle on Ice” was the single greatest American sports moment in the 20th Century and it’s not even close.

Greg Louganis

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In Seoul during the 1988 games, Greg Louganis became the second person and first (and still only) man to sweep the diving events in back-to-back Olympics. He famously pulled off a reverse 3½ somersault in the tuck position during the games, a nightmarishly difficult dive that Louganis saw Sergei Chalibashvili fail in person in 1983. Chalibashvili tragically died from his injuries after failing the difficult move.

Florence Griffith Joyner

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During the 1988 Seoul Games, Florence Griffith Joyner broke records left and right and became the fastest woman ever recorded during track and field events. Her performance made her a household name and her unique style catapulted her to fame. She tragically passed away in 1998 from a seizure caused by a rare birth defect.

The Dream Team

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Basketball fans get emotional when they hear the term “dream team”. The 1992 Barcelona Games saw the US Men’s Basketball Team outfitted with Magic Johnson, Larry Bird, and Michael Jordon. You literally couldn’t sculpt a more perfect group to dominate any kind of basketball competition. Naturally, they won every game by an average of 44 points. Yeah, Michael Jordon was that good.

Michael Johnson

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Four years later, another MJ made Olympics history. Unparalleled runner Michael Johnson became the first, and so far, only, man in the world to win the 200m and 400m events during the same Olympics. His iconic custom golden Nikes earned him the nickname “The Man with the Golden Shoes.”

Muhammad Ali Carries the Torch

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Legendary boxer Muhammad Ali carried the Olympic torch and lit the flame for the opening ceremony at the 1996 Atlanta games. Notably, Ali had won a gold medal in boxing during the 1960 Rome games, which he says he threw away in disgust after being refused service for his race at a restaurant in the 1970s. Near the end of the 1996 games, he received a medal to replace it.

US Women’s Soccer Gold

group of women playing on green field
Photo by Jeffrey F Lin via Unsplash

Women’s soccer became an official Olympic event for the first time during the 1996 games. In a stunning display of athletic prowess, the US Women’s team went on to defeat China 2-1 in front of a screaming crowd of fans to win the sport’s first ever gold medal.

Kerri Strug

Kerri Strug
Youtube | Olympics

The 1996 Atlanta games were huge for the US, if you haven’t gathered that yet. During the event, Kerri Strug of the US Women’s gymnastic team tore two ligaments in her ankle on her first vault. She performed a second vault on an injured ankle, helping her team score high enough to secure a gold medal.

The Redeem Team

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If America’s 1992 Men’s Basketball squad was the Dream Team, the 2008 Beijing Games ensemble was the Redeem Team. US Men’s basketball slumped in 2004 in Athens, so team captain Kobe Bryant and players LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, and Carmelo Anthony made it a point to dominate their opponents to a tune of 32 average points over them per game.

Michael Phelps

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Michael Phelps’ performance during the 2008 Beijing Games was absolutely legendary. The unrivaled swimmer won a record-setting 8 gold medals during the event, including a stunning come-from-behind win in the 100m butterfly final when he beat Milorad Cavic by .01 seconds and set an Olympic record of 50.58 seconds.

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Simone Biles

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Simone Biles made history during the 2016 Rio games by winning four gold medals, a first for a US female gymnast. Her teammates also took home another gold in the team event, helping make hers a household name and catapulting her into the spotlight. To this day, she is the single most decorated gymnast in history and is a lock for the 2024 US women’s gymnastics team.

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Caeleb Dressel

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Caeleb Dressel gave Michael Phelps a run for his money during the 2020 Tokyo games, securing five gold medals. He became only the fifth American to ever do such a thing, and he secured his position as the first person in the hisotry of the games to win the gold for the 50 meter freestyle, the 100 freestyle, and the 100 meter butterfly during the same Olympics.

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