With the start of the Summer Olympics in Tokyo imminent, global sport is making strides to resume an exciting calendar after a tough 18 months. This is why we wanted to take the opportunity to relive some of the magic moments Team USA has enjoyed at the Summer Olympic Games over the years before we all enjoy the 2021 edition.
The United States has participated in every modern Olympic Games except the 1980 edition which was subject to a boycott from a number of nations due to the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan. With over 2,500 medals at the Summer Olympic Games, the United States is the most prolific medal-winning nation of all time by a significant margin!
This year’s event in Tokyo will be the 32nd Summer Olympic Games and given the delay due to the coronavirus pandemic, it is highly anticipated and should provide an amazing spectacle.
So, what better way to whet the appetite for the upcoming Games than to look back at some of Team USA’s finest moment from past and present heroes…
Jessie Owens at Berlin 1936
A moment of huge significance in history as a whole, not just sporting history. The 1936 Olympics was held in Berlin, three years after Adolf Hitler’s Nazi Germany came to power and the performance of Owens lives on as an incredible statement against the dictatorship.
With the world watching on, Owens became the first athlete to win four gold medals at an Olympic Games, competing in the 100m, 200m, long jump, and 4x100m relay events. The success of Owens led to consternation from Hitler as he had wanted to use the Games to showcase the resurgence of Nazi Germany, but was instead left embarrassed after Owens’ performance.
All Gold for Johnson at Atlanta ‘96
It was 60 years later that another US sprinter wrote his name into the record books with a memorable performance, this time at the home Olympics in Atlanta 1996. Michael Johnson was already the fastest man alive heading into the event but his performances that year managed to surpass even the highest expectations.
Wearing the now famous custom-made golden spikes from Nike, Johnson became the first man to win both the 400m and 200m events at the Olympics and did it in some style. He set records for both competitions in an iconic display and was given the nickname “The Man with the Golden Shoes”.
“Dream Team” dominates at Barcelona ‘92
Prior to this year, only European and South American professionals were permitted to compete in basketball at the Olympics, while America would send college players. In 1992, all that changed, and so arrived one of the greatest teams assembled in Olympic history.
With the admittance of NBA players, the team included a host of all-time greats with Michael Jordan, Magic Johnson, Scottie Pippen, Larry Bird and David Robinson all featuring amongst others. Needless to say, they took home gold and the team was inducted into the Basketball Hall of Fame in 2010.
Record-breaking Phelps stuns in Beijing to overtake Spitz
In 2008, swimmer Michael Phelps produced the single-greatest Olympic performance in history in terms of gold medals won. Phelps competed across eight different disciplines, winning eight gold medals, and setting seven world records and one Olympic record.
Phelps outdid his fellow countryman Mark Spitz with his eighth and final medal of the Games, in the 4×100-meter relay, to beat a 36-year-old record set when Spitz won seven golds at the 1972 Games in Munich. Following his win, Phelps said: “Records are always made to be broken no matter what they are… Anybody can do anything that they set their minds to.”
Biles’ brilliant Rio debut
Having already become the most decorated American gymnast in history at the age of just 24, sometimes it’s easy to forget that Simone Biles has only competed at one Olympic Games so far. However, as debuts go… it was pretty good!
Biles competed in the All-Around, Vault, Floor Exercise and Team events, winning gold in every single category, and she added a bronze in the Balance Beam for good measure. With these performances, Biles set an American record for most gold medals at a single Games and became the first female gymnast to receive the honour of being Team USA’s flag bearer at the closing ceremonies.
Of course, with the incredible history Team USA has at the Olympics, we could have picked hundreds of memorable moments! But here are just a small selection of some of our favorites which we hope will help you get excited for the event to come in Tokyo this summer.