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Team USA hit the ground running and never looked back at the Tokyo Olympics.
Over the nine days of exciting track and field action, Team USA won 26 medals: seven gold, 12 silver and seven bronze.
Here are the highlights from a historic Olympic games for the U.S track and field team:
Allyson Felix Becomes Track GOAT, Wins 11th Olympic Medal
Allyson Felix became USA Track and Field’s most decorated Olympian of all time after winning her 11th career medal as part of a stacked U.S women’s 4x400m relay team. That gold, combined with a bronze in the women’s 400m, helped the 35-year-old mother surpass Carl Lewis as the greatest American track and field athlete in the final race of her storied career.
Felix had said that Tokyo was the last Olympics she would compete in, and she ended it in thrilling fashion. After dominating the competition for 17 years, Felix will ride off into the sunset with a new wave of female runners worthy of handling the mantle as the next dominant American track star.
Sydney McLaughlin, Dalilah Muhammad Finish 1-2 in Women’s 400m Hurdles
Sydney McLaughlin went from budding phenom to established superstar, setting a new world record in the women’s 400m hurdles on Tuesday, Aug. 3.
McLaughlin crossed the finish line just ahead of 2016 gold medalist Dalilah Muhammad, and the two American women hugged each other immediately after the race, a sign of respect after the many intense battles they’ve had over the years.
McLaughlin and Muhammad both returned to compete on the stacked women’s 4x400m hurdles team alongside Felix and 800m gold medalist Athing Mu. McLaughlin will now return home from Tokyo as a two-time Olympic gold medalist and world record holder with plenty of more history to be made in the future.
Athing Mu Wins First American Gold Medal in Women’s 800m since 1968
Mu introduced herself to the world at the Tokyo Olympics on Aug 3. At just 19 years old, Mu became the first American to win gold in the women’s 800m since Madeline Manning did so in 1968. Mu dominated the international competition from start to finish, winning both her Round 1 and semifinal heats by a comfortable margin.
In the final, Mu took over and never looked back, crossing the finish line in 1:55.21.
Mu attended Texas A&M before turning pro and worked under legendary track coach Pat Henry, who praised Mu’s ability to run the 800m and said she has the potential become U.S. track and field’s biggest distance star.
“I think everyone knows she is a very special young lady. She just turned 19 about 20 days ago. She carries herself like an individual who’s older than she is,” Henry said. “And that goes a long way, especially when you start talking about a young woman who knows what’s she’s capable of doing and prepares to do it not just mentally but physically.”
Mu was chosen to anchor the 4x400m team and passed with flying colors. Henry called her one of the best 400m runners he’d ever seen even though she specializes in the 800m.
Team USA Wins Men’s 4x400m Relay to Cap Off Track and Field Competition
It took the entirety of the track and field competition, but the U.S. men finally captured gold in a running event.
Michael Cherry, Michael Norman, Bryce Deadmon and Rai Benjamin posted a combined time of 2:55.70 in the 4x400m relay, just 0.31 seconds off the world record set by the U.S. at the 2008 Beijing Games.
It was at times a frustrating week for the U.S. men on the track in Tokyo — we’ll get to the struggles in a bit — Cherry, Norman, Deadmon and Benjamin ended it on a high note.
Raven Saunders Makes a Statement With Shot Put Silver
Raven Saunders had a gold medal celebration for her silver medal performance in the women’s shot put final.
Her 19.79m mark trailed only gold medal winner Gong Lijiao of China, who set the winning distance at 20.58.
Saunders’ mission isn’t done yet, though: she’s hoping to make an impact far beyond the track.
Just days after she won the silver medal, she suffered the death of her mother. Before her mother died, she was able to watch Saunders win silver at the Olympics from a watch party in Orlando.
“I feel like the biggest takeaway from everything is that my mom was watching me,” Raven told the crowd at Charleston International Airport upon her arrival back in the United States.
“I’ve had so many people send me pictures and videos with her in it, with a smile bigger than I’ve ever seen on her face before.
“I keep looking back, and those are the things I go to. I actually saved on my (phone) lock screen a picture of our text when she congratulated me in our last message after I won the silver medal.
Fred Kerley Wins Silver in Men’s 100m
Fred Kerley surprised everyone at the Tokyo Olympics, finishing just behind the new fastest man in the world, Italy’s Lamont Marcell Jacobs, in the men’s 100m.
Kerley and fellow American Ronnie Baker made the men’s final. Kerley posted to Twitter after the race, stating he was proud of how he performed in Tokyo but knows there’s still work that needs to be done.
Rai Benjamin Wins Silver in Men’s 400m Hurdles
Mount Vernon, N.Y., native Rai Benjamin battled with Norway’s Karsten Warholm in a historic men’s 400m hurdles final.
Benjamin and Warholm both ran world record times, with the latter shaving .76 seconds off his previous time of 46.17 seconds to finish in 45.94 seconds.
Benjamin captured the first Olympic medal of his career and while he was visibly disappointed after the race, he still received support for his impressive performance from the track and field community.
Valarie Allman Conquers Rain for Discus Gold
Not even Mother Nature could stop Valarie Allman from becoming an Olympic champion.
The Delaware, N.J., native won the women’s discus final after posting a 68.98m mark on her first throw of the competition.
The final was halted midway through as rain poured down on the Olympic Stadium. Once competition resumed, no competitor was able to surpass Allman’s mark, earning her a first Olympic medal.
Allman is the first American woman to medal in the event since Stephanie Brown-Trafton won gold at the 2008 Beijing Olympics.
Ryan Crouser Breaks His Own Olympic Record in Shot Put
Team USA went 1-2 in men’s shot put, with Ryan Crouser winning his second straight gold medal and Joe Kovacs earning silver.
The 2016 Rio Olympic champion defended his title while breaking the Olympic shot put record with a 23.30m throw on his last attempt. After his final heave, he pulled out a note dedicated to his late grandfather, Larry, who died shortly before Crouser left for Tokyo:
“Grandpa. We did it. 2020 Olympic champion!”
“To lose him the week before the Olympics was obviously sad,” Crouser said. “But I feel like he was able to be here in spirit.”
Crouser’s win made him just the fourth man to ever win back-to-back Olympic gold medals in the event.
Katie Nageotte Claims Pole Vault Gold in Olympic Debut
Katie Nageotte vaulted herself to the top of the Olympic podium in her first Games.
The 30-year-old Cleveland native cleared 4.90m (16 feet, 0.91 inches) on her second attempt in women’s pole vault final to win the gold medal for Team USA. She became the third American woman to win gold in the event, joining Stacy Dragila (2000) and Jenn Suhr (2012).
Her gold-medal performance almost ended at the very beginning after she failed to clear 4.50m on her first two attempts. She made her way over that height before clearing 4.70m, 4.80m and 4.85m en route to her final jump.
With the gold secured, she attempted to set a new U.S. record with a vault of 5.01m but was unable to clear it.
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