United States at the
NOCUnited States Olympic & Paralympic Committee
Ranked 1st
Summer appearances
Winter appearances
Other related appearances
1906 Intercalated Games

The United States of America has sent athletes to every celebration of the modern Olympic Games with the exception of the 1980 Summer Olympics, during which it led a boycott in protest of the Soviet Union's invasion of Afghanistan. The United States Olympic & Paralympic Committee (USOPC) is the National Olympic Committee for the United States.

American athletes have won a total of 2,638 medals (1,065 of them gold) at the Summer Olympic Games, and another 330 (114 of them gold) at the Winter Olympic Games, making the United States the most prolific medal-winning nation in the history of the Olympics. The United States remains one of the only major teams in the world to receive no government funding.[1][2][3][4]

Hosted Games

Swimmer Michael Phelps and President George W. Bush on August 10, 2008, at the National Aquatic Center in Beijing. Phelps is the most decorated Olympic athlete of all time.[5][6]
Dara Torres is the most decorated female American Olympic athlete after Jenny Thompson, celebrated not only for her athletic achievements but also for defying age norms in competitive sports.

The United States has hosted or was the designated host of the modern Olympic Games on nine occasions, more than any other nation:

Games Host city Dates Nations Participants Events
1904 Summer Olympics St. Louis, Missouri July 1 – November 23 12 666 91
1932 Winter Olympics Lake Placid, New York February 7–15 17 252 14
1932 Summer Olympics Los Angeles, California July 30 – August 14 37 1,332 117
1960 Winter Olympics Squaw Valley, California February 2–20 30 665 27
1980 Winter Olympics Lake Placid, New York February 13–24 37 1,072 38
1984 Summer Olympics Los Angeles, California July 28 – August 12 140 6,829 221
1996 Summer Olympics Atlanta, Georgia July 19 – August 4 197 10,318 271
2002 Winter Olympics Salt Lake City, Utah February 8–24 77 2,399 78
2028 Summer Olympics Los Angeles, California July 14 – 30 TBA TBA TBA

Unsuccessful bids

Games City Winner of bid[7]
1916 Summer Olympics Cleveland Berlin
1920 Summer Olympics Atlanta
1924 Summer Olympics Los Angeles Paris
1928 Summer Olympics Los Angeles Amsterdam
1944 Summer Olympics Detroit London
1948 Winter Olympics Lake Placid St Moritz
1948 Summer Olympics Baltimore
Los Angeles
1952 Winter Olympics Lake Placid Oslo
1952 Summer Olympics Chicago
Los Angeles
1956 Winter Olympics Colorado Springs
Lake Placid
Cortina d'Ampezzo
1956 Summer Olympics Chicago
Los Angeles
San Francisco
1960 Summer Olympics Detroit Rome
1964 Summer Olympics Detroit Tokyo
1968 Winter Olympics Lake Placid Grenoble
1968 Summer Olympics Detroit Mexico City
1972 Winter Olympics Salt Lake City Sapporo
1972 Summer Olympics Detroit Munich
1976 Summer Olympics Los Angeles Montreal
1980 Summer Olympics Los Angeles Moscow
1992 Winter Olympics Anchorage Albertville
1994 Winter Olympics Anchorage Lillehammer
1998 Winter Olympics Salt Lake City Nagano
2012 Summer Olympics New York City London
2016 Summer Olympics Chicago Rio de Janeiro

Relinquished hosting rights

Games City Eventually hosted by
1976 Winter Olympics Denver Innsbruck

Medal tables

See also: All-time Olympic Games medal table

Francis Olympic Field of Washington University in St. Louis, site of the 1904 Olympic Games. The 1904 Summer Olympics in St. Louis, Missouri were the first Olympic Games held outside of Europe.

The United States made its Olympic debut in 1896 in Athens, the very first edition of the modern games. The nation performed inconsistently in the pre-World War-I period, primarily due to fielding considerably fewer athletes than host countries, with the exception being the 1904 Olympics in St. Louis, Missouri, where the U.S. achieved its largest medal haul in history, a record that still stands today. During the interwar period, the U.S. enjoyed its greatest success, topping both gold and total medal counts at four straight Summer Games, before falling short in the 1936 Berlin games. The next summer Olympics were held in 1948 following World War II. In 1952, the Soviet Union made its Olympic debut, initiating a state-sponsored approach to international sport focused on projecting socio-political superiority. The rapid rise of the Soviet Union to challenge the United States as a leading Olympic power raised questions and suspicion about the means used to achieve this, including the pretense of professional athletes having amateur status and allegations of state-sponsored doping. After 20 years of competition on the Olympic stage, the USSR convincingly topped the gold medal chart at the 1972 Summer Olympics in Munich. After that, the U.S. would not top the medal table in non-boycotted games until the 1996 Summer Olympics, five years after the USSR collapsed.[8][9] A bright spot for the United States was the 1984 games in Los Angeles, where the U.S. set a record for most gold medals won in a single Olympics (83), buoyed by the Soviet-led boycott. Coincident with a drive by the International Olympic Committee toward gender parity beginning in the 1990s, the U.S.'s fortunes improved, and the nation topped the medal table in the Summer Olympics six times since 1992 and placed second on two occasions.

In contrast to its summer Olympics status, the United States was not a power in the Winter Games until the 2002 Olympics in Salt Lake City. Hosting the games in 2002 boosted the U.S. winter sports program; since then, the country’s athletes have performed consistently well, never placing below fourth in the medal count. The nation won the most medals (37) at the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver but dropped to 23 medals at the 2018 games in Pyeongchang.

Best results in non-medaling sports:
Sport Rank Athlete Event & Year
 Badminton 8th Howard Bach &
Bob Malaythong
Men's doubles in 2008
 Handball 5th United States women's team Women's tournament in 1984
 Rhythmic gymnastics 9th Mandy James
Alaine Mata-Baquerot
Kate Nelson
Brandi Siegel
Challen Sievers
Becky Turner
Women's group in 1996
 Table tennis 6th Gao Jun
Crystal Huang
Wang Chen
Women's team in 2008
 Trampoline gymnastics 6th Savannah Vinsant Women's individual in 2012
Nicole Ahsinger Women's individual in 2020
Sport Rank Athlete Event & Year
 Biathlon 6th Lowell Bailey
Tim Burke
Sean Doherty
Leif Nordgren
Men's relay in 2018


See also: List of flag bearers for the United States at the Olympics


Early Olympics (1896–1912)

Several members of America's first Olympic team in 1896. Standing: T.E. Burke, Thomas P. Curtis, Ellery H. Clark. Seated: W.W. Hoyt, Sumner Paine, trainer John Graham, John B. Paine, Arthur C. Blake.

The first modern Olympic Games, held in Athens, Greece, saw the Americans fielding 14 athletes that competed in three sports. The hosts, on the other hand, had 169 athletes competing and won 46 medals. The American team managed to win only 20 medals, dwarfed by the enormous Greek team. However, the United States managed to win 11 gold medals, edging out Greece, who secured 10 golds, and allowing Team USA to finish first in the gold medal tally. James Connolly became the first modern Olympic champion by winning the triple jump, and Thomas Burke won three gold medals in various track events, assuming the title of the most successful athlete of the 1896 Games.[12]

Margaret Abbott competing in golf. Abbott was the first American woman to win an Olympic event.

At the 1900 Paris Olympics, the U.S. team featured 75 athletes, a significant increase compared to 1896, but still considerably less than the French hosts, who fielded 720 competitors. The most notable of all American participants was Margaret Abbott, who became the first female American Olympic champion by winning the women's golf. The vast majority of American medals were won in the sport of athletics, where US athletes clinched 16 golds and 39 medals overall. Alvin Kraenzlein made significant contributions, winning four gold medals in track and field events. Team USA won only 8 medals outside of athletics, four of them in golf. Overall, France dominated the medal standings, winning 29 gold and 112 total medals. The United States ranked second with 19 and 48, respectively, showing great efficiency, despite having significantly fewer athletes.[13]

Jim Thorpe is remembered as a trailblazer, breaking barriers for Native American athletes

The 1904 Summer Olympics in St. Louis, Missouri, marked the first occasion the Olympic Games were held outside of Europe. American athletes seized the opportunity to shine, with notable figures like Archie Hahn and Harry Hillman capturing multiple gold medals in various track and field events. Continuing their track and field dominance, Team USA showcased formidable talent at the 1908 London Olympics. Athletes such as Mel Sheppard emerged as stars, claiming multiple gold medals and solidifying America's status as a powerhouse in athletics.

The 1912 Stockholm Olympics marked a significant milestone in American sports history with Jim Thorpe, a Native American athlete. Thorpe achieved a unique feat, clinching gold medals in both the pentathlon and decathlon, becoming a celebrated figure in Olympic history. Controversy surrounded the supposed amateurism of athletes led to Thorpe's medals being rescinded due to his involvement in semi-professional baseball. They were returned in 1983, and 39 more years later he was restored as the sole winner of both events. Thorpe's legacy remains undiminished.

Interwar period (1920–1936)

Jesse Owens at the 1936 Olympics

The 1920 Antwerp Olympics marked a historic moment for American swimming when Ethelda Bleibtrey became the first American woman to earn Olympic gold in the sport. In 1924, at the Paris Olympics, Harold Osborn set a new world record while winning gold in the decathlon, showcasing American prowess in multi-event athletics. Johnny Weissmuller, who later gained fame as an actor playing Tarzan, secured two gold medals in swimming at the 1928 Amsterdam Olympics. The 1932 Los Angeles Olympics distinguished itself as the first Games to host outdoor diving events, a milestone in Olympic history. Throughout these years, track and field remained a cornerstone of Team USA's success, highlighted by standout performances such as Babe Didrikson's achievements. Moreover, the United States led both gold and overall medal counts at these four Games, establishing itself as a premier sporting power in the world.

In 1936, Jesse Owens achieved enduring international renown at the Summer Olympics in Berlin, Germany. Owens's four gold medals in the 100 meters, long jump, 200 meters, and 4 × 100-meter relay not only established him as a legend but also challenged and debunked the Nazi theory of Aryan racial superiority on a global stage. However, for the first time since 1908, the U.S. ranked second in the medal standings, behind the hosts.

Cold War era (1948–1992)

Bob Mathias became the star of the 1948 London games by winning the decathlon event at the age of 17. He would go on to repeat this feat at the 1952 Olympics in Helsinki, setting a new world record.

The 1948 London Olympics marked the first time that newly communist countries, occupied by the Soviet Union after WW2, competed in the games. The Soviets themselves declined to compete, sending only observers, after a long hesitation that saw Soviet leader Joseph Stalin demanding guarantees from his sports officials that the USSR would beat the US in the medal standings. The Soviet officials told him that chances were 50/50,[14] and Stalin ultimately rejected the idea of competing in 1948. With its newest political rival absent, the United States comfortably dominated the games, winning 38 gold and 84 total medals, 22 gold and 40 total medals more than the runner-up Sweden. The most medals were won in track and field, 27, and swimming, 15. The US basketball team won its second consecutive gold medal, defeating France in the final, 65–21.[15]

Gold medal game in basketball at the 1952 Olympics between the US and the USSR. The Americans won, 36–25.

In 1952, Helsinki saw the Soviets sending a team for the first time. This was a beginning of a new era, as the Soviet Union would go on to dominate the Olympics for the next four decades.[16][17][8] The Soviet authorities provided state-funding to their athletes, who trained full-time.[18] The United States still topped the medal count at these games, winning 40 gold and 76 total medals, 18 gold and five total medals more than the Soviets who finished second.[19] American athletes won 31 medals in track and field, their most successful sport. The U.S. basketball team won its third consecutive gold, twice defeating the Soviets in the process. American boxers won all five finals they entered, and American weightlifters edged their Soviet rivals four to three in terms of gold medals, with the two nations sweeping all seven events in the sport.[20]

Bobby Morrow won gold in 100 meters, 200 meters, and 4x100 meters relay (track and field) at the 1956 Summer Olympics in Melbourne.

Melbourne hosted the Olympics in 1956. There were calls for the expulsion of the Soviet Union following their invasion of Hungary, but the International Olympic Committee decided not to pursue any action.[21] As a result, some nations boycotted the games in protest of the Soviets' presence, and the Hungarians themselves became engaged in a violent brawl with their Soviet counterparts in a water polo game, an event that was instantly called "Blood in the Water". The U.S. performance at the games was relatively successful, as the Americans earned 32 gold and 78 total medals (second place in the medal standings), 5 gold and 24 total medals less than the first-place Soviets. The U.S. contingent was particularly successful in track and field, where American athletes amassed 31 medals. On the other hand, the U.S. won only 2 golds in swimming, being unable to stop the Australian domination of the swimming events at these games. In weightlifting, the Americans and Soviets once again won all seven events, with four and three golds, respectively. In boxing, the Soviets won 3 golds, while the Americans only won two events. However, it was gymnastics where the USSR achieved its greatest success, winning 11 out of 17 events and guaranteeing first place in the medal rankings. The U.S. basketball team won its fourth consecutive gold, beating the Soviets in the final game, 89–55.[22]

Wilma Rudolph became the first woman in history to sweep 100 meters, 200 meters, and 4x100 meters relay at the 1960 Rome Games.

The 1960 Rome Olympics saw the Americans losing their grip on their traditionally successful sports, such as track and field and weightlifting. On the other hand, boxing, swimming (where the Americans won 9 gold medals, while being controversially denied gold in the 100 meters freestyle), and wrestling produced unexpectedly good results. In track and field, the U.S. won 12 golds, as the U.S. team encountered problems, such as a controversial disqualification of their gold medal-winning men's 4x100 relay team. In weightlifting, the Soviets won five out of seven events, leaving the U.S. with one gold. The U.S. basketball team met the pre-tournament expectations and won its fifth consecutive gold medal. The final result of 34 gold and 71 total medals for the U.S., compared to the USSR's 43 gold and 103 total medals, showed that the U.S. was no longer the dominant force in Olympic competition.[23]

Don Schollander won 4 golds in swimming at the 1964 games in Tokyo, the largest individual medal haul in a single Olympics since Jesse Owens in 1936.

There was some redemption for the U.S. at the 1964 Summer Olympics in Tokyo, as the nation returned to the top of the gold medal count for the first time since 1952. Particularly successful was the U.S. swimming team that won 13 out of an available 18 golds and shattered 9 world records. In track and field, the Americans also improved on their 1960 performance, winning 14 gold and 24 total medals. The Soviets, continued to dominate Olympic weightlifting, and, with the American program falling short, the USSR produced four golds and three silvers. However, for the Americans, despite a dismal performance in boxing, where they achieved only one gold, the 1964 Olympics were a definite success, with the nation winning 36 gold and 90 total medals, compared to the Soviet tally of 30 gold and 96 total medals. The U.S. topped the gold medal count, finishing second in the total medal count, while the USSR topped the total medal count and finished second in the gold medal count. The U.S. basketball team won its sixth consecutive gold, beating the USSR in the final, 73–59.[24]

There were many historic achievements at the 1968 Mexico City Olympics but, perhaps, the most significant among them was Bob Beamon's performance in the long jump, where he improved the world record by 55 centimeters.

The 1968 Mexico Olympics became the most successful summer games for the U.S. in the post-war era. American athletes amassed 45 gold and 107 total medals. The U.S. swimming team dominated the competition, winning a staggering 51 medals and sweeping the podium on five occasions. The Americans also managed to medal in each of the 29 swimming events, thus achieving a unique feat. The U.S. track and field team won 15 gold and 28 total medals. Swimming and athletics accounted for more than 70% of all U.S. medals and ensured the top place in the medal table for the Americans for the second consecutive Games and their first finish at the top of the overall medal table since 1952. In other sports, however, the performance of American athletes was less convincing. The U.S. weightlifting team continued to fade, winning just one medal. American boxers won 7 medals, of which two were gold, while U.S. divers won 6 medals. The men's volleyball team stunned the defending champions from the Soviet Union, beating them in five sets, but still finished out of medals. The U.S. basketball team won its seventh consecutive gold medal, a feat not matched by any other Olympic team in ball sports. It was to be the last time that the U.S. finished first in the medal table in a fully attended Summer Olympics until 1996 (the Americans would top the medal standings in 1984 amid the Soviet boycott).[25]

Peggy Fleming an American former figure skater and the only U.S. athlete in the 1968 Winter Olympics in Grenoble, France to bring home a gold medal

The Munich Olympics was largely overshadowed by the Munich massacre in the second week, in which eleven Israeli athletes and coaches and a West German police officer at Olympic village were killed by Black September terrorists. There were multiple calls to cancel the games after the terrorist attack, but the IOC declined.[26] From a sporting standpoint, these Olympic Games were among the most controversial in history and one of the strangest Olympics ever for American athletes.[27] U.S. world record holders in the 100 meters were given the wrong starting time and were unable to compete in the event. In swimming, the U.S. gold medal winner in the 400 meters freestyle was stripped of his medal for using his prescription asthma medication, also depriving him of a chance at multiple medals. U.S. boxers complained that they were judged unfairly in the bouts against their communist counterparts. In shooting, a U.S. athlete initially won the 50 meters rifle only to be relegated to silver after a "review".[28] Finally, in the most controversial event of the Games, and one of the most controversial events of all time, the U.S. basketball team was denied gold after apparently winning the final match against the Soviet Union. The final three seconds of the game were replayed three times until the Soviets came out on top. The Americans did not accept the silver medals, believing that they were robbed. This was the first U.S. loss in Olympic basketball history, and it ended the Americans' 63-game winning streak in Olympic basketball. In general, the U.S. team greatly underperformed at these Games, winning only 6 gold medals in track and field to the East Germans' 8 and Soviets' 9, though the Americans still won the most total medals, 22. In boxing, the Cubans and Soviets dominated, winning three and two championships, respectively, while the U.S. won only one gold and four medals overall. In diving, the Americans won three medals; in wrestling, the U.S. team surprised with three golds in freestyle. In water polo, the Americans struck bronze, tying the eventual gold medalists, the Soviet Union, in the final round. Swimming was the only sport where the American team did not disappoint, winning 17 gold and 43 total medals. American women dominated swimming for the last time until 1992.[29]

In 1976, Margaret Murdock captured the silver in the three positions shooting event. Lanny Bassham and Murdock tied for the first place, but Murdock was placed second after review of the targets. Bassham suggested that two gold medals be given, and after this request was declined, asked Murdock to share the top step with him at the award ceremony. Women had no separate shooting events at the time and were allowed to compete with men. Murdock became the first woman to win an Olympic medal in shooting.[30]

The Eastern Bloc dominated the 1976 Montreal Olympics, with seven countries placing in the top ten of the medal table. The United States team was relegated to a third place in the medal standings for the first time in its history. This was an Olympics of contrasts: the U.S. men's swimming team, despite the generally dismal showing of the overall delegation, swept 12 gold and 27 total medals in the 13 events that were on the program and broke 11 world records in the process,[31] while the US women's swimming team, on the other hand, fell victim to what was later shown to be a pervasive East German doping program.[32] They still managed to win one gold medal, in an upset of the East Germans in the 4x100 freestyle relay. The event was held on the last day of the swimming program, and the American women were risking being deprived of gold for the first time in U.S. Olympic history. The victory was somewhat overlooked at the time, but since the early 1990s, when public revelation of the doping program began, the American gold medal is considered to be one of the sport's most improbable upsets.[32] In track and field, both the U.S. men's and women's teams were overwhelmed by East Germans who secured a bulk of medals in the signature sports of the U.S., resulting in the USSR topping the medal table. The U.S. boxing team surprised everyone, advancing to six gold medal bouts and winning five of them, drawing parallels to a stellar 1952 team that also took five golds. The achievement was even more notable due to the fact that the American boxers were significantly younger and less experienced than their Cuban and Soviet counterparts.[33] In other sports, U.S. divers won five medals, including two golds; the U.S. equestrian team took home four medals; American shooters won three medals, including a historic silver by a woman in the mixed 50 meters rifle three positions; U.S. freestyle wrestlers advanced to four gold medal bouts, yet won only one of them, concluding the meet with six medals overall. The U.S. men's basketball team reclaimed the gold medal, while the women's team won a surprising silver, being ranked no higher than sixth prior to the start of the tournament. The Soviets and East Germans were unstoppable in canoeing, gymnastics, rowing, weightlifting and wrestling, going 1–2 in the overall medal standings (49 gold and 125 total medals for the Soviets, and 40 gold and 90 total medals for East Germans). The U.S. won medals in 14 sports, finishing third with 34 gold and 94 total medals. The most successful day for the Americans was July 31 when they won 8 gold and 18 total medals.[34]

The 1980 Summer Olympics marked another first for the United States, as the nation led by far the largest and most significant boycott in the Olympic history. The boycott was motivated by the 1979 Soviet invasion of Afghanistan.[35][36][37][38][39] The United States and 65 other countries chose not to attend the Moscow Games, leaving them with the smallest attendance since 1956. Predictably, the great majority of the medals were taken by the host country and East Germany in what was the most skewed medal tally since 1904.[40] The Soviets amassed 80 gold (all-time record) and 195 total (second-best result after the US in 1904) medals in their anticlimactic performance.[41]

President Ronald Reagan and Mary Lou Retton with the U.S. Olympic Team in Los Angeles, 1984. Retton had just recovered in time from surgery to compete for the all-around title, where she completed two perfect 10s to defeat her Soviet-bloc competitor by .05 points for the gold medal.

In 1984, Los Angeles witnessed what was considered a retaliatory boycott by the Soviets and their satellites, although the Soviets cited security concerns and "chauvinistic sentiments and an anti-Soviet hysteria being whipped up in the United States."[citation needed] However, no threat to Eastern Bloc athletes was ever discovered, and the athletes from the Eastern Bloc country that did attend the 1984 games in Los Angeles—Romania—encountered no problems, and in fact were widely cheered above all other visiting nations at the Opening Ceremonies when they marched into the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum (Romania ended up finishing second in the medal table at the Games). Furthermore, despite the Soviet boycott, a record 140 nations (including China, which participated for the first time since 1952) attended the Games.[42]

Among Olympic medalists, Shannon Miller is widely regarded as one of the greatest gymnasts in American history, with her achievements at the Olympics and beyond sports leaving an enduring legacy.

There were fears that the Soviet Union would boycott the 1988 Summer Olympics in Seoul as well, because South Korea had no diplomatic relations with the USSR, which recognized and supported only North Korea. However, the policies of Perestroika that were initiated by Gorbachev in 1985 led to the Soviet participation in the Games. Cuba decided to boycott the Olympics on its own, impacting the boxing field as a result. The Soviets and East Germany dominated what would be their last Olympics, winning 55 and 37 gold medals respectively (132 and 102 total medals). The United States placed third with 36 and 94. 1976 and 1988 are the only occasions where America failed to make the top two at the Summer Olympics (although in 1976 they placed second by total medals).

Recent period (1994–present)

This section needs expansion. You can help by adding to it. (February 2020)
Amy Van Dyken's achievements in swimming, particularly her historic performance at the 1996 Atlanta Olympics, make her one of the greatest American swimmers of that time.
Jennie Finch signing autographs. From 1998 to 2010, Finch became the most recognizable face on a dominant U.S. softball squad. Her 2004 Olympics showing put her on an elite level, as she helped lead Team USA to a gold medal.

U.S. athletes have appeared in every Summer Olympics Games in recent decades, with their fortunes having steadily improved in most sports since 1992. America finished second in the medal count in 1992 and 2008, while placing first at seven other Games in that period.

The United States, represented by the United States Olympic & Paralympic Committee (USOPC), competed at the 2020 Summer Olympics in Tokyo. Originally scheduled to take place in the summer of 2020, the Games were postponed to July 23 to August 8, 2021, due to the COVID-19 pandemic.[43] The opening ceremony flag-bearers for the United States were baseball player Eddy Alvarez and basketball player Sue Bird.[44] Javelin thrower Kara Winger was the flag-bearer for the closing ceremony.[45] When USA Gymnastics announced that 2016 Olympic all-around champion Simone Biles would not participate in the gymnastics all-around final, the spotlight fell on her American teammates. The U.S. had won the event in each of the last five Olympic Games: a formidable winning streak was on the line. Sunisa Lee embraced the moment and stood tall to deliver for her country. She totaled 57.433 to hold off Rebeca Andrade of Brazil (57.298) to clinch the title. Lee also made history of her own. With victory in the all-around she became the first Hmong American gymnast to win an Olympic gold medal, and the first gymnast of Asian descent to do so. With a silver in the women's team final and bronze in the individual uneven bars Lee left Tokyo with an impressive three Olympic medals. Lydia Jacoby, Alaska's teenage swimming sweetheart, made history when she became the first Alaskan swimmer selected to make the U.S. Olympic swim team. She stunned the world to secure victory in the women's 100m breaststroke. Recent major champion Nelly Korda followed the winning ways of compatriot Xander Schauffele to take home gold in the women's golf competition. The 2.01m-tall thrower Ryan Crouser retained his Olympic title in the men's shot put and did so in some style, setting an Olympic record three times. The U.S. achieved a commanding lead in the overall medal count, with 113 medals, but only edged China in the gold medal tally on the last day, finishing with 39 gold medals to China's 38.

Katie Ledecky accepts the award for "Female Athlete of the Olympic Games." She has earned multiple gold medals in freestyle events in 2012–20.

At the 2022 Winter Olympics, the U.S. exercised a diplomatic boycott due to the "ongoing genocide and crimes against humanity in Xinjiang and other human rights abuses," meaning it did not send any high-level delegation to the Games, but would not hinder athletes from participating.[46] A total of 25 medals meant Team USA won two more medals than in 2018, although it still signifies an overall decline after 37 medals in 2010 and 28 in 2014. Notable successes included Jessie Diggins becoming the first American female skier to win individual cross-country medals, figure skater Nathan Chen breaking the short program world record en route to the Olympic gold medal in the men’s singles, Erin Jackson becoming the first black female athlete to win speed skating gold, and Chloe Kim defending her title in the snowboarding women's halfpipe. Veteran snowboarder Lindsey Jacobellis, who last medaled in the 2006 Winter Olympics in Turin, was the only U.S. athlete with multiple gold medals, winning the women's snowboard cross event, and sharing the gold with teammate Nick Baumgartner in the mixed snowboard cross event.

Amateurism and professionalism

U.S. President George W. Bush visits Misty May-Treanor (left) and Kerri Walsh Jennings (right) at the 2008 Olympics. In 2012, the duo became the first beach volleyball team (male or female) to win three consecutive Olympic gold medals.

The exclusion of professionals caused several controversies throughout the history of the modern Olympics. The 1912 Olympic pentathlon and decathlon champion Jim Thorpe was stripped of his medals, when it was discovered that he had played semi-professional baseball before the Olympics. His medals were posthumously restored by the IOC in 1983 on compassionate grounds.[47]

The advent of the state-sponsored "full-time amateur athlete" of the Eastern Bloc countries eroded the ideology of the pure amateur. It put the self-financed amateurs of the Western countries at a disadvantage. The Soviet Union entered teams of athletes who were all nominally students, soldiers, or working in a profession, but all of whom were in reality paid by the state to train on a full-time basis.[48][49][50] The situation greatly disadvantaged American athletes and was a major factor in the decline of American medal hauls in the 1970s and 1980s. As a result, the Olympics shifted away from amateurism, as envisioned by Pierre de Coubertin. They began allowing participation of professional athletes, but only in the 1990s, after the collapse of the Soviet Union and its influence within the International Olympic Committee.[51][52][53]

Prize money

When a U.S. athlete wins an Olympic medal, as of 2016, the USOPC paid the winner $25,000 for gold, $15,000 for silver, and $10,000 for bronze.[54] The USOPC increased the payouts by 25% to $37,000 for gold, $22,500 for silver, and $15,000 for bronze beginning in 2017.[55] These numbers are significantly lower than in other countries, where Olympic gold medalists receive up to $1 million from their governments for a gold medal.[56][57] Since 2018, payouts to Paralympic athletes have been the same as to the Olympians. The International Paralympic Committee noted that "'Operation Gold Awards' for [American] Paralympic athletes [would] be increased by as much as 400 percent."[58]


United States has had eight Olympic medals stripped for doping violations. In all cases, the US government or the United States Olympic Committee (USOC) had nothing to do with it, and sanctioned athletes acted on their own. In the case of swimmer Rick DeMont, the USOC has recognized his gold medal performance in the 1972 Summer Olympics in 2001,[59] but only the IOC has the power to restore his medal, and it has as of 2023 refused to do so.[59] DeMont originally won the gold medal in 4:00.26. Following the race, the IOC stripped him of his gold medal[60] after his post-race urinalysis tested positive for traces of the banned substance ephedrine contained in his prescription asthma medication, Marax. The positive test following the 400-meter freestyle final also deprived him of a chance at multiple medals, as he was not permitted to swim in any other events at the 1972 Olympics, including the 1,500-meter freestyle for which he was the then-current world record-holder. Before the Olympics, DeMont had properly declared his asthma medications on his medical disclosure forms, but the USOC had not cleared them with the IOC's medical committee.[61][59]

In 2003, Wade Exum, the United States Olympic Committee's director of drug control administration from 1991 to 2000, gave copies of documents to Sports Illustrated that revealed that some 100 American athletes failed drug tests from 1988 to 2000, arguing that they should have been prevented from competing in the Olympics but were nevertheless cleared to compete; among those athletes were Carl Lewis, Joe DeLoach and Floyd Heard.[62][63][64][65] Before showing the documents to Sports Illustrated, Exum tried to use them in a lawsuit against USOC, accusing the organization of racial discrimination and wrongful termination against him and cover-up over the failed tests. His case was summarily dismissed by the Denver federal Court for lack of evidence. The USOC claimed his case "baseless" as he himself was the one in charge of screening the anti-doping test program of the organization and clarifying that the athletes were cleared according to the rules.[66][67]

Carl Lewis broke his silence on allegations that he was the beneficiary of a drugs cover-up, admitting he had failed tests for banned substances, but claiming he was just one of "hundreds" of American athletes who were allowed to escape bans, concealed by the USOC. Lewis has acknowledged that he failed three tests during the 1988 US Olympic trials, which under international rules at the time should have prevented him from competing in the 1988 Summer Olympics.[68] Former athletes and officials came out against the USOC cover-up. "For so many years I lived it. I knew this was going on, but there's absolutely nothing you can do as an athlete. You have to believe governing bodies are doing what they are supposed to do. And it is obvious they did not," said former American sprinter and 1984 Olympic champion, Evelyn Ashford.[69]

Exum's documents revealed that Carl Lewis had tested positive three times at the 1988 Olympics trials for minimum amounts of pseudoephedrine, ephedrine, and phenylpropanolamine, which were banned stimulants. Bronchodilators are also found in cold medication. Due to the rules, his case could have led to disqualification from the Seoul Olympics and suspension from competition for six months. The levels of the combined stimulants registered in the separate tests were 2 ppm, 4 ppm and 6 ppm.[66] Lewis defended himself, claiming that he had accidentally consumed the banned substances. After the supplements that he had taken were analyzed to prove his claims, the USOC accepted his claim of inadvertent use, since a dietary supplement he ingested was found to contain "Ma Huang", the Chinese name for Ephedra (ephedrine is known to help weight loss).[66] Fellow Santa Monica Track Club teammates Joe DeLoach and Floyd Heard were also found to have the same banned stimulants in their systems, and were cleared to compete for the same reason.[70][71] The highest level of the stimulants Lewis recorded was 6 ppm, which was regarded as a positive test in 1988 but is now regarded as negative test. The acceptable level has been raised to ten parts per million for ephedrine and twenty-five parts per million for other substances.[66][72] According to the IOC rules at the time, positive tests with levels lower than 10 ppm were cause of further investigation but not immediate ban. Neal Benowitz, a professor of medicine at UC San Francisco who is an expert on ephedrine and other stimulants, agreed that "These [levels] are what you'd see from someone taking cold or allergy medicines and are unlikely to have any effect on performance."[66] Following Exum's revelations the IAAF acknowledged that at the 1988 Olympic Trials the USOC indeed followed the correct procedures in dealing with eight positive findings for ephedrine and ephedrine-related compounds in low concentration. Additionally, in 1988 the federation reviewed the relevant documents with the athletes' names undisclosed and stated that "the medical committee felt satisfied, however, on the basis of the information received that the cases had been properly concluded by the USOC as 'negative cases' in accordance with the rules and regulations in place at the time and no further action was taken".[73][74]

Disqualified medalists

Main article: List of stripped Olympic medals

The United States has had eight Olympic medals stripped, which is fifth in the ranking of countries with the most stripped medals.[75]

See also


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