Team USA athletes ready for Rio Olympics

Allyson Felix celebrates victory in the 4x 400 relay at the 2012 Summer Olympics. photo: Wikipedia

Allyson Felix celebrates victory in the 4×400 relay at the 2012 Summer Olympics (photo: Wikipedia).

This summer in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, 555 highly skilled athletes will represent the USA in the quadrennial summer Olympic games. Among them, 46 states are represented, with 364 athletes who are Olympic rookies, while 191 are returning to complete, including 108 Olympic medalists and 68 Olympic champions. Ranging in age from 16 to 52, 53% (292) of the athletes are female and 47% (263) are male. Across 40 disciplines in 27 sports, 19 US athletes are defending their individual Olympic titles. US athletes are competing in 244 of the 306 medal events to be contested in Rio.

Sisters Serena and Venus Williams will look to match the Olympic record for overall medals in tennis. Prior to these Games, only three other American women have won five or more Olympic gold medals.

“We applaud a diverse and distinguished group of our nation’s greatest athletes, who will represent Team USA in Rio,” said USOC CEO Scott Blackmun. “Sport, and the Olympic Movement in particular, has always had a unique ability to inspire our nation and unite the world. These Olympic Games will be no different in that regard as 555 Americans rise to their best and make our nation proud. I am especially excited for the historic achievement of our women’s delegation, which is a true testament to the strength and growing number of women’s sport opportunities in the United States.”

Three U.S. Olympians are headed to their sixth Olympic Games including equestrian Phillip Dutton, and shooters Emil Milev and Kim Rhode, who become only the ninth, 10th and 11th athletes – summer or winter – to do so in U.S. Olympic history. Seven athletes headed to their fifth Olympic Games are Tony Azevedo (water polo), Glenn Eller (shooting), Bernard Lagat (track and field), Steven Lopez (taekwondo), Michael Phelps (swimming), Kerri Walsh Jennings (beach volleyball) and Venus Williams (tennis). Only 35 other athletes in U.S. Olympic history have competed in five or more Olympic games.

Venus and Serena Williams

Venus and Serena Williams

“For both returning and first-time Olympians, the pursuit of an Olympic dream is never an easy journey,” said Alan Ashley, 2016 U.S. chef de mission and USOC chief of sport performance. “Earning the distinction of being named to the U.S. Olympic Team requires years of relentless focus, unwavering dedication and untold sacrifices. I’d like to commend all of those who helped support our athletes in pursuit of their Olympic dreams. During the Games, we will continue to uphold that same level of support as we help our athletes strive for excellence on the world stage.”

Topping the list of most decorated U.S male and female athletes to make the team are Phelps and Allyson Felix (track and field). With 22 medals – including 18 golds – Phelps is the most decorated Olympian of all time, from any nation, and the first American male swimmer to qualify for five Olympic Teams.

Making her fourth Olympic appearance, Felix is the most decorated U.S. Olympic female with four gold medals, and six overall.