This piece was published in the August 2016 print edition of the Prep News.
Americans had plenty to be happy about at this year’s summer olympics.
At the quadrennial competition this month in Rio de Janeiro, Team USA led the medal count by far, totaling 121 honors to China’s 70 and Great Britain’s 67.
Russia (56) and Germany (42) rounded out the top five, but it was the good ol’ US of A that stole the show.
The U.S. won more gold (46), silver (37) and bronze (38) medals than any other nation in one of the most successful olympic showings in history.
Much of Team USA’s success came in swimming, where superstar Michael Phelps captured five gold and one silver.
Phelps captured the top spot in the 4x200m freestyle, 200m butterfly, 4×100 medley, 4×100 freestyle and 200m individual medley. Phelps is the all-time Olympics leader with 23 medals, and has since announced his retirement from the sport.
Katie Ledecky and Simone Manuel also earned international attention for U.S. swimming, combining for six gold medals in the first Olympic appearance for both. One of Ledecky’s more exciting moments came in here record-breaking 800m freestyle, when she was pictured celebrating at the end of the pool before any other contestant entered the frame.
As for Manual, her gold in the 100m freestyle made her the first African-American woman ever to take the top spot in an Olympic swimming event, and brought her to tears on the podium.
In basketball, both the men’s and women’s teams continued their long-running domination, combining to win each of their 16 games en route to gold medals for both squads. Unlike in other recent olympics, though, the men’s team actually had some close games this time around.
Australia, France, Spain and Serbia all battled the U.S. to tight contests, but to their credit, the squad of NBA All-Stars held firm. Teams USA outlasted Spain, 82-76, in the quarterfinals, before blowing out the Serbs 96-66 in the gold medal game.
The New York Knicks’ Carmelo Anthony was by far the U.S.’s strongest performer in the tournament, which he revealed Sunday would be the last Olympic appearance in his career.
The men’s rugby team, meanwhile, went 3-2 in the sport’s first olympic inclusion since 1924, clinching a 9th place finish with a 24-12 victory over Spain.
Over in gymnastics, American Simone Biles earned four golds and fellow countrywoman Alexandra Rasiman won gold and two silvers. Biles also earned a bronze in women’s beam, establishing herself as one of the sports’ premier up-and-coming stars.
In fact, it seems the only major area where Team USA disappointed came in women’s soccer.
Having cruised to gold in each of the last three summer olympics and emerged victorious in the 2015 Women’s World Cup, the U.S. logged two wins and a tie in group play, but were upset in the quarterfinals by Sweden.
Heavily favored to beat a team with little attention from the international community, the USWNT struggled to create opportunities against the Swedes, whose passive style of play prevailed.
The Swedes’ strategy largely consisted of keeping the ball on their own side of the field and limiting the amount of defense they would otherwise have to play. Ultimately, the two sides finished regulation in a 1-1 draw, after which Sweden emerged victorious, 4-3, in a penalty shootout.
Following the loss, USA goalkeeper Hope Solo angrily called the Swedish team “cowards,” but the result still stood. The top-ranked squad in the world had fallen in one of the bigger upsets of the entire Olympics.
Nonetheless, the United States again emerged as Rio’s most successful participant. The U.S. has topped the medal table at four of the last five olympics, the lone exception a second-place finish at the Sochi winter games in 2014.