2012 Summer Olympics: Best American Moments from London

Jack Owens@@jackjowensCorrespondent IAugust 10, 2012

2012 Summer Olympics: Best American Moments from London

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    In the lead on day 14 with 90 medals and 39 golds, Team USA has performed admirably in the London games thus far.

    Several American athletes have even cemented themselves as the greatest at their sport not only in the world, but of all time.

    With China close behind at 81 medals, the United States will have to keep up their strong efforts to reign supreme. Whether they come out of the 2012 Olympics with the highest medal count or not, the United States have many teams and individuals to be proud of for their performances in London.

    Here are the top USA moments and medal winners from this summer's games.

USA Women’s Soccer Backs Up Talk, Wins Another Gold

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    A devastating loss in penalty kicks at the 2011 FIFA World Cup against Japan had the United States Women’s Soccer team motivated to come out strong for the 2012 games.

    With Hope Solo anchoring the team in net, veteran forward Abby Wambach working the front line and high hopes for Alex Morgan, many expected great things for this team.

    Including the team itself, and Nike, who created t-shirts for the team reading "Greatness has been found." The players showed off these shirts after their gold medal victory, and have gotten heat for their poor sportsmanship ever since.

    This U.S. team has long been considered cocky, as this played into the disappointment that came after losing in the most recent World Cup.

    Nevertheless, the gold medal victory was impressive. Alex Morgan’s game winning header against the bronze medal finishing Canadian team was one of the best plays of the tournament, as it came in extra time of what was a very entertaining match.

    But this USA team was not the only team of women looking for a three-peat.

Misty May-Treanor and Kerri Walsh Jennings Win Third Straight Gold

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    The ageless duo of Misty May-Treanor and Kerri Walsh Jennings returned for their third straight Olympic games, this time facing more adversity than in previous years.

    Both in their thirties now, the pair worked to rehab injuries that came with age and their fearless style of play. The defending champions were ranked the number three beach team for the London outdoor volleyball tournament.

    Though this ranking is lower than the pair is accustomed to, May-Treanor and Walsh Jennings did not let their underdog status affect their play. 

    With their defeat of fellow Americans Jennifer Kessy and April Ross, the pair extended their unbeaten match streak in Olympic play to 21 games. May-Treanor and Walsh Jennings lost just one set out of 43 in their Olympic careers.

    The two will retire from their incredible run in style. They will spend the rest of their days raising up their families, undoubtedly the best beach volleyball team that ever played.

Dominant Skeet Shooting Run Continues

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    For the second straight year, the United States impressed at the medal stand in both men's and women's skeet shooting. Heavily favored Americans Vincent Hancock and Kim Rhode turned in strong performances, and met the lofty expectations they faced heading into the games.

    Hancock finished with an Olympic Record 148 out of a possible 150 targets. The 23-year-old Army Sergeant fended off Denmark’s Anders Golding with a perfect 25 in the final round.

    Due to his young age, USA coach and former Olympic medalist Todd Graves believes Hancock has another two or three medals in him.

    Out of 100 possible targets, Rhode hit 99, earning an unparalleled fifth straight Olympics trip where she ended up on the medal stand. Her third career gold medal, the 33-year-old Rhode has cemented herself as a legend in the sport.

Kayla Harrison Overcomes Tragedy to Win Judo Women's Half Heavyweight Medal

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    In a sport with much greater popularity in France, Japan, and Brazil, American Kayla Harrison’s goal was to make Judo a more prominent sport in the United States. After earning a Gold medal with her defeat of Great Britain’s Gemma Gibbons, Harrison made significant progress toward achieving that goal.

    Harrison’s Olympic journey is unique, mainly for the wrong reasons. Over five years before this summer’s Olympic games, Harrison appeared in court on the witness stand for a case involving her sexual abuse. The guilty party was her Judo coach, Daniel Doyle, who received a ten-year prison sentence once court was adjourned. 

    More on this tragedy can be read about here. Harrison, though tormented by these events, did not let them ruin her promising Judo career.

    As the only American to ever win gold in the sport, she maintains her goal of encouraging the youth of America to pursue the same sport she has succeeded in.

US Women's Gymnastics Avenges Beijing Silver, Takes the Gold

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    As the team that earned the deserving nickname of “The Fab Five,” no team won the hearts of American fans more than the US Women’s Gymnastics team.

    From Jordyn Wieber’s emotional non-qualifying all-around medal run, to Gabby Douglas’ gold in the all-around, to McKayla Maroney’s stunning hang time in the vault—this team was destined for Gold.

    And Gold they received. After every team member took care of business in their best events, the United States team won by a comfortable margin. Wieber excelled in the vault and floor exercises, and showed the world how talented she is.

    Captain Aly Raisman added a gold in the floor exercise and a bronze in the balance beam, while the youngest member of the team, Kyla Ross, performed well in all events and showed her strong ability.

    Not only did this team show tremendous athleticism, but excellent dance moves as well. McKayla Maroney taught her teammates and Jenna Bush how to dance the “dougie,” and further increased her nationwide fan base.

    This win was especially sweet because of how last years squad, which was equally as lovable and talented, missed out on the gold by only a slim margin. 

Americans Perform Well in Track Events

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    Track and Field, though dominated by Jamaica, yielded excellent results for the American team.

    Sanya Richards-Ross redeemed herself for fading late in Beijing with a gold in the Women’s 400 Meters.

    Ashton Eaton won gold and Trey Hardee the silver in the men’s decathlon. Aries Merritt and Jason Richardson also finished first and second in the 110 meter hurdles, and Justin Gaitlin’s bronze finish in the 100 meter dash was impressive considering the quality of the competition in the race.

    Usain Bolt and the rest of the Jamaican proved difficult to beat, but the performances of these American track stars have contributed mightily to the US medal count lead.

Kristin Armstrong Overcomes Childbirth and Broken Bone to Repeat in 2012

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    There must be something about Americans with the Armstrong surname. They are tremendous with a bicycle.

    After earning gold in the cycling individual time trial at Beijing in 2008, Armstrong retired to give birth to her first child in 2010. This retirement, however, proved to be brief, as soon after she gave birth, Armstrong returned to the bicycle and to her Olympic gold medal dreams.

    She suffered another setback just a few weeks before the beginning of the London games, breaking her collarbone with terrible timing. Instead of letting this affect her, Armstrong responded well , winning her second career gold and defending her reign atop the cycling individual time trial world.

Female Swimmers Set World Record in 4x100m Medley Relay

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    A team that entered the 2012 games with high hopes, the United States women’s swim team somehow exceeded expectations.

    Their medley team of Allison Schmitt, Dana Vollmer, Rebecca Soni, and Missy Franklin not only shattered the world record in the 4x100m relay, but each participant won another medal of their own in individual races.

    Along with this impressive feat, a 4x200m Freestyle Relay that replaced Soni with Shannon Vreeland set an Olympic record in their gold medal run as well.

    Though Missy Franklin was thought to arrive on scene in London and become swimming's next big thing, Schmitt seemingly stole the show. The young star earned another gold in her Olympic record 200m freestyle time, as well as a silver and bronze in two other freestyle events. 

    The even younger Katie Ledecky, who was not part of the relay teams, set an Olympic record in 800m freestyle despite being just 15-years-old.

    All in all, this was an impressive group that earned the most medals for their country, and almost as many as the next Olympian.

Phelps Becomes Most Decorated Athlete in History of Olympic Games

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    Winning his 18th gold and 22nd overall medal, the Baltimore native proved he has not lost his edge. In outperforming fellow American Ryan Lochte, who to his credit received several medals and swam well despite earning no golds in individual events, Phelps secured his status as the greatest swimmer of all time.

    His record Olympic medal totals are a feat that may never be broken. The separation he created in these London games, particularly with his astounding number of gold medals, is simply too much for any non-swimmer to surpass.

    Phelps won gold in two events for the third straight time, the 100m Butterfly and the 200m Individual Medley, where Lochte got the silver medal.

    Congratulations to Phelps, who like Misty May-Treanor, Kerri Walsh Jennings, and even Kim Rhode, became Americans who have cemented themselves as the best to ever play their sport.