This past year featured some of the most dominant performances by U.S. women in history. The highlights included long unbeaten streaks, world championships, world records and more than a few career records. Here’s a look back at 15 of the winning athletes and teams.
A 2014 Olympian in long track speedskating, Bowe began the 2015-16 season in world-record fashion. She became the first American to break the women’s 1,500-meter world record when she did so at the world cup in Calgary, a mark that had stood for 10 years and was the longest-standing women’s long track world record. Then she broke the world record in the 1,000-meter a week later at the Utah Olympic Oval near Salt Lake City. Through three world cups, she is the leader at both distances. This came after the 2014-15 season in which she won gold medals in the 1,000- and 1,500-meter, plus silver in the 500-meter, at the World Single Distance Championships and won the World Sprint Championships. In 2015, Bowe won 18 world cup medals across both seasons.
Gymnast Simone Biles, the Team USA Female Olympic Athlete of the Year, vaulted into history in October when she became the first woman to win three consecutive world championships in the all-around. She also won gold medals in team, balance beam and floor exercise, and a bronze medal in the vault. No woman has more than Biles’ 10 world championships gold medals, and her 14 total medals is a record for a U.S. gymnast, male or female. Biles also helped the United States win its third consecutive world team title and qualify for the Rio de Janeiro 2016 Olympic Games. Earlier, in August, she won her third consecutive U.S. women’s all-around title (the first woman to do so in 23 years), and won national titles in the vault and balance beam, at the P&G Gymnastics Championships.
Allyson Felix, who hopes to compete in both the women’s 200- and 400-meter races at the Rio de Janeiro 2016 Olympic Games, won a world title in the 400 in Beijing with the world’s fastest time this year of 49.26 seconds. It was her first world title in the 400, to go along with her three 200-meter world golds. She also won a pair of silver medals on relay teams (4x100 and 4x400), giving her 14 career world medals, the most by any U.S. athlete, male or female. She is the most decorated female track-and-field athlete in the world. Felix also successfully defended her 200-meter championship in the Diamond League.
Freestyle wrestler Adeline Gray won her third world title at 75 kg., capturing the gold medal on home mat at the 2015 World Wrestling Championships in Las Vegas. Gray was unbeaten in 2015 and extended her win streak to 25 matches, dating back to July 2014. Her wins included gold at the Pan American Games in July in Toronto and winning all her matches at the World Cup. She is the second American woman to win five world medals in five consecutive world championships. And with three world titles, Gray trails only four-time champ Tricia Saunders, also of the United States, for the most ever.
In the world of women’s triathlon, the best is Gwen Jorgensen. Every time. Jorgensen wrapped up her undefeated 2015 season by defending her world title, based on season points that culminated at the ITU World Triathlon Grand Final in Chicago. She became the first U.S. woman to win back-to-back triathlon world titles, and in doing so she extended her World Triathlon Series win streak to 12, a streak that goes back to 2014. And in winning the Rio de Janeiro ITU World Olympic Qualification Event in August, Jorgensen qualified to compete in her second Olympic Games next summer, where she is a favorite for gold.
Swimmer Katie Ledecky made history in the FINA World Championships, winning the women’s 200-, 400-, 800 and 1,500-meter freestyle titles. She became the first swimmer to win all those events at the same world championships. In addition, Ledecky won another world title in the 4x200-meter freestyle and came home from Kazan, Russia, with three new individual world records. Her speed through the water was evident: She won the 1,500-meter by nearly 15 seconds, the 800 by more than 10 seconds and the 400 by nearly four seconds. Ledecky, who graduated from high school in 2015, won her first Olympic gold medal in the women’s 800 freestyle at the age of 15 in 2012 in London.
Winner of the Team USA Female Paralympic Athlete of the Year, wheelchair marathoner Tatyana McFadden completed her third consecutive sweep of the Boston, London, Chicago and New York City marathons. She remains the only athlete to complete the grand slam. She also set three T54 world records in her races. Her victory in the Chicago Marathon qualified her for the Rio de Janeiro 2016 Paralympic Games and her victory in London also earned her the world championship title. McFadden, a four-time Paralympian in both the summer and Winter Games, also had three top-10 finishes in the IPC Nordic Skiing World Championships, including sixth place in the 1-kilometer sprint.
A two-time Paralympic medalist in swimming, Becca Meyers broke three world records and won three medals at the IPC Swimming World Championships. She won gold medals in the women’s 200-meter individual medley and 400 freestyle, and a silver medal in the 100 butterfly. The winner of the 2015 ESPY for Best Female Athlete with a Disability, Meyers also won five gold medals at Can-Am Para-swimming Championships.
A memorable year for alpine skier Lindsey Vonn, a three-time Olympian, included becoming the all-time winningest women’s skier in world cup history as the 2014-15 season wound down. She won world cup championship globes in downhill and super-G, and also won a bronze medal in super-G at the 2015 world championships in Colorado, her sixth world medal and the most by any U.S. woman. Then, the 2010 Olympic women’s downhill champion started the 2015-16 world cup season on fire, adding to her record totals. Vonn won four consecutive world cup events, pushing her career world cup win total to 71.
Pro tennis star Serena Williams, a four-time Olympic gold medalist, won the Australian Open, French Open and Wimbledon, and then she reached the U.S. Open semifinals. Her win at Wimbledon was her fourth consecutive Grand Slam title, marking the second time in her career she has won four straight Grand Slams. Her 21 career Grand Slam titles rank No. 2 in the Open era and No. 3 all time. In total, Williams won 53 of 56 matches in 2015 and finished the year as the world’s top-ranked women’s tennis player. She also won the WTA Finals championship and was named the Sports Illustrated Sportsperson of the Year.
Women’s USA-1 Bobsled
Two-time Olympic medalist Elana Meyers Taylor piloted the women’s USA-1 bobsled to Team USA’s first-ever women’s world title. Meyers Taylor teamed up with push athlete Cherrelle Garrett to win the gold medal by 0.43 seconds at the world championships in Winterberg, Germany. The team also set two start records and won six world cup medals (across the end of the 2014-15 season and beginning of 2015-16), four of which were gold. Lauryn Williams pushed Meyers Taylor to two of those gold medals at the end of last season.
The women’s eight crew won its 10th consecutive world or Olympic title in September in France, continuing its dominance of international rowing. The U.S. is the first country to achieve the feat. Among those in the winning 2015 boat was 2012 Olympic gold medalist Meghan Musnicki, a member of the world championship crew for the fifth time. Others in the crew: Coxswain Katelin Snyder, Heidi Robbins, Tessa Gobbo, Kerry Simmonds, Emily Regan, Lauren Schmetterling, Amanda Polk and Vicky Opitz. The gold-medal performance clinched a spot in the Rio de Janeiro 2016 Olympic Games for the women’s eight.
Women’s Soccer National Team
With a 5-2 win over Japan in the FIFA Women’s World Cup final in July, the U.S. Women’s National Team became the first three-time champion. The team set a record for most goals scored in a World Cup final and became the highest-scoring team in tournament history with 112. U.S. midfielder Carli Lloyd and goalkeeper Hope Solo were awarded the Golden Ball and Golden Gloves awards, respectively. The final included the first hat trick (Lloyd), quickest goal (2:35) and most goals scored (5). It was also the final World Cup for Abby Wambach, a two-time Olympic gold medalist and the all-time leading scorer in international soccer history (184 goals). She retired after the conclusion of the U.S. Victory Tour earlier this month.
Women’s Water Polo National Team
The U.S. Women’s Senior National Team won the FINA World Championship, FINA World League Super Final and Pan American Games. The World Championship and World League Super Final wins, combined with victories in the London 2012 Olympic Games and the 2014 FINA Women’s Water Polo World Cup, mean the team is the first in women’s water polo to hold all four major international titles at the same time. The squad finished its season with a 28-1 record. It defeated Netherlands 5-4 to win its fourth world championship. Rachel Fattal was named tournament MVP. The team now has a record nine Super Final championships and four straight Pan Am Games championships.
Women’s Hockey National Team
The U.S. Women’s National Team captured its second consecutive world title, defeating rival Canada 7-5 in the gold-medal game of the IIHF Women’s World Championship. Team USA, which lost to Canada in the championship game of the Sochi 2014 Olympic Winter Games, was unbeaten in the world championships and outscored its opponents 37-11. Included in the preliminary round was a 4-2 win over Canada. U.S. forward Hilary Knight, a two-time Olympic silver medalist, was named tournament MVP. The U.S. women also went undefeated at the Four Nations Cup, once again overcoming Canada in the final and outscoring opponents 19-4.
Paul D. Bowker has been writing about Olympic sports since 1990 and was Olympic assistant bureau chief for Morris Communications at the Atlanta 1996 Olympic Games. He also writes about Olympic sports for the Springfield (Mass.) Republican. Bowker has written for TeamUSA.org since 2010 as a freelance contributor on behalf of Red Line Editorial, Inc.