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Top 10 Most Memorable Olympic Moments for Team USA

The Olympic games are the highest level at which an athlete will compete. Athletes train and dream their entire lives with aspirations to represent their country and possibly have a moment of glory in pursuit of a medal.

Whether it was competing through an injury or defying the odds to take home a gold medal, Team USA has had some memorable athletes and moments during the Olympics, moments that have been remembered and cherished decades later.

Here are the top 10 Team USA moments from the Summer Olympics:

1. The Dream Team, Barcelona 1992

The Team USA Men’s Basketball team was called the “Dream Team” — and they played like it! They’d win with an average of  40-points per game and brought home the gold medal!

The team was made up of some of the greatest superstars in NBA history like Michael Jordan, Charles Barkley, Patrick Ewing, David Robinson, Scottie Pippen, Larry Bird, Karl Malone, and John Stockton.

2. Kerri Strug, Atlanta 1996

Kerri Strug gave the most challenging Olympic performances in gymnastics by competing after injuring her ankle. The US was neck and neck in competition with Russia and Romania in the event. Strug’s performance on the vault would be the deciding factor for a medal.

The only issue was that after suffering an ankle injury from her first attempt, she had severe pain throughout her leg because she also tore ligaments. To obtain the gold medal, she had to perform on the vault one last time. While the world held their breath, she was able to complete the second attempt and landed cleanly. She eventually collapsed on the mat from the pain, but ultimately it was enough for the US to take their first gold medal for the gymnastics team.

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3. Mark Spitz, Munich 1972

Mark Spitz was a thin and strong American swimmer who dominated the summer Olympics in Germany. He won a record of seven gold medals during the competition, setting a world record in every event he won. Over the span of his career, he’d win nine Olympic gold medals.
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4. Jesse Owens, Berlin 1936

The 1936 Olympic games, which took place in Berlin, Germany, put Adolf Hitler, the new German Chancellor, on display for the world. He had hopes that German athletes would dominate the games, but African-American Athlete Jesse Owens stole the show, and his performance became one of the most important in history, making him a legend. Owens became the first athlete to win four gold medals for the 100 meters, 200 meters, long jump, and 4×100 meter relay events. 

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5. Michael Phelps, Beijing, 2008

Michael Phelps had a record-breaking competition at the Beijing Olympics in 2008, where he took home eight gold medals, shattering Mark Spitz’s prior record of seven.

His final medal of the game came after he finished the butterfly leg of the 4×100-meter medley relay. The US was lagging behind Japan and Australia. With the help of teammate Jason Lezak, the team pushed ahead into first, which opened Phelps up to receive the record-breaking medal count. 
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6. Bob Beamon, Mexico City 1968

Bob Beamon was one of the favorites during the Mexico City Summer Olympics in 1968 in the long jump. He dominated in competitions leading up to the Olympics. Despite his stellar performances, no one could have imagined that he’d end up shattering a 22-year-old world record by two feet for the long jump to get the gold medal. 
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7. Michael Johnson, Atlanta 1996

Michael Johnson was deemed the fastest man alive after his appearance at the Atlanta Summer Games in 1996. He won gold in the 400 meter and the 200 meter events at the Olympics. He became the first man to win both of those events in a year where he also set records for both competitions. Johnson received the nickname, “The Man with the Golden Shoes” for his performances, where he wore custom-made spikes from Nike for the Olympic final.
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8. Mary Lou Retton, Los Angeles 1984

Typically Russia dominates in gymnastics, but the Soviets ended up boycotting the 1984 Olympics, which led the way for Mary Lou Retton to help put gymnastics on the map for the US. Retton became the first female American to win a gold medal in all-around gymnastics, winning silver medals in the team event and vault. She also took home bronze medals in the floor exercise and uneven bars competitions.
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9. Rulon Gardner, Sydney 2000

Rulon Gardner was an underdog in wrestling going into the Sydney 2000 Olympics. He faced powerful Russian, Aleksandr Karelin, who had not lost a competition in 15 years. He had also won three straight gold medals. Many joked that if Gardner could win that it would be the “miracle on the mat.” Gardner ended up pulling off one of the biggest upsets in Olympics history, taking home the gold medal and becoming one of America’s heroes.

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10. Greg Louganis, Seoul 1988

Greg Louganis was the first diver to sweep the diving events for the second straight Olympic Games in the summer of 1988, winning two gold medals at the competition that year. Just prior to the games, he suffered a concussion after hitting his head on the diving board in the preliminaries performing a move called the “Dive of Death.” He had attended a competition years earlier when Russian diver Sergei Chalibashvili tried the move and hit his head. The diver ended up dying a week later after falling into a coma. Louganis concluded his Olympic career with four gold medals.

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