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16 Times Team USA Athletes Made Headlines In 2016

By Lisa Costantini | Dec. 29, 2016, 11:29 a.m. (ET)

The Olympic and Paralympic Games in Rio took place less than four months ago, but with everything that happened at and surrounding the Games, that already seems like a lifetime. So we understand if you can’t remember everything that happened in 2016. To help you, here is a look back at 16 times Team USA made national news as they happened.

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1. Ibtihaj Muhammad Qualifies For Rio, Becomes First American To Compete In A Hijab At The Olympics

As if it wasn’t exciting enough when the first Muslim to compete for the U.S. in fencing qualified for a spot in Rio, 31-year-old Ibtihaj Muhammad also made history when she became the first U.S. athlete to compete at the Olympics in a hijab, the headscarf worn by Muslim women. Muhammad earned bronze in team saber, furthering her historic run in Rio.

2. Michael Phelps Becomes A Dad

Only one person knows how great it feels to win 28 Olympic medals, and his name is Michael Phelps. But apparently an even greater feeling is seeing the birth of your first child. The most decorated Olympian of all time called the day he and his then-fiancée Nicole Johnson welcomed their first child Boomer Robert Phelps into the world (May 5), “the best feeling I have ever felt in my life!” The new family of three traveled to Rio together where the 3-month-old watched his father swim in his last Olympic race.

3. Muhammad Ali Passes Away

From the most decorated Olympian to “the greatest,” Team USA headlines quickly went from happy to sad when news broke that world heavyweight champion boxer Muhammad Ali (born Cassius Clay Jr.), died at the age of 74 after a 32-year battle with Parkinson’s disease. Ali started boxing at age 12, and by 18 he had won a gold medal in the light heavyweight division at the 1960 Olympics in Rome.

4. LeBron James Leads Cleveland Cavaliers To NBA Championship

Six years after unceremoniously leaving his hometown team the Cleveland Cavaliers to play in Miami, LeBron James finally did what he said he would do — bring a NBA Championship title to Cleveland (thus ending the city’s 52-year drought of not having a championship in a major sport). The three-time Olympic medalist rejoined his original team after four years in Florida and brought home the trophy in his second season back. Despite winning the title twice with Miami, he couldn’t hold back the tears when he held up the trophy with the Cavs earlier this year.

5. Legendary Basketball Coach Pat Summitt Dies

Three weeks after the news of Ali hit, another iconic sports figure passed away. Pat Summitt — who had the most career wins in NCAA basketball history for a women’s college basketball head coach — died at the age of 64, five years after being diagnosed with early-onset Alzheimer’s. The two-time Olympic medalist (gold as the head coach in 1984 and silver as a player on the 1976 team) continued to coach even after her diagnosis.

6. Michael Phelps Gets Married, And Then Gets Married Again

It’s not a secret that Phelps likes to do things over and over again (see: 23 Olympic gold medals). So it shouldn’t have come as a surprise to anyone when the famed swimmer wed his fiancée Nicole Johnson in a small secret ceremony a month before the Rio Games — and then put on another wedding in October. Unlike their first ceremony (which was attended by only five people), the celebration in Cabo San Lucas, Mexico, had all their friends and family, including son Boomer who served as ring bearer, and fellow Olympic swimmer Allison Schmitt who was a bridesmaid.

7. Serena Williams’ Response When Called “One Of The Greatest Female Athletes Of All Time”

The younger Williams sister has been called many things — phenom, talented, unbelievable, but the tennis sensation would prefer it if you don’t call her a female — at least not in the same breath as “greatest athlete of all time.” Earlier this year, when a reporter asked Williams at a Wimbledon press conference at how she felt about being “one of the greatest female athletes of all time,” the outspoken athlete simply replied, “I prefer the words ‘one of the greatest athletes of all time.’” Game. Set. Match.

8. U.S. And New Zealand Runners Show The World How To Get Up After You Fall

Runners Abbey D’Agostino (of the U.S.) and Nikki Hamblin (from New Zealand) might not have left Rio with an Olympic medal but they took away something better — admiration from everyone for their incredible story. After Hamblin fell while running in an early heat of the 5,000-meter, D’Agostino stumbled over her, only to immediately hop up to help her competitor back to her feet. D’Agostino soon stopped herself, in pain, and sat on the track. It was Hamblin’s turn to help her rival up. Despite tearing her ACL in the fall, the American athlete hobbled across the finish line just behind Hamblin (who was there to embrace her with a hug).

9. Simone Biles Meets Her Crush Zac Efron

Biles might have a talent on the floor (and the beam and the vault and the uneven bars), but she isn’t as good at being discreet — specifically about her well-known crush on Hollywood celeb Zac Efron. After talking about the hunky star for months, the 19-year-old gymnast started tweeting the object of her affection during the Rio Games. It wasn’t long before she got a reply back, quickly followed by a surprise appearance in Rio when the TV and movie star flew out to meet the young gymnast. Multiple shocked faces and selfies soon followed.

10. Aly Raisman Starts Dating Former NFL Tight End Colton Underwood

Raisman is one lucky girl. The 22-year-old gymnast has two matchmakers anyone could wish for: fellow gymnasts Shawn Johnson and Nastia Liukin. The 2008 Olympians had been fighting over which one was going to find a boyfriend for Raisman, but it looks like one was the clear winner. During the Rio Games, Raisman received a video message from former NFL tight end Colton Underwood (who was teammates with Johnson’s husband, Andrew East). In the video, the football player congratulated the Olympian on her success in Rio and asked her on a date once the Games were over. The two have been dating ever since.

11. Team USA Meets President Obama On A Visit To The White House

There is not a lot that can rival competing at the highest-level sporting event in the world. But getting the chance to meet the President of the United States must be a close second. After returning home from Rio, members of Team USA were invited to Washington, D.C., to meet with President Barack Obama, First Lady Michelle Obama and Vice President Joe Biden. Roughly 600 Olympians and Paralympians visited the White House, shook hands with the president and had the opportunity to tour FBI headquarters.

12. Carli Lloyd Gets Married

Two-time Olympic soccer gold medalist Carli Lloyd has known she’s wanted to be a soccer player since the age of 5. And she’s known she’s wanted to marry her longtime sweetheart, Brian Hollis, since she was in high school. The two — who played on their high school soccer teams and have been dating half their lives — finally tied the knot in Mexico a couple months after the Rio Olympics. The golf pro and Lloyd got engaged in 2013 but wanted to wait until after the World Cup and Olympics were over before throwing their destination wedding.

13. Rickie Fowler Makes News For Who He’s Not Kissing

Olympic golfer Rickie Fowler has not only an impressive swing, but also a pretty good sense of humor. After the U.S. won the Ryder Cup for the first time in eight years, the team posed for a group shot with their significant others for a celebratory kiss photo. In the middle of the collective PDA, the single 27-year-old stole the show by simply shrugging and smiling solo for the camera.

14. Laurie Hernandez Wins “Dancing With The Stars”

It was obvious to everyone watching the Olympics that 16-year-old Laurie Hernandez had some serious moves. The girl dubbed the human emoji took home gold and silver in Rio and shortly after was asked to join the cast of “Dancing with the Stars.” So it wasn’t surprising when she then ran away with the title and was awarded the famed mirrored ball trophy, along with her partner, Val Chmerkovskiy a couple days before Thanksgiving, becoming the youngest winner in the show’s history.

15. Gabby Douglas Joins Anti-Cyberbullying Campaign

When it came time for Rio, Douglas was all too familiar with competing at an Olympic Games. But what she wasn’t prepared for this time around was the online criticism she would receive. Unlike in London, where she was deemed America’s sweetheart, Douglas was criticized for everything from her hair to not putting her hand on her heart during the national anthem. As a result, the dejected gymnast teamed up with Hack Harassment to be a Change Ambassador in the hopes of promoting safer, more inclusive online experiences.

16. Ryan Lochte Is Expecting

Two months after announcing on social media his engagement to longtime girlfriend Kayla Reid, the 12-time Olympic medalist swimmer posted more exciting news on Instagram. Alongside a photo of himself underwater kissing Reid’s stomach, he said, “My Christmas gift came early this year, can’t wait for next year!” The dad-to-be called it “the best news I’ve ever received.”

Related Athletes

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Ibtihaj Muhammad

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Michael Phelps

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LeBron James

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Serena Williams

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Abbey D'Agostino

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Simone Biles

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Aly Raisman

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Carli Lloyd

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Rickie Fowler

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Laurie Hernandez

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Gabrielle Douglas

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Ryan Lochte