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17 Times Team USA Broke Records, Ended Droughts And Made History In 2017

By Karen Rosen | Dec. 26, 2017, 1:50 p.m. (ET)

Even with no Olympic or Paralympic Games in 2017, it was still full steam ahead for Team USA athletes. They smashed records, won unprecedented titles, reclaimed podiums and performed astounding feats on the world stage. Here is a look at 17 of the most momentous achievements.

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January 22, Nathan Chen

The 17-year-old figure skater made 2017 his own, setting the bar high for his fellow athletes in all sports. Besides winning his first U.S. title in Kansas City, Missouri, and becoming the youngest U.S. men’s champion since 1966, he became the first skater to land five quadruple jumps in a program. His free skate, set to "The Polovtsian Dances" by Alexander Borodin, included a quad Lutz-triple toe combination, a quad flip, a quad Salchow and two quad toe loops, including one in a series with a double toe-double loop. He posted U.S.-record scores of 106.39 in the short program, 212.08 in the free skate and 318.47 total, shattering the previous best by more than 43 points. Chen made a last-minute decision to throw in his fifth quadruple jump, which earned him a scoring bonus because it was in the second half of the program and solidified his standing as an Olympic medal contender. “There really is no end point,” Chen said. “You keep on adding new stuff, keep on adding new things and trying to gain confidence with these big jumps.” In February, he became the first man to land five quadruple jumps in international competition, earning the Four Continents Championships title over the reigning Olympic champion.


January 28, Serena Williams

It’s been quite a year for the tennis champion. By winning her seventh Australian Open, Williams finally captured the record-breaking 23rd Grand Slam singles title that had eluded her. She is the only player – male or female – in the Open Era with that many titles. “I’ve been chasing it for a really long time,” Williams said. “When it got on my radar, I knew I had an opportunity to get there, and I’m here.” She beat her older sister, Venus, 6-4, 6-4 in the final. As a bonus, Williams also regained the No. 1 world ranking and at age 35 became the oldest woman to win a Grand Slam singles title in the Open Era. It was later revealed that Williams was pregnant during the Australian Open. On Sept. 1, she gave birth to her first child, daughter Alexis Olympia – named in honor of the four gold medals she’s won in the unofficial “fifth Grand Slam.” And on Nov. 16, Williams married Reddit co-founder Alexis Ohanian. Aunt Venus reached her first Wimbledon final since 2009 and at age 37 was the oldest player to play in a Grand Slam final since 1994.


February 12, Oksana Masters

The three-time Paralympian in rowing, Nordic skiing and cycling made it to the top of the podium for the first time in her career as she became the first American woman to win a world title at the World Para Nordic Skiing Championships in Finsterau, Germany. Masters, who won silver and bronze Paralympic medals in Sochi, won the gold in the women’s sitting cross-country sprint, and that was just the start of her remarkable run. Masters returned to the top step of the podium three more times, winning an unprecedented four golds (also winning middle distance, long distance and biathlon sprint) while adding bronze in biathlon individual and just missing the podium in biathlon middle distance. “This was unreal,” she said after her first gold. “I’ve been competing in sports for so long, and this was my first world championship title. I’ve put anything and everything I had into sprinting, especially after getting so close in Sochi. I’m just so excited to bring home a world championship for Team USA for the Paralympic Nordic program.”


February 16, Lowell Bailey

Until 2017, biathlon had the dubious distinction of being the only winter Olympic sport in which the United States had never won a world or Olympic gold medal. Then Bailey took aim at the world title, scoring a bulls-eye, and gave Team USA hope for its first Olympic podium in the sport. At the IBU World Championships, Bailey won the gold medal in the men’s 20-kilometer individual in Hochfilzen, Austria. Starting No. 100 out of 102 entrants, Bailey was one of only three athletes to hit 20 of 20 shots. He finished in 48 minutes, 7.4 seconds, coming in 3.3 seconds ahead of five-time world medalist Ondrej Moravec of Czech Republic. “I am waiting for someone to wake me up,” he said after the victory. It was a family affair, since Bailey travels with his wife Erika and daughter Ophelia, who was then 8 months old. Bailey also finished fourth in the sprint, sixth in the pursuit and sixth in the mass start events, all career bests at his 11th world championship. He also qualified for his fourth Olympic team and became the first Team USA athlete to punch is ticket to PyeongChang.


February 18, Mikaela Shiffrin

This alpine skier isn’t just rewriting the record books, she’s adding chapters. At the 2017 world championships, Shiffrin became the first female skier in 78 years to win three straight world slalom titles and the first American woman to own three world championship gold medals. It wasn’t close. Shiffrin, who nearly four years ago became the youngest Olympic slalom champion – male or female – at age 18, won both runs in St. Moritz, Switzerland for a margin of victory of 1.64 seconds. Shiffrin said she was more nervous on her first run, noting, “Everything can disappear in one second.” But she said she “felt confidence building and building and once I got in the gate, I was ready.” Two days shy of her 22nd birthday, Shiffrin claimed her fourth slalom world cup season title in five years, tying for the youngest skier to do so. With three world cup podium finishes in March, Shiffrin won her first overall world cup globe, becoming only the fifth American alpine skier – and the third U.S. woman – to accomplish the feat.


March 10, Ashley Caldwell

For this freestyle skier, it’s not “Who’s your Daddy,” it’s “Here’s your Daddy.” Caldwell, 23, became the first American woman in 22 years to win the women’s aerials world title and the first woman to land “The Daddy,” a quadruple twisting triple flip in competition. Caldwell, who was fourth at the previous two worlds, carried nine-tenths more in difficulty than any other competitor into the event in Sierra Nevada, Spain. Caldwell scored 109.29 points to upset the season’s top two aerialists: Danielle Scott of Australia (94.47) and Xu Mengtao of China (91.65). Caldwell, a two-time Olympian, and Jonathon Lillis, who is not yet an Olympian, achieved the second U.S. aerials sweep at a world championships. Nikki Stone and Trace Worthington were the first in 1995. "I’ve put in the hours and the hard work, and sometimes it doesn’t pay off,” Caldwell said. “Most of this year, it didn't pay off. To come out here and reaffirm that what I’m doing can work and did work and is the right path, that’s huge for me and my mental state going into this Olympic year."


March 22, World Baseball Classic Team

While the World Series isn’t really global, the World Baseball Classic is. And the United States had never won the event until this year. Pitcher Marcus Stroman led Team USA to the WBC title and was named tournament MVP after taking a no-hitter into the seventh inning of the championship game against previously unbeaten Puerto Rico. Detroit Tigers second baseman Ian Kinsler hit a two-run homer in the third inning and Team USA went on to win 8-0 on home turf in Los Angeles. Stroman completed the tournament with the lowest ERA (2.35) among all Team USA starting pitchers, led the team in strikeouts and surrendered runs in only one of his team-leading 15.1 innings pitched. "I love pitching in these moments," said Stroman, who plays for the Toronto Blue Jays. "I love the atmosphere. I feel like the bigger the game, the more I'm able to get up, the more effective I am. This was probably one of the biggest if not the biggest game I've ever pitched in." The U.S. finished with a 6-2 record, avenging its two losses against the Dominican Republic and Puerto Rico and defeating two-time WBC champion Japan 2-1 in the semifinal.


July 25, Lilly King

Already the 2016 Olympic gold medalist, King became the undisputed Queen of the Breaststroke at the FINA World Championships in Budapest. King, 20, was the only athlete who was a perfect four-for-four: Four gold medals, four world records. King set the world record of 1:04.13 in the 100 breaststroke, shaving a hefty .22 off the record and .40 off her previous best set in the semifinals. Teammate Katie Meili came in second, one spot better than her Olympic performance a year earlier. King’s arch-rival Yuliya Efimova of Russia, the Olympic silver medalist who had staked a claim on No. 1 in the semifinals by swimming 1:04.37, was third, and previous world-record holder Ruta Meilutyte of Lithuania came in fourth. “It was going to be a dogfight and I was just hoping I was going to come out on top,” King said. She then broke the world record in the 50 breaststroke (29.40), again beating Efimova, before returning that same night as part of the women's 4x100 medley team that also broke the world record. King’s fourth world record was earlier in the meet in the mixed medley relay.


July 29, Alise Post

Noting that she’d made the final in every world championship in which she competed, the Olympic silver medalist told herself, “Why not me? I deserve this.” And Post finally reached the top of the podium at the UCI BMX World Championships, becoming first U.S. woman to win the BMX world title in 20 years. Post, 26, held off now-four-time world medalist Caroline Buchanan from Australia to win by eight-thousandths of a second in Rock Hill, South Carolina. Reigning world and Olympic champion Mariana Pajon from Colombia finished third. “My legs were just jelly at the finish line,” said Post, who won bronze medals in 2010 and 2016 and silver in 2014. “I was just trying to lunge as hard as I could, and I looked up at the screen and was waiting for the call because it said ‘photo’ [finish].” The world championships were Post’s first international meet since the Rio Games. She was devoted to helping her fiancé, Australian BMX rider Sam Willoughby, recover from a broken neck he suffered while training. They postponed their wedding from April to New Year’s Eve.


July 29, Caeleb Dressel

With a breakout performance at the FINA World Championships in Budapest, Hungary, Dressel found himself mentioned in the same breath as Michael Phelps. His seven gold medals in Budapest tied Phelps, who accomplished the feat in 2007 – one year before his record eight golds at the Beijing Games. Dressel set American records in the 50- and 100-meter freestyles and was .04 away from Phelps’ world record of 49.82 in the 100 butterfly. In a glorious two hours on July 29, Dressel won an unprecedented three golds in one night at a major international meet, something even Phelps had not done. The 20-year-old became the first American male since 2011 to win three individual events at worlds (50 free, 100 free and 100 fly) and swam legs on four winning relays. The only other swimmer to win at least seven golds in one meet was Mark Spitz at the 1972 Olympics. “I have mixed relays helping me out,” said Dressel, referring to the two male/female relays that weren’t around in Phelps’ time, much less Spitz’s, “so I think it’s a bit different situation. I wouldn’t put myself with that group yet. I’m still getting my feet wet in international swimming.”


August 11, Emma Coburn and Courtney Frerichs

Who would have thought these two Americans would go 1-2 in the women’s 3,000-meter steeplechase at the IAAF World Championships in London? How about “Nobody.” Team USA had never medaled before in this event at worlds. “I thought on a perfect day I could sneak in for a medal,” said Coburn, 26, who got the bronze at the Olympic Games Rio 2016. She wound up shattering her own American record by more than 5 seconds and broke the world championships meet record with a time of 9 minutes, 2.58 seconds. Frerichs, 24, who took the lead briefly with 300 meters to go, ran a personal best of 9:03.77 that was also under the previous American record and a whopping 15 seconds faster than she’d ever run before. She was 11th in Rio. After the race, Coburn said, Frerichs “kept saying, ‘Am I dreaming? Am I dreaming?’ It was an unreal moment for both us.” Evan Jager of Team USA, who won the bronze in the men’s steeplechase, tweeted, “Stat of the year: America won more steeplechase medals than Kenya at the 2017 World Championships. Incredible.”


August 11, Show Jumping Team

Talk about breaking down barriers. For the first time in 91 years, an all-female team won the Nations Cup jumping title. Team USA’s Lauren Hough, Laura Kraut, Lillie Keenan and Beezie Madden won gold at the Dublin FEI Nations Cup Dublin on zero faults for the Aga Khan Trophy. It came down to the last rider, as Kraut on board Confu, and Hough, on Ohlala, had double clears. Keenan, on Super Sox, and Madden on her new ride, Darry Lou, had a clean round apiece. France was second with five faults and the Netherlands was third on seven. “We said at the beginning of the year this was one of the shows we are bringing our ‘A team’ to,” said USA Chef d’Equipe Robert Ridland. “It’s our view that the Aga Khan is the greatest trophy in our sport. There are many ways to win a Nations Cup. Sometimes you get lucky, but today in my view there was no luck. These four riders did an unbelievable job!”


August 26, Men’s Freestyle Wrestling Team

Kyle Snyder won a bout dubbed “The Match of the Century,” Jordan Burroughs became a four-time world champion and Team USA won six of eight possible medals en route to its first world team title since 1995 and only the third in its history. The Americans defeated Russia by a point, with Snyder securing the victory by beating two-time world champion Abdulrashid Sadulaev of Russia, 6-5, in the 97 kg. gold-medal bout. Snyder, the 2016 Olympic champion at that weight, scored the winning takedown in the closing seconds to win his third straight world or Olympic title. Sadulaev was also a 2016 Olympic champion, but moved up a weight class this year to challenge Snyder. Burroughs, who was devastated when he did not medal at the Rio Games, won gold at 74 kg., while James Green (70 kg.) and Thomas Gilman (57 kg.) took silver, and J’den Cox (86 kg.) and Nick Gwiazdowski (125 kg.) claimed bronze. The six medals also were the most won by a U.S. men’s freestyle world championship team since 1995.


October 1, Meghan O’Leary and Ellen Tomek

The U.S. medal drought in women’s double sculls was a motivating factor when O’Leary and Tomek teamed up in 2013. “We said, ‘Let’s bring the medal back to the U.S.,’” O’Leary said. And in their fifth year together, they did just that at the World Rowing Championships in Sarasota, Florida. Their silver medal was the first podium for Team USA in the event in 27 years. It was also the best finish for a U.S. women’s double sculls boat since the world championships began in 1962 (Team USA won four bronzes from 1977-1990). New Zealand narrowly won the gold. At age 33, O’Leary and Tomek were the oldest rowers in the final. They returned to the sport after placing sixth at the Olympic Games Rio 2016. “We were disappointed after Rio,” Tomek said, “and we both felt like we were missing out on our families, friends, fun things, but I think we made the right decision.”


November 5, Shalane Flanagan

With a time of 2 hours, 26 minutes and 53 seconds in the New York City Marathon, Flanagan erased 40 years of futility. She became the first American woman since Miki Gorman in 1977 to win the prestigious race, defeating three-time defending champion Mary Keitany of Kenya by 1:01. “This is the moment I’ve dreamed of since I was a little girl,” said Flanagan, 36, whose runner-up finish in 2010 was the best by an American woman in 20 years. However, she didn’t return to New York for the marathon until this year. Before the race, she said if she won, she might retire. After all, Flanagan had always said she wanted to start a family and her two foster daughters were watching the race. In addition, in August she closed the Olympic chapter of her career when she was officially upgraded to the silver medal in the 10,000-meter from the Beijing Olympic Games, receiving her medal at her home. As Flanagan crossed the finish line in Central Park, she was so thrilled she blurted out a four-letter word, and that, too, has become part of her legend.


November 12, Men’s Short Track Speedskating Relay

Patience paid off for Keith Carroll Jr., J.R. Celski, Thomas Hong and John-Henry Krueger. They broke the world record in the men’s 5,000-meter relay with a time of 6:29.052 at the world cup in Shanghai, earning Team USA’s first gold medal in the event since 2013. Team USA clipped more than a second off the previous record set by Canada in Calgary in 2012. Team USA sat back in the pack Canada and China collided, taking both countries out of the race. Celski then passed South Korea’s leading skater on the inside on the final corner to clinch the win by .024. “It feels great to win as a team and to do it together,” Celski said. A week later, they earned the bronze medal at the world cup in Seoul, South Korea, giving Team USA back-to-back medals on the world cup circuit for the first time since the 2013-14 season. Celski was also a member of the 5,000-meter relay which won the silver medal in Sochi, giving Team USA its lone speedskating medal of the 2014 Games.


December 5, Sarah Robles

Team USA literally left the heavy lifting to Robles. She was the last chance for a U.S. weightlifter to win gold at the 2017 IWF World Weightlifting Championships, and she came through. Robles was 6-for-6 in Anaheim, California, sweeping the women’s super heavyweight event with three gold medals: snatch (126 kg), clean & jerk (158 kg) and total weight (284 kg). Robles, 29, became the first American world champion in weightlifting since Robin Byrd in 1994. She is also just the fourth U.S. woman in history to win a world title and the first since women’s weightlifting became part of the Olympic program in 2000. Robles defeated New Zealand’s Laurel Hubbard, the first openly transgender athlete to compete at a world championships in an Olympic sport. Hubbard previously competed in men’s weightlifting as Gavin Hubbard. Robles has a knack for ending droughts. At the Olympic Games Rio 2016, she was the first U.S. weightlifter in 16 years to win a medal when she captured the bronze.

Related Athletes

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Nathan Chen

Figure Skating
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Serena Williams

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Oksana Masters

Nordic Skiing
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Lowell Bailey

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Mikaela Shiffrin

Alpine Skiing
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Ashley Caldwell

Freestyle Skiing
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Lilly King

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Alise Willoughby

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Caeleb Dressel

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Emma Coburn

Track and Field
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Courtney Frerichs

Track and Field
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Lauren Hough

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Laura Kraut

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Beezie Madden

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Jordan Burroughs

Freestyle Wrestling
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Meghan O'Leary

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Ellen Tomek

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Shalane Flanagan

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Keith Carroll Jr.

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J.R. Celski

Short Track Speedskating
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Thomas Hong

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John-Henry Krueger

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Sarah Robles