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18 Times Team USA Made History, Broke Records, Ended Droughts In 2018

By Karen Rosen | Dec. 23, 2018, 12:30 p.m. (ET)

From PyeongChang to Boston, this year Team USA athletes broke records, ended droughts, won unprecedented medals, tested their limits and went where no athletes have gone before. Here are 18 of the most momentous achievements in 2018:

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February 14, Shaun White

Leave it to White to win an unprecedented third Olympic gold medal in the men’s halfpipe snowboarding competition with drama and flair. When White lost his lead after the second run to Ayumu Hirano of Japan, he had one more make-or-break moment at the Olympic Winter Games PyeongChang 2018. And, boy, did he make it count. White performed back-to-back 1440s, a combination he landed for the first time, to pull out the win. “I had to dig deep for this one,” White said. “It was so overwhelming. I was crippled with joy.” White scored 97.75 points as Hirano won his second straight Olympic silver medal with 95.25. White, 31, who won his other gold medals in 2006 and 2010, was devastated when he finished fourth in 2014. He rededicated himself to the sport, and at age 31, he could still show the younger snowboarders a trick or two. His victory also marked the 100th gold medal by Team USA at the Winter Games.


February 21, Jessie Diggins and Kikkan Randall

Any Olympic medal would have been a breakthrough for Team USA in women’s cross-country skiing, but Diggins, 26, and Randall, 35, made it all the way to the top of the podium. Their gold medal in the team sprint was the first for the women’s program at the Olympics and the only cross-country gold won by Team USA at any Winter Games. With a furious finish, Diggins, who in January became the first American to podium in the Tour de Ski, passed Stina Nilsson of Sweden with about a meter to go. Diggins threw her ski across the line and fell into Randall’s arms. “Did we just win the Olympics?” Diggins asked her teammate. “Yeah!” the five-time Olympian replied. Their victory came five years after they won the first cross-country skiing world championship gold medal, also in the team sprint.


February 22, Women’s Ice Hockey Team

The drought is over. Twenty years after winning the first women’s Olympic ice hockey gold medal, Team USA at last claimed its second, defeating arch-rival Canada to snap one of the most frustrating Olympic losing spells in history. In the first Olympic women’s final to go to a shootout, Jocelyne Lamoureux-Davidson buried the puck in the net in the sixth round. Then goaltender Maddie Rooney, whose Wikipedia entry was briefly changed to “Secretary of Defense,” made the final critical save to secure the 3-2 victory. Canada, which had won four straight gold medals, led 2-1 when Lamoureux-Davidson’s identical twin sister, Monique Lamoureux-Morando, tied the score 2-2 in regulation. After a 20-minute overtime, the teams remained knotted. During the shootout, Team USA coach Robb Stauber asked Lamoureux-Davidson if she wanted to try her hand against Canadian goalie Shannon Szabados, who already had 39 saves. Nine days earlier, Lamoureux-Davidson had set an Olympic record with two goals in 6 seconds as Team USA routed the Olympic athletes from Russia 5-0 in pool play. Her move on one of those goals is called “Oops, I did it,” said Monique. “This was ‘Oops, I did it again.’”


February 24, Men’s Curling Team

John Shuster didn’t give up when he wasn’t selected for the U.S. high performance program. The skip approached others who weren’t on the list, and according to Matt Hamilton, “He said, ‘Hey, let’s form our own Team of Rejects and see what we can do.’” They proved they could do a lot. However, Shuster, 35, a four-time Olympian who’d already won an Olympic bronze medal in 2006, and his team of Hamilton, Tyler George, John Landsteiner and fifth Joe Polo got off to a rough start at the PyeongChang Games. They were 2-4 in the round robin, then swept to victory in the next five games to capture Team USA’s first Olympic gold medal in curling. Against Sweden in the final, the score was tied in the eighth end when Shuster knocked out two opposing stones to give Team USA an unsurmountable five-point lead. The Americans went on to win 10-7.


March 10, Kendall Gretsch and Dan Cnossen

On the opening day of the Paralympic Winter Games PyeongChang 2018, Gretsch and Cnossen set the tone with the first biathlon gold medals for Team USA in Olympic or Paralympic history. Gretsch, 25, won in the women’s sitting classification in her Paralympic debut. Though she had a missed shot on her second trip to the range, she defeated teammate Oksana Masters by more than 24 seconds with a time of 21:52.0. Cnossen, a retired Navy SEAL, won in the men’s sitting class with a time of 19:45.8. He also had one missed shot on his second visit to the range and improved on his 10th-place finish in Sochi four years earlier. “I crossed the line and I wasn't even going to look at the board,” Cnossen said, “and I was pleasantly surprised at the end."


March 24, Nathan Chen

Propelled by his Olympic disappointment, Chen completed six quadruple jumps in his free skate to become the first American to win the men’s singles title at the world championships since 2009. While eventual silver medalist Shoma Uno of Japan fell three times and Mikhail Kolyada of Russia, the bronze medalist, fell twice in the free skate, Chen proved his mastery on the ice in Milan. He had already faced his demons in the short program, finishing first after disastrous outings in the team and individual events in PyeongChang. “I just wanted to redeem myself in the short, and try to maintain what I did in the long,” Chen said. The 18-year-old scored 219.46 in the free for an overall total of 321.40, winning by 47.63 points, the largest margin of victory at a worlds, Olympics or Grand Prix Final in the 14 years under the current ISU judging system.


April 16, Desiree Linden

Less than five months after Shalane Flanagan became the first American woman in 40 years to win the New York City Marathon, Linden ended a 33-year drought at the Boston Marathon. On a cold, rainy day with a headwind, Linden crossed the iconic finish line with a time of 2 hours, 39 minutes, 54 seconds, the slowest winning time since 1978. But a win is a win. “It’s supposed to be hard,” said the two-time Olympian, who was seventh at the Olympic Games Rio 2016 and dropped out of the 2012 Olympic race with a stress fracture. Linden also won points for sportsmanship. She surprised onlookers when she waited for Flanagan to take a quick potty break mid-race. Linden said she thought she might drop out, so why not help her teammate get back into the lead pack? The wait cost her about 15 seconds, but it didn’t matter in the long run. Linden, who obviously got a second wind instead of dropping out, beat her closest competitor, Sarah Sellers, by more than 4 minutes. Linden led a Team USA parade with seven of the top eight female spots going to U.S. runners, including Flanagan in seventh place.


June 22, Noah Lyles

At age 20, Lyles became the youngest man in 34 years to win the 100-meter at the USATF Outdoor Championships, clocking a personal best of 9.88 seconds in Des Moines, Iowa. And that’s not even considered his best event. Lyles went on to win his second straight Diamond League title in the 200 after going undefeated in the series. He ran a world-leading 19.67 seconds in the Diamond League finals, marking his fourth race of the season under 19.7 seconds. That put him in rarified company. Only three-time Olympic gold medalist and world record holder Usain Bolt of Jamaica has posted that many sub-19.7 times in a single season. And Lyles is also drawing attention for his post-race celebrations, whether it’s a victory dance or a back flip. “People just assume I’m a 200-meter specialist,” Lyles declared after winning the 100 national title. “I’m both! Don’t get me wrong – I love the 200, I love it, but I also love a few 100s, too.”


July 13, John Isner

Going into Wimbledon this year, Isner’s greatest claim to fame was winning the longest match at a tennis major. The 2012 Olympian defeated Nicolas Mahut in 11 hours and 5 minutes at Wimbledon in 2010, with the first-round match taking place over three days. The score of the final set was 70-68. Now Isner has the dubious distinction of being part of the second-longest match at a major, too. And it was also the longest match in the storied history of Wimbledon’s Centre Court. In his first Grand Slam semifinal appearance, Isner played 6 hours, 35 minutes before falling 26-24 in the final set to Kevin Anderson of South Africa. Isner led two sets to one, with each of those sets going to a tiebreaker, before Anderson won the fourth set 6-4 to force the final set – which doesn’t allow a tiebreaker. Isner was bothered by a blister on his foot as the match wore on. "I competed hard,” he said. “That's what it comes down to. That's what I have to be proud of. It stinks to lose, but I gave it everything I had out there.”


July 22, Courtney Hurley

Never mind that Hurley was ranked 35th in the world going into the World Fencing Championships in Wuxi, China. The two-time Olympian and 2012 Olympic team bronze medalist won the individual bronze to become the first U.S. fencer – male or female – to win a world championship medal in epee. This was the 11th world championships for Hurley, 27, whose previous best finish was 11th in 2013. However, this time she carried momentum from Team USA’s historic first world cup gold medal in Dubai earlier in the season. Hurley defeated Spain’s Dora Kiskapusi 15-12, posted a 15-14 win over Poland’s Aleksandra Zamachowska 15-14, then became just the second American woman to make the worlds quarterfinals when she beat Russia’s Tatyana Andryushina 15-13. Hurley dispatched France’s Coraline Vitalis 15-10 to advance to the semifinal, where she lost 14-13 to Ana Maria Popescu of Romania, a 2016 Olympic team gold medalist and the individual silver medalist from 2008. Hurley, her sister Kelley, Kat Holmes and Amanda Sirico also combined to win the gold in team epee, the first medal in the women’s event for Team USA.


July 28, Kathleen Baker

Every night Baker’s phone would flash 58.10, the world record in the 100-meter backstroke set by Canada’s Kylie Masse in a race in which Baker took the silver. Now it says 57.99 after Baker smashed that world record at the 2018 Phillips 66 National Championships in Irvine, California. The reigning Olympic silver medalist touched the wall in 58 seconds flat to become the first American to hold the world record in that race since Natalie Coughlin swam 58.97 in July 2008. Earlier in the meet, Baker, 21, had tied 16-year-old Regan Smith for first in the 200 backstroke, but she was all alone at the finish of this race. “I was looking to see if I won first and then I realized I went 58.0 and I was literally, like, shook,” said Baker, who took more than half a second off her personal best. “’Oh my gosh, I just broke the world record!’ I’m so happy right now.” It was also the first long course world record set on U.S. soil by a swimmer not named Katie Ledecky since the full-body rubberized suits were banned in 2009.


September 14, Vincent Hancock

Hancock, a two-time Olympic gold medalist in skeet shooting, didn’t miss a beat and rarely missed a target after taking the 2017 season off. He started his comeback with three straight world cup gold medals. Those were just a warmup for the ISSF World Championship in Changwon, South Korea. Despite pouring rain, Hancock hit 125 of 125 targets in qualification and 59 of 60 in the final – equaling both world records – and won his fourth world title. Hancock’s only miss in the final was on the eighth target, with Erik Watndal of Norway hitting 55 for the silver. Hancock, 29, became the first men’s skeet shooter to win four world titles, breaking his tie of three with Jury Tsuranov of the Soviet Union and Abdullah Alrashidi of Kuwait. Hancock was already the first American shotgun shooter to win three world championship titles. “I kind of treated all the world cups before this as a stepping stone to get here,” Hancock said, “and this is just another stepping stone to get to be able to get to the Olympics.” He also secured an Olympic quota spot for Team USA in men’s skeet at the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020, although he has to earn the right to fill that position.


September 22, Para-equestrian Team

Team USA put on a show at the World Equestrian Games. Three-time Paralympian Rebecca Hart won two medals and Kate Shoemaker and Roxanne Trunnell captured one apiece as Team USA won the first four medals in program history in Mill Spring, North Carolina. Three medals came on one remarkable day. Shoemaker won a bronze in the world freestyle championship Grade IV at her first World Equestrian Games. Trunnell, also competing at her first world championships, claimed a bronze in Grade I. And Hart took a silver in Grade III to go along with the bronze she won in the individual test event earlier in the week. (Para-equestrian athletes are classified according to mobility, strength and coordination. The grades range from I for the most significant impairment to IV for the least impaired.) “It’s absolutely fantastic,” Hart said, “to finally see the growth and development and all the hard work behind the scenes show in competition and on the field of play.”


November 3, Simone Biles

Pity the poor kidney stone that thought it could keep Biles off her feet. Despite a trip to the emergency room the night before qualifications, Biles sprang out of bed to lead Team USA to the gold medal at the Artistic Gymnastics World Championships in Doha. Qatar. She then won three more individual gold medals, a silver and a bronze. “This kidney stone can wait,” Biles tweeted. “Doing it for my team.” Despite uncharacteristic falls on vault and balance beam, Biles became the first woman to win four all-around titles at the world championships. But she was her own harshest critic. “It’s not the gymnast that I am, to go out there and kind of bomb a meet like this,” Biles said. “It just sucks that I did so bad and I still won.” She won the vault and floor exercise for her 14th gold medal, the record for male and female gymnasts. For good measure, Biles added won silver on uneven bars and bronze on balance beam for a six-medal total at the meet – the first time that had been done in 30 years of world and Olympic competition. Biles now has a career total of 20, tying her with Svetlana Khorkina of Russia. “I think there’s a lot to be proud of,” Biles said. “I’m here, made all the (event finals), medaled in all the events, and I survived.”


November 4, Daniel Romanchuk

The New York City Marathon added a wheelchair division in 2000, but no American man managed to cross the finish line first until Romanchuk. In the process, he also became the youngest winner at age 20. But this was no cruise to Central Park. He had two thoughts in the closing stages of the race, “I need air!” and “I’m in pain!” He got all the air and pain relief he needed at the finish. Although Romanchuk, the world record holder in the 800 and 5,000, did not make any of his finals in track and field events at the Paralympic Games Rio 2016, he had a successful 2018 marathon campaign. Romanchuk was third in London, then won in Chicago. In both of his victories, he defeated Marcel Hug of Switzerland, a three-time New York champ, by a combined 2 seconds. “I love racing,” Romanchuk said. “But (all the Para sports) I’ve participated in have played a role in getting me to where I am today. I wouldn’t be here without all of that.”


November 6, Mattie Rogers

After just missing a spot on the 2016 Olympic team, Rogers has proven that she belongs among the world’s best in not one, but two weight classes. A year after Rogers became the first U.S. women’s weightlifting medalist in 12 years with three bronzes (snatch, clean & jerk and total) at 69 kg., new bodyweight categories forced Rogers to move up to 71 kg. for the world championships in Ashgabat, Turkmenistan. She weighed in at just 69.8 kilos, saying on Instagram that it was “3 meals deep into the day (lol it’s a start OKAY!),” yet still won the bronze in clean & jerk with a 133-kg. lift. That was one kilo off her personal best and one kilo heavier than teammate Meredith Alwine lifted. Rogers placed fifth in snatch to finish fifth overall, but her medal in clean & jerk gave Team USA back-to-back world medals for the first time since Robin Goad won three bronzes in 1998 and Cheryl Haworth took home one bronze in 1999. Rogers, 23, is the first American lifter to medal at consecutive worlds since Byrd in 1993-94. “Felt good to walk away from this one with some definite room in the tank in the snatch & an attempt at 137 in clean and jerk,” Rogers said on Instagram. “Everything I made felt smooth and easy on stage.”


November 17, Christina Carreira and Anthony Ponomarenko

Carreira, 18, and Ponomarenko, 17, the reigning U.S. junior ice dance champions, proved they are contenders in the crowded U.S. senior ranks. At the Rostelecom Cup in Moscow, they won the bronze medal for their first senior grand prix podium. They are the fifth U.S. couple to medal in the 2018-19 ISU Grand Prix of Figure Skating Series, a record for any nation. Madison Hubbell and Zachary Donohue won Skate America and Skate Canada, Kaitlin Hawayek and Jean-Luc Baker took the gold at NHK Trophy, while Rachel Parsons and Michael Parsons secured the bronze at the same event, and Lorraine McNamara and Quinn Carpenter won the bronze at Grand Prix of Helsinki. Ponomarenko has some big boots to fill. He is the son of Marina Klimova and Sergei Ponomarenko, the 1992 Olympic champions in ice dance who also won silver in 1988 and bronze in 1984. Four U.S. ice dance teams medaled in both 2013-14 and 2014-15.


December 2, Mikaela Shiffrin

Proving her versatility knows no bounds, Shiffrin won the FIS Alpine Ski World Cup super-G at Lake Louise, Alberta, to become the first ski racer – male or female – to win in all six world cup disciplines: slalom, parallel slalom, combined, giant slalom, super-G and downhill. This was Shiffrin’s 46th world cup victory and she now has five more to close in on Vreni Schneider of Switzerland, who is in third place on the all-time women’s list with 55 wins. Shiffrin, who captured the gold in giant slalom and silver in combined at the 2018 Olympics, was making only her ninth world cup super-G start at Lake Louise. “This morning when I woke up I thought, ‘Well, let’s see what I can do,” said Shiffrin. She trailed at the first interval, but said, “I just skied very aggressively,” taking the “bad girl line.” And that turned out to be very, very good for Shiffrin and for the sport of skiing.

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