It was another memorable year for U.S. men and men’s teams, with world championships won, world records set, droughts broken and streaks extended. Here’s a look back at 15 of the winning male athletes and teams in 2015:
Joe Berenyi, Paralympic Cycling
A three-time Paralympic medalist in cycling, Joe Berenyi won two world titles in the 2015 UCI Para-cycling Track World Championships and captured another four medals in the Parapan American Games. His world championships came in the men’s C3 3-kilometer individual pursuit and time trial events. He also won the silver medal in the scratch race. At the Parapan American Games, he won gold medals in the pursuit and time trial on the track, while adding a gold in the road race and a silver in the road cycling time trial. His year also included national titles in time trial and road race. Berenyi was chosen as Team USA’s Male Paralympic Athlete of the Year.
Jordan Burroughs, Wrestling
Winning his third world championship at 74 kg. in 2015, Jordan Burroughs became the third wrestler in U.S. history to win four combined world or Olympic gold medals. Burroughs won a gold medal in the London 2012 Olympic Games. He also went undefeated in 2015 to win titles at the Pan American Games and World Cup. Only John Smith (four world championship titles, two Olympic gold medals) and Bruce Baumgartner (three world titles, two Olympic gold medals) have more won more than Burroughs. “I‘m in elite company now,” Burroughs said. He also won Team USA’s Male Olympic Athlete of the Year.
Ashton Eaton, Track and Field
Ashton Eaton, the defending world and Olympic decathlon champion, rewrote the sport’s record book again in 2015. He scored 9,045 points in Beijing’s “Bird’s Nest” National Stadium to defend his world title. In doing do, Eaton broke his own world record of 9,039 points set at the 2012 U.S. Olympic Team Trials and outpaced the field by more than 300 points. Eaton also set a decathlon world record in the 400-meter (45.00) and a world championships decathlon record in the 100-meter (10.23).
Justin Gatlin, Track and Field
Sprinter Justin Gatlin, a four-time Olympic medalist, won the Diamond League 100-meter championship after four wins during the season, including two meet records and a world-leading time. His Diamond League season also included one 200-meter win. Gatlin also picked up a pair of silver medals at the world championships, finishing second in the 100- and 200-meter to six-time Olympic champion Usain Bolt. In the 100, Gatlin’s 9.80 seconds was 0.01 behind Bolt.
Vincent Hancock, Shooting
A two-time Olympic gold medalist, Vincent Hancock became the third athlete to win three skeet shooting world championships when he did so in September. Hancock also qualified for his third U.S. Olympic Team. At the season’s first world cup, Hancock hit 157 consecutive targets to set a world record. It marked the first time a shooter had accomplished the feat since new skeet scoring was implemented after the London 2012 Olympic Games. Hancock also won two world cups in 2015 and finished second in the World Cup Finals.
Ted Ligety, Alpine Skiing
Alpine skier Ted Ligety won his third consecutive world title in giant slalom and added a bronze medal in the combined event at the FIS Alpine World Ski Championships on home snow in Colorado. Those podium finishes pushed his career world championship medal count to seven (first among U.S. alpine skiers). Ligety, the 2014 Olympic men’s giant slalom champion, finished third in the world cup men’s giant slalom points standings for the 2014-15 season. His 2015-16 season started with a giant slalom win in October and was also highlighted by a super-G silver medal in December.
Ryan Lochte, Swimming
Eleven-time Olympic medalist Ryan Lochte won his fourth consecutive world title in the men’s 200-meter individual medley in the FINA World Championships, becoming the first man to four-peat in that event. The funny thing is, the 200 IM is an event Lochte, a three-time Olympian, has not won at an Olympic Games. In the 2015 world championships, he also won gold medals in the 400-meter medley relay and 400-meter mixed-gender freestyle, and a silver medal in 800 freestyle relay.
Alex Massialas, Fencing
Fencer Alex Massialas, who was the youngest male member of the entire 2012 U.S. Olympic Team at age 18, rose to a No. 1 world ranking in men’s foil. Massialas, who is coached by his father, Greg, a three-time Olympian, vaulted to the world’s top spot by winning a silver medal at the world championships and then winning the gold medal in the Tokyo World Cup. Those results sent him past Olympic teammate Race Imboden, who in 2014-15 became the first U.S. man to win an overall world cup championship in foil. His world championships medal made him the first U.S. foil fencer to win silver at worlds. Massialas also won a team gold medal and individual silver medal at the Pan American Championships, as well as both team and individual gold at the Pan American Games, and gold at NCAA championships.
Chris Mazdzer, Luge
A two-time Olympian who finished fifth in the world cup standings in 2014-15, Chris Mazdzer has played a big role in the U.S. luge team’s historic start to the 2015-16 season. In the second half of the 2014-15 season, he won two individual bronze medals as well as two team relay silver medals, and finished sixth at world championships. This season, Mazdzer scored his first world cup win on his home track in Lake Placid, New York, and contributed to Team USA’s first team relay win there. He followed that up with a win the following week in Park City, Utah, and a silver-medal performance in Calgary, Alberta. His silver medal earlier this month in Calgary was the team’s 14th of the season. That broke the program’s previous record of 13 total medals — and there’s still half a season to go. While he enters the 2016 portion of the season in second place in the world cup men’s singles standings, he held the world cup leader’s bib for the first time in his career in fall 2015. “This is by far the best I’ve ever done in my career,” Mazdzer said.
Mike Shea, Paralympic Snowboarding
Snowboarder Mike Shea, a silver medalist at the Sochi 2014 Paralympic Winter Games, rose to No. 1 in the world in 2015 in both banked slalom and snowboardcross. He won a world title in LL2 banked slalom at the IPC Snowboard World Championships and also won three gold medals in IPC world cup events. He was a finalist for Team USA’s Male Paralympic Athlete of the Year and is a developmental coach at the National Sports Center for the Disabled.
Andy Soule, Paralympic Nordic Skiing
Nordic skier Andy Soule made U.S. history by medaling in five events in the IPC Nordic Skiing World Championships, the first American to do so. Competing on home snow in Cable, Wisconsin, Soule won three silver medals and two bronze medals. But there were more achievements for Soule in 2015: He won four cross-country events in the IPC World Cup in Japan on the way to capturing the overall cross-country world cup title. A two-time Paralympian, Soule finished the year as the world’s top-ranked sit-skier in cross country and No. 4 in biathlon.
Christian Taylor, Track and Field
A gold medalist in the triple jump in the London 2012 Olympic Games, Christian Taylor set an American record of 18.21 meters in winning the event at the 2015 IAAF World Championships in Beijing. It was the second-longest triple jump ever. Taylor also won the Diamond League triple jump championship, overtaking Cuba’s Pedro Pablo Pichardo in the final competition.
Roderick Townsend, Paralympic Track and Field
In just his first year of Paralympic competition, Roderick Townsend set the bar high. He broke the American high jump F46 record in his first meet, then set a world record and later broke it. The result was a lot of hardware. Townsend won high jump and long jump gold at the Parapan American Games, breaking his own high jump world record. Then he won four medals in the IPC Athletics World Championships, including gold in the high jump. A jumps coach at Northern Arizona University, Townsend also won national titles in high jump, long jump and 100-meter, and was second in the triple jump.
Men’s Volleyball Team
The U.S. Men’s National Volleyball Team won its first FIVB World Cup championship in 30 years and qualified for the Rio de Janeiro 2016 Olympic Games. Team USA ended the event with a 10-1 record, tied with Italy and Poland, but won via a tiebreaker. Matt Anderson was named the tournament’s MVP, Micah Christenson was named Best Setter and Erik Shoji was named Best Libero. “To do something that hasn’t been done in 30 years is an exceptional achievement,” said coach John Speraw. The team also placed third in the FIVB World League.
Sled Hockey Team
Named the United States Olympic Committee’s Paralympic Team of the Year, the U.S. National Sled Hockey Team finished 2015 with an undefeated record. Its crowning achievement was winning the gold medal in the 2015 IPC Sled Hockey World Championship at home in Buffalo, New York. The United States won all five games and outscored its opponents 29-1. The squad also won the World Sled Hockey Challenge, defeating Russia 2-1 in overtime in the championship game. Over the 2014-15 season, the team outscored its opponents 59-6 and won eight of its 13 games by shutout.
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.