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The highs and lows of Team USA at Tokyo Olympics 2020

Caeleb Dressel with one of his five gold medals
Caeleb Dressel with one of his five gold medals
CONTRIBUTOR

Team USA continued their Olympic dominance with the seventh consecutive medal tally-topping performance at the quadrennial event. With the women's volleyball team clinching their first Games title on the final day in Tokyo, Team USA (39) edged China (38) on the gold-medal count to cement their pre-eminent position.

While Team USA did have a successful Tokyo Olympics 2020, they did have their fair share of surprises and twists. Let's take a look at some of the highs and lows of Team USA's outing in Tokyo.


Caeleb Dressel's five-gold showing

Arguably the best American swimmer after the great Michael Phelps, Dressel thrives in the spotlight. Caeleb Dressel won five golds in Tokyo and missed out on a sixth solely because of a coaching error.

With two world records and two Olympic records added to his growing list of achievements, the 24-year-old has cemented his place amongst the all-time greats of the sport.

Commenting on his experience at the Olympics in an interview with Sports Illustrated, Dressel said:

"I can be proud of every swim, every effort I put in the water, every mental approach to every single race. I was nervous before races. Every race was not perfect… Every morning when I woke up the first words weren’t always, β€˜Oh, I’m so excited.’ Sometimes it was, β€˜Oh f***, this is going to suck today.’ Sorry, just trying to be honest with you guys."

Simone Biles' withdrawal from the team and individual events

Simone Biles on the balance beam at the Tokyo Olympics
Simone Biles on the balance beam at the Tokyo Olympics

Perhaps the biggest story of the Tokyo Olympics was Simone Biles' withdrawal from the team finals and subsequently from three individual events. Biles came into the competition in peak form with strong performances at the US Olympic trials.

After her dominant showing at the 2016 Rio Olympics, Biles was a strong favorite to win multiple gold medals at the 2020 edition. However, she was initially feared to have sustained an injury during the qualifying rounds of the team all-round event.

USA Gymnastics later confirmed that the 24-year-old opted out to focus on her mental health. Biles later returned to compete in the individual balance beam event, in which she won bronze.


Sydney McLaughlin shatters her own world record to win gold

Sydney McLaughlin won gold in the 400m hurdles in a new world time
Sydney McLaughlin won gold in the 400m hurdles in a new world time

From making headlines during the US trials by breaking the 400m hurdles world record, to smashing her own time a few weeks later at the grandest stage, Sydney McLaughlin set the Olympic stage on fire.

Competing against her teammate Dalilah Muhammad, McLaughlin bested her own time of 51.90s to clock 51.46s in the final. McLaughlin's sprint from the final hurdle to the finish line was a true spectacle.

Both hurdlers teamed up with 800m champion Athing Mu and the great Allyson Felix to also win gold in the women's 4x400m event.


Men's track team fails to win solo gold

US men's 4x400m relay team won gold at the Tokyo Olympics
US men's 4x400m relay team won gold at the Tokyo Olympics

The men's 4x400m relay team captured the only gold medal for the US track team. For the first time in the history of the modern Olympics, the US men went home without a single individual gold on the track. With big names such as Grant Holloway, Noah Lyles and Trayvon Bromell, the overall showing was disappointing.

The men's 4x100m relay team faced stark criticism after they failed to qualify for the final. Iconic sprinter Carl Lewis took to Twitter to express his frustration:

Rai Benjamin, who promised stiff competition for world record-holder Karsten Warholm, had to settle for the silver. Benjamin, however, tasted gold as a part of the 4x400m team.


Allyson Felix - the most decorated American track athlete in Olympic history

Allyson Felix in the women's 4x400m final at the Tokyo Olympics
Allyson Felix in the women's 4x400m final at the Tokyo Olympics

With a bronze in the 400m and gold in the 4x400m, Allyson Felix became the winningest American track and field athlete in Olympic history. Surpassing the great Carl Lewis, Felix is now the second all-time with 11 medals, behind Paavo Nurmi, the Finnish distance runner, who won 12.

The 35-year-old has already said that Tokyo will be her Olympic swansong. Felix had come back into prime athletic form after giving birth to her now two-year-old daughter. She will forever be an inspiration to women and mothers all over the world.

"I feel at peace. I went out, had all the confidence in these amazing women. I wanted to take it all in one last time around, and it was special."

Men's basketball team lose to France in opener

Team USA celebrate after their win over France in the final at the Tokyo Olympics
Team USA celebrate after their win over France in the final at the Tokyo Olympics

Although they went on to win their fourth consecutive Olympic gold, the US men's basketball team began their quest with an upset loss to France - their first loss since 2004.

After becoming accustomed to "Dream Teams" and highlight reels that last several minutes at the very least, this version of Team USA seemed weak in comparison. Kevin Durant carried the team to victory, with strong backing from 2021 NBA champion with the Milwaukee Bucks, Jrue Holiday, and All-Stars Jayson Tatum and Damian Lillard.

The women's team, however, exerted pure dominance, winning their seventh consecutive gold. Sue Bird and Diana Taurasi became five-time Olympic gold medalists, having been a part of the team since the 2004 Athens Games.

Also read | Eight years in the making: The story of Neeraj Chopra, India's 1st Olympic gold medalist in athletics


Edited by S Chowdhury
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