The United States has won more medals at the Summer Olympic Games than any other country (see the total medal tally). They attended the first Olympic Games in 1896, and have participated in all of the Summer Olympic Games except in 1980 in Moscow when the nation spearheaded a boycott which was joined by numerous countries especially its allies. The USA have also hosted the Olympic Games on several occasions: St Lois in 1904, Los Angles in 1932 and 1984, and Atlanta in 1996, and they will host the event again in LA 2028.
The US is a dominant force in the Olympics in the overall medal tally, athletics, swimming, shooting, wrestling, diving, gymnastics, rowing, basketball, boxing, wrestling, weightlifting, cycling, tennis, archery and equestrian.
The first athlete to represent the US was Thomas Burke, who clinched the gold medals in the 100-m sprint and 400-meter run events. In the inaugural 1896 Athens Olympic Games, James Connolly became the first modern Olympic champion when he captured the triple jump in athletics during the opening day of the Games. Swimmer Michael Phelps is the most bemedalled athlete in the history of Summer Olympic Games as he pocketed 28 medals (23 of which are gold) from 2000 to 2016.
The US athletes has won gold medal at every games at which it has participated and captured more gold and overall medals than any other nation in the Olympiad. From the 1950’s to the late 1980s, the United States was closely rivaled by the Soviet Union at the Summer Games in medal-rich sports and in overall medal tally. But after the USSR has disintegrated, China has emerged as the new chief rival of the United States.
The US 2016 Olympics were the third most productive for the United States in terms of medals won.
- The first brothers to win Olympic gold medals were Americans John and Sumner Paine - they came first in the military pistol and free pistol shooting events respectively in 1896.
- Margaret Abbott was the first American woman to win an Olympic event, claiming gold in golf at Paris 1900. Her mother, Mary Perkins Ives Abbott, also competed in the event, finishing equal seventh.
- The United States first had an official U.S. team, plus wore official team uniforms, at the 'unofficial' Intercalated Games of 1906.
- The first African-American athlete to win a gold medal was John Taylor, who was part of the US medley relay team in athletics in 1908.
- The star of the 1912 Games was the American Indian Jim Thorpe, who won both the decathlon and pentathlon. However, in the following year it was discovered that he once played semi-professional baseball, and he was subsequently striped of his gold medals. It was discovered that he was paid $25 a week for playing baseball in 1909 and 1910. The Olympics are strictly limited to amateur players. In 1982, he was officially pardoned by the IOC, 29 years after his death. Replicas of his 1912 medals were presented to his family at the start of 1983.
- Ralph Craig of the USA was 23 when he won gold medals in the 100m and 200m sprints in 1912. He returned to Olympic competition at the 1948 Olympics to compete in the yachting competition.
- Charley Paddock, the American sprinter who won the 100m in 1920, died in a plane crash in 1943 while serving as a captain in the US Marines.
- Eddie Eagan, who was a boxing gold medalist at the 1920 Games, became the only person to have won gold medals in both the Summer and Winter Games. He also won gold at the 1932 Lake Placid Games in the team bobsled event.
- Sammy Lee became the first Asian American to win an Olympic medal and the first diver to win back-to-back gold medals in two different Olympics — in London in 1948 and Helsinki in 1952.
- In 1956, the gold medal winning hammer thrower from America, Hal Connolly, won despite a physical disability - his left arm was inches shorter and much less developed that his right.
1968 Mexico City
- In 1968, American Al Oerter won the discus throw for the fourth straight time. In 1964 he won despite a cervical disc injury and torn rib cartilage.
- Also in 1968, on the winning podium after the 200-meter race, the Americans Tommie Smith and John Carlos raised their fists in a Black Power salute; the two were subsequently suspended from the Games and deported.
- In 1972 American Frank Shorter pulled the US into the running boom by winning the gold medal in the marathon at the Munich Olympics. Shorter was actually born in Munich.
- Mark Spitz from USA won seven gold medals at the Games, and won them all in world record time.
- In 1972, the U.S. basketball team lost a game for the first time, falling to the Soviet Union, but refused to accept the silver medal, claiming that the clock had been improperly restarted in the final moments.
- In 1976, five American boxers won gold medals, including three future world boxing champions: Ray Leonard, Michael Spinks, and Leon Spinks.
- Joan Benoit of the USA won the first women's Olympic marathon in Los Angeles in 1984
- In 1984, 16-year-old Mary Lou Retton earned her place on Wheaties boxes by winning four gymnastics medals - including a gold in all-around gymnastics - just six weeks after undergoing knee surgery.
- In 1984, American Carl Lewis repeated Jesse Owens' 1936 feat, winning gold medals in the same four events. In 1992, Carl Lewis won two more gold medals, bringing his total to eight. In 1996, he got his ninth gold medal by winning the long jump.
- In 1988, Florence Griffith Joyner of America won four medals, three of them gold, in running events, while sister-in-law Jackie Joyner-Kersee won the long jump and heptathlon.
- In 1988, Greg Louganis hit his head on the diving board but successfully defended his Olympic springboard title a few days later.
- In 1988, the last American basketball team without NBA players finished third.
- In 1992, with the door open to professional athletes, the USA sent a Basketball Dream Team including Charles Barkley, Larry Bird, Magic Johnson, Michael Jordan, and Karl Malone. As expected, they went undefeated.
- Michael Johnson won both the 200m and 400m races.
- Amy Van Dyken of the U.S. won four gold medals in swimming
- The American women's teams won the first-ever softball and women's soccer events. They also won gold in gymnastics, with the help of Kerri Strug, who nailed her second vault despite a sprained ankle.
- In 2000, The U.S. softball team defended its title; and Michael Johnson did the same in the 400m race.
- American Marion Jones won five track medals, including three of them gold.
- Swimming superstar Michael Phelps became the most successful man at an Olympics by winning eight gold medals.
- When US athlete Sheila Taormina competed in the Modern Pentathlon in 2008, she became the first woman to qualify for the Olympics in three different sports (swimming, triathlon and modern pentathlon).
- For the first time in American Olympic history, the 2012 team featured more female athletes than male.
- America's men's basketball team scored an Olympic record 156 points when they beat Nigeria at London 2012.
- US Rugby 7s player, and a New England Patriots defensive back, Nate Ebner became the first active NFL player to compete in a Summer Olympic Games. Other NFL players have competed at the Olympics, but not at the same time. Former American shot putter Michael Carter won silver at the 1984 Los Angeles Olympics, just months before making his debut as a nose tackle for the San Francisco 49ers. Likewise, Bob Hayes won gold in both the 100m and 4x100m track events in Tokyo in 1964 before making his NFL debut the following year.
- With her bronze medal in Rio, American skeet shooter Kim Rhode set a record with six medals in six consecutive Summer Olympic Games, including 3 golds, between 1996 to 2016.
- Fencer Ibtihaj Muhammad made history in Rio when she became the first female Muslim-American to medal at the Olympics for the United States when she won bronze in the team saber competition. She was also the first American to compete in a hijab.
- Swimmer Caeleb Dressel won five gold medals (he also won 2 gold medals in Rio 2016). This feat of five golds at a single Games for the USA equals that of Michael Phelps, Mark Spitz and Matt Biondi.
- USA at the Winter Olympics
- More trivia from each Country at the Olympic Games
- St Lois Olympic Games 1904
- Los Angeles Olympic Games 1932
- Los Angeles Olympic Games 1984
- Atlanta Olympic Games 1996
- Los Angeles Olympic Games 2028
- About Sport in the USA