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Hall Of Fame Edition: An A-to-Z List Of Reasons We’re All Thankful For Team USA

By Karen Rosen | Nov. 28, 2019, 11 a.m. (ET)


This Thanksgiving we show our appreciation for the U.S. Olympic & Paralympic Hall of Fame, which inducted its first class of honorees earlier this month after a seven-year hiatus. 

The class of 2019 is the most diverse in hall of fame history, with eight individuals, one team, two legends, one coach and one special contributor representing 12 sports.

The five Olympians are Lisa Leslie, Nastia Liukin, Misty May-Treanor, Apolo Anton Ohno and Dara Torres.

The three Paralympians are Candace Cable, Erin Popovich and Chris Waddell. 

The 1998 U.S. Olympic Women’s Ice Hockey Team entered the Hall together, while Olympic track and field athletes John Carlos and Tommie Smith were honored in the “Legend” category. Ron O’Brien was inducted as a coach and Tim Nugent came in as a special contributor.

The next class will be selected in 2021 and fans of Team USA are invited to submit nominations.

Here’s a look at some highlights of the hall of fame from A to Z: 

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A is for Muhammad Ali

A is for Muhammad Ali, a member of the charter Hall of Fame class in 1983. Among that illustrious group of 19 individuals and one team, Ali normally would be listed first alphabetically. However, he was inducted as Cassius Clay, his name when he won an Olympic boxing gold medal in 1960. Thirteen years after that ceremony, he took part in the biggest ceremony of his life: igniting the cauldron at the Olympic Games Atlanta 1996.

B is for Bruce Baumgartner 

B is for Bruce Baumgartner (class of 2008), a four-time Olympian in freestyle wrestling from 1984 to 1996 and a four-time Olympic medalist with two golds. He is one of only two wrestlers in the hall of fame. The other is Dan Gable (class of 1985), who won a gold medal in 1972.

C is for Coaches

C is for coaches, who play an indispensable role at the Games. They train, instruct and encourage athletes in individual and team events. Besides new inductee Ron O’Brien (diving), the other hall of fame coaches are Herb Brooks, who coached the 1980 “Miracle on Ice” hockey team, figure skating coach Carlo Fassi, track and field coach Ed Temple and gymnastics coach Abie Grossfeld.  Inductees must have served as a coach of record for Team USA to be eligible.

D is for Duke Kahanamoku

D is for Duke Kahanamoku (class of 1984), who captured three gold and two silver medals in swimming from 1912 to 1924. Kahanamoku was Olympic champion in the 100-meter freestyle in 1912 and 1920, losing to Johnny Weissmuller in 1924 with his brother Samuel taking the bronze. In 1932, Kahanamoku – just shy of his 42nd birthday – was an alternate on the U.S. water polo team in Los Angeles. But the sport the Hawaiian helped popularize around the world was surfing, which makes its Olympic debut in Tokyo next year.

E is for Janet Evans

E is for Janet Evans (class of 2004), who has links to the past and the present. At age 17, Evans won three gold medals at the Olympic Games Seoul 1988 in the 400-meter freestyle, 800 freestyle and 400 individual medley. She added a gold and silver four years later in Barcelona and also competed in the Atlanta 1996 Games.  Evans has a key leadership role with the organizing committee for the Olympic Games and Paralympic Games Los Angeles 2028 as chief athlete officer.

F is for Lisa Fernandez

F is for Lisa Fernandez (class of 2012), who pitched for Team USA as it won the first three gold medals awarded in women’s softball in 1996, 2000 and 2004. Fernandez had the distinction of being inducted twice at the same ceremony. The 2004 U.S. Olympic Women’s Softball team also entered the hall of fame in 2012. The sport was cut from the Olympic program for 2012 and 2016 but will return to the Games in Tokyo next year.

G is for Diana Golden

G is for Diana Golden (class of 2006), a Paralympic pioneer with the surname of a champion. After her right leg was amputated above the knee due to bone cancer, Golden resumed skiing. Disabled skiing was a demonstration sport at the Olympic Winter Games Calgary 1988 and Golden took home the gold. She also won gold medals in downhill and giant slalom at the 1988 Paralympic Games in Innsbruck. When Golden convinced the U.S. Ski Association to allow disabled skiers to compete against able-bodied skiers, that became known as the “Golden Rule.” Tragically, her cancer returned and she passed away in 2001 at age 38.

H is for Eric Heiden 

H is for Eric Heiden (class of 1983), who dominated speedskating at the Olympic Winter Games Lake Placid 1980 like no one else before or since. Heiden won all five men’s events  – claiming gold at every distance from 500 meters to 10,000 meters – a feat that has never been replicated as athletes now tend to specialize. Heiden is the only speedskater to make ESPN’s SportsCentury 50 Greatest Athletes of the 20th Century. Bonnie Blair and Dan Jansen were both inducted in the hall of fame in 2004 while Apolo Anton Ohno became the first short track speedskater to be selected in 2019.

I is for Hank Iba

I is for Hank Iba, who was inducted as a Special Contributor in 1985, but most people knew him as “Coach.” Iba led the U.S. Olympic men’s basketball team to gold medals in 1964 and 1968 and also was the coach in 1972 when Team USA lost the controversial championship game to the Soviet Union. The American team never accepted its silver medals, which are still in a vault, while Iba suffered a monetary loss. His wallet was stolen in the confusion after the game.

J is for Jackie Joyner-Kersee

J is for Jackie Joyner-Kersee (class of 2004), who was named the greatest female athlete of the 20th century by Sports Illustrated. Competing in four straight Olympic Games from 1984 to 1996, Joyner-Kersee won three gold, one silver and two bronze medals in the heptathlon and long jump. The world record of 7,291 points she set in the heptathlon in 1988 still stands and no one has even come within 250 points.

K is for Jack Kelly Jr. and Jack Kelly Sr. 

K is for Jack Kelly Jr. and Jack Kelly Sr., the only father and son inducted as individuals into the hall of fame. Jack Kelly Sr. (class of 1990) won three gold medals in rowing in 1920 (single and double sculls) and 1924 (double sculls) and came in as a Legend. Jack Kelly Jr. (class of 1992) competed in four Games from 1948 to 1960 and won a bronze medal in single sculls in 1956. He also served as United States Olympic Committee president and was inducted as a Special Contributor. Bill Christian and his son Dave were members of the 1960 and 1980 ice hockey teams that made the hall of fame, and they even had another family member, Roger (Bill’s brother and Dave’s uncle) on the 1960 team.

L is for Greg Louganis

L is for Greg Louganis (class of 1985), who was inducted based on the 1984 Olympic performance in which he won gold medals in springboard and platform to go along with his silver in platform from 1976. But Louganis wasn’t through. He became the first male to sweep the individual events twice in diving when he repeated the feat in 1988. The first U.S. diver to accomplish the double-double was Pat McCormick, also class of 1985, who did it in 1952 and 1956. 

M is for Museum

M is for Museum. The U.S. Olympic & Paralympic Hall of Fame will have a new home next year! Starting in early 2020, it will be housed in the new U.S. Olympic & Paralympic Museum in Colorado Springs, Colorado. The 60,000-square foot building is inspired by the energy and grace of Olympians and Paralympians in competition and will feature 20,000 square feet of interactive exhibit space, including the Parade of Nations simulating the Opening Ceremony. 

N is for John Naber 

N is for John Naber (class of 1984), who was the most decorated athlete at the Olympic Games Montreal 1976 with four gold medals – all in world record time – and one silver medal in swimming. He was the first swimmer in history to win two individual medals on the same day in Olympic competition. Naber is also a former president of the United States Olympians & Paralympians Association, which has the motto: “Once an Olympian, Always an Olympian; Never Former, Never Past.”

O is for Jesse Owens 

O is for Jesse Owens (class of 1983), who won four gold medals at the Olympic Games Berlin 1936 in the 100-meter, 200-meter, long jump and 4x100-meter. A year after Owens’ induction, Carl Lewis equaled the feat at the Olympic Games Los Angeles 1984. And a year later, Lewis promptly joined Owens in the hall of fame before continuing his Olympic career for more than a decade. (Athletes must now be retired and six years removed from their last Games before entering the Hall.) 

P is for Paralympians

P is for Paralympians, who have an increased presence within the hall of fame as well as in its title (formerly the U.S. Olympic Hall of Fame). Before 2019, only five Paralympians had been inducted: Jean Driscoll, Diana Golden, John Morgan, Randy Snow and Sarah Will. Now each class will include three Paralympians. 

Q is for Qualifications

Q is for Qualifications for the hall of fame. In addition to achievements, consideration is given to a nominee’s character, conduct and off-field contributions as well as adherence to and spreading of the Olympic and Paralympic ideals. Athletes are not eligible until they are officially retired and six years past their last Games. Athletes in team sports are eligible as individuals if they have medaled in more than one Games.

R is for Wilma Rudolph

R is for Wilma Rudolph (class of 1983), who rocketed to prominence on the track and in living rooms around the world thanks to extensive television coverage from the Olympic Games Rome 1960. Rudolph won gold medals in the 100-meter, 200-meter and 4x100-meter, and no one watching her graceful stride could have suspected she suffered from pneumonia, scarlet fever and polio as a child. 

S is for Special Contributors

S is for Special Contributors, who have demonstrated extraordinary service to enhancing the Olympic and/or Paralympic movements in the United States, excluding current members of the USOPC staff or board members and paid employees. Hall of fame members in this category range from Olympic filmmaker Bud Greenspan, Olympic television host Jim McKay and Ted Stevens, the architect of the Amateur Sports Act which established the USOPC.

T is for Teams

T is for Teams. You don’t have to believe in miracles to be inspired by some of Team USA’s top squads. The 1980 ice hockey team was the first of the 11 teams inducted into the hall of fame. The other ice hockey teams are from 1960 (men’s) and 1998 (women’s). Men’s basketball is represented four times (1956, 1960, 1964 and 1992), while gymnastics has two squads (1984 men and 1996 women) and women’s soccer (1996) and women’s softball (2004) have one apiece.

U is for Peter Ueberroth

U is for Peter Ueberroth (class of 2009), a Special Contributor who was president of the Los Angeles Olympic Organizing Committee in 1984 and chair of the USOC Board of Directors from 2004 to 2008. Under Ueberroth’s management, the Los Angeles Games were the first to be privately financed and produced a surplus of more than $200 million that was earmarked for developing youth sports in Southern California.

V is for Veterans

V is for Veterans. This was the original name of the category for athletes now called “Legends.” Notable Veter-, uh, Legends include James Connolly, who was the first Olympic champion (triple jump in 1896); Alice Coachman, the first African-American woman to strike gold (high jump in 1948) and Charles Daniels, who in 1904 became the first American to win an Olympic medal in swimming. Athletes are eligible for the Legend category six quadrennials (24 years) after their last Games.

W is for Wheelchair

W is for Wheelchair. Athletes in wheelchairs were the first competitors in the Paralympic Games, which officially began in 1960. Wheelchair racing was an exhibition event at the Olympic Games Los Angeles 1984, and Candace Cable (class of 2019) won the bronze medal in the 800-meter. She also competed in 1988 and 1992 and She earned 12 medals, including eight golds, in nine Games spanning summer and winter. Jean Driscoll (class of 2012) was born with spina bifida and became one of the fastest women on wheels. She won 12 Paralympic medals, including five golds, while competing in four Games from 1988 to 2000. Randy Snow (class of 2004) competed in wheelchair tennis in 1992 and 2000 and in wheelchair basketball in 1996, earning two golds and one bronze medal. While Chris Waddell is mostly a monoskier in the Paralympic Games, he competed on the track in Sydney 2000 in the 200-meter and took the silver. 

X is for Xth Class

X is for the Xth Class in the hall of fame, which was inducted in 1992.  Decathlete Milt Campbell, high jumper Dick Fosbury (pictured), diver Micki King, skier Phil Mahre and cyclist/speedskater Connie Carpenter Phinney were honored as the hall of fame marked a decade of distinction. Helene Madison, who won three gold medals in swimming in 1932, was inducted as a veteran and Jack Kelly Jr. and Col. Don Hull were the special contributors. That was the last class until 2004, when the hall of fame was revived the first time. 

Y is for Kristi Yamaguchi

Y is for Kristi Yamaguchi (class of 2006), whose Olympic figure skating title in 1992 ended a 16-year Team USA gold-medal drought in women’s singles. Even though the next Olympic Winter Games were only two years away (due to the schedule change), Yamaguchi was content to end that aspect of her career. Her competitive fire never went out, though. In 2008, Yamaguchi won a “Dancing with the Stars” mirror ball. Other figure skating gold medalists in the hall of fame are Tenley Albright, Brian Boitano, Dick Button, Peggy Fleming, Dorothy Hamill, Carol Heiss (as a Legend) and Scott Hamilton. 

Z is for Mark Spitz

Z is for Mark Spitz (class of 1983), a fitting end since the final letter in his name is the final letter of the alphabet. And for 36 years, Spitz was the last word in excellence in swimming. In 1972, he won seven gold medals in seven races – setting world records in all of them – a feat that was called “Spitzian.” When Michael Phelps won eight gold medals in 2008, that performance was called “Phelpsian.” Spitz will likely see Phelps, who retired in 2016, join him in the hall of fame in 2023.