How fantastic were the 2012 London Olympics?
World records were broken, fans were treated to fantastic performance after fantastic performance and new stars were born while familiar faces continued to shine.
But that raises an interesting question—who was the biggest star of these games? Which athlete most captured our hearts and imaginations with his or her performance in London?
It's obviously a subjective topic, but I'm going to go ahead and tackle it. Be sure to leave your top star in the comments.
Ryan Lochte won five medals, but couldn't unseat a legend to become the top U.S. swimmer.
Aly Raisman won gold in the team competition, won two individual medals including gold for the floor exercise and came in fourth in the individual all-around. Plus, who could ever forget her beginning to cry after sticking her final pass on the floor, guaranteeing the U.S. team gold?
The women's soccer team gave us the finest game of these Olympics when they pulled off a thrilling, 4-3 win in stoppage time over Canada. The next game, the Americans avenged their loss to Japan in the 2011 World Cup final by beating the Japanese for the gold medal.
And let's not forget the men from Mexico, who won the country's first gold medal in soccer, unseating a Brazilian squad rife with superstars.
The United States women's basketball team won its fifth-straight gold medal and 41st straight Olympic game in the process, while the American men team handled its business and won the gold it was expected to win by beating Spain, 107-100, in an entertaining gold-medal game.
Allyson Felix took home three gold medals in track, emerging victorious in the 200, 4x100 and 4x400 meter relays. She and the 4x100 team also set a world record.
Great Britain's Jessica Ennis (heptathlon) and the United States' Ashton Eaton (decathlon) earned the titles of "world's best athletes" by winning gold in their respective events.
Misty May-Treanor and Kerri Walsh-Jennings had their least impressive beach volleyball tournament in the past three Olympics. Don't get me wrong, they still won their third gold medal in a row, but they lost a set in the Olympics for the first time ever as a team. Just one, of course. They've still got it.
And who could forget Mo Farah and the "Mobot," the celebration performed by the distance runner after he earned gold in both the 5000 and 10,000 meter runs in front of his countrymen?
There were many more stars, of course, many more than I could list here. But I had to narrow down my choices, and below I listed the five that were the biggest stars of all.
5. Missy Franklin
Five medals. Two world records. 17 years old.
I think it's safe to say a star was born in the pool.
But a star was born out of the pool as well. Who more effusive or effervescent than Franklin? She may have won our respect with her performances, but she won our hearts with her grace and humility.
4. Gabby Douglas
For a gymnast—or for an Olympian, period—it doesn't get much better than winning the team competition along with the all-around individual competition. And that's just what Douglas did.
Sure, she struggled in the individual events after winning her two golds, but who wouldn't? Suddenly, Douglas was the starlet of these games—I think we can excuse her if she was a bit distracted.
But in two of the biggest events in the Olympics, Douglas was clutch. And golden. Without question, she was one of the most memorable stars of these games.
3. Michael Phelps
The man who finishes his Olympic career with the most medals in history (22, including 18 golds) finishes at No. 3?
Yeah, he does. We'll get to that in a second.
Props have to go to Phelps, who won four gold and two silver medals in these games. But the only person we can really compare Phelps too is himself, and frankly, he was far more impressive in Beijing, when he earned eight gold medals.
Plus, Phelps failed to medal in the 400 IM, the first time he hasn't earned a medal in a race since the 2000 Games. He may have been impressive, but he wasn't as impressive as we've come to expect.
Without question, Phelps is the greatest Olympian who has ever lived. That said, one man was more impressive at these Olympics, and another was more important.
2. Usain Bolt
According to the record books, Usain Bolt is the fastest man to ever live. He's the only man to ever win golds in the 100, 200 and 4x100 meter relay in consecutive Olympics.
And without question, he is the finest sprinter in history.
Bolt now holds world records in the three events he competes in. There's something intriguing about the fastest man ever, and Bolt has generally proven himself in style, even when his detractors doubted him in these games.
In truth, nobody really came all that close to unseating him.
And was there an athlete more charismatic in London than Bolt? He's an entertainer and an athlete, and for my money, the second-biggest star of these Olympics.
1. Oscar Pistorius
No, he didn't win any medals. But the double-amputee inspired us all by even qualifying for these Games, and when he advanced to the semifinals of the 400-meter sprint, he showed us all that any hurdle can be overcome if you believe in yourself, work hard and never, ever give up.
We often measure success at the Olympic in medals. Pistorius reminded us that the power of the human spirit is far more valuable or admirable than bronze, silver and gold.
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