Whether it was having unprecedented success or maintaining an established standard of excellence, 2017 was a great year for many U.S. teams. From the U.S. women’s hockey team remaining world champions for the fourth year in a row to U.S. rowers doing something that hasn’t been done for nearly three decades, here are 17 teams that left their mark on 2017:
World Baseball Classic Team, Baseball
The United States had to work to make it to the final of the World Baseball Classic last spring, beating the Dominican Republic and Japan in back-to-back elimination games to try to become the first nation besides those two to win the WBC. Once in their first championship game in the 11-year history of the tournament, however, Team USA crushed Puerto Rico, 8-0, to win the title at Dodger Stadium in Los Angeles.
April Ross and Lauren Fendrick, Beach Volleyball
The two beach volleyball veterans split with their 2016 Olympic partners and teamed up in the spring for the 2017 season, a move that proved to be an excellent choice. They became the first Americans to play in the world championship final since Misty May-Treanor and Kerri Walsh Jennings took silver in 2011 when they advanced to face reigning Olympic champions Laura Ludwig and Kira Walkenhorst of Germany. Although the Germans came out on top, Ross and Fendrick went home with silver and were the only U.S. team to medal at the tournament. They also won two AVP Tour events and finished third three times.
Women’s National Team, Bobsled
Elana Meyers Taylor and Kehri Jones gave the U.S. its second world title in February and Jamie Greubel Poser and Aja Evans earned bronze for the country’s first-ever double podium at the world championships. Add to that the 18 world cup medals that drivers Meyers Taylor and Greubel Poser won with brakemen Evans, Lauren Gibbs, Briauna Jones, Kehri Jones and Lolo Jones over the course of the 2017 calendar year and it added up to a strong, highly competitive year for the women’s bobsled team heading into the Olympic team selection.
Men’s Foil Team, Fencing
Proving they can have success with any combination of team members, the U.S. team medaled in four of five team world cups in 2016-17 using three different lineups in four podium finishes. Race Imboden, Miles Chamley-Watson, Alexander Massialas and Gerek Meinhardt then combined to win silver at the world championships, just the fourth time in world championship history that the U.S. finished on the podium for a men’s team event, then picked up right where they left off with a gold medal in each of the first two tournaments of the 2017-18 season.
Maia and Alex Shibutani, Figure Skating
The ice dancing siblings finished ninth at their Olympic debut in 2014, but have their sights set much higher in 2018 following their continued success in 2017. They followed up a breakthrough year in 2016 and established themselves as medal contenders, winning their second straight national title in 2017 and adding to that a Four Continents silver medal and a world championship bronze medal. After winning their two 2017 grand prix assignments, they finished out the year with a bronze at the Grand Prix of Figure Skating Final, the last major international competition before the Olympic Winter Games.
Women’s National Team, Ice Hockey
The team’s stand for equitable treatment garnered national attention when they threatened to skip the world championships, and after victory on that front, the U.S. women won the battle on the ice as well. Team USA won its program record fourth world championship title in a row and first ever on home ice with an overtime victory against archrival Canada. They were named the Olympic Team of the Year by the United States Olympic Committee in October, and in November captured their eighth Four Nations Cup title and third in a row.
World Championship Relay Team, Luge
The U.S. won silver in the team relay at the world championships, but how they did it earned as much recognition as what they did. Although Erin Hamlin had enjoyed the most successful world championship showing ever by a U.S. slider, Tucker West and the doubles team of Matt Mortensen and Jayson Terdiman had far more disappointing results. They wouldn’t have even been in the relay had Taylor Morris, Justin Krewson and Andrew Sherk given up their rightful spots to their more experienced teammates, who then used their shot at redemption to give the U.S. its first-ever medal in the event at the world championships.
Sprint Team, Para-cycling
Jason Kimball, Joe Berenyi and Chris Murphy not only won gold but also made history at the 2017 UCI Para-cycling Track World Championships in March. Their victory gave the U.S. its first title ever in the event after registering fourth-place finishes at each of the previous five world championships. It was the first international team sprint title for the U.S. as well as their second-ever podium finish after winning bronze at the Paralympic Games London 2012.
Meghan O’Leary and Ellen Tomek, Rowing
Ending a U.S. medal drought that dated back to 1990, O’Leary and Tomek won a silver medal in the women’s double sculls at the world rowing championships in the fall. Racing together since 2013, the duo not only won Team USA’s first medal in 27 years, they also had the best finish by a U.S. women’s double sculls team ever. O’Leary and Tomek finished sixth at the Olympic Games Rio 2016.
Ashley Carroll and Derek Haldeman, Shooting
Both Carroll and Haldeman had individual success on the shooting range this year, but together they made their mark on one of the newest Olympic shooting events. The duo, dating more than two years, teamed up to win a mixed trap bronze medal at the world championships and then added another bronze at the World Cup Final before the year was over. Trap mixed team made its debut at the world championship this year in advance of its addition to the Olympic program in 2020.
Men’s 5,000-meter Relay Team, Short Track Speedskating
Three-time Olympic medalist J.R. Celski, Thomas Hong, John-Henry Krueger and Keith Carroll Jr. didn’t just win a world cup gold medal with a time of 6:29.052 in the 5,000-meter relay in Shanghai in the fall. They beat the old world record, set by Canada in 2012, by more than a second and toppled the year-old American record by more than four seconds. South Korea finished just behind them, however, at 6.29.076, possibly setting up an interesting rematch on the home team’s ice in 2018. A week later, the same U.S. men earned bronze at a world cup in Seoul, South Korea.
National Team, Sled Hockey
Another year, another slew of medals for the U.S. National Sled Hockey Team. The team made it to its sixth consecutive world championship title game, going undefeated at 6-0 before falling to Canada and taking home the silver medal to end a run of six consecutive major international victories. Earlier this month, however, in the opening test of the 2017 season, the team earned its fourth consecutive title at the World Sled Hockey Challenge and tournament-record sixth title overall after going undefeated en route to a 3-2 win over Canada in the championship game. It was the last competition before the U.S. Paralympic team will be announced on Jan. 1, 2018.
Women’s 4x100-meter Medley Team, Swimming
With Kelsi Worrell, Kathleen Baker, Lilly King and Simone Manuel — Olympic medalists all — swimming on Team USA’s 4x100-meter medley team, good things should happen and they did in 2017. The women set a new world record of 3:51.55, beating the old record of 3:52.05 set by Team USA at the Olympic Games London 2012, and won a gold medal at the world championships this summer, claiming the country’s sixth world title and third in the last four world championships.
Fed Cup Team, Tennis
After last winning the Fed Cup title in 2000, the U.S. players advanced to the finals in 2003, 2009 and 2010, only to lose. This year, they ended the runner-up streak, not only getting to the final but also coming away with the victory. Led by CoCo Vandeweghe with an impressive eight-for-eight record Fed Cup matches — six singles and two doubles, including the decisive final doubles match along with Shelby Rogers — the U.S. claimed a record 18th Fed Cup title.
Women’s 4x400-meter Team, Track and Field
The athletes of the women’s track and field 4x400-meter team served up a bit of history with their win at the world championships. Quanera Hayes, Allyson Felix, Shakima Wimbley and Phyllis Francis registered the largest margin of victory in world championships history ever — male or female — and gave the U.S. its first title in the event since 2011. Their time of 3:19.02 topped second-place Great Britain, at 3:25.00, by nearly six seconds, winning by a distance of about 50 meters.
Women’s World Championship Team, Water Polo
After a triumphant 2016, the top-ranked women’s water polo team didn’t slow down in 2017. Even with six members who weren’t there for the Olympic gold medal win in Rio, the team won its fifth world championship in July and became the first country to follow Olympic gold with a world title. They continue to hold every major title possible in the sport.
Men’s Freestyle Team, Wrestling
The members of Team USA won’t soon forget 2017 after winning the world championship men’s freestyle team title for the first time in 22 years and only the third time ever in Paris earlier this year. The effort came down to the final match between 2016 Olympic champion Kyle Snyder and Russia’s Abdulrashid Sadulaev for the 97 kg. title. Snyder won, 6-5, for his third straight world or Olympic title, and the U.S. won team gold for the first time since 1995 by just one point, 54-53. Overall, Team USA won six medals in the eight weight classes, including two gold medals, two silvers and two bronzes.