Team USA’s golden moments at the Summer Olympics


Illustration by Marc Vicente/Contributor

Marc Vicente,

With the Rio 2016 Summer Olympics completed on Sunday, 567 representatives from the United States returned home and brought medals with them: 46 gold, 37 silver and 38 bronze.

That adds up to a grand total of 121 Olympic medals; which is currently the most medals the United States was awarded during an Olympic Games ever, and 51 more medals than the next closest country, China.

Team USA’s players managed to capture some ground-breaking records as well as create controversies this year (see Ryan Lochte).

Familiar faces like Michael Phelps and Kerri Walsh Jennings returned to the XXXI Olympiad to defend their swimming and volleyball titles, respectively, but newcomers like women’s gymnastics Simone Biles arrived on the scene to take the 2016 Olympic Games by storm.


Michael Phelps, currently the most decorated Olympian of all time with 18 Olympic gold medals, added five more to his collection during the first week of this year’s Olympics.

He competed in the 200-meter butterfly-stroke, the 200-meter individual medley race and the 100-meter freestyle relay with Nathan Adrian, Ryan Held and Caeleb Dressel.

He also competed in the 200-meter freestyle relay with Ryan Lochte, Townley Hass and Conor Dwyer. On August 13, Phelps said that the 100-meter medley relay with Ryan Murphy, Cody Miller, Nathan Adrian, would be his last race at the Olympics. Phelps also received a silver medal in the 100-meter butterfly-stroke race.

Katie Ledecky, another young swimmer for Team USA, took home gold medals in the 200-, 400- and 800-meter freestyle races, and the 200-meter freestyle relay alongside Allison Schmitt, Leah Smith and Maya DiRado. Schmitt, Simone Manuel and Dana Vollmer also received a silver medal in the 100-meter freestyle relay together.

Debuting in the previous Summer Olympics in London, Ledecky currently holds the world record for the fastest women’s 1,500-meter freestyle, and recently added the women’s 800-meter freestyle to her list in the XXXI Olympiad.

Biles isn’t the only one named Simone who won a gold medal. Manuel, another newcomer to the Summer Olympics, won the individual 100-meter freestyle race in swimming, the first African American to win gold in an individual swimming event.

Manuel also won gold in the team’s 100-meter medley relay, and silver in the 50-meter freestyle and the team’s 100-meter freestyle relay.


Simone Biles, a gymnast competing in multiple worldwide championships since 2012, made her Olympic debut as part of Team USA’s “Final Five.” The team of gymnasts also included Madison Kocian, Aly Raisman, Laurie Hernandez and Gabby Douglas.

The five worked together to win the gold medal in the team all-around: a marathon of events including the balance beam, the floor exercise, uneven bars and the vault.

Biles stole the show multiple times with massive strength paired with graceful technique, as shown when she flipped in the vault.

She even has a signature flip called “the Biles” during her floor exercise, consisting of two back flips followed by a half twist. She won gold in these two events, as well as in the individual all-around, and a bronze on the balance beam. Biles was also given the privilege to carry the American flag during the closing ceremony after she completed one of the best performances in USA gymnastics history.


Kerri Walsh Jennings, a professional beach volleyball player and veteran Olympian since 2004, was favored to win this year’s women’s beach volleyball tournament alongside April Ross.

However, last Wednesday they fell short against Brazil’s pair, Ágatha Bednarczuk and Bárbara Seixas, in the semifinals, who managed to get the silver medal against Germany’s pair Laura Ludwig and Kira Walkenhorst in the finals.

Despite losing in the semifinals, Jennings and Ross managed to get the bronze medal after beating Larissa França and Talita Antunes, who make up Brazil’s number one volleyball team. This makes Jennings the most decorated beach volleyball player in Olympic history.


Ashton Eaton, an Olympian who debuted in the 2012 London Olympics, earned his second Olympic gold medal after taking part in the Decathlon: a treacherous marathon of ten athletic events.

Eaton won by maintaining the highest score after competing in a 100-meter dash, long jump, shot put, high jump, a 400-meter dash, 100-meter hurdles, discus throwing, pole vaulting, javelin throw and a 1500-meter dash, respectively.

Eaton is said to have maintained his title as “the greatest athlete in the world” after getting the gold medal in the Decathlon.