The Fourth of July weekend is still fresh in the rear-view mirror, which prompts an occasion of patriotic pondering: Over the last year, which of the U.S. national teams has experienced the most success?
Mostly, we’re talking about the Summer Olympics in Beijing, but there were significant accomplishments in winter sports and soccer (the U.S. men’s second-place finish at the Confederations Cup, its first-ever FIFA final, last month) since then.
Obviously, the gold medal won by Mike Krzyzewski’s Redeem Team was the most notable, but was it the most impressive? An attempt at such a reckoning is this week’s Tuesday Top Five.
5. Men’s basketball — There may not be a team in all of sports that faced as much pressure as this group, given the recent failures of USA Basketball and the expectations set two decades ago by the Dream Team.
4. Swimming — Michael Phelps and Natalie Coughlin alone would rank this highly, with Phelps winning eight golds and Coughlin six medals to go with the 17 others won by their teammates.
3. Women’s skiing — As the U.S. team prepares for the 2010 Olympics in Vancouver, British Columbia, Lindsey Vonn is coming off the best-ever World Cup season by an American woman, winning the overall, downhill and super G championships. The U.S. women also won two medals at the freestyle world championships, its most since 1995.
2. Women’s fencing — A 1-2-3 finish in saber gave in Beijing the United States its first sweep of an individual fencing event since 1904. All told, the U.S. women won five medals.
1. Men’s volleyball — While the basketball team got most of the attention in China, the fact is the United States has won gold in four of the past five Olympics. The men’s volleyball team hadn’t won gold in 20 years.