U.S. Olympic standouts: A look back in photos

As the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro bring us new heroes from around the world, we’re taking time to remember American athletes who broke records in their sports and barriers in society from earlier Olympics.

Jim Thorpe  | Stockholm

1912. Jim Thorpe won gold medals in the pentathlon and the decathlon. Of Native American descent, he is considered one of the greatest athletes of all time.

Jim Thorpe standing with hands on hips (Public domain)
(Public domain)

Duke Kahanamoku Antwerp

1920. Duke Kahanamoku earned gold in swimming and is considered the “father of modern surfing.” He was one of the last full-blooded Hawaiians.

Duke Kahanamoku swimming (© Everett Collection Historical/Alamy)
(© Everett Collection Historical/Alamy)

Helen Wills | Paris

1924. Helen Wills won gold medals in singles and doubles tennis. She was the most dominant tennis player of the 20th century.

Helen Wills Moody playing tennis (© AP Images)
(© AP Images)

Babe Didrikson | Los Angeles

1932. Babe Didrikson medaled in the hurdles, javelin throw and high jump, the only three individual track events that women could compete in at the time.

Babe Didrikson and others clearing hurdles in race (© AP Images)
(© AP Images)

Jesse Owens | Berlin

1936. Jesse Owens became the first U.S. track and field athlete to win four gold medals in a single Olympiad. He became an icon in the fight for racial equality.

Jesse Owens crossing finish line in race in large stadium (© Alamy/INTERFOTO)

Vicki Draves | London

1948. Vicki Draves was the first Asian American to win an Olympic medal, earning golds in both springboard and platform diving. She was named among the two best U.S. athletes of the 1948 games.

Vicki Draves diving backwards (© AP Images)
(© AP Images)

Mal Whitfield | Helsinki

1952. Mal Whitfield repeated his Olympic gold performance in the 800-meter track at the 1952 games. As a Tuskegee Airman, he had won gold in 1948 in the same event while on active military duty.

Mal Whitfield crossing finish line ahead of other runners (© AP Images)
(© AP Images)

Wilma Rudolph | Rome

1960. Wilma Rudolph overcame polio as a child to win three gold medals in sprint events on the track, making her at the time the “fastest woman in the world.”

Wilma Rudolph racing in front of large crowd (© AP Images)
(© AP Images)

Mark Spitz | Munich

1972. Mark Spitz won seven gold medals in swimming, a record for the most gold at a single Olympics until 2008, when American swimmer Michael Phelps won eight medals.

Mark Spitz swimming (© Everett Collection Historical/Alamy)
(© Everett Collection Historical/Alamy)

Carl Lewis | Los Angeles

1984. Carl Lewis won four gold medals in track, equaling Jesse Owens’ 1936 performance. He later became one of four athletes to win nine gold medals while competing in four Olympics.

Carl Lewis sprinting in front of large crowd (© AP Images)
(© AP Images)

Michael Jordan | Barcelona

1992. Michael Jordan earned gold as part of the “Dream Team” in basketball that included Larry Bird, Magic Johnson and other U.S. professional basketball players.

Michael Jordan jumping and knocking basketball away from hoop (© AP Images)
(© AP Images)

Oscar de la Hoya | Barcelona

1992. Oscar de la Hoya was the only U.S. boxer to win gold at the games in Barcelona. He later became the first Hispanic to own a national boxing promotional company.

Oscar de la Hoya boxing (© AP Images)
(© AP Images)

Dominique Dawes | Atlanta

1996. Dominique Dawes became the first African American to win an individual Olympic medal in women’s gymnastics.

Dominique Dawes performing on balance beam (© AP Images)
(© AP Images)

Mia Hamm | Athens

2004. Mia Hamm won Olympic gold medals in 1996 and 2004, plus two world championships in 1991 and 1999. She inspired generations of girls to play soccer.

Mia Hamm running with soccer ball at her feet (© Alamy)
(© Alamy)

Michael Phelps | Beijing

2008. Michael Phelps broke Mark Spitz’s 1972 record of gold medals in a single Olympic Games with his eighth gold. As a four-time Olympian, he is the most decorated Olympian of all time, winning 22 Olympic medals, including 18 gold medals. He will compete in Rio de Janeiro.

Michael Phelps swimming in race (© Alamy)
(© Alamy)

Carli Lloyd | London

Carli Lloyd kicking soccer ball during game (© AP Images)
(© AP Images)

2012. Carli Lloyd is the only player to score the winning goal in two separate Olympic gold-medal matches, in 2008 and 2012. She will go for her third gold medal in Rio.

Sherry Brukbacher, Sara Gemeny Wilkinson and Julia Maruszewski contributed to this photo gallery.

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