American Achievers: The top Team USA moments of the 2020 Tokyo Games

Posted at 1:02 AM, Aug 07, 2021

With more than 100 medals earned across dozens of sports and disciplines, the United States took home more hardware than any other nation competing in Tokyo. The nation known for its red, white and blue was also known for its gold, silver and bronze as athletes swam, ran, shot, peddled and paddled their way to podium prominence.

While each accomplishment is notable in its own right, below is a look back at some of the extra special medal moments for Team USA.


Suni Lee's all-around amazement -- For the fifth straight Summer Games, an American took home the gold medal in the women's all-around gymnastics competition. This year, it was Suni Lee who stepped up in both the uneven bars and the floor routine to rise above the pack with a total score of 57.433. FULL STORY

Team USA's stunning silver -- After an early exit from the competition by Simone Biles, the remaining three members of the U.S. all-around team stepped up in a big way to keep American on the podium. Suni Lee, Jordan Chiles and Grace McCallum switched up their strategy on the fly and soared to a silver medal for "The Fighting Four." FULL STORY 

MyKayla Skinner returns from retirement -- An unexpected opening led the U.S. gymnastics team to turn to a veteran to get the job done on the vault. Enter MyKayla Skinner, who at age 24 won her first Olympic medal when she stepped up to take home silver. FULL STORY

SEE MORE: MyKayla Skinner takes silver on vault, Jade Carey eighth


Allman hurls discus into the blue sky -- She holds the American record, and now she holds an Olympic gold medal. Valarie Allman defeated defending world champions, and an incoming rainstorm, to earn the U.S. its first medal in discus in more than a decade. FULL STORY

Raven Saunders medal and message -- First, she gained internet fame with her face masks. Then, Raven Saunders launched a shot put nearly 20 meters to earn a silver medal and etch her name in Olympic history. But she wasn't done there; Saunders used her time on the podium to raise her hands in an "X" over hear head, later taking to social media to advocate for groups and communities with personal significance in her life. FULL STORY

SEE MORE: Saunders steals show, taking silver in shot put behind Gong


Caeleb Dressel's five golds -- He's the only Olympian to leave Tokyo with five gold medals, and he's one of America's swimming standouts of the 2020 Games. As an individual, Caeleb Dressel dominated two different freestyle races and the 100m butterfly. He also got gold in two men's 4x100m relays, both for freestyle and the medley. Though Dressel's eyes, Americans saw the determination of a winner, and the emotions of a devoted son and husband. FULL STORY

Palmer prevails in the pool -- Seemingly, the odds were stacked against her. A late start into the world of diving and an Olympic debut at age 29. A weak qualifying score and a torn ACL. When the going got tough, Krysta Palmer got going, becoming the first American woman to win a diving medal in the last two decades. FULL STORY

Bobby Finke from outta nowhere -- One come-from-behind victory wasn't enough for the 21-year-old swimmer who made his Olympic debut in Tokyo. Bobby Finke turned on the jets in the final length of the men's 800m freestyle race to pass three other swimmers and claim the gold medal. Then, in the 1500m race, he showed another dramatic finish with an impressive final surge and take home the top prize. FULL STORY

All eyes on Lydia Jacoby -- Alaska's first-ever gold medal in a Summer Olympic Games came from 17-year-old Lydia Jacoby, whose final push at the very end of the women's 100m breaststroke put her ahead of fellow American Lilly King and onto the top of the podium. Jacoby also contributed to the U.S. 4x100m mixed medley relay, nailing her portion (even after her goggles fell off) and winning the silver medal with the mixed medley team. FULL STORY

Men's medley medal -- Historically, the United States is undefeated in the medal match of the men's 4x100m medley relay, a streak that started back in 1960 and has continued in every Olympic Games that featured Team USA in action. The pattern continued in record fashion in the 2020 Games, as Ryan Murphy, Michael Andrew, Caeleb Dressel, and Zach Apple overcame tough competition and extreme pressure to set a new world record and keep the U.S. at the top of the podium. FULL STORY

SEE MORE: U.S. men's medley team 'trusted each other' en route to gold


'Moore' gold for Team USA -- The first-ever medals in the sport of surfing were awarded at the 2020 Tokyo Games, as the shortboard competition made its Olympic debut. Hawaii's star surfer Carissa Moore won her opening heat at Shidashita Beach, then cruised through the tournament bracket against opponents from Peru, Brazil and Japan. In the gold medal matchup, Moore scored nearly 15 points, outdueling South Africa's Bianca Buitendag (who scored 8.46 in the final) and securing the first-ever gold medal in women's surfing. FULL STORY

SEE MORE: U.S. surfing star Carissa Moore wins first Olympic title


Patience pays off for Lee Kiefer -- With so many Olympic medals won by American athletes in the history of the games, it's hard to be the first to break ground in established Olympic sports. An exception to that logic is U.S. fencer Lee Kiefer, who became the first American to win a gold medal in an individual foil event. Her ability to create scoring opportunities while preventing opposing scores gave her the 15-13 win over defending gold medalist Inna Deriglazova, and a new place on the fencing podium for Team USA. FULL STORY

SEE MORE: From near retirement to historic gold, Lee Kiefer's journey


Double gold for Team USA -- The last time Americans won the gold medals in both the men's and women's golf competitions at the same Olympic Games was the year 1900. Sure, the sport took a long hiatus from the competition list, but once it returned in 2016 the talent pool was so vast that it was difficult to see any nation -- let alone the United States -- find a way to stand at the top of both podiums in the same Games. Though there were playoffs for silver and bronze standings at Kasumigaseki Country Club, there was no question as to who ended the four rounds of play with the best scorecards. Xander Schauffele shot a 18-under to win the men's competition, while Nelly Korda's 17-under was just enough to claim gold in the women's competition. FULL STORY

SEE MORE: Nelly Korda's scorching second round


Three for the show -- It may not be breaking news to say that when it comes to traditional 5-on-5 basketball, the United States national teams display historic dominance in Olympic competition. This year, however, saw the debut of the new 3x3 discipline and a new opportunity for all nations to challenge for superiority on the court. While the U.S. men did not qualify for Tokyo, the women's squad of Stefanie Dolson, Allisha Gray, Kelsey Plum, and (late addition) Jackie Young won the gold medal game, blazing a new trail for USA basketball in Tokyo. FULL STORY

SEE MORE: Team USA's basketball 3x3 team got physical to win gold


Team effort in an individual sport -- American wrestlers won nine medals at the 2020 Tokyo Games, the highest medal count for any country's contingent this year. On the women's side, Sarah Hildebrandt and Helen Maroulis won bronze in their weight classes, while Adeline Gray claimed silver and Tamyra Mensah won gold. The U.S. men also had two bronze medalists, Thomas Gilman and Kyle DakeKyle Snyder took home the silver medal for his performance in the 97kg competition. And two American men won gold: David Taylor, who kept his 50-plus match win streak alive, and Gable Stevenson, whose last-second maneuver gave him the gold -- and gave the world a chance to see his impressive backflip. Nine medals in the wrestling ring is the best Olympic total for the Americans since 1984. FULL STORY

SEE MORE: Gable Steveson literally flips out after gold medal victory


Steffens solidifies her place among the greats -- The U.S. women's water polo team has won the gold medal at the last three Olympics (London, Rio, Tokyo), and Maggie Steffens was on the squad for all three of them. In the early rounds of action at this year's games, Steffens broke the all-time record for most goals scored in Olympic water polo history, becoming the first to surpass 50 goals overall. She was in the water for the gold medal game against Spain, adding one more goal to her illustrious total, and one more medal to her collection of gold. FULL STORY

Harrison rows to renown -- A new canoeing race debuted in Tokyo this year, the women's C-1 200m sprint. With the new event also came new competitors, like 19-year-old Nevin Harrison of the United States. Harrison's aspirations of being a track star were sidelined by a diagnosis of hip dysplasia, but her persistence put her on the Olympic stage on the water and in the 200 meter medal race. With one knee on the canoe and a paddle in the water, Harrison showed the world her Olympic spirit with an emotional gold medal victory. FULL STORY

SEE MORE: American Nevin Harrison wins gold in 200m canoe sprint