As the Olympics close, let’s take a look back at some of the champions Team USA has fielded over the years. Not all will be returning in four years to continue their glorious runs. Here are some of the Olympians we will miss most from international competition and the next Summer Games in Rio in 2016.
10. Coach Mike Kryzyzewski – Men’s Basketball
Coach K put the Redeem in Redeem Team. (AP Photo)
Coach K took over a foundering international program and brought it back to greatness, kicking a learning curve rather quickly in earning bronze at the world championships in 2006, then leading Team USA to win first the 2008 Beijing Olympics and then the 2010 FIBA World Championship. He melded members of both those championship teams into a dominant force here in London in 2012, and earned a gold medal in a close defeat of Spain in another epic final.
9. Kirsty Coventry – Women’s Swimming
Kirsty Coventry, Zimbabwe
This swimmer for Zimbabwe competed at Auburn and has won 7 Olympic medals all-time, though she finished out of the medals in London.
8. Todd Rogers/Phil Dalhausser – Men’s Beach Volleyball
Dalhausser, left, is a force up front in men’s beach volleyball, and he may return. But Todd Rogers is done in Olympics play.
It’s no guarantee that Phil Dalhausser will be back, but it’s likely. However, Todd Rogers’ Olympics career ended in the elimination rounds with a loss to Italy. Rogers, turning 39 soon, served as player-coach for his beach volleyball team with Dalhausser, and the pair dominated Olympic play in Beijing in 2008 as the No. 1 ranked team, winning the gold medal.
7. Kobe Bryant (and LeBron James?) – Men’s Basketball
Kobe was part of two gold medal-winning Olympic teams – here in London 2012, and the Redeem Team in 2008.
Various issues prevented Kobe from joining the USA Olympic Team until 2008 in Beijing, but he was a huge part of the Redeem Team’s performance returning the United States to international basketball glory. He doubled his medal haul with another gold today in London, and has said he will not compete in Rio.
There have been thoughts that LeBron James would not compete in four years, but that seems ridiculous.
6. Abby Wambach, Christie Rampone, Heather Mitts – Women’s Soccer
Abby Wambach (right) and Christie Rampone (left), along with Heather Mitts, have been integral parts of incredible success for Team USA at the Olympics.
Who knows what the state of US Women’s Soccer will be in 2016 four years from now, or even what Wambach’s conditioning will be? We may have seen the last of her and others in the Olympics.
Rampone was there in 2000 when Team USA won silver, and saw Mia Hamm and the rest of the 90s legends off in 2004 when the USA won gold. She captained Team USA to golds again in 2008 and this year, finishing with three golds and one silver in leading the USA defense.
Heather Mitts hinted on Twitter that she was done playing soccer after winning the gold, and helped Rampone lead the defense in the last three gold medal performances in 2004, 2008 and 2012.
Wambach had one of her signature moments in 2004, heading in a goal in extra time to beat Brazil 2-1 to win the Gold Medal. Unfortunately, she broke her leg in the final game before the 2008 Beijing Olympics began and couldn’t compete, but she was back to help USA power to a gold medal in 2012, scoring a critical penalty kick goal against Canada in the semifinal.
5. Gabby Douglas, Aly Raisman and the Fab Five – Women’s Gymnastics
From left: Maroney, Ross, Raisman, Douglas and Wieber put on quite a show, winning Team Gold and more in London. (Getty Images)
These two American women took the nation by storm during their dominance of the women’s gymnastics competition, with Raisman coming into the all-around final in the lead but Douglas clinching the gold for her own. Raisman would end up winning gold in the Floor event final and bronze on the beam, with McKayla Maroney winning silver on the vault final to go with the epic Team Final gold medal performance that won the hearts of many. There’s a chance Douglas, Maroney and Kyla Ross return, but there are never guarantees (as seen with Shawn Johnson and Nastia Liukin), and Raisman and Jordyn Wieber will likely be too old.
4. Natalie Coughlin – Women’s Swimming
Natalie Coughlin is tied with two other female swimmers – Jenny Thompson and Dara Torres – for the most Olympic medals by a female American athlete all-time. (CNN/SI)
Coughlin medaled once here in London – a participant in the bronze medal women’s 4 x 100m relay team’s qualifying heats. This was her 12th Olympic medal – tied for most medals by an American female all-time. She won SIX medals in 2008 in Beijing, the first American female to do so. In Athens in 2004, she won gold in the 100m backstroke and 4 x 200m freestyle relay, silver in the 4 x 100m free and medley relays and bronze in the 100m freestyle. In 2008, she won gold in the 100m backstroke again, silver in the 4 x 100m free and medley relays and bronze each in the 100m free, 200m Individual Medley and 4 x 200m free relay. A fantastic swimmer and co-captain of the swim team, she will be missed if she doesn’t return for Rio.
3. Misty May-Treanor/Kerri Walsh Jennings – Women’s Beach Volleyball
Kerri Walsh Jennings (left) and Misty May-Treanor lost only one set in three Olympics, never losing a match and winning three consecutive gold medals.
Golden again in London, Walsh Jennings is possibly coming back, but to watch her and May-Treanor dominate their sport, not losing a set until 2012 and NEVER losing an Olympic match, not even in group play, was one of the greatest treats over the last 12 years. They played with incredible verve, emotion and grit, often making nearly impossible digs and scores when they most needed it. Like other athletes known for intimidation and will, they could turn it on when needed and overcome seeming adversity to win when they needed it most. And they’ve come back from injuries and even having children to continue this dominance. Utterly incredible. May-Treanor, who was iffy about competing in these Olympics to begin with, goes out on top after all.
2. Usain Bolt – Men’s Track and Field
Bolt lived up to his name, winning six golds in six events (four individual, two team). (Getty Images)
The superstar Jamaican runner will be 30 by the time the Rio Games roll around, and he’s said it would be “very hard” to compete at that time, at the level we’re used to from him. He’s been entertaining to watch, incredibly entertaining. Bolt, probably the most aptly-named athlete in recent memory, knows only the top of the podium at the Olympics. He was part of three World and Olympic Record setting performances in Beijing, winning gold in the men’s 100m, 200m and 4 x 100m relay with Jamaica. Here in London, he clinched both the men’s 100m and 200m gold medals, breaking his own Olympic record in the 100m (the world record had since fallen), and he helped set a new World Record in the Men’s 4 x 100m Relay Final, sweeping the golds with Jamaica for the second straight Olympics. Six events, six golds. Dominant in the fashion of another Olympic all-time great we’ll say goodbye to.
1. Michael Phelps – Men’s Swimming
Michael Phelps – the all-time greatest Olympic athlete. (Matt Slocum/AP images)
This needs no explanation. Phelps is the greatest Olympian of all-time. His 18 gold medals alone equal the next highest TOTAL medal hauls. He has 22 total medals, most all-time. His performance in Beijing in 2008 was super-superhuman, with the finish in the 100m Butterfly an all-time epic finish and his participation in the Men’s 4 x 100m freestyle relay one of the greatest moments in Olympic history. Even though he failed to medal in the 400m Individual Medley in London, he is unparalleled by any other athlete in modern sports competition for his dominance. Abbysinia, Michael.
Michael Phelps’ all-time Olympic Medals: