“Today we applaud a diverse and distinguished group of our nation’s greatest athletes, who will represent Team USA in Rio,” said USOC CEO Scott Blackmun. “Sport, and the Olympic Movement in particular, has always had a unique ability to inspire our nation and unite the world. These Olympic Games will be no different in that regard as 555 Americans rise to their best and make our nation proud. I am especially excited for the historic achievement of our women’s delegation, which is a true testament to the strength and growing number of women’s sport opportunities in the United States.”
The 2016 U.S. Olympic Team features 191 returning Olympians, including three six-time Olympians, seven five-time Olympians, 19 four-time Olympians, 50 three-time Olympians and 112 two-time Olympians. Among the returnees are 108 Olympic medalists, 68 of whom are Olympic champions and 45 who have won multiple Olympic medals. Of the 68 returning Olympic champions, 53 are looking to defend their titles from London, including 19 in individual events.
The three U.S. Olympians headed to their sixth Olympic Games include equestrian Phillip Dutton, and shooters Emil Milev and Kim Rhode, who become only the ninth, 10th and 11th athletes – summer or winter – to do so in U.S. Olympic history. The seven athletes headed to their fifth Olympic Games are Tony Azevedo (water polo), Glenn Eller (shooting), Bernard Lagat (track and field), Steven Lopez (taekwondo), Michael Phelps (swimming), Kerri Walsh Jennings (beach volleyball) and Venus Williams (tennis). Only 35 other athletes in U.S. Olympic history have competed in five or more Olympic Games (including Dutton, Milev and Rhode).
“For both returning and first-time Olympians, the pursuit of an Olympic dream is never an easy journey,” said Alan Ashley, 2016 U.S. chef de mission and USOC chief of sport performance. “Earning the distinction of being named to the U.S. Olympic Team requires years of relentless focus, unwavering dedication and untold sacrifices. I’d like to commend all of those who helped support our athletes in pursuit of their Olympic dreams. During the Games, we will continue to uphold that same level of support as we help our athletes strive for excellence on the world stage.”
Topping the list of most decorated U.S male and female athletes to make the team are Phelps and Allyson Felix (track and field). With 22 medals – including 18 golds – Phelps is the most decorated Olympian of all time, from any nation, and the first American male swimmer to qualify for five Olympic Teams. Making her fourth Olympic appearance, Felix is the most decorated U.S. Olympic female with four gold medals, and six overall. Joining Felix as four-time Olympic champions are sisters Serena and Venus Williams, who will look to match the Olympic record for overall medals in tennis (5). Prior to these Games, only three other American women have won five or more Olympic gold medals.
The. U.S. will also look to continue its success in traditional team sports with an eye toward making Olympic history on the women’s side. The U.S. women’s basketball team will pursue a record sixth consecutive gold medal, while the U.S. men’s team will look to expand its string of titles to three straight and 15 overall. Coming off its World Cup win in 2015, the U.S. women’s soccer team will also look to extend its gold-medal streak to four consecutive and become the first FIFA Women’s World Cup champion to win the following year’s Olympic title. The U.S. will also vie to become the first nation to defend its Olympic title in women’s water polo and continue its streak as reigning champions across all major international water polo events.
Also seeking to continue its dynasty on the world stage is the U.S. women’s eight rowing team, which has not lost an Olympic or world championship title since 2006. American women also will look to repeat as Olympic champions in artistic gymnastics, having won the last four Olympic and world titles from 2011-15. And with historic Copacabana Beach serving as the backdrop, Team USA also will look to continue its storybook history in beach volleyball with Americans having reached the top of the podium at every Olympic Games since the sport was added in 1996.
Team USA will be represented in 27 sports (40 disciplines) and 244 of the 306 medal events to be contested in Rio. The 2016 U.S. Olympic Team features 191 returning Olympians, including three six-time Olympians, seven five-time Olympians, 19 four-time Olympians, 50 three-time Olympians and 112 two-time Olympians.
Among the returnees are 108 Olympic medalists, 68 of whom are Olympic champions and 45 who have won multiple Olympic medals. Of the 68 returning Olympic champions, 53 are looking to defend their titles from London. There are 364 Team USA athletes who are making their Olympic debut in Rio.
Nine athletes on the U.S. roster have competed at the Youth Olympic Games, including 2014 Youth Olympic champion Shakur Stevenson (boxing). Other Youth Olympians to represent Team USA in Rio are Nicole Ahsinger (trampoline gymnastics, 2014), Michael Hixon (diving, 2010), Katharine Holmes (fencing, 2010), Alex Massialas (fencing, 2010), Nathan Schrimsher (modern pentathlon, 2010), Richelle Stephens (rugby, 2014), Laura Zeng (rhythmic gymnastics, 2014) and Lily Zhang (table tennis, 2014).
More than 420 members (i.e. 75 percent) of the 2016 U.S. Olympic Team competed in collegiate athletics at the varsity and club levels, including 44 athletes in swimming and 125 in track and field. Additionally, for all eligible athletes (i.e. high school graduate and above), the following eight sports had full collegiate participation: basketball (24), diving (10), fencing (14), field hockey (16), indoor volleyball (24), rowing (41), triathlon (6) and water polo (21).
Forty-six states are represented – including 125 athletes hailing from California, 40 from Florida, and 33 from Texas – in addition to three from the District of Columbia and one from the U.S. Virgin Islands.
Team USA features one set of twins in tennis players Bob and Mike Bryan. Other team siblings include Aria and Makenzie Fischer (water polo), Courtney and Kelley Hurley (fencing), Margaux and Isabella Isaksen (pentathlon), Julia and Katie Reinprecht (field hockey), Erik and Kawika Shoji (indoor volleyball), and Serena and Venus Williams (tennis). Thirty-five athletes have Olympic family ties, including 12 with parents who competed at the Olympic Games. Fifty-four members of Team USA have children, including 43 fathers and 11 mothers; 17 athletes have military ties.
The oldest and youngest Olympians on the 2016 Olympic Team – equestrian Phillip Dutton, 52, and tennis player Kanak Jha, 16 – are separated by 36 years, while the average age of Team USA is 27. Also entering the Rio Games at age 52 are Beezie Madden (equestrian) and Emil Milev (shooting). Other 16-year-olds include Laurie Hernandez (artistic gymnastics), Sydney McLaughlin (track and field) and Laura Zeng (rhythmic gymnastics), with McLaughlin becoming the youngest American athlete to qualify for the Olympic Games in track and field since 1972.
Men’s basketball players DeMarcus Cousins and DeAndre Jordan are the tallest members of Team USA at 6 feet, 11 inches, while artistic gymnast Simone Biles checks in as the shortest team member at 4 feet, 8 inches.
This story first appeared in the blog, The Sport Intern. The editor is Karl-Heinz Huba of Lorsch, Germany. He can be reached at ISMG@aol.com. The article is reprinted here with permission of Huba.