100 Greatest U.S. Olympians – Rolling Stone
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100 Greatest U.S. Olympians

At every Olympics, America’s top athletes compete for national pride and personal glory. These are the best of the best.

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Ever since their founding in 1896, the modern Olympic Games have brought us countless inspiring stories, making heroes out of underdogs and dominant athletes alike. With even more classic moments set to happen at the Sochi Winter Olympics, we looked back at the best Americans to ever compete, and the amazing stories behind their triumphs. By Dan Reilly

Pierre-Philippe Marcou/AFP/Getty Images

Aaron Peirsol

2004 Athens Games, 2008 Beijing Games
Swimming
Medal count: Five golds, two silvers

Among Peirsol's five gold medals were earned in the 100-meter backstroke and 4×100 medley in both 2004 and 2008. He also won gold in the 200-meter backstroke in 2004, earning silvers in the event in 2000 and 2008. 

Joe Rimkus Jr./Miami Herald/KRT

Shaun White

2006 Turin Games, 2010 Vancouver Games, 2014 Sochi Games
Snowboarding 
Medal count: Two golds

The best snowboarder in X Games history won the first two snowboarding halfpipe events in Olympic history in 2006 and 2010. At Sochi, he'll shoot for his third gold and was set to compete in the first-ever slopestyle snowboarding event, but pulled out shortly before the games began.

Joe Rimkus Jr./Miami Herald/ KRT

Seth Wescott

2006 Turin Games, 2010 Vancouver Games
Snowboard cross
Medal count: Two golds

Wescott won gold both times snowboard cross was held at the Olympics. After his first win in 2006, he was offered the opportunity to meet President Bush but declined, due to political differences. He failed to make the team's cut in 2014.

Fabrice Coffrini/AFP/Getty Images

Hannah Teter

2006 Turin Games, 2010 Vancouver Games, 2014 Sochi Games
Snowboard halfpipe
Medal count: One gold, one silver

Teter followed Kelly Clark as the second-ever women's halfpipe champ, and followed that up with a silver medal in 2010. Both snowboarders will represent the U.S. at Sochi along with newcomers Kaitlyn Farrington and Arielle Gold.

Don Emmert/AFP/Getty Images

Julia Mancuso

2006 Turin Games, 2010 Vancouver Games, 2014 Sochi Games
Skiing
Medal count: One gold, two silvers

Mancuso's three alpine medals are the most among American women. She won gold in the giant slalom in 2006, and silvered in the downhill and combined events four years later. The 29-year-old will compete in Sochi.

Natalie Coughlin

Jamie Squire/Getty Images

Natalie Coughlin

2004 Athens Games, 2008 Beijing Games, 2012 London Games
Swimming
Medal count: Three golds, four silvers, five bronzes

In 2008, Coughlin became the first woman to defend gold in the 100-meter backstroke. Her six medals that year gave her the record for most by a woman in a single Olympiad. Her only medal in 2012 was a bronze for the 4×100 freestyle relay, but she's eying a return in 2016. 

Timothy Clary/AFP/Getty Images

Ryan Lochte

2004 Athens Games, 2008 Beijing Games, 2012 London Games
Swimming
Medal count: Five golds, three silvers, three bronzes

A three-time winner of the 4×200 freestyle relay, Lochte also has individual golds in the 200-meter backstroke and 400-meter medley. Following his five medals in 2012, he starred in an E! reality show called What Would Ryan Lochte Do? and trademarked his catchphrase, "Jeah."

Kristian Dowling/Getty Images

Nastia Liukin

2008 Beijing Games
Gymnastics
Medal count: One gold, three silvers, one bronze

Born in Russia to gymnast parents, Liukin moved with her family to the States before she was 3-years-old. In 2008, she became the third American woman to win the all-around event, and took home medals in the team, uneven bars, balance beam, and floor exercise categories. She retired in 2012 after injuries prevented her from returning to the Olympics.

Al Bello/Getty Images

Shawn Johnson

2008 Beijing Games
Gymnastics
Medal count: One gold, three silvers

Johnson finished just behind her friend and roommate Nastia Liukin in the all-around competition, the first time Americans won gold and silver in that event. She also placed first in the balance beam and garnered silver medals in the team and floor events. 

Al Bello/Getty Images

Rebecca Soni

2008 Beijing Games, 2012 London Games
Swimming
Medal count: Three golds, three silvers

In the 200-meter backstroke at the 2008 games, Soni won her first gold in an upset of Australia's Leisel Jones, setting a world record time of 2:20.22. She defended the victory in 2012, and won another gold in the 4×100 medley. 

Joe Rimkus Jr./Miami Herald/MCT

Allison Schmitt

2008 Beijing Games, 2012 London games
Swimming
Medal count: Three golds, one silver, two bronzes

In 2012, Schmitt won individual gold in the 200-meter freestyle as well as the 4×200 free and 4×100 relay events. She also won silver in the 400-meter free, and two relay bronze medals.

Matthew Stockman/Getty Images

Evan Lysacek

2006 Turin Games, 2010 Vancouver Games
Figure skating
Medal count: One gold

The fourth-place finisher in 2006, Lysacek won gold in 2010 to become the first gold medalist since Brian Boitano in 1988. Unfortunately, injuries prevented him from competing in Sochi.

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Johnny Weir

2006 Turin Games, 2010 Vancouver Games
Figure skating
Medal count: Zero

The three-time American champion drew more attention at the Vancouver games for his off-the-charts charisma than for his skating. After finishing sixth and deflecting questions about his private life, Weir revealed he was gay in his 2011 memoir, Welcome to My World. He'll serve as an NBC skating analyst in Sochi.

David Eulitt/Kansas City Star/MCT

Gabby Douglas

2012 London Olympics
Gymnastics
Medal count: Two golds

The U.S. women won the team gold for the first time 16 years, just before Douglas won the all-around competition. She is the first African-American woman to win the event and plans to compete again in 2016.

Adam Pretty/Getty Images

Missy Franklin

2012 London Games
Swimming
Medal count: Four golds, one bronze

In her first Olympics, "The Missile" won four gold medals at 17-years-old, setting world records in the 200-meter backstroke and as part of the 4×100 medley team. Look for her to do even better as a 21-year-old in Rio.

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