By Brandon Penny | Dec. 31, 2017, 5:04 p.m. (ET)
From cross-country skier Jessie Diggins winning the United States’ first skiathlon world cup podium ever on Jan. 3 to ski jumpers Michael Glasder and Sarah Hendrickson qualifying for the 2018 U.S. Olympic Team on Dec. 31 – and all the incredible moments in between – 2017 was a year to remember for Team USA.
Whether it was in the pool or on the court, slopes or track, Olympians, Paralympians and hopefuls of all ages and backgrounds were leaving their mark on the world stage every day.
Let’s take a look at some of the numbers that made 2017 so special for Team USA…
Olympic-Event Summer World Championship Medals: 110
Coming off the Olympic Games Rio 2016 and with three years to go until the next Olympics, it was the perfect time for many athletes to take a break and recover in time for their next Olympic push. But that wasn’t the case for Team USA. After winning a record 121 medals in Rio, U.S. athletes almost matched that number in 2017 at world championship-level events with 41 golds, 39 silvers and 30 bronzes. After earning two men’s boxing medals in Rio, Americans continued that success and left the world championships with three medals, marking their best showing at the event in 18 years. In fencing, the U.S. women’s foil team earned silver for its best finish ever at worlds. Meanwhile, history was made left and right in sports like rowing, swimming, track and field, wrestling, water polo and weightlifting. For example… Meghan O’Leary and Ellen Tomek teamed up for the country’s first women’s double sculls medal in 27 years (and its best finish ever), swimmer Katie Ledecky became the most decorated woman in world championships history after adding five golds and a silver this summer, the women’s 4×400-meter team won gold with the largest margin of victory in track and field worlds history, six (of a possible eight) men’s freestyle wrestlers medaled at worlds for the first time in 22 years, the women’s water polo team became the first country to win the world title after claiming Olympic gold, and two weightlifters – Harrison Maurus and Mattie Rogers – ended 20- and 12-year world medal droughts for their country.
Paralympic-Event Summer World Championship Medals: 157
U.S. Para athletes, meanwhile, far outdid their performance at the Rio Games (where they took home 115 medals) by winning 157 this year – 56 golds, 54 silvers and 47 bronzes. The athlete who contributed to that tally the most? That would be Jessica Long who, already with 23 Paralympic medals to her name, earned eight medals at this month’s World Para Swimming Championships – contributing to more than 5 percent of the country’s total tally. To boot, all eight of her medals were gold, six in individual events and two in relays. The U.S. swimming team had a stellar performance as a whole, leaving the event with 54 medals, nearly doubling the 30 medals earned in 2015. Five months earlier, the track and field team put on a show of its own, winning 59 medals for its most successful performance in worlds history. Tatyana McFadden highlighted the team’s performance by sweeping all four of her events. In track cycling, Team USA topped the medal count with 18 medals, while the road cycling team earned 11. The paratriathlon team earned seven medals at worlds, led by Grace Norman who won gold after winning gold in the sport’s Paralympic debut last year.
Olympic-Event Winter World Championship Medals: 32
With the Olympic Winter Games PyeongChang 2018 quickly approaching, all eyes were on Team USA’s winter athletes this year – and they delivered, earning 32 medals (13 golds, 9 silver, 10 bronzes). If that result were to be duplicated at the Olympics in two months, it would mark the nation’s best winter Olympic performance outside of North America. History was set left and right in winter sports this year, led by biathletes Lowell Bailey and Susan Dunklee. Bailey won gold in the 20-meter individual to become the first American ever to win a world title in the sport, while Dunklee’s mass start silver marked the first individual world title by a U.S. woman. In bobsled, Elana Meyers Taylor and Jamie Greubel Poser drove their sleds to Team USA’s first women’s double podium. The women’s hockey team won its record fourth straight world title and first on home ice. Ashley Caldwell and Jon Lillis swept the aerials world titles, marking the first time the U.S. did so in 22 years. Mikaela Shiffrin won her third straight slalom world title, becoming the first woman in 78 years to achieve a three-peat; she also won silver in giant slalom reminding the world she is a multiple-medal threat. Long track speedskater Heather Bergsma had her own stellar showing, winning world titles in the 1,000 and 1,500, as well as bronze in the mass start, which makes its debut in PyeongChang. Meanwhile, the luge relay team earned silver for its first world medal in the event.
Paralympic-Event Winter World Championship Medals: 23
The nation’s best Para winter athletes had similar success to their Olympic counterparts this year, winning 23 medals (8 golds, 6 silvers, 9 bronzes), which at a Paralympic Games would mark the best finish since the 2002 Salt Lake City Games. In fact, the eight golds are four times the number U.S. athletes won in Sochi. And half of those eight came from one athlete: Oksana Masters. Prior to 2017, no U.S. woman had won gold in Para Nordic skiing; this year, Masters won four golds in cross-country sprint, middle distance and long distance, plus biathlon sprint. She also earned bronze in biathlon middle distance. Andrew Kurka threw down on the slopes, claiming a medal of each color with gold in downhill, silver in giant slalom and bronze in super-G. Para snowboarders claimed 10 medals at their worlds, highlighted by double gold for Brenna Huckaby. And the U.S. sled hockey team took home silver for its seventh straight medal at the event.
World Championships Held In The United States: 7
The United States was busy hosting international events of all types this year, highlighted by world championship-level competitions in BMX, Para-cycling, Para-rowing, rowing, skateboarding and weightlifting that were spread across the calendar from March through December. At the Para-cycling track worlds in Los Angeles, the U.S. won 18 medals, highlighted by the nation’s first-ever world title in men’s team sprint. USA Cycling couldn’t have asked for better results after U.S. BMX riders swept both the men’s and women’s races in South Carolina, with Corben Sharrah and Alise Post winning gold; Post’s win marked the first world title by a U.S. woman in 20 years. U.S. rowers left Florida with six medals, including the best result ever for a U.S. women’s double sculls boat and the U.S. mixed four’s fourth straight world or Paralympic silver medal. USA Weightlifting saw the best success at home, though, when hosting its sport’s world championships for the second time in three years. After not winning a medal of any color in 12 years – not to mention a 20-year drought for men’s medals and a 23-year drought for gold medals – Team USA cleaned up, earning eight medals, including three golds.
U.S. Olympic Team Trials Held: 4
Qualifying for the PyeongChang Olympics kicked off in earnest when the U.S. Olympic Team Trials for Curling were held last month in Omaha, Nebraska, where the teams skipped by John Shuster and Nina Roth earned their spots in South Korea, with Shuster becoming the first U.S. men’s curler to make four Olympic teams. The path to PyeongChang steamrolled from there, with trials being held for short track speedskating in Kearns, Utah, and mixed doubles curling (which debuts in 2018) in Blaine, Minnesota, concurrently in mid-December. Eight skaters made the 2018 U.S. Olympic Team, including 17-year-old Maame Biney who will be the first black women’s speedskater to represent the U.S. at the Olympics. In mixed doubles, the sibling team of Becca and Matt Hamilton won their trials; they will now represent Team USA in both traditional men’s/women’s curling as well as mixed doubles. The year ended – literally – with trials for Nordic combined and ski jumping Dec. 30-31 in Park City, Utah. Bryan Fletcher beat out his brother, Taylor, as well as the Loomis brothers to take the first Nordic combined spot on the team, while Michael Glasder finally made his first Olympic ski jumping team at age 28 and Sarah Hendrickson overcame years of injuries to make her second.
Olympic Athletes Qualified For PyeongChang: 42
In addition to making history in their sport by winning medals, biathletes Lowell Bailey and Susan Dunklee became the first members of the 2018 U.S. Olympic Team back in February, and qualifying continued through the final day of the year with Glasder and Hendrickson in ski jumping. While nearly 200 more athletes are expected to be added to the team in the first ~25 days of 2018, the team so far consists of athletes in eight sports. Twenty of those athletes will make their Olympic debut, while eight already own Olympic medals. That list of eight is highlighted by 2014 Olympic champions Jamie Anderson (slopestyle snowboarding) and Mikaela Shiffrin (slalom). To date, snowboarder Chloe Kim is the youngest at age 17 and Bailey is the oldest at 36.
Paralympic Athletes Qualified For PyeongChang: 5
While the 2018 U.S. Paralympic Team could consist of as many as 70 athletes – and athletes are competing fast and furiously across the globe in hopes of making the team – only five have officially been named to the team so far, and those five are wheelchair curlers. The team ranges in age from 31-year-old Justin Marshall to 48-year-old Kirk Black. Meghan Lino, 33, and Penny Greeley, 46, will be returning to the Games after competing on the team in 2014; Greeley also competed in sitting volleyball at the 2004 summer Games. Black, Marshall and Steve Emt will all make their debuts in PyeongChang. The next athletes named to the 2018 U.S. Paralympic Team will be the 17-member sled hockey team on Jan. 1.