I would normally create a top 10 list, but there were so many indelible and exciting moments that I have decided to create a top 20. These are my personal choices and I am sure I have left out some moments and events others would include.
No. 20 - Women's 1500 Meter Run - To me, the most heartbreaking moment of the Games. Last year at the world championships, Morgan Uceny was the best 1500 meter runner in the world when she was tripped up in the finals and finished tenth. Heading into the final lap at Olympic Stadium, Uceny once again fell, leaving her in tears on the track. There is no telling how she would have done over the last lap, but there is the unfortunate part of it. We will never know if she could have had the crowning moment of her career and at age 27, Rio is four very long years away.
19 - Women's Water Polo Final - United States vs. Spain. While their more celebrated counterparts were winning a third consecutive gold medal in soccer, the women of water polo captured a first gold medal after two silvers and a bronze. Heather Petri and Brenda Villa finally brought home gold after appearing in all four Olympic tournaments.
18 - Women's Judo 78kg. - The United States had never captured a judo gold medal in the previous ten Olympiads they had participated in. Kyla Harrison, the 2010 world champion, had moved to Massachusetts to train with double Olympic bronze medalist Jimmy Pedro, and put her life back together after acknowledging sexual abuse by a previous coach. Harrison did capture a first ever U.S. gold and was jubilant in her celebration.
17 - Men's Basketball Final - Twenty years after the Dream Team, the United States sent a men's squad loaded with superstars and punctuated with role players. The tenacious Spaniards showed how far the international game has come by keeping the game very close through the third quarter before Kobe, LeBron and Kevin Durant took charge and led the Americans to a 14th gold medal.
16 - Women's Singles Tennis Final - Serena Williams gave one of the most dominating performances of the Games by thoroughly pasting Maria Sharapova in the final 6-0, 6-1. Serena completed the career Golden Slam and then teamed with sister Venus to win a third doubles gold and become the only player to win the Golden Slam in singles and doubles.
15 - Women's Floor Exercise - During the qualifying round of women's gymnastics Aly Raisman almost seemed like the villain when her performances on balance beam and floor exercise propelled her into the all-around ahead of team headliner and defending world all-around champion Jordyn Wieber. After delivering a decisive final performance in the team final, Raisman lost a bronze in the all-around on a tiebreaker. Returning for the event finals, Raisman was spectacular in the floor final, with a scintillating performance to easily capture the gold.
14 - Women's 200 Meter Backstroke - Missy Franklin showed her promise in winning the world championship in this event last year as a 16 year old. The extremely likeable teenager was the swimmer of the Olympics and punctuated it with a world record.
13 - Men's 100 Meter Final - Always one of the highlights of the Olympics, the 100 meters is so perfectly simple, a footrace from point A to point B, fastest takes the gold. Usain Bolt quieted the doubters with the second fastest performance in history ahead of a stellar field and won the first of his three gold medals that cemented his status as the greatest sprinter in history and begins to put him in the upper echelon of all Olympians.
12 - Men's 200 Meter Butterfly - Michael Phelps made his Olympic debut in this event in 2000 as a 15 year old, finishing fifth. He hadn't lost a final in this event in over a decade, but just as things all went Phelps's was four years ago, he was a little too long on the final stroke and got edged out by South African Chad le Clos who had previously won a gold medal...at the 2010 Youth Olympics.le Clos will be able to tell his grandchildren one day that he beat Michael Phelps in the Olympics.
11 - Women's All-Around Gymnastics - Ever since Olga Korbut came out of nowhere to charm American TV audiences 40 years ago, the women's all-around has been one of the most featured events on the program. Gabby Douglas, the youngest and least renowned member of the world championship team a year ago, was the steadiest and best under pressure of the contenders. She ended up with a gold medal. For the rest of her life, she will be known in gymnastics circles simply as Gabby.
10 - Men's 200 Meter Individual Medley - After finishing fourth in the 400 IM and second in the 200 butterfly, it looked as though the magic of Beijing was gone for good. Phelps turned things around with this event, winning the second of his four gold medals, by dominating the field including teammate Ryan Lochte who had beaten him in the 400 IM and in this event at the 2011 worlds.
9 - Women's Soccer semifinal - They are the best known women's team in the country. A heartbreaking loss to Japan at the 2011 World Cup left Team U.S.A. pointing to London for redemption. A rematch with Japan and eventual gold medal almost never happened, until Alex Morgan scored a goal in the 123rd minute to overcome a hat trick from Canadian superstar Chrstine Sinclair, leaving the Canadians devastated in a controversial loss.
8 - Women's Beach Volleyball Semifinals - Misty May-Traenor and Kerri Walsh Jennings captured a third straight gold medal in the finals over fellow Americans April Ross and Jenn Kessy. The May-Traenor/Walsh Jennings semifinal win over Xue Chen and Zhang Xi of China, 22-20, 22-20 was as exciting a contest as you will see on the beach.
7 - Men's 10 Meter Platform Diving - The Chinese have dominated diving for twenty years and had won six of the first seven events. Qui Bo entered as the heavy favorite, the 2011 world champion had won that event by 41.2 points over silver medalist David Boudia. The Brits had a special interest as 2009 world champion Tom Daley was facing enormous pressure as one of the most recognizable athletes in Great Britain. The level of diving was exceptional and entering the final dive Daley led Boudia and Qui by 0.15 points. Daley had a lower degree of difficulty on the final dive which left the door open. Boudia scored three 9.5's which meant that Qui would need at least one 10 to win. The final dive from Qui was excellent, but fell just short of the scores needed, making Boudia the first American male diver to win gold in twenty years.
6 - Men's Cycling Time Trial - Just a week before the Games, Bradley Wiggins became the first Brit to capture the Tour de France. With the pressure of expectations and tens of thousands lining the course, Wiggins delivered a gold, the fourth of his career and a momentary British record seventh medal overall.
5 - Men's 10,000 Meters - Mo Farah of Great Britain was the favorite, but the traditional powers Kenya and Ethiopia were going to try to control the race and keep Farah from winning. Showing great patience, Farah outkicked the field over the final lap with the crowd roaring to bring him home to the first British 10K gold in history. Behind him, Farah's training partner Galen Rupp captured the first American medal in the event in 48 years.
4 - Men's Singles Tennis - A month before the Olympics, Roger Federer captured his seventh Wimbledon title over British hope Andy Murray, who came so close yet again. After two thrilling semifinals set up the rematch on Centre Court, Murray was never in jeopardy, winning Olympic gold at home before winning a Grand Slam event and preventing Federer from winning the Golden Slam.
3 - Men's 800 Meter Run - Kenyan David Rudisha was the heavy favorite, the world champion and world record holder. World records in events over 400 meters are rare in championship races as there are no pace setters. It hasn't happened since the 1980 Olympics when Nadezhda Olizarenko of the Soviet Union established a new world record over 800 meters. Rudisha took the lead from the beginning, but was a second behind pace after 400 meters. He surged away from the field over the next 200 meters and maintained his form to establish a new world record and led the field to the best ever marks-for-place from 1st to 8th. A truly epic race.
2 - Women's Team Gymnastics - Despite NBC's overselling of the American team and the endless hillbilly musical montages, the American women were spectacular. They hit every one of the twelve routines to capture the first American gold since 1996. These five teenagers, with no Olympic experience were wonderful. Even McKayla was impressed, before her peevish behavior on the vault medal stand went viral.
1 - Women's 4x100 Meter Relay - After years of poor handoffs, dropped batons and injuries, the Americans finally got it right, very right. The performance was astonishing. When the Soviets set a world record in the 4x400 meter relay at the 1988 Olympics, the world record book was essentially closed for women. World records in the 100, 200, 400, 800, 100 hurdles, long jump, high jump, shot put, discus throw, heptathlon and both relays have all survived since the Reagan administration. The fall of communism in eastern Europe and random, out-of-competition drug testing were the two big factors in those records remaining. The world record in the 4x100 by and East Germany squad had lasted since 1985, before three of the American relay members were born. The Americans shattered the record and captured their first gold in the event in 16 years. Lauryn Williams ran the anchor leg in the heat and captured her first gold medal in her third Olympics. The perfection of the race and the breaking of one of the 24 plus year old world records made me jump off my couch in amazement and excitement.
So many wonderful memories, I could probably write a different list tomorrow.
Rio... 1,453 days and counting...