As the London Olympic Games reach the end of a glorious 2 week run atop the world of sports, the United States Olympic Team performed valiantly throughout competition. Here are the top 5 American stars of the 2012 Summer Olympics.
Michael Phelps: Who else could top this list but the athlete many propose as the greatest Olympian in history? Competing in his 4th and final summer games, the 27 year-old captured 4 golds and 2 silvers in 7 events in the pool. London actually began with a poor start for Phelps, who failed to medal in an event for the first time since 2000 during his opening 400 meter individual medley. With rival Ryan Lochte winning that race, many even wondered if Phelps had been supplanted as the United States' top swimmer. How quickly those thoughts vanished. After earning 2 silvers, the "Baltimore Bullet" was back to form by claiming a dominant 4 consecutive golds. Passing the career mark of 18 total medals, long held by Soviet Union gymnast Larisa Latynina, Phelps now possesses a stunning 22 medals. This includes 18 golds, as Michael Phelps became the most decorated Olympian ever in London.
Abby Wambach: Avenging their loss to Japan in the 2011 Women's World Cup, few stories made Americans prouder than the women's national soccer team claiming the gold medal for the 3rd consecutive Olympics before 80,000 soccer-crazed fans at Wembley Stadium. Despite going undefeated, the road was difficult and only possible due to stellar play of the squad's 32 year-old star. Wambach scored 5 goals in 6 games and helped spear-head a dramatic 4-3 semi-final comeback against Canada, enabling the Americans to steal victory in the last minute of play. Though Alex Morgan, Megan Rapinoe, and Hope Solo all emerged as Olympic heroes, Wambach stood out and strengthened her case as the greatest female soccer player in history. The gold medal was especially sweet for the New Yorker, who missed the 2008 games with an injury.
Gabby Douglas: Much like tiny past champions Mary Lou Retton and Nastia Lukin, this 16 year-old gymnast leaves the London games with the title of "America's sweetheart." Douglas helped the American women's squad emphatically capture its first team gold medal since 1996. She also surprised nearly everyone by claiming all-around gold for best demonstrating mastery of all events. Though Douglas later failed to medal in individual events for her signature uneven bars or on balance beam, she will most be remembered for her photogenic grace in winning. The Virginia native appears truly grateful for the opportunity to have competed and the chance to be listed among the world's top athletes.
Ashton Eaton: Winning the decathlon traditionally enables an Olympian to claim the title of "World's Best Athlete." With a score of 8,869 that was only 24 points shy of the Olympic record, Eaton has an even stronger case than usual. Throughout the 2 day competition, which tests skills in 10 different track and field venues, the Oregon native simply blew away all rivals. Only fellow American Trey Hardee remained close, but the 2-time world champion eventually settled for a distant silver. The 24 year-old Eaton's triumph gives the United States its 2nd consecutive gold in this event. The victory is especially sweet, as it comes 100 years after the legendary Jim Thorpe's gold medal in the first Olympic decathlon in 1912.
Missy Franklin: With Americans generally disappointing in track and field, it is only appropriate that 2 of the athletes on this list are instead swimmers. Furthermore, with women claiming a majority of the United States' gold medals, it is equally fitting that 3 of the 5 Olympians are female. 17 year-old Missy Franklin is likely only beginning her career. Yet, with 4 golds and 1 bronze in 7 total events in London, the Colorado native is off to an excellent start. Franklin dominated in a pair of her signature backstroke events and helped lead the Americans to 2 team golds. The high-school student impressed in post-race interviews and even joked about her size 13 "built-in flippers" feet. Her lip-synching performance of "Call Me Maybe" also obtained all-important praise throughout social media.
Yahoo! Sports, London2012.com, Usscoccer.com, Espn.com, Chron.com.
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Jeff Briscoe is a sports fan and a regular contributor to the Yahoo! Contributor Network. He is talking Olympics 2012 on The Sports Train radio show in Southwest Florida.
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