The United States is by far the most successful country in Olympic history, having taken home 1,022 gold medals since 1896. While the nation has dominated in pool, on the track, and throughout the Olympics, there are a handful of sports where no American has ever climbed to the podium.
The US will have chances to win its first medals in several new events debuting at the Tokyo Olympics, including skateboarding and inaugural swimming, but there are also older sports where the country is still chasing its first medals. Based on its Olympic history and prospects for Tokyo, it could be a while before the US bucks the trend too.
Here are the five summer Olympic sports where the United States has never taken home hardware:
The USA had a difficult time progressing at all in the five badminton tournaments at the Olympic Games. Men’s and women’s singles and doubles have been full-medal competitions since 1992, while mixed doubles started in 1996. In seven Olympic Games involving the sport, the US has only reached the quarterfinals of a tournament once, when the men’s doubles team of Howard Bach and Bob Malaythong reached the round of eight at the Beijing 2008 games.
The country has a competitor in both the men’s and women’s singles tournaments at the 2020 games, as well as a men’s doubles duo. Timothy Lam is the 41st men’s player while Beiwen Zhang is the 11th player to compete in the women’s singles tournament. Brothers Phillip and Ryan Chew will also represent USA badminton in the men’s doubles tournament. Zhang offers America the best chance of winning a medal in any of these five sports.
The US has not even qualified for the men’s or women’s Olympic handball tournaments since 1996, when it hosted the Atlanta Games.
The men’s team has competed in the Olympic tournament six times, with the highest result of sixth place in 1936 – when only six teams took part in the competition. The men’s team has won a total of four games in their six Olympic appearances.
The women’s team has made it to the Olympics four times, all from 1984 to 1996. The best finish was fifth place, and it came in that first appearance.
The US achieved a historic milestone by breaking 1,000 at the Rio 2016 Olympics. gold medal in the history of the Olympic Games. It was the continuation of the United States’ history of world domination at the Olympic Games.
Rhythmic gymnastics made its Olympic debut in 1984 as an individual competition and was expanded to include a team competition in 1996. Europe has completely dominated the sport from its inception, with China and Canada being the only two countries from other continents to have ever won a medal in nine Olympic Games.
The United States’ highest finish at the event is 11th, achieved by Valerie Zimring during the boycotted 1984 Los Angeles Games and Laura Zeng during the 2016 Rio Games. The team’s appearance at the 2016 Games was the first since the group earned a place in the host country in 1996. The team finished 14th out of 14 teams in Rio.
In Tokyo, Zeng and Evita Griskenas will compete in the individual competition, while Isabella Connor, Camilla Feeley, Yelyzaveta Merenzon, Lili Mizuno, Elizaveta Pletneva and Nicole Sladkov will represent the USA in the group competition.
Why do Olympians bite their medals? The answer to that and more as we delve deep into the history of Olympic medals.
The USA has not won a medal in table tennis since its inception as an Olympic sport in 1988, but there will be six American competitors in Tokyo.
The US table tennis roster consists of two top athletes: 21-year-old Kanak Jha in men’s singles and team and 24-year-old Lily Zhang in women’s singles and team. They are ranked 30th and 31st in the world in their respective individual events. Zhang, a five-time national champion, has a better chance of winning a medal in Tokyo after finishing fourth at the 2019 Women’s World Cup, but she’s still considered an underdog. Nikhil Kumar and Xin Zhou join Jha for the American men, while Huijing Wang and Juan Liu complete the women’s team.
Chen Wang has the best American result in Olympic table tennis history after reaching the quarterfinals in women’s singles in Beijing.
The trampoline will make its sixth Olympic appearance during the Tokyo Games. Nine countries have collectively won the 30 medals awarded since 2000, but the US has not taken home any of them.
Savannah Vinsant had the best finish of any American, finishing seventh in 2012. The US had no finalist for men or women (top 8) in 2016, with Logan Dooley finishing 11th for men and Nicole Ahsinger 15th for women.
Ahsinger will again represent the USA at the Tokyo event, while Aliaksei Shostak will compete in the men’s.