The United States men’s and women’s track and field teams did not get off to a blazing start in the 2012 Olympic Games, winning only two golds in the first five days of competition. They increased that total by 150 percent in only one day on Wednesday, winning three golds on a historically strong day for U.S. track and field.
The three golds were part of an overall total of seven medals earned on Wednesday, the most in a single Olympic day since August 6, 1992.
Making these totals even more impressive is that the U.S. took a 75 percent stake in gold on Wednesday, with outright victories in three of the four finals contested, along with more than half of the 12 available medals. The U.S. won medals in all four finals, and placed two medalists in three out of four events.
On that day at the 1992 Barcelona Games, the U.S. won nine total medals, but there were six finals contested on that day.
The United States’ big day was a combined result of a schedule full of events in which their athletes were among the favorites, and tremendous execution by some of the nation’s biggest track and field superstars.
The three gold medalists were all favored going into the events they won. Women’s 200-meter dash champion Allyson Felix, men’s 110-meter hurdles victor Aries Merritt and women’s long jump winner Brittney Reese all entered the Games with world-leading marks in their events, and all of them were at their best on Wednesday.
Felix’s gold was her third consecutive Olympic medal, having won silver in 2004 and 2008. Merritt’s Olympic medal was his first, but his incredibly consistent times of 12.94 seconds in his semifinal heat, and 12.92 seconds in the final, give him the five fastest times in the world this year. Reese’s win was her fifth consecutive title in a world championship event.
Felix, Merritt and Reese were all joined on the medal stand in their events. 2011 world champion Jason Richardson earned silver in the 110 hurdles, while defending 100-meter dash world champion Carmelita Jeter earned bronze in the 200 and Janay DeLoach earned the long jump bronze.
The U.S. also earned a medal in the night’s other final, the women’s 400-meter hurdles, with a second-place finish for 2011 world champion Lashinda Demus. Demus’ silver was one of two silvers on Wednesday, with two bronze also adding to the three golds.
In addition to the medals, two U.S. athletes also set themselves up in position to earn medals in the first day of the two-day decathlon competition. Through the first five events, Ashton Eaton is in first place with 4,661 total points, while Trey Hardee is in second place, 220 points behind. If those standings hold up through the final five events, the U.S. will be earning at least two more medals on Thursday.
Which U.S. performance on Wednesday was the most impressive?
On what certainly goes in the books as one of the United States’ greatest days in Olympic track and field history, they overcame a slow start to set themselves firmly atop the overall medal standings.
The U.S. women have earned four golds out of 11 total medals through six days of track and field competition, while the men have one gold and 9 overall medals. Combined, the U.S. leads all nations with five golds and 20 medals.
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Dan Hope is a Bleacher Report Featured Columnist covering the 2012 Olympic Games. Follow him on Twitter @Dan_Hope.