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The pixie powerhouse did more than just stick the landing when she nailed back-to-back perfect-10 scores at the 1984 Olympics: She also vaulted into history as the first American to win the all-around competition. Cue the Wheaties box!
Now that's one helluva double victory! The impeccably poised figure skater triple-toe-looped her way to a celebrated gold medal at the 1992 Albertville games, and then, 16 years later, fox-trotted her way to victory in the sixth season of Dancing With the Stars.
The African refugee put the American Dream on the global stage by overcoming his harrowing Sudanese past and earning a spot on the 2008 U.S. Olympic track-and-field team. Although he didn't take home a medal, he scored a bigger victory when he was chosen to be the U.S. flag-bearer at the opening ceremony.
The nation held their breath as one when, during the 1996 Atlanta Games, all hopes for the so-called assemblage of the Magnificent Seven were pinned on the pint-size competitor. In the final rotation of the final day of competition for the U.S. women's gymnastics team, Kerri proved she could come through in a clutch, somehow sticking her landing on her second vault (on a badly sprained ankle) and securing the gold medal, as well as her place as America's sweetheart du jour.
Undoubtedly not only one of the greatest, but most remembered athletes of the games, Owens was at the forefront of history when he took home four gold medals in Berlin in 1936, as he not only became the first American track and field competitor to log four wins during a single Olympiad, but poignantly managed to do so during a games held in Nazi Germany. Trailblazing: You're doing it right.
"Whyyyyyy?!" It was the clubbed knee felt around the world when the ice princess got clocked in 1994 by men connected with her bitter rival, Tonya Harding. Kerrigan wasn't down for long: She eventually skated to a silver medal at the 1994 Lillehammer games.
A three-time Olympian, the diver dramatically secured his place in the American consciousness during the 1988 Seoul games, when he hit and bloodied his head (he later disclosed that he was diagnosed with HIV six months prior) on a springboard during preliminary diving rounds and suffered a concussion. He nevertheless soldiered on, and ultimately took home the gold in two events.
Step aside, Tim Tebow, the only virginal athlete we're jonesing for these days is this London-bound track and fielder. Denied medaling glory at the 2008 Beijing games due to a fall on the penultimate hurdle, Jones is back with a vengeance for London, and is the American record-holder for the 60m event.
Before Michael Phelps, there was Mark Spitz. The swimmer paved (backstroked?) the way for the wunderkind that came later, taking home a then-unprecedented seven gold medals during the 1972 Munich games—a tally only surpassed by Phelps' nation-captivating run in Beijing in 2008—and setting, in his prime, an astounding 33 world records. Respect your elders, kids.
Before Nancy Kerrigan, Kristi Yamaguchi or Michelle Kwan, there was Hamill: the original ice queen who became America's Sweetheart when she won the figure-skating gold medal at the 1976 games. How beloved was she? She eventually got her own doll!
You'd be hard pressed to find someone who wasn't enamored with Michael Phelps during the 2008 Olympics. He was the golden boy of swimming, and overall he's won 16 Olympic medals, and was the most successful athlete at both the 2004 Athens games and the 2008 Beijing games. If there is a swimming award out there, he's won it. Then there's that whole pot-smoking controversy.
Call her the Neal Armstrong of female pugilists. Esparza won the first U.S. Olympic team trials in the history of the sport of women's boxing, itself a first-time entry into the Olympic Games, which makes its debut as a competitive event in London. If anyone was destined to grace the front of a Wheaties box, surely it's the first female boxer to ever represent the stars and stripes in her sport.
This American sprinter still holds the world and Olympic records in the 400 meter and 4 by 400 meters relay. Overall, he's won four Olympic gold medals, and the former "World's Fastest Man" is tied with Olympic great Carl Lewis for most gold medals won in running history.
This handsome Aussie swimmer has won eleven World Championship golds, the second-highest of any swimmer. Thrope has a long-standing rivalry with swimming's golden boy, Michael Phelps. The Thorpedo came out of retirement in 2012 to attempt to win a spot on the Australian Olympic team, but unfortunately he failed to qualify.
She's a small girl, but there is nothing little about what she's accomplished, on and off the balance beam. In 2008, she won the gold medal in the balance beam and the silver in the all-around. The very next year, she took home another sparkly prize: the mirror-ball trophy for winning season-eight of Dancing With the Stars.
The Jamaican sprinter is a five-time world champion and three-time Olympic gold medalist. Bolt is also the world and Olympic record holder in the 100-, 200- and the 4 by 100 meter relay. Can you say overachiever?
Non-soccer fans know her best as that girl who flashed her sports bra to the world on the cover of Time, Sports Illustrated and countless other publications. But do you know why she was celebrating? Her penalty kick won the United States the World Cup in 1999.
"The Golden Boy" won a gold medal at the Barcelona Olympic Games shortly after graduating from James A. Garfield High School.
Not only is Hamm one of the most decorated women's soccer player in the history of the game, but she was chosen as one of FIFA's 125 best living players, chosen by the one and only Pelé. Any little girl kicking around a soccer ball wants to be Mia Hamm when they grow up.
The former tennis pro competed in the 1996 Olympics in Atlanta and took home the gold for Men's Singles.
We're flipping for this pint-size Romanian gymnast, who, at the wee age of 14, changed the sport forever when she scored the first perfect 10 with a breathtaking uneven bars routine at the 1976 Montreal games.
The 27-year-old American swimmer is a six-time Olympic medalist and holds the world record in the 4 by 200-meter freestyle relay.
The daughter of two champion gymnasts, Liukin won five Olympic medals—one gold, three silver and one bronze—at the 2008 games in Beijing.
At the 2004 Games, the twins took home the silver team medal in Athens. Paul also earned a silver medal for the High bar, but it was his gold medal in the All-Around that generated the most attention. He was the first American man to win the All-Around title, however, victory celebrations were brief as the International Gymnastics Federation disputed the Paul's title shortly after crowning him the champ. After admitting that South Korean gymnast Yang Tae Young had been given an incorrect start value, the Federation ruled that Young, and not Hamm, was the true gold medalist. Debates about the medal and scoring controversy continued through the summer, and in September 2004, the Court of Arbitration for Sports in Lausanne, Switzerland, ruled that the original decision for the men's All-Around would stand and that Hamm would remain the gold medalist.