Oh what a year. While 2016 is expected to be a year of epic proportions – featuring the Rio 2016 Olympic and Paralympic Games – 2015 proved to be a very successful prelude for Team USA athletes. From hosting eight world championships to winning 400 medals at the Pan and Parapan American Games, to qualifying athletes for Rio and winning 243 world championship medals, U.S. Olympians, Paralympians and hopefuls put up impressive numbers across the board this year.
Let’s take a look at just a few of the numbers behind Team USA’s endless accomplishments in 2015…
Olympic-Event World Championship Medals: 101
From bobsled to wrestling and everything in between, Team USA athletes were a force to be reckoned with at world championships and world championship-level events for Olympic sports in 2015, winning 101 medals, including 39 world titles. For many summer sports, 2015 served as the final opportunity for athletes to compete against their toughest competition before the upcoming Rio 2016 Olympic Games. U.S. summer-sport athletes amassed a whopping 72 medals this year, 27 of which were gold. Among the highlights of those medals were the stellar performances of gymnast Simone Biles and swimmer Katie Ledecky, who combined for nine of those medals (eight golds). On the winter side, many of Sochi’s stars continued to shine while others broke out on their road to the PyeongChang 2018 Games. Winter athletes contributed 29 medals, 12 of which were gold, to the total. Contributing the most to that number was long track speedskater Brittany Bowe, who won medals at three individual distances (two golds, one silver). Teammate Heather Bergsma also won three world medals, one of each color, while alpine skier Ted Ligety won a gold and a bronze, and snowboarder Kyle Mack won two bronzes. Meanwhile, the U.S. women’s ice hockey team defended its world title and the U.S. women’s bobsled team of Elana Meyers Taylor and Cherrelle Garrett secured Team USA’s first-ever women’s world title.
Paralympic-Event World Championship Medals: 142
Not do be outdone by their Olympic compatriots, U.S. Paralympic-sport athletes won 142 world championship medals – including 47 world titles – in 2015. Giving Americans good reason to tune in to NBC’s unprecedented coverage of this summer’s Paralympic Games, summer athletes won 118 medals, including 44 golds. The swimming and track and field teams both placed top-three in their world championships, highlighted by multiple-gold medalists Richard Browne and Raymond Martin shining the brightest on the track, and Becca Meyers (three world records, two gold medals, one silver) and Jessica Long (seven medals) in the pool. Archers took home three world titles, including an individual win by Eric Bennett and two team titles. Looking ahead to their Paralympic debut, triathletes won five medals, including a sweep of the women’s PT2 class. On snow and ice, Team USA won 24 medals, including three golds. Nordic skier Andy Soule won five medals, a first for an American. The gold medals belonged to the sled hockey team, and snowboarders Brenna Huckaby and Mike Shea.
Pan And Parapan American Games Medals: 400
At the sole multi-sport Games events of 2015, Team USA took home a combined 400 medals from this summer’s Pan and Parapan American Games in Toronto. At the Pan American Games in July, U.S. athletes scored 265 medals (103 golds) and topped the medal count for the 16th straight Games. Rhythmic gymnast Laura Zeng led the way for Team USA with five medals, all gold, the most by any athlete at the Games. She became only the second athlete ever to sweep the rhythmic events. Swimmer Allison Schmitt was close behind with four medals, including three golds. Five-time Olympic shooter Kim Rhode was the only athlete at the Games to set or tie a world record when she hit 74 of 75 targets in qualification and tied the record. Meanwhile, Team USA won gold in five team sports. At the Parapan American Games in August, U.S. athletes tallied 135 medals (40 golds). Swimmers Haley Beranbaum and Mallory Weggemann were the most decorated athletes at the Games with five medals apiece. Track stars Jarryd Wallace and Roderick Townsend set world records, contributing to the track and field team’s 51-medal haul. Medals were won in seven of eight team sports.
World Championships Held In The United States: 8
In addition to the dozens of world cups, grand prix events and other top-level international competitions held annually in the U.S., 2015 saw eight domestic world championships hosted across the U.S., starting with the IPC Nordic Skiing World Championships held Jan. 23-Feb. 2 in Cable, Wisconsin, and ending with the IWF World Weightlifting Championship, Nov. 20-28 in Houston. In between, the U.S. held world championships in alpine skiing (Feb. 2-15, Vail/Beaver Creek, Colorado), sled hockey (April 26-May 3; Buffalo, New York), wrestling (Sept. 7-12; Las Vegas), triathlon and paratriathlon (Sept. 15-20; Chicago), and road cycling (Sept. 19-27; Richmond, Virginia).
Olympic And Paralympic Trials: 6
With more than 25 Olympic and Paralympic Trials expected to take place before the teams are finalized in the summer of 2016, six Trials were already completed in 2015, starting with September’s U.S. Olympic Team Trials for Archery. In the first of three Trials stages, the field was narrowed down to the top 16 men and 16 women. At the first of two shotgun Trials, held in October, the country’s best shooters accumulated points that will carry over to May’s Trials. The lone Paralympic Trials event took place in conjunction with the Chicago Marathon in October, when four athletes qualified for the 2016 U.S. Paralympic Team. Also in October, three women’s boxers emerged victorious from their Trials and next will vie for quota spots internationally. December kicked off with the first of two airgun Trials, where more than 400 athletes competed in a field that was whittled down to 40. Finally, nine men’s boxers won their Trials and will participate in their international qualifying events in 2016.
Olympic Teams Qualified For Rio: 5
After the U.S. men’s and women’s basketball teams qualified for the Rio Games in 2014, five more U.S. teams joined the club in 2015, starting with the men’s and women’s rugby teams. Both teams won the NACRA Sevens Championship in June to qualify for rugby sevens’ Olympic debut in 2016. Then, at the Pan American Games in July, the men’s water polo team and women’s field hockey team won their tournaments and punched their tickets to Rio. Finally, the men’s volleyball team won the World Cup for the first time in 30 years in September, earning its spot in the best way possible. In 2016, teams in men’s and women’s soccer, women’s volleyball and women’s water polo will attempt to qualify.
Paralympic Teams Qualified For Rio: 4
In 2014, Team USA qualified women’s sitting volleyball, men’s goalball and women’s goalball teams to the Rio 2016 Paralympic Games. Four more teams qualified in 2015, three of which did so at the Parapan American Games in August in Toronto. Perhaps the most prolific was the men’s sitting volleyball team, which won a silver medal and qualified for its first Paralympic performance since 2004. Both wheelchair basketball teams earned their spots in Rio after beating Canada in the Parapan Am gold-medal games. The men’s 7-a-side soccer team defeated Argentina for the first time in history at the world championships, securing its Paralympic berth. In 2016, the wheelchair rugby team will look to qualify and give Team USA a perfect eight for eight.
Olympic Athletes Qualified For Rio: 16
The 2016 U.S. Olympic Team is expected to consist of more than 500 athletes, and that list began to take shape in the second half of 2015 when 16 athletes in eight sports earned their spots at the Rio Games. The qualification process started in July when modern pentathlete Nathan Schrimsher and table tennis player Yue “Jennifer” Wu medaled at the Pan Ams before open water swimmers Jordan Wilimovsky, Sean Ryan and Haley Anderson punched their tickets at the world championships. Triathletes Gwen Jorgensen and Sarah True joined the list thanks to their performances at the Rio test event in August. In September, six shooters qualified through their finishes in the Olympic Points System. The list included Olympic veterans Michael McPhail, Keith Sanderson, Matt Emmons, Glenn Eller and Vincent Hancock, and newcomer Morgan Craft. Road cyclist Megan Guarnier took bronze at her world championships to provisionally qualify (Guarnier must continue to demonstrate her ability to perform through June). Finally, boxer Carlos Balderas and taekwondo athlete Jackie Galloway earned their spots through finishes in the World Series of Boxing and WTF Olympic Rankings.