There were so many memorable moments this past year, especially with the Olympic and Paralympic Games being held in London over the summer. And there were some that had nothing to do with performance of Team USA’s athletes on the playing fields that will be last in our memories for a while.
Here are some we couldn’t forget:
MCKAYLA IS NOT IMPRESSED
When U.S. gymnast McKayla Maroney placed second in the Olympic vault competition — an event in which she was favored to win — she couldn’t hide her disappointment. Her now famous “not impressed” look even caught the attention of the most powerful man in the free world, President Barack Obama. When Maroney and the rest of her Olympic gymnastics teammates visited the White House in November, she posed with President Obama and they both were caught “unimpressed” by the cameras.
THE WOMEN’S GAMES
It’s hard to forget the efforts of women in these Games. Women were everywhere and a lot of them were on the medal podium. The 2012 U.S. Olympic Team featured more women than men for the first time in an Olympic Games . If Team USA’s women competed as their own nation, they would rank an astounding third in the gold-medal count, tied with Great Britain. The U.S. women won 58 of a total 104 medals, plus contributed to the one tennis mixed doubles medal. Of the 46 gold medals earned by Team USA, 29 were secured by the women. The London Games, by the way, were held appropriately in the same year as the 40th anniversary of the most influential federal legislation for U.S. women athletes: Title IX. U.S. women won gold medals in the team competition in water polo, soccer, gymnastics, women’s eight (rowing) and basketball. In an all-American women’s beach volleyball final, Misty May-Treanor and Kerri Walsh Jennings scored their third consecutive gold medal and beat fellow Americans Jen Kessy and April Ross. Every single nation that competed in the Games featured a female athlete and for the first time in the Games, every sport in the Olympic program had women’s competition as women’s boxing was added. Claressa Shields, who returned from London as the first U.S. woman to win an Olympic gold medal in boxing, is thankful for that.
THE RUN-OFF THAT NEVER WAS
Another unforgettable off-the-track moment literally was a moment that was off the track. In other words, it never happened. During the U.S. Olympic Trials for Track and Field in Eugene, Ore., in June, Allyson Felix and Jeneba Tarmoh crossed the finish line in a photo finish for third place in the 100-meter dash. Following the race, there was much hype about a possible run-off. In the end, Tarmoh withdrew from the run-off and Felix was given the third U.S. spot in the women’s 100 in London. Felix did not medal in the 100 in London but she finally struck gold in the 200, where she had placed second in the previous two Olympic Games. Felix also took home two gold medals from relays.
ALY RAISMAN’S ENTHUSIASTIC PARENTS
Speaking of gymnastics, another viral moment for the sport occurred this summer when Olympic fans watched the parents of Aly Raisman in the stands. Her parents swayed back and forth in their seats as their daughter competed on the biggest stage of her life. It is not easy to be parents of an Olympian as evidenced here.
CALL ME MAYBE
Even though the most decorated Olympian (a.k.a. Michael Phelps) had a bit role in the project, even he had to admit the U.S. swimming team’s “Call Me Maybe” video might have been a factor in the team’s success in London. “It’s funny to say it now, but that ‘Call Me Maybe’ video we did really brought us together,” Phelps told Bob Costas on Costas Tonight earlier this month. “There are some of us who didn’t really want to do it, felt kind of weird doing it, but I think it really just shows how we are as a team.” The video clip has over 10 million views and can be seen here.
PHELPS BECOMES GREATEST OLYMPIAN
Of course, Phelps made one of the highlights of the Games. He earned the title of most decorated Olympian when he captured his 19th medal earlier in the Games, surpassing the career total of former Soviet gymnast Larisa Latynina, who claimed 18 medals from 1956-64. Phelps said his competitive swimming career was closing in London where he finished with 22 career Olympic medals. Phelps was 15 when he competed in his first Olympic Games in Sydney and he finished his last Olympic race at 27 in London with the 400-meter medley relay. He swam the butterfly in the relay, which, fittingly, captured the gold. His teammates gathered around him after his final competition, which was more of a coronation than anything else. "I was able to really put the final cherry on top tonight, put all the whipped cream I wanted and sprinkles. I was able to top off the sundae,” Phelps told reporters. “It's been a great career. It's been a great journey. I can't be any more happy than I am.” And it would not be an Olympic Games if we didn’t see Phelps’s family (mother, Debbie, and sisters, Whitney and Hilary) in the stands. Guess we will find out what it’s like to see Michael in the stands should he go to Rio de Janeiro as a spectator in 2016.
ZAGUNIS LEADS TEAM USA
Fencer Mariel Zagunis is a two-time Olympic gold medalist but she probably got the most attention of her career when she was selected as the flag bearer for Team USA for the Opening Ceremony in London. “I'm extremely humbled by this incredible privilege,” said the 27-year-old Zagunis, who was chosen by a vote of fellow Team USA members. “As an athlete, I can't imagine a higher honor than to lead Team USA into the Olympic Games, which are the pinnacle of sport and a platform for world peace. I am tremendously proud to represent my sport, our team and, most importantly, the United States of America.”
THE PRESIDENT AND FIRST LADY SUPPORT TEAM USA
President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama played leading roles with Team USA this year. Michelle Obama, who led the U.S. Presidential delegation in London, also met with several Team USA athletes and gave a speech at the U.S. Olympic Committee’s Media Summit in May in Dallas. Swimmer Natalie Coughlin had the honor of introducing the First Lady. An 11-time Olympic medalist, Coughlin is used to being in the spotlight, but she admitted being more nervous here than on the starting block. During her speech, the First Lady gave a shout out to gymnast John Orozco. Once in London, Michelle Obama took in plenty of Olympic action and even got hugs from LeBron James and the entire Team USA men’s basketball team. Following the Olympic and Paralympic Games, Team USA visited The White House.
ONE YEAR AND ONE WORLD AWAY
On the exact one-year anniversary of losing his vision after an IED (improvised explosive device) blast while serving in Afghanistan, U.S. Navy Lt. Brad Snyder won a gold medal in the men’s 400 freestyle at the London 2012 Paralympic Games. A former Naval Academy swim team captain, Snyder claimed two gold medals and a silver in his first trip to the Paralympic Games. He also was selected as the U.S. flag bearer for the Closing Ceremony and during Team USA’s visit to the White House, he handed a flag to President Barack Obama.
HERE COMES THE QUEEN
Danny Boyle, the creative mind behind the Opening Ceremony of the London 2012 Olympic Games, scored the crown jewel: The Queen of England herself. The famed film director was able to have Queen Elizabeth II “parachute” into the Opening Ceremony with the latest 007: Daniel Craig. The 80,000-plus fans in attendance certainly got the royal treatment. Watch it again here. The Royal Family was spotted throughout the Games, with Prince William, Prince Harry and Princess Kate taking in much of the action. The Royal Family even took home an Olympic medal as Zara Phillips, the eldest granddaughter of Queen Elizabeth II, helped lead Great Britain’s eventing team to a silver medal.
GOLDEN REUNION ON ICE
Another unforgettable moment from the year came on the ice as all 13 U.S. Olympic figure skating gold medalists gathered in Cleveland in support of Scott Hamilton’s 13th annual cancer benefit ice show on Nov. 3. Hamilton is a testicular cancer survivor who also has been treated for a benign brain tumor. Everyone from Dick Button, who won gold medals in 1948 and 1952, to Evan Lysacek, who claimed the Olympic crown in 2010, was in attendance. Not even Hurricane Sandy could prevent all 13 champions from making the trek to Cleveland. Of the 13 champions, only two skated that evening: Brian Boitano and Dorothy Hamill, but all of them shared in a special moment in time.
KRISTIN ARMSTRONG AND SON LUCAS TAKE TO THE PODIUM
Cyclist Kristin Armstrong became a two-time Olympic gold medalist in London but got to celebrate with someone special this time around — her son, Lucas. Born in 2010, Lucas was not able to witness his mom’s gold-medal ride in Beijing but she held him (and her medal) in what became some memorable photos of the Games.