Competing in the Olympics is a thrill in its own right, but winning a medal at the Games is like a dream come true. Here are some U.S. athletes who achieved both, beginning with Joyner-Kersee, who racked up a world-record 7,291 points in her first of two Olympic heptathlon titles in 1988. With three gold, two silver and two bronze Olympic medals to her name, it seems obvious why SI named her the top female athlete of the 20th century.
2 of 27Tony Duffy/Getty Images
As one of only three men to win the same event at four successive Games, Oerter took his feat one step further. He broke the Olympic discus record on every Olympic outing from 1956 to '68.
3 of 27Heinz Kluetmeier/SI
American diving legend Louganis earned his first trip to the Olympics as a 16-year-old in 1976 at Montreal, where he won the silver medal in the 10-meter platform. However, he would have to wait eight years before embarking on his dominant streak, in which he won back-to-back gold medals in both the 10-meter platform and 3-meter springboard in 1984 and '88. At the 1988 Games, he won his medals after suffering a concussion when he hit his head on the springboard during the preliminaries.
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Florence Griffith Joyner
Known to many as simply "Flo-Jo," the late Olympic track star is the world record-holder in the 100- and 200-meters, the latter of which she set at the 1988 Games in Seoul. At those Olympics, she won three gold medals (100-meters, 200-meters and 4x100-meter relay) and a total of five medals in addition to her two silvers in 1984.
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Known as much for his track feats as the golf hat he wore while running, Wottle surprised the track and field world with his 800-meter victory in 1972.
6 of 27Walter Iooss Jr./SI
A former college football player, Jenner had to give up his gridiron aspirations because of a knee injury. But his back-up plan didn't turn out too bad after his football coach encouraged him to switch to athletics. Jenner worked his way to the 1976 Olympics in Montreal, where he won the gold medal in the decathlon and set a world record of 8,634 points.
7 of 27Heinz Kluetmeier/SI
Mary T. Meagher
A record-setting swimmer before she was a teenager, Meagher was nearly a veteran by the time she competed in her first Olympics as a 19 year old in 1984. Though the 1980 U.S. boycott prevented her from making an earlier Olympic debut, she prevailed in Los Angeles, where she won three gold medals in the 100-meter and 200-meter butterfly, and the 4x100-meter medley. She returned to the Olympic stage in Seoul to capture the bronze medal in the 200-meter butterfly.
8 of 27Bob Martin/SI
The first Ethiopian woman to win an Olympic medal, Tulu won gold in the 10,000 meters in 1992 by more than five seconds and again in 2000. She took bronze in Athens.
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Mary Lou Retton
Retton became the first American to win the all-around gymnastics title, at the 1984 Olympics in Los Angeles. She also took home medals in four other events in those Games -- silver in the team competition and vault, and bronze in the uneven bars and floor exercise. That year, Retton was named SI's "Sportswoman of the Year."
10 of 27Manny Millan/SI
SI named Lewis ''Olympian of the Century,'' and with good reason. As a long jumper, Lewis was one of only three athletes to win the same individual event at four Olympics, starting in 1984. At the Los Angeles Games, he matched Jess Owens' 1936 four-gold-medal performance in the 100- and 200-meter races, the long jump and as a member of the 4x100-meter relay team. All told, he won 10 Olympic medals -- nine gold, one silver -- as a runner and long-jumper.
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Against all odds -- athletically, politically and socially -- Jesse Owens achieved international fame at the 1936 Olympics in Berlin by winning golds in the 100- and 200-meter sprints, the long jump and as part of the 4x100-meter relay team. At a time when Adolf Hitler was using the Games as a vehicle to bolster the "Aryan race," Owens was cheered on by 110,000 spectators at Berlin's Olympic Stadium.
12 of 27Heinz Kluetmeier/SI
With an unusual stroke and small stature, Evans became a three-time gold-medalist (400- and 800-meter freestyle and the 400-meter medley) and world record-setting swimmer as a mere 17-year-old at the 1988 Olympics in Seoul. Earning a reputation as the mighty mite of long-distance swimming, Evans successfully defended her 800-meter freestyle gold in Barcelona, while taking the bronze in the 400 meters.
13 of 27Bill Frakes/SI
Remembered both for his golden shoes and his speed, Johnson owns five gold medals and world records in the 200-meters, 400-meters and as a member of the 4x400-meter relay team. At the 1996 Games in Atlanta, he became the only male athlete to strike gold in the 200 and 400 in the same Olympics.
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Before he was a professional boxing great, 18-year-old Cassius Clay, as he was called then, became an Olympic light-heavyweight gold medalist at the 1960 Games.
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Remembered most for his mustache and seven-gold-medal swimming performance in Munich, Spitz is the only Olympian who not only won a gold medal in every individual event he entered, but also set world records in each. From his two Olympics in 1968 and 1972, Spitz won nine gold medals, one silver and one bronze.
16 of 27John G. Zimmerman/SI
Credited for raising the status of women's track and field, Rudolph became the first American woman to win three gold medals in the sport at a single Olympics. In 1960, she won the 100- and 200-meters and was a member of the winning U.S. 4x100-meter relay team. In addition to her bronze medal with the relay team in 1956, Rudolph was dubbed the "fastest woman ever" after her performance in Rome.
17 of 27Heinz Kluetmeier/SI
In 2004, he came close to topping Mark Spitz's astounding seven gold medals in a single Olympics -- he struck gold six times and bronze twice. The eight-medal showing became the second such feat in Olympic history, behind gymnast Alexander Dityatin in 1980. This year in Beijing, Phelps will have yet another opportunity to break Spitz's record as he competes in eight events.
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Mildred "Babe" Didrikson Zaharias
Nicknamed after baseball-legend Babe Ruth, Zaharias (2nd from right) mastered a plethora of sports. Although she qualified for five Olympic events in the 1932 Games in Los Angeles, women were allowed to compete in only three. She won gold in the javelin -- the first female gold medalist in the event -- and set a world record in the 80-meter hurdles (11.7 seconds). Zaharias won the silver medal in the high jump behind Jean Smiley, though both broke the world record.
19 of 27John W. McDonough/SI
Arguably the best player in the Women's National Basketball Association, Leslie was also the best Olympic player for the U.S. team. Having led the American squad to three-consecutive gold medals from 1996 to 2004, Leslie holds team records for most points in an Olympic game (35), most field-goals made in a game (16) and is tied for most blocked shots (3), which she achieved twice.
20 of 27Heinz Kluetmeier/SI
An NCAA water polo champion, Biondi went on to become a three-time Olympic swimmer who won 11 medals -- the first coming in 1984, and his last in 1992. At the 1988 Games in Seoul alone, he struck gold five times in the 50- and 100-meter freestyle, 4x100- and 4 x 200-meter freestyle relays and the 4x100-meter medley.
21 of 27Manny Millan/SI
In his first International meet -- the 1976 Montreal Olympics -- Moses won the gold in the 400-meter hurdles, setting a world record of 47.64 seconds. Though he was denied the chance to repeat with the U.S. boycott of the 1980 Games, he managed to win the gold again in 1984. Between 1977 and 1987, he dominated his event, winning 122 consecutive times and setting the world record four times.
22 of 27Robert Beck/SI
As one of the most prominent names in his sport, Kiraly is the only American player to have earned gold medals in both indoor and beach volleyball. At the 1984 Games in Los Angeles, Kiraly earned his first indoor gold medal before repeating the feat in 1988. As captain of the 1996 U.S. beach volleyball team, Kiraly, again, struck gold.
23 of 27John Biever/SI
Brought up in a family who loved baseball, Fernandez used her skills on the diamond to become dominant in softball. Having led the U.S. squad to three gold medals at three consecutive Games (1996, 2000 and 2004), Fernandez also set the world record for most strikeouts in an Olympic competition with 25, which she achieved against Australia at the 2000 Sydney Games.
24 of 27Simon Bruty /SI
Chosen to carry the American flag and captain the U.S. Olympic Team at the 1996 Games, Baumgartner made it quite obvious why he was honored with such a task. As a four-time Olympian, the super heavyweight wrestler had garnered two gold medals (one in 1984, one in 1992) and a silver medal (1988) before taking the bronze medal at the Atlanta Games.
25 of 27David E. Klutho/SI
The face of women's soccer in America, Hamm scored more international goals in her career with the U.S. Women's National Team than any other player -- male or female -- has in the history of the sport (158). Having joined the team at only 15 years old, she went on to become a three-time Olympian, leading the American squad to two gold medals (in 1996 and 2004) and a silver (2000).
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Known for his all-around athleticism, Thorpe won the pentathlon and decathlon -- both new Olympic events -- at the 1912 Games in Stockholm. For the former professional football, basketball and baseball player, the two events seemed to fit his versatility nicely. His Olympic-record 8,413 points in the decathlon would stand for nearly two decades.
27 of 27Manny Millan/SI
A three-time gold-medalist in the 200-meter, 400-meter and 4x100-meter medleys at the 1984 Olympics, Caulkins is remembered as one of the greatest all-around swimmers. Having set records in all four strokes -- the freestyle, breaststroke, backstroke and butterfly -- Caulkins potentially could have earned more Olympic medals had the U.S. not boycotted the 1980 Games.
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