With the Tokyo Olympics now less than a month away, who’s excited to cheer on your country? As athletes from around the world gather to compete in an Olympics, we are looking at the most famous gymnasts to come from the United States.
You have been waiting. The athletes have been waiting. And the games are almost here.
When it comes to the Summer Olympics, one sport has been a main staple for a while: gymnastics. And the USA has been one of the leaders and best teams to show up at compete at the games ever four (in this case for this Olympics, five) years.
Simone Biles will be leading the charge for this year’s Olympic team, already having multiple medals to her name as one of the best gymnasts in this era and in US Gymnastics history. You may have wondered who else has as many medals as her and who has the most all-time in this sport for Americans? We’ve got your back with this list.
The athleticism and art that goes into the sport takes a lot of determination, practice, and work ethic. It’s something these athletes on this list could attest to.
So, without further ado, here’s a list of the 20 most famous gymnasts from the U.S. who have the most Olympic medals:
20 – A whole lot of American gymnasts
That’s right. Coming in at number-20 are a lot of gymnasts. From Alicia Sacramone to Betty Okino to Kim Zmeskal to Kristen Maloney to Dorothy Dalton to Marian Barone, the US gymnastics team has a rich history of success at the Olympics from both the individual and team sport.
19 – Kerri Strug (2)
Strugg is tied with seven more American gymnasts with two Olympic medals.
According to Encyclopedia.com, “(a)s the final performer during the final event of the women’s team competition, Strug completed her second and final vault, in obvious pain on a sprained ankle, to secure the first ever Olympic gold medal for the United States women’s gymnastics team. This courageous and heroic moment was captured in countless media images and broadcast around the world, and secured her own place in Olympic and sports history.”
18 – McKayla Maroney (2)
USA Gymnastics lists her two medals: “2012 Olympic Games…1st-Team; 2nd-VT”. That silver medal in vault seems to be her specialty as she’s vaulted into first place in a lot of international and national competitions in vault.
17 – Courtney Kupets Carter (2)
Now the University of Georgia Women’s Gymnastics Head Coach, she has the collegiate and Olympic experience to be able to lead a NCAA Division 1 team to wins.
Per the Georgia Bulldogs, “Kupets Carter won a team silver medal at the 2004 Olympics in Athens, Greece in addition to an individual bronze on uneven bars…In her four years as a (Georgia) Gym Dog from 2006 to 2009, Kupets Carter won four team national championships, eight SEC event championships, nine individual NCAA titles and was a 15-time All-American. She was Team MVP in 2006 and 2009, and won the Honda Award in 2007 and 2009…Kupets Carter is married to Chris Carter. The couple has two daughters, Brooklyn (Dec. 2015) and Savannah (Dec. 2018), and a son, Bentley (June 2017)”.
16 – Madison Kocian (2)
From Georgia to California, tied with two Olympic medals is Madison Kocian, who has already been a part of history, winning at three major championships.
According to the UCLA Bruins, Kocian is a “2015 and 2014 World Championship Gold Medalist…2016 Olympic Gold and Silver Medalist…2018 NCAA Team Champion…2020 Pac-12 Gymnastics Scholar-Athlete of the Year” (and) “(o)ne of just two female gymnasts to win NCAA, World and Olympic championships”.
15 – Kathy Johnson Clarke (2)
Now a gymnastics analyst on SEC Network, ESPN notes her decorated career as a gymnast:
“Clarke is one of a select few American women ever to win an individual medal in both World Championship and Olympic gymnastics competition. As captain of two Olympic Teams (’80 and ’84) and four World Championship teams she won a silver and bronze medal at the 1984 Olympic Games in Los Angeles and was named Gymnast of the Year by USA Gymnastics twice during her lengthy career, a feat made more remarkable by the fact that the two titles were eight years apart: ’77 & ’85.”
ESPN also listed how she’s advocating for such an important, just, and noble cause.
“In addition to television Kathy volunteers at local schools near her home in Orlando, Florida and remains one of the most recognized and respected “voices” in the world of gymnastics as a spokesperson for Childhelp’s Blow the Whistle on Child Abuse and an ardent advocate for children’s education, health and well-being.”
14 – Terin Humphrey (2)
Roll Tide! From Georgia to California to Florida, we are staying in the south as Terin Humphrey also is tied with two Olympic medals.
Per the University of Alabama’s rolltide.com, Humphrey was a “(m)ember of the 2004 United States Olympic Team, competing in Athens, Greece…Earned two Olympic Silver medals, one as part of the USA squad and individually on the uneven bars…(was) Alabama gymnastics’ first Olympian” and she was also a “(m)ember of the United States 2003 World Championships (g)old (m)edal (t)eam. Per rolltide.com, she also “(w)on second NCAA…Uneven Bars Championship against the toughest field in NCAA history, marking Alabama’s 20th individual championship and fifth bars title”.
13 – Laurie Hernandez (2)
Laurie Hernandez has a gold medal (team) from the 2016 Olympics in Rio and a silver (beam) from the 2016 Olympics.
Per Team USA, Hernandez “(i)s the only first-year senior-level gymnast to be selected to the 2016 U.S. Olympic Women’s Artistic Gymnastics Team”.
You also may recognize her from a certain show. Fun fact: Laurie “(a)t age 16, became (the) youngest (contestant) to win ‘Dancing with the Stars..'”
12 – Annia Hatch (2)
In 2004, Annia Hatch did something that wasn’t done since Mary Lou Retton. And it was a journey to get to that point.
As the Associated Press reported in 2004 via ESPN: “Annia Hatch became the first American woman since Mary Lou Retton to win an Olympic medal in vault”.
Becoming an American citizen after moving from Cuba was a process. You can read more of her story, including how a US president advocated on her behalf, on her website here.
After all the adversity came Olympics time. Per her website: “In Athens, Annia competed only on vault in the team competition, and contributed to the US team’s silver medal. Although her ACL was not completely rehabilitated, she still qualified to the vault event final, where she won (that) silver medal behind Monica Roșu from Romania. Despite competing for the USA she is the first Cuban female gymnast to win an Olympic medal in gymnastics.”
11 – Julianne McNamara (3)
Now moving from two medals to three, there are four American gymnasts tied with this many medals. Starting off the three-medal club is Julianne McNamara.
Per Olympedia.org, “McNamara was considered the top US female gymnast in the early 1980s. She was US all-around champion in 1980, and then placed seventh in all-around at the 1981 World Championships, at the time the highest finish ever for a US woman.” Olympedia.org lists her Olympic medals in 1984: a gold in uneven bars, a silver in floor exercise, and a silver in team all-around.
10 – Carly Patterson (3)
All it took, similar to McNamara, was one Olympics to earn three medals, vaulting her towards the top of this list.
Patterson’s got a gold in individual all-around, a silver in team all-around, and a silver in balance beam from the Athens 2004 Olympics per Olympedia.org.
9 – Amy Chow (3)
Amy Chow’s got one of each, a gold in team all-around and a silver in uneven bars from the Atlanta 1996 Olympics and a bronze in team all-around from the 2000 Sydney Olympics (per Olympics.com).
Along with the Olympics, it was a busy, successful year for Chow in 2000, as she won in international competition. A lot. The “2000 Senior Pacific Alliance, Christchurch, New Zealand; 1st-Team…2000 Bluewater International Invitational, Ontario, Canada; 1st-AA, 1st-UB…2000 RCA Gymnastics Challenge…1st-UB (tie)”.
8 – Gabby Douglas (3)
Three medals. Three gold medals. All Gabby does is win. And she overcame adversity to do so (you can read more of her story on Deseret News here).
Team USA lists she won a gold (team) in the Rio 2016 Olympics and two golds (team, all-around) in the London 2012 Olympics. Along with those golds, Team USA also notes she’s got two golds and a silver from the World Championships and two books to boot: “Grace, Gold, and Glory: My Leap of Faith and Raising the Bar”.
“Faith plays a very big role in my life,” Douglas ‘said in a 2012 interview with Religion News Service‘ according to Deseret News’ Billy Hallowell. “I don’t know where I would be without it today. I’ve always been praying for everything. And my mom always exposed me and my siblings to being a Christian and the Bible.”
7 – Shawn Johnson East (4)
At the Beijing 2008 Olympics, Shawn Johnson East did her thing. She won a gold in the balance beam and three silvers (team, all-around, and floor exercise) per Team USA.
Another fun fact, similar to Hernandez, she “(w)on season 8 of Dancing with the Stars” per Team USA and “came in second on the 15th season of Dancing with the Stars (All-Stars edition)” per USA Gymnastics. Just count US gymnasts as some of the best contestants and automatic favorites to win on Dancing the Stars.
6 – Dominique Dawes (4)
Dominique Dawes broke barriers and shattered glass ceilings.
Dawes “earned her 15 national gymnastics championships in nine years and a spot on the 1988 U.S. national gymnastics team—the first African American ever on the squad” according to the Smithsonian. The Smithsonian also stated that “(a)t the 1996 Atlanta Olympics, ‘Awesome Dawesome’ and her fellow ‘Magnificent Seven’ gymnasts swept the competition, bringing home the first gold medal for a U.S. gymnastics team. Dawes won an individual bronze medal in the floor exercises—the first African American to earn an individual Olympic medal in women’s gymnastics”.
Overall, “Dawes won four Olympic medals, with gold in the 1996 team event, team bronzes in 1992 and 2000, and individual bronze on floor in 1996”, according to Olympics.com, and “(s)he also won four medals at the World Championships, with silvers on beam and uneven bars in 1993, team silver in 1994, and a beam bronze in 1996.” Per The Smithsonian: “After her participation in the 2000 Olympics, Dawes branched out, exploring multiple professional and philanthropic roles. She became a gymnastics TV commentator and an advocate for young women in sports.”
5 – Nastia Lukin (5)
Nastia Lukin has five total Olympic medals to her name. That’s tied with two more American gymnasts. And all it took was one Olympics.
During the Beijing 2008 Olympics, she got a gold in all-around, three silvers in team, balance beam, and uneven bars, and a bronze in floor exercise per Team USA.
Those five medals in one Olympics “tied the U.S. gymnastics record of five medals at one Games (also held by Mary Lou Retton, 1984, and Shannon Miller, 1992)” according to Team USA.
4 – Mary Lou Retton (5)
Speaking of Mary Lou Retton, she’s also got five medals.
When you talk USA Gymnastics, Lou Retton is synonymous with the storied history of the team and sport.
As USA Gymnastics states, “winning the All-Around Gold Medal in women’s gymnastics at the 1984 Olympic
Games in Los Angeles, (she became) the first American woman ever to win a gold medal in gymnastics. She also won silver medals for Team and Vault, and bronze medals for Uneven Bars and Floor Exercise. Her five medals were the most won by any athlete at the ’84 Olympics”.
And what Lou Retton is most remembered for during those Olympics are the adversity she faced leading up to them. Per History’s Women, she “suffered a leg injury heading into the ’84 Olympics, and was forced to undergo surgery. There was fear that the injury would force her to miss the Olympics, Retton was able to instead return and compete very strongly during her events.”
3 – Simone Biles (5)
Here’s a name on this list you are probably most familiar with. One of best gymnasts in the game right now, Simone Biles will be competing in just a few weeks, aiming to add even more medals to her resume.
Also just needing just one Olympics, she catapulted into winning five medals during the Rio 2016 Olympics with four golds in team, all-around, vault, and floor exercise, and a bronze in balance beam per Team USA. Biles also has “the most world medals in U.S. history…and the most world championships gold medals of any female gymnast” per Team USA.
Also having gone through her fair share of adversity, she won “six (World Championship) medals…while carrying a kidney stone, as she opted to wait until after the competition to have it removed” according to Sports Spectrum’s Jon Ackerman. Ackerman also reported that “Biles is vocal about her faith in God on social media…and she frequently credits her faith for her success in her book, ‘Courage to Soar…'”.
2 –Aly Raisman (6)
And then there were two. Aly Raisman has six Olympic medals to her name!
During the Rio 2016 Olympics, she also had herself a great podium run like Biles. Raisman won gold in team and two silvers in all-around and floor, per Team USA, and at the London 2012 Olympics, she won two golds in team and floor exercise and a bronze in balance beam.
And hey, this is a time for, you guessed it, another ‘Dancing with the Stars’ fun fact as she “(f)inished fourth on the 16th season of ‘Dancing with the Stars’ in 2013” per Team USA.
She “(s)upports the Uniting Against Lung Cancer organization in memory of her grandmother, who passed away from the disease” according to Team USA.
1 – Shannon Miller (7)
Shannon Miller. That’s the name of the American gymnast with the most Olympic medals in history.
Miller, per USA Gymnastics, “is one of the most decorated American gymnasts in history. She has been inducted into the US Olympic Hall of Fame – twice! (Individual (2006) and Team (2008)). She is a member of 8 Halls of Fame.Shannon has won an astounding 59 International and 49 National competition medals. Over half of these have been gold. She was the first US gymnast to win 2 World All-Around Titles. Her tally of five medals (2 silver, 3 bronze) at the 1992 Olympics was the most medals won by a US athlete in any sport (at the time). At the ’96 Games, she led the ‘Magnificent Seven’ to the US Women’s first ever Team Gold and for the first time for any American gymnast, she captured Gold on the Balance Beam.”
During the Barcelona 1992 Olympics, she won two silvers in individual all-around and balance beam and three bronzes in team all-around, floor exercise, and uneven bars and during the Atlanta 1996 Olympics, she added two golds in team all-around and balance beam per Olympedia.org.
Now, she’s passionate about promoting health and wellness.
“Shannon’s seeks to empower women to make their health a priority through education and awareness per USA Gymnastics.
USA Gymnastics stated that “(i)n January of 2011, Shannon was diagnosed with a malignant germ cell tumor, a form of ovarian cancer. She had the baseball-sized tumor removed successfully and followed up with nine weeks of chemotherapy for this rare germ cell malignancy. Now cancer free she continues to be a strong advocate for making health a priority.”
There you have it, folks! The list of US gymnasts who have the most Olympic medals!
Thanks to a previous Sports Reference page which compiled the list of gymnasts who have the most medals all-time. And thanks to Wikipieda for compiling the list for US gymnasts with medals, which helped as a resource and reference in this list (as there wasn’t many other resources out there that had current lists like this).
And hey, maybe some of these gymnasts listed (and not listed) can earn even more medals, making their way up this list. Biles included. She could even catch up with Miller from these upcoming Olympics!
While we’re on this topic, it’s also very worth noting the real pain and suffering some of these athletes have endured just by competing in the sport they’re passionate about and work so hard at. Hoping for healing and recovery from the mental ramifications of the atrocities that happened to them.
USA Gymanstics has a page for parents and guardians on its “Safe Sport Policy”. As USA Gymnastics states on the site:
” If you suspect sexual misconduct, please contact your local authorities and the U.S. Center for SafeSport. If you are unsure, you may contact the USA Gymnastics Safe Sport Helpline for guidance at 833-844-7233 or [email protected]. All other misconduct should be reported to USA Gymnastics through our online portal.”.
And for any suspensions of emotional or verbl abuse, USA Gymanstics states, “If you believe your child or other children have been exposed to emotional misconduct in a USA Gymnastics member club, please contact USA Gymnastics at [email protected] or on the helpline at 833-844-7233.”
Charlie Lapastora is a sports/news multimedia journalist who’s reported, written, produced, anchored, shot video/edited on different NBC, ABC, and FOX shows in multiple TV markets, along with digital & new media companies. Charlie has traveled the country telling national sports, news, feature, and original stories on a cable news network, airing on top 10 TV markets, satellite radio, and digital platforms. He is passionate about his faith, family—being a husband to whom he calls the G.O.A.T. of women—about reppin’ his home state of Michigan and Detroit teams (yes, including the Lions), good coffee, and loves how sports brings people together. He’s traveled the world leading and coaching sports camps and has also worked at the Detroit Pistons and LA Clippers’ NBA teams.
- 1 So, without further ado, here’s a list of the 20 most famous gymnasts from the U.S. who have the most Olympic medals:
- 2 20 – A whole lot of American gymnasts
- 3 19 – Kerri Strug (2)
- 4 18 – McKayla Maroney (2)
- 5 17 – Courtney Kupets Carter (2)
- 6 16 – Madison Kocian (2)
- 7 15 – Kathy Johnson Clarke (2)
- 8 14 – Terin Humphrey (2)
- 9 13 – Laurie Hernandez (2)
- 10 12 – Annia Hatch (2)
- 11 11 – Julianne McNamara (3)
- 12 10 – Carly Patterson (3)
- 13 9 – Amy Chow (3)
- 14 8 – Gabby Douglas (3)
- 15 7 – Shawn Johnson East (4)
- 16 6 – Dominique Dawes (4)
- 17 5 – Nastia Lukin (5)
- 18 4 – Mary Lou Retton (5)
- 19 3 – Simone Biles (5)
- 20 2 –Aly Raisman (6)
- 21 1 – Shannon Miller (7)
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