Team USA athletes rewrote the record books in everything from swimming to track and field to cycling events. Many of the athletes became history makers during the Olympic and Paralympic Games held this summer in London, but others made their mark elsewhere around the world, and not just in the summer sports but on the slopes as well.
Here’s a look at some of record-making performances from the past year:
TRACK STARS BREAK 27-YEAR-OLD RECORD
One of the most stunning performances of 2012 came in the 4 x 100 track and field relay run by Tianna Madison, Allyson Felix, Bianca Knight and Carmelita Jeter. The American women won in 40.82 seconds, breaking a record set back in 1985 by East Germany (41.37) and marking the first time a women’s team had broken the 41-second barrier. It was the U.S. women’s first Olympic gold in the event since 1996. Jeter, who anchored the relay, made sure the entire Olympic stadium noticed the time, pointing at the clock as she crossed the finish line.
WOMEN’S SWIMMING PHENOMS
The U.S. women’s swimming team showed off its mettle (and medals) at the London 2012 Olympic Games. The women won six golds (out of 13 individual events) and two of the three relays. One of those women was Dana Vollmer. After not making the U.S. Olympic Team in 2008 in Beijing, Vollmer revamped her training, even swimming in Fiji and trying open-water races. The work paid off as Vollmer became the first U.S. female swimmer to win a gold medal at the London 2012 Olympic Games. She won the 100-meter butterfly in world-record time of 55.98 seconds. Another record breaker in London was Rebecca Soni, who defended her Olympic crown in the 200 breaststroke in London by setting a world record of 2:20 in the semifinals and then besting that time in the final at 2:19.59. Another star on the women’s team was Missy Franklin, the 17-year-old who captured four gold medals and a bronze in the London 2012 Olympic Games. That would be plenty for most teenagers, but Franklin achieved even more, setting a world record in the women’s 200 backstroke when she was clocked at 2:04.06 in the final. After each winning their own individual Olympic gold medals, Franklin, Soni, Vollmer, Allison Schmitt came together to set a world record in the women’s 4 x 100 medley swimming relay (3:52.05). They shaved .14 off the previous record set by China back at the FINA World Championships in 2009.
WORLD’S GREATEST ATHLETE
Ashton Eaton got off to a strong start by setting the world record in the heptathlon at the 2012 IAAF World Indoor Championships in Istanbul, Turkey, in March. A few months later, at the U.S. Olympic Trials in Eugene, Ore., Eaton broke the world record in the decathlon. He ran the 1,500 meters in 4 minutes, 14:48 seconds to amass a record 9,039 points. The previous world record of 9,026 points, was set by Roman Seberle in 2001. Eaton’s performance at the Trials also broke the American record of 8,891 points set by Dan O’Brien in 1992. Eaton went on to strike gold at the Olympic Games in London.
CAMPBELL THROWS IN RECORD-SETTING FASHION
Jeremy Campbell became the first Paralympic discus athlete to throw more than 60 meters when he set a world record of 63.46 at the Endeavor Games in Edmond, Okla., in June. At the London 2012 Paralympic Games, he did not quite reach his world mark but still took home the gold in the F44 class for his second consecutive Paralympic gold medal in that event.
FIVE FOR FIVE
Shooter Kim Rhode earned Olympic gold in London in record-breaking style, scoring an Olympic-record 99 points (out of a perfect 100) and matching the world record to win the title in the women’s skeet event. The gold medal helped Rhode set another record as she became the first U.S. athlete to earn an individual medal in five consecutive Olympic Games. “I guess it just leaves something for Rio,” the overachiever said of never having shot a perfect 100 in competition. Rhode’s Olympic Village roommate, Jamie Gray, also shot an Olympic record to win gold in the women’s three-position 50m event.
PARALYMPIC SWIMMING’S GOLDEN GIRL
Jessica Long, the 2012 U.S. Paralympic SportsWoman of the Year, set multiple world records in 2012. At the U.S. Paralympic Trials — Swimming in Bismarck, N.D., Long set three world records on Day 1, one on Day 2 and then broke the women’s SM 200 individual medley record twice on Day 3. She continued her dominance in London, setting three world records en route to eight medals (five gold, two silver, one bronze). The 20-year-old now has 17 Paralympic medals.
Aries Merritt had a dream season in 2012, winning the Olympic gold medal in the 110-meter hurdles, the world indoor title and setting the world record (12.10) in the event at the Van Damme Memorial in Brussels in September. His time shattered the previous record of 12.87 set by Dayron Robles in 2008. Before 2012, Merritt’s personal best was 13.09 set in 2007. But in 2012, Merritt posted the seven fastest times in the world.
LOCHTE AT SHORT COURSE WORLDS
Another swimming record maker in 2012 was Ryan Lochte, who racked up eight medals (six gold) at the 11th FINA World Swimming Championships (25 meters) in Istanbul, Turkey, in December. Lochte set world short course records in the 100 and 200 individual medleys. In the 100, he set the record at 50.71. The new record in the 200 is 1:49.63.
LEEPER SPRINTS TO WORLD RECORD
Blake Leeper tied the longstanding world record held by South Africa’s Oscar Pistorius in the men’s 100 (T43 class) at the Boiling Point meet in Canada just prior to the London 2012 Paralympic Games. Pistorius set the record in 2007.
ZOOK DEFENDS IN DOMINATING FASHION
Justin Zook set a world record en route to his third consecutive Paralympic Games gold medal in the S10 100 backstroke. Zook finished in a world-record time of 1:00.01, followed by Andre Brasil, of Brazil, who was clocked at 1:00.11.
BERENYI CYCLES TO WORLD RECORD
Paracyclist Joe Berenyi set a world record en route to winning the gold medal in the men’s C3 pursuit at the London 2012 Paralympic Games. He also earned a silver and a bronze. Berenyi set the world record in the qualification round at 3:36.148. He won the gold medal in a time of 3:37.912.
Two-time Olympic snowboarding gold medalist Shaun White won a record 12th gold medal in the Winter X Games, the most in the X Games history, in Aspen, Colo. In addition, he notched a perfect, record-breaking score of 100 on the halfpipe which featured the first frontside double cork 1260 completed in competition.