London 2012: Great Olympic Moments

On the road, Team USA puts on quite a show

The members of the U.S. women's 4x100 relay team run around the track with flag across their shoulders to celebrate
Photo courtesy International Olympic Committee

The women’s 4×100-meter relay set a new world record, one of the many highlights for Team USA in London.

By Josh Barr

Team USA enjoyed one of its finest Olympics ever on foreign soil, leading all nations in gold medals (46) and finishing atop the medal count (104) for the fifth consecutive Olympic Games.

“It really couldn’t have been a more positive experience for us,” said Larry Probst, chairman of what was then known as the U.S. Olympic Committee. “The venues were obviously spectacular. The athletes have had a great time, and the performances have been absolutely stunning.”

Once again the U.S. basketball teams swept gold, while swimmers Michael Phelps, Missy Franklin, Ryan Lochte and Allison Schmitt led a dominant performance in the pool, with Phelps becoming the most decorated Olympian of all time. Sprinter Allyson Felix won three gold medals.

Women's 4x100 points its way to the record book

As she crosses the finish line to set a world record in the women's 4x100 relay, Carmelita Jeter points her baton at the timing clock
Photo courtesy International Olympic Committee

An event filled with recent Olympic heartbreak for Team USA brought only jubilation in London.

As she approached the finish line of the women’s 4×100-meter relay, Carmelita Jeter extended her left arm and pointed her baton at the race timer, which stopped at 40.82 seconds: The U.S. team of Tianna Madison, Allyson Felix, Bianca Knight and Jeter had broken a 27-year-old world record by more than half a second.

“We trusted each person to bring us that stick,” Jeter said. “That was the number one thing – we had great chemistry. As I crossed the finish line, I just had so many emotions, because we’ve not been able to get the gold medal back to the United States since 1996 and we had just made history.”

Misty May-Treanor and Kerri Walsh Jennings complete the three-peat

Both Team USA beach volleyball teams hugs at the conclusion of the gold-medal match
Photo courtesy International Olympic Committee

Misty May-Treanor and Kerri Walsh (left) won their third consecutive gold medal in beach volleyball.

Misty May-Treanor and Kerri Walsh Jennings capped their spectacular partnership with a third consecutive gold medal in women’s beach volleyball. In winning gold at Athens 2004, Beijing 2008 and London 2012, the tandem won 21 consecutive matches, dropping just one set along the way. They beat Americans Jennifer Kessy and April Ross, 21-16, 21-16, in the London gold-medal match.

“For us to meet in the gold-medal match, it says a lot about our sport, a lot about the teams up here,” May-Treanor said. “I’m happy about the four of us really sharing this moment. They have no reason to hang their heads.”

Swimmer Michael Phelps left London with a new title: most decorated Olympian ever.

Michael Phelps smiles as he poses with a gold medal
Photo courtesy International Olympic Committee

Michael Phelps become the most decorated Olympian of all time.

Phelps won four gold medals and two silvers at London as he passed Russian gymnast Larisa Latynina for most all-time Olympic medals. Latynina won the last of her 18 medals at Tokyo 1964; Phelps left London with 22 medals, 18 of them gold.

At London, Phelps became the first male swimmer to win an individual event in three consecutive Olympics, accomplishing the feat in the 200-meter individual medley and the 100 butterfly.

Serena Williams gets her singles gold

Serena Williams swings and hits a forehand
Photo courtesy International Olympic Committee

Serena Williams completed a golden slam with her victory in women’s singles.

Tennis player Serena Williams got perhaps the last thing missing from her resume, an Olympic singles gold medal, as she routed Russian Maria Sharapova, 6-0, 6-1, in the gold-medal match.

I’ve always wanted to win a gold medal secretly,” said Williams, who the next day teamed with her older sister Venus to win their third doubles gold medal. “I’ve always said it doesn’t matter because I already have a gold medal — and I really believed that and I really felt that — but deep, deep, deep, deep down I wanted it in singles as well and I got it! It’s such an amazing feeling. I can’t compare it.”

Gabby Douglas earns historic victory in gymnastics

Gabby Douglas is in the air doing a flip on the balance beam
Photo courtesy International Olympic Committee

Gabby Douglas became the first U.S. woman to win the individual all-around and team gold in one Olympics.

Gymnasts are not supposed to watch the scoreboard, but 16-year-old Gabby Douglas kept sneaking peeks throughout the individual all-around competition.

“After vault. And bars. And beam and floor,” Douglas said. “Sorry. I just had to see.

She was in the same position after each rotation and at meet’s end as she became the first Black woman to win the individual all-around gold. Douglas also led Team USA’s Fab Five to the team gold medal, becoming the first American woman to win team and individual all-around gold at the same Olympics.

Vincent Hancock is on the mark for back-to-back golds

Vincent Hancock is focused and aims his rifle before shooting
Photo courtesy International Olympic Committee

Vincent Hancock was nearly perfect as he won another gold medal in skeet shooting.

Defending champion Vincent Hancock, a member of the U.S. Army Marksmanship Unit at Fort Benning, hit an Olympic record 123 of 125 targets in qualifying and then was perfect on 25 shots in the final as he won his second consecutive gold medal in men’s skeet shooting.

“Getting married, I’ve had two children and those are by far the highlights of my life, but going to the Olympics and being part of something so much bigger than myself,” Hancock said. “I’m not just representing myself and my sport, but I’m representing the United States of America and the American people and soldiers as well.”

High schooler Missy Franklin has time of her life

Missy Franklin extends her arms as she starts a backstroke race
Photo courtesy International Olympic Committee

Missy Franklin was quick to start as she blew away the old world record in the 200-meter backstroke.

Still one month away from her senior year of high school, swimmer Missy Franklin put on quite a performance in London, highlighted by her world-record victory in the women’s 200-meter backstroke.

Franklin won four gold medals and one bronze at London. The 200 backstroke might have been the most impressive as she finished in 2:04.06, three-quarters of a second faster than the previous world record. She was the first U.S. woman in 40 years to win the event.

I had the time of my life out there,” Franklin said. “It’s my favorite event.

Claressa Shields wins gold in inaugural women’s boxing tournament

Claressa Shields has her fists cocked as she poses for a photo
Photo courtesy International Olympic Committee

Claressa Shields used her speed and strength to bring home gold.

Rising high school senior Claressa Shields was the only U.S. medalist in the inaugural women’s competition and she brought home the gold medal in the middleweight division, with a 19-12 victory over Russia’s Nadezda Torlopova in the gold-medal bout.

I just can’t believe it right now,” Shields said. “I got a gold medal I can wear every day, and it’s mine.”