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Ranking the top U.S. Summer Olympics athletes of the 1980s



kiraly/AP photoWhen I set out to rank the Top 20 U.S. Olympians of the Summer Games during the '80s, I had no idea the task was worthy of a spot on a medal podium.

Thankfully, has already ranked the 100 greatest U.S. Olympians in Summer Games history. So it's fairly easy to pick the top athletes from the '80s.

The website used the following criteria: world records, medal counts, sustained excellence over multiple Olympic cycles and cultural impact. What they didn't factor in was success outside the Games and singular moments of greatness (unless those moments were part of overall great careers).

So what we have at hand then is the top rated U.S. Olympic athletes, according to Bleacherreport, who competed in the 1984 and/or 1988 Summer Games. (Remember we boycotted 1980 in Moscow.) I've included their rank within the '80s, which is based entirely on their rank among the top 100 of all time (which is also noted.) Confused? Nobody said the Olympics were an exact science.

Part 1 of the rankings is today. The top 10 is Friday, the same day the Summer Olympics open again in London. Enjoy.


20. Valerie Brisco-Hooks (Track)
Overall rank: 81
Olympics: 1984, 1988
Medals: 4 (3 gold, 1 silver)
Bleacher says: "Twelve years before Michael Johnson's legendary performance at the 1996 Atlanta Games, Valerie Brisco-Hooks made history by becoming the first woman to win the 200- and 400-meter sprints. Both runs came in Olympic record time."

19. Roy Jones Jr. (Boxing)
Overall rank: 80
Olympics: 1988
Medals: 1 (silver)
Bleacher says: "At the 1988 Seoul Games, Roy Jones Jr. was on the rotten end of perhaps the most infamous decision in Olympic boxing history. Despite dominating the gold-medal bout, just as he had each of the four fights prior, Jones lost a 3-2 decision to his Korean opponent, Park Si-Heon."

18. Mary T. Meagher (Swimming)
Overall rank: 78
Olympics: 1984, 1988
Medals: 5 (3 gold, 1 silver, 1 bronze)
Bleacher says: "Though her Olympic career started late because of the 1980 U.S. boycott, Mary T. Meagher still has one of the best Olympic resumes in American swimming history. At the 1984 Los Angeles Games, Meagher, known to fans as Madame Butterfly, swept the 100- and 200-meter butterfly events and added a third gold in the 4x100 medley relay."

17. Peter Vidmar (Gymnastics)
Overall rank: 67
Olympics: 1984
Medals: 3 (2 gold, 1 silver)
Bleacher says: "Performing in the same arena where he'd first shone as a collegian, UCLA grad Peter Vidmar was the standout performer on America's breakthrough 1984 men's gymnastics team."

16. Darrell Pace (Archery)
Overall rank: 62
Olympics: 1976, 1984, 1988
Medals: 3 (2 gold, 1 silver)
Bleacher says: "With victories at the 1976 and 1984 Games, Darrell Pace is the only Olympic archer of either sex to win the modern individual competition twice and one of the few Americans to maintain a world-class level through the 1980 U.S. boycott. In 2011, the World Archery Federation named Pace its Athlete of the 20th Century."

15. J. Michael Plumb (Equestrian)
Overall rank: 61
Olympics: 1960, 1964, 1968, 1972, 1976, 1984, 1992
Medals: 6 (2 gold, 4 silver)
Bleacher says: "With seven Olympic appearances to his name, John Michael Plumb has competed in more Summer Games than any other U.S. athlete. More than just longevity, his expert riding spurred the most successful period in U.S. equestrian history, and he holds the national record for most medals earned in the discipline."

14. Teresa Edwards (Basketball)
Overall rank: 55
Olympics: 1984, 1988, 1992, 1996, 2000
Medals: 5 (4 gold, 1 bronze)
Bleacher says: "Teresa Edwards is the most decorated Olympic basketball player of all time. ... Noted for her superior passing and disruptive defense, Edwards is both the youngest (20) and oldest (36) U.S. player to win a basketball medal."

13. Michael Jordan (Basketball)
Overall rank: 48
Olympics: 1984, 1992
Medals: 2 (both gold)
Bleacher says: "His Airness fronted two of the most hyped and ultimately successful men's basketball teams in U.S. Olympic history. In 1984, he and Patrick Ewing led a highly touted group of collegiate all-stars to Team USA's last gold-medal win in the amateur era. Then, in 1992, he was the corporate face of America's influential, unstoppable, incomparable Dream Team."

12. Tracy Caulkins (Swimming)
Overall rank: 45
Olympics: 1984
Medals: 3 (all gold)
Bleacher says: "Robbed of what likely would have been her best Olympic meet by the 1980 U.S. boycott, Tracy Caulkins stuck around just long enough to get her taste of Olympic glory at the 1984 Los Angeles Games. There Caulkins would win the 200- and 400-meter individual medleys and, for many, confirm the long-held belief that she was the best all-around performer in women's swimming history."

11. Karch Kiraly (Volleyball)
Overall rank: 38
Olympics: 1984, 1988, 1996
Medals: 3 (all gold)
Bleacher says: "He led the U.S. men's team to consecutive gold medals in the 1980s before winning the inaugural men's beach volleyball title at the 1996 Atlanta Games. He's the only player to achieve that impressive double, and his three medals are the most by any athlete in the discipline."

Just missed: Joan Benoit (Marathon), Paul Gonzales (Boxing), Flo Hyman (Volleyball), Connie Carpenter-Phinney (Cycling), Steve Timmons (Volleyball), Terry Schroeder (Water Polo), Gail Devers (Track), Evelyn Ashford (Track)

[Last modified: Wednesday, July 25, 2012 5:26pm]


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