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Decade Done: 10 Top Olympic Moments From The 2010s That Won’t Soon Be Forgotten For Team USA

By Nick McCarvel | Dec. 26, 2019, 12:01 a.m. (ET)


From the first day of the Olympic Winter Games Vancouver 2010 way back on Feb. 12, 2010, to the Closing Ceremony last February in PyeongChang, it was a decade to remember for Team USA athletes at the Olympic Games. In total, 313 medals were won by American athletes. Three-hundred and thirteen!

We picked 10 of the most memorable Olympic medal moments from the 2010s… with a few honorable mentions at the end from each Games. With five Games to choose from—including London, Sochi and Rio—it’s nearly impossible to narrow down which ones will continue to resonate the most with Team USA fans.

The question to accompany them: Where were you when?


2010: Vancouver Winter Games

Feb. 17 | Lindsey Vonn Wins Downhill Skiing Gold


In her third Winter Games, alpine skier Vonn—then a two-time world champion and two-time world silver medalist—had yet to win an Olympic medal following a scary crash during a training run at the 2006 Games. Media hype was rampant as Vonn planned to race in all five events, claiming history when she won the downhill, beating compatriot Julia Mancuso by 0.56 seconds and becoming the first American woman to win Olympic gold in the event. Vonn’s scream after completing her run will not soon be forgotten.


Feb. 20 | Apolo Ohno Becomes Most Decorated U.S. Winter Olympian


Already a household name, Seattle native Ohno was also in his third Games in Vancouver with five medals in short track speedskating from Salt Lake City and Torino. A trio of medals in Vancouver helped him to become the most decorated Olympian in Winter Games history, surpassing fellow speedskater Bonnie Blair’s previous record of six. Ohno still holds that record today.


2012: London Games

July 31 | Michael Phelps Wins Olympic Medal No. 19, Setting All-Time RecordPhelps


Perhaps the most famous Olympian of the past two decades, Phelps made his debut as a gangly 15-year-old in Sydney in 2000 before dominating in both Athens and Beijing, amassing 16 medals heading into London 2012. Tied with Soviet gymnast Larisa Latynina at 18, Phelps anchored the U.S. men to gold in the 4x200-meter freestyle, etching his name (further) into the record books with a historic 19th Olympic medal, 15 of them gold. He’d come back for Rio in 2016, extending his record to 28 Olympic medals won in total, 23 of which are gold.


2014: Sochi Winter Games

Feb. 13 | U.S. Men Sweep Slopestyle Skiing Podium In Its Debut


“I am shocked.” Those are the words of gold medalist Joss Christensen after leading a trio of American men to sweep the first-ever slopestyle skiing event at the Olympics, with Gus Kenworthy and Nick Goepper going silver-bronze. It was only the third all-American winter Olympic podium in history. Added Christensen: “America, we did it.” In addition to magazine covers and late-night television, the trio ended up on a cereal box.


2016: Rio Games

Aug. 11 | Simone Biles Wins Gymnastics All-Around Gold


Already a three-time world champion in the individual all-around, pocket rocket Biles, just 19, tumbled and soared her way to gold with teammate Aly Raisman winning the silver. Biles’ four gold medals in Rio (team, all-around, vault, floor) were the most at an Olympics for a female gymnast. Oh, and then she got to meet longtime crush Zac Efron, too, sealing her Olympic experience with a kiss (on the cheek).


Aug. 12 | Katie Ledecky’s 800-meter Dominance


Four years older than her 15-year-old self who won 800-meter freestyle gold in London, Ledecky captured three individual golds in Rio, most notably in her signature event, where she repeated as Olympic champ. Ledecky’s 8:04.79 was of course a world record, and gave her an 11-second cushion over the silver medalist. While she’d tie Biles with four golds in Rio, she’d finish as the most decorated American woman at the Games, and also the first U.S. swimmer to sweep the 200, 400 and 800 freestyles in nearly 50 years.


2018 PyeongChang Games

Feb. 14 | Shaun White Finally Achieves His Three-peat


Back for one more shot at greatness at age 31, White had suffered a horrific training crash in the weeks leading up to the Games, requiring 62 stitches in his face. Undeterred, the 2006 and 2010 halfpipe champ—who finished a devastating fourth in 2014—was at his vintage best, particularly when he needed it most, throwing down two 1440s in his final run to seal a comeback win. His gold was the 100th for the U.S. in Winter Games history, and he became the first U.S. man to win the same event three times.


Feb. 21 | Diggins/Randall Win Gold In Cross-Country Team Sprint


“Here comes Diggins! Here comes Diggins!” It was the commentary call heard throughout the country (you know it, right?) as Jessie Diggins came from behind in a chaotic, dramatic finish for the U.S. to edge out Sweden for the country’s first-ever gold in cross-country skiing. Seconds after her photo-finish triumph, Diggins was greeted by teammate Kikkan Randall, the two embracing to celebrate their triumph.


Feb. 22 | Women’s Ice Hockey Team Wins Gold, Beating Canada


Canada. Shootout. Revenge. Gold. Few programs have experienced the kind of heartbreak the U.S. women’s ice hockey team felt after losing a late two-goal lead in the gold-medal match vs. Canada at Sochi 2014. Team USA had not won the Olympic gold medal since women’s hockey’s debut in 1998—despite having won eight world titles in that time. Revenge proved sweet in PyeongChang, the Americans winning the shootout 3-2 on a final save from goalkeeper Maddie Rooney after Jocelyne Lamoureux-Davidson scored the game-winning goal. It was the first shootout in six women’s hockey finals in Olympic history.


Feb. 24 | U.S. Men Win Curling Gold


Where were you? C’mon… you can remember! It was one of the biggest upsets of the Games in 2018, in the closing days of the Olympics, as a John Shuster-led American squad won the country its first-ever curling gold. Team Shuster had finished last at the 2014 Games, and started the 2018 tournament with a 2-4 record. The U.S. beat heavy favorites Sweden 10-7 in the final, following a defeat of higher-ranked Canada in the semis. Shuster and his teammates become folk heroes in the media and public, giving the sport exposure in the U.S. it had never seen before.


Honorable Mentions

You didn’t think we could just pick 10, did you?! Here’s two moments from each Olympic Games we couldn’t leave out from a decade to remember for Team USA.


Evan Lysacek wins figure skating gold

Lysacek beat out rival and defending Olympic champion Evgeni Plushenko of Russia, becoming the first U.S. man to win skating gold since Brian Boitano in 1988.


U.S. wins four-man bobsled gold

The “Night Train” quartet of Steven Holcomb, Steve Mesler, Justin Olsen and Curt Tomasevicz restored the U.S. to bobsled glory and won the first gold for Team USA in this event since 1948.



Gabby Douglas wins gymnastics all-around gold

While teammate Jordyn Wieber was the reigning world champ, she didn’t make the all-around final in London due to a two-per-nation rule. That gave Douglas, all of just 16, the opening she needed, becoming a star overnight with a gutsy victory, the first by a black athlete in the individual all-around.


Claressa Shields wins first U.S. women’s boxing gold at women’s boxing’s debut

Just 17 herself, Shields would win the middleweight division in the first year women’s boxing was held at the Olympics. She repeated as champ in Rio in 2016.



Meryl Davis and Charlie White win ice dance gold

The American ice dancers went head-to-head with training partners and rivals Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir of Canada, whom they had lost out to in Vancouver. This time it was Davis/White who would win, marking the first U.S. gold in ice dance.


Mikaela Shiffrin is youngest to win slalom gold

Just 18 years young, the Vail, Colorado, native became the youngest skier to win slalom gold, backing up her 2013 win at worlds. She avoided a near-disaster fall in her second run, winning by 0.53 seconds.



U.S. women sweep 100-meter hurdles podium

“It’s like a sisterhood” — Americans Brianna Rollins, Nia Ali and Kristi Castlin went 1-2-3 in the women’s 100-meter hurdles on the track, giving the U.S. the first sweep of the event in history.

Simone Manuel first African American female swimmer to win individual medal

There was another Simone making headlines in Brazil as a tie for gold in the 100-meter freestyle made Manuel the first African American female swimmer to win an Olympic medal in an individual event.



Mirai Nagasu’s triple Axel

It was the jump seen ‘round the world as Nagasu nailed her triple Axel during the figure skating team event, becoming the first U.S. woman to land the jump in Olympic history.


Chloe Kim’s teenage dream in snowboarding

Back-to-back 1080s? Yeah, no problem. Kim, 17, became the youngest woman to win snowboarding gold in history with her halfpipe victory, which landed her instant fame back home.


Nick McCarvel is a video host and freelance reporter based in New York City. He has covered three Olympic Games, including Rio 2016 for TeamUSA.org.

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