With the London Olympics well under way, stories of triumph and glory have been filling the medal stand by world-class athletes the way they’ve always had for centuries—through blood, sweat, and tears.
And Team U.S.A. has been no exception, which, at last count, has garnered 30 medals and has tied China for the top spot. In celebration of the Summer Olympic Games, we sifted through the top jaw-dropping moments of Olympic Games past and highlighted five American stories that we thought were noteworthy.
1976 Olympics: U.S. Boxing Team Win 7 Gold Medals
Watch a mini bio of Sugar Ray Leonard’s moment in Olympic history:
When the 1976 Montreal Games kicked off, the world expected Cuba and the Soviet Union to decimate the boxing ring. However, with the right mix of deft right hooks, upper cuts, and gumption, the U.S.’s “Dream Team” of Sugar Ray Leonard, Michael Spinks, Leo Randolph, Leon Spinks, and Howard Davis Jr. went on to win a whopping five gold medals (seven total from the team). The unexpected victory was a symbol of Democracy giving a TKO to Communism.
2004 Olympics: Carly Patterson, Second American Female Gymnast to Win Gold for All Around
Watch a montage of Carly Patterson’s medal sweep:
Although it took 20 years, Carly Patterson was the second American woman to win gold for the individual all-around during the Games in Athens—her predecessor being Mary Lou Retton back in ‘84.
Considering Retton’s gold was won during the Soviet boycott, critics argue she didn’t have as much competition.
As for Patterson, soon after her big Olympic win, she discovered she had a bulging-disk injury in her lower back and would be forced to retire from gymnastics in 2006.
1976 Olympics: Bruce Jenner Sets World Record in Decathlon
Watch Bruce Jenner sweat it out to victory:
Before he turned into a Kardashian reality star and immersed his days flying toy helicopters…(and yes, even before his botched nip and tuck), Bruce Jenner was a super star Olympian god.
In 1976 he won a gold medal and broke a world record in the decathlon at the height of American patriotism and the country’s bicentennial.
1900 Olympics: Alvin Kraenzlein, Only Track and Field Athlete to Win 4 Individual Gold Medals
Want to know where hurdlers learned the revolutionary technique of propelling their front leg straightforward? Look no further than track and field trailblazer Alvin Kraenzlein, who, in 1900, snagged gold in Paris for the 60 meters, long jump, 110 hurdles, and 200 hurdles.
The Wisconsite’s hurdling technique was groundbreaking because it allowed athletes to run at top speed without losing their momentum.
1988 Olympics: Greg Louganis Comes Back After Concussion to Win Gold
Watch Greg Louganis’ head-banging moment here:
He sprung, he dove, he gashed his head. American diver Greg Louganis incurred a concussion and a bloody bang to the head during the preliminary rounds of the 1988 Seoul Games.
Despite the pressures of keeping secret his HIV-positive status, Louganis returned to the finals with determination and executed a perfect gold-medal dive.