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Team USA’s Top 10 Viral Olympic Moments From This Decade

By Lisa Costantini | Dec. 23, 2019, 12:01 a.m. (ET)

McKayla Maroney reacts at the Olympic Games London 2012 on Aug. 5, 2012 in London.


There is a long-standing tradition to reflect on the calendar year every December as the month nears to a close—and, in the case of this year, to reflect on the decade. With the boom of social media in the 2010s and the shift in how audiences consumed and conversed about the Olympic Games, we thought it only fitting to take a look at those memorable Olympic moments that had everyone talking. Here are 10 of the top viral Olympic moments from this decade.

1) Gymnast McKayla Maroney Is Not Impressed
Even though Maroney has since retired from sport, her contribution to gymnastics, and the meme world, will live on. When the then-17-year-old fell on her second vault during the event finals at the Olympic Games London 2012 — earning her a silver medal — she couldn’t help but briefly show her disappointment during the medal presentation. The sideways smirk she made was captured and copied around the world; even President Barack Obama mimicked the move when she visited the White House afterwards.

2) Gymnast Aly Raisman’s Parents Show That They’ve Got Moves, Too
Elite athletes have to work to harness their nerves — but no one teaches their parents to harness theirs. When Raisman competed at her first Olympic Games in 2012, her parents Lynn and Rick were supporting from the stands. But looking at them, the nervous duo appeared to be riding an invisible rollercoaster as they leaned and cowered in their seats while their daughter competed. In the end there was nothing to worry about as Raisman took home two gold medals and a bronze. However, four years later at the Rio 2016 Games they were back at it again. This time they nervously watched as their daughter took home another gold and two silver medals.

3) Dancin’ Kate Hansen Shows Her Skills Outside Of Luge
When the luger made it to the Olympic Winter Games Sochi 2014 — her first Olympics — she couldn’t hide her excitement, or her dancing skills. Before her big race, the then-21-year-old was captured by the cameras sporting purple headphones and showing off some impressive dance skills. After garnering a lot of attention for her cool moves, the Olympian revealed that it was Beyoncé’s music that was getting her pumped up. “Can’t help it ya know?” she tweeted. Her skills didn’t earn her a medal on the ice — she placed 10th — but they did earn her the attention of Queen Bey, who later shared the video on social media along with the words, “Go Kate!”

Kate Hansen dances as she listens to music at the Olympic Winter Games Sochi 2014 on Feb. 10, 2014 in Sochi, Russia.

4) Bobsledder Johnny Quinn Breaks Down Bathroom Door
We’ve all heard of Olympic athletes breaking barriers, but in Sochi, one athlete literally broke down a door. When Olympic bobsledder and former NFL player Quinn went to take a shower, he found himself unable to get out afterwards. When yelling didn’t work, he began to pound on the door. It didn’t take long before the Olympian had punched a hole big enough to free himself. He credited his Hulk-like powers from bobsled push training with enabling him to break free.



5) Freestyle Skier Gus Kenworthy Adorably Adopts Dogs
At his first Olympic Winter Games in 2014, Kenworthy left with more than a silver medal. He also took home two puppies he rescued from the streets of Russia. The strays, which he later named Jake and Mishka, garnered a lot of attention — as did Kenworthy. And four years later at the PyeongChang 2018 Games, the Olympian did it again, this time bringing home a female puppy named Beemo. He shared a plea on social media saying, “There are still millions of dogs here in need of help … including back home in the U.S. where millions of dogs are in need of loving homes!”

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6) Figure Skaters Johnny Weir And Tara Lipinski’s Colorful Commentary
As individual athletes, Weir and Lipinski have impressive resumes, but together the two became network gold. In 2014 the duo were asked to be a second set of commentators for the NBC’s coverage of the Sochi Games. But after their chemistry—and elaborate outfits—captured audiences, they were quickly moved to the lead slot. Viewers loved how honest and hilarious the retired skaters were, and their daring fashion choices kept everyone wondering what they would wear next. In PyeongChang they showed off their nearly 20 suitcases between them. “We brought the sparkles,” Lipinski said in the clip posted on their joint Instagram account.

Tara Lipinski and Johnny Weir commentate at the Olympic Winter Games PyeongChang 2018 on Feb. 14, 2018 in Gangneung, South Korea.

7) Swimmer Michael Phelps’ #PhelpsFace In Rio
The most decorated Olympian in history might be good at winning medals, but at the Rio 2016 Games we also learned that he is great at psyching out his competition. While the Olympic legend sat in the ready room behind his South African rival Chad le Clos before the 200-meter butterfly semifinals, he introduced the world to “Angry Michael Phelps Face”—or #PhelpsFace. He later explained his mean mugging was not intentional but rather just him in the zone listening to music to get pumped up. Ultimately Phelps won that heat, and the gold medal in the final the next day — payback for the gold Le Clos eked out four years earlier in London during the same race.



8) Runner Abbey D’Agostino’s Inspiring Act Of Kindness
The distance runner might not have earned a medal while competing in Rio, but she did earn the respect of the world when she performing the ultimate act of fair play: helping her competition finish the race. When Nikki Hamblin of New Zealand tripped and fell during the women’s 5,000-meter qualifier, it caused D’Agostino to fall over her — twisting her leg in the process. But D’Agostino got up, and pulled Hamblin up with her. The Team USA runner continued the race but with a now injured leg, falling multiple times. Her competitor, Hamblin, was by her side and picked her up every time, and the two finished the more than three-mile race together.

Abbey D'Agostino hugs Nikki Hamblin of New Zealand at the Olympic Games Rio 2016 on Aug.16, 2016 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.

9) Snowboarder Chloe Kim Tweets About Ice Cream While Competing
It’s easy to recognize teenagers because they always have their phones in hand—and that goes for Olympians, too. In true teen fashion, the 17-year-old snowboarder was tweeting about her food cravings while competing at the PyeongChang Games. Before dropping in on her second run during the women’s halfpipe qualifiers, Kim tweeted, “Could be down for some ice cream rn.” Not long after, she tweeted about churros. That run earned her a place in the final the next day where she not only received gold, but also some ice cream. As she made her way down the line of reporters doing interviews, someone handed her some chocolate ice cream, which she immediately began to eat.




10) Curler Matt Hamilton’s Mustache Gets Its Own Following
When the U.S. men’s and mixed doubles curler competed in his first Olympic Winter Games last year in PyeongChang, he not only helped earn Team USA’s first gold medal in the sport, but he also earned himself a cult following thanks to his signature ‘stache. Before playing against Canada in the semifinals, he urged fans on social media to get behind his team’s “absolutely massive game tonight” by sharing pictures of their own mustaches. The trend even came with its own hashtag, #HamiltonMustacheMilitia. His famous facial feature has since developed its own Twitter account and is the focus of Hamilton’s clothing line.

Related Athletes

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McKayla Maroney

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Aly Raisman

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Kate Hansen

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Johnny Quinn

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Gus Kenworthy

Freestyle Skiing
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Johnny Weir

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Michael Phelps

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Abbey D'Agostino

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Chloe Kim

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Matt Hamilton