By Thomas Sellers Jr.
All the world’s eyes will be on Tokyo, Japan, starting tomorrow with the opening ceremony of the 2020 Summer Olympics.
Wait a minute …
This just in: The Games of the XXXII Olympiad originally scheduled for July 23- Aug. 8 have been postponed until 2021 because of the worldwide pandemic. More than 11,000 athletes from around the planet have to put their dreams of Olympic gold, silver or bronze on hold for about 360 more days — at least.
So for 2020, there will be no grand performance in the Japan National Stadium or other venues. Sports like track, swimming and fencing won’t get the spotlight on the world stage this summer.
Here in the United States, we look forward to the Summer Games every four years. Our rotation here is watch the Olympics to build up American pride and then in November elect a president to keep the momentum going.
While the performances of our past presidents are graded on a seesaw scale, most of our Olympic heroes are celebrated for decades. For the next two weeks, The Best Sellers’ List is going to celebrate some of the best athletes from the Summer Games.
Ladies first, of course. Before I get into my top 10 female summer Olympians, here are the honorable mentions: Amy Van Dyken, Katie Ledecky, Missy Franklin, Rebecca Soni, Aly Raisman, Kim Rhode, Jenny Thompson, Dara Torres, Natalie Coughlin, Allyson Felix, Allison Schmitt, Shirley Babashoff, Dana Vollmer, Amanda Beard, Jenny Thompson, Angel Martino, Evelyn Ashford, Sanya Richards-Ross, Gertrude Ederle, Mary T. Meagher, Misty May-Treanor/Kerri Walsh, Gwen Torrence, Rochelle Stevens, Nikki McCray, Gail Devers and Nastia Liukin.
- Venus Williams
One of the best women’s tennis player of all time could enjoy the legacy of seven Grand Slam singles titles. She is 12th all time on the list. The older Williams sister, with younger sister Serena, is an icon in tennis, reaching 16 Grand Slam finals. But when Venus took to the court for the Summer Games representing her country, she was there to win.
Venus is the owner of four gold medals and one silver medal. She debuted in the Olympics in the year 2000 in Sydney. There she won gold in singles as well as in doubles, teaming with her little sister. It was eight years later when Venus and Serena returned to the podium, taking another doubles gold and defending their title in 2012. The Williams Sisters were the best in Beijing and London. Then in 2016 Venus changed up a little bit to win in Rio. She teamed with Rajeev Ram in mixed doubles, winning silver. She is one of two women to win an Olympic medal in all three tennis events. Venus’ five medals ties her for the most Olympic medals won in tennis.
- Mary Lou Retton
Before there was a Gabby Douglas, Nastia Liukin, Carly Patterson or Simone Biles, there was the American Sweetheart, Mary Lou Retton. Retton was the first American ever to win the gymnastics all-around at the Olympics back in 1984 in Los Angeles.
Retton earned her spot on this list because it took 20 years before another U.S. American achieved her feat. Her energetic smile, adorable behavior and humbleness made Retton the darling of those games and America. In addition to her all-around gold, she helped lead the team to silver and individually took silver on vault and bronzes on the uneven bars and floor exercise.
- Shannon Miller
Longevity and gymnastics normally don’t mix. Most of the best in the sports get one Olympics to shine. Shannon Miller earned six medals in the sport from her work in 1992 and 1996. Miller will go down as one of the most decorated gymnasts of all time with nine world championship medals as well.
Making her Olympic debut in 1992, Miller won silver in the all-around and balance beam. She took home a bronze on bars and floor and in the team event that year. She missed winning gold in the all-around by the smallest margin in Olympic history, just 0.012 points. In 1996, she helped lead the Magnificent Seven to team win gold. She was the leader of that wonderful group. Miller added another gold medal with her performance on the balance beam.
- Teresa Edwards
To represent the team sports, I have to give a shoutout to the greatest member of Team USA Basketball, Teresa Edwards. Edwards is the first female basketball player to compete in five Olympic Games. Her accomplishments prior to the Olympics in college and WNBA landed her a spot on the list of 100 greatest female athletes of the 20th century by Sports Illustrated.
But her play in the Summer Olympics helped her earn a spot on that distinguished list. Edwards won her first gold in 1984. By the time she collected her fourth gold medal in 2000, Edwards was 36 years old. Edwards was a part of the winning team in 1988 and 1996. She has a bronze medal in her collection from 1992.
- Wilma Rudolph
The Black Gazelle makes me proud to be a Tennessean. This Volunteer State legend put our state and Tennessee State University on the map. The American sprinter was born in Saint Bethlehem and was also born to run. She hit the world stage in the 1956 and 1960 Olympic Games in Melbourne, Australia, and Rome, Italy. In her first Olympics, Rudolph competed in the 200-meter dash and earned a bronze medal. She also participated in the 4×100m relay. Then in Rome, Rudolph became a world icon, winning three gold medals in the 100m and 200m events. Her third gold came in the 4x100m relay in 1960. Rudolph was acclaimed as the fastest woman in the world in the 1960s and became the first American woman to win three gold medals in a single Olympic Games.
- Florence Griffith-Joyner
Maybe the brightest start on this list, the late Florence Griffith-Joyner became an icon during the summer of 1984. In a town full of stars, she was the center of attention in Los Angeles. With her style and grace, the woman known as “Flo-Jo” introduced herself to the world with a silver medal in the 200m. Then in 1988 in Seoul, Flo-Jo became a legend with a record-setting performance on the track. She was the fastest woman ever to live, recording a 10.49-second 100m dash. She added a 21.23-second finish in the 200m at the Seoul Olympics. Add another gold medal for the 4x100m dash in 1988 and 4x400m silver medal for the legend Flo-Jo. Let’s just say, Florence Griffith-Joyner “nailed” it for those two Summer Games.
- Janet Evans
Grabbing some of Flo-Jo’s spotlight in 1988, but in a sweet, innocent way, was Janet Evans. While Flo-Jo blazed the track in Seoul, Evans heated up the pool with her dominance. Evans made her Olympic debut in 1988, having already set world records in the 400m, 800m and 1,500m freestyles the year before.
At the actual Summer Games in Seoul, Evans won gold in the 400m and 800m freestyle, setting a new world record in the 400. Evans added another record in the 400m individual medley.
Evans is the owner of four gold medals for her Olympic career. And she tossed in a silver medal from the 1992 Barcelona games in the 400m. She defined her 800m freestyle championship at those games.
- Babe Didrikson
Let’s go all the way back to 1932. The same Los Angeles Coliseum Flo-Jo introduced herself to the world was the big stage for legendary Mildred “Babe” Didrikson.
That summer of 1932 was the introduction for Didrikson to become a trailblazer for women’s sports in general. The pioneer got her sporting feats rolling with three medals and three records at those Olympic games.
She won gold in the javelin throw and the 80m hurdles. And Didrikson earned a silver in the high jump despite having tied for first place with a leap of 1.65m. The Babe was in a class be herself. Just do a Google or YouTube search on this icon.
- Simone Biles
One bronze and four gold medals will make you a household name quickly. If you combined her Olympic and world championship medals, Simone Biles is the most decorated U.S. gymnast to walk the planet.
Biles went undefeated in world championship and Olympic all-around competitions from 2013 to 2016. It was in 2016 in Rio when Biles became a mega star by setting the U.S. record for most gold medals won in women’s gymnastics at a single Olympic Games.
The expectations were high for Biles coming into those games, and she surpassed the hype. For her Olympic career, Biles has four golds and one bronze. She is the best athlete from the United States to ever grace the sport of gymnastics.
- Jackie Joyner-Kersee
The greatest female athlete to ever grace the Olympic stage is Jackie Joyner-Kersee. At a quick glance, she is the owner of two bronze medals, a silver and just three gold medals. But it’s quality over quantity with Joyner-Kersee.
Joyner-Kersee is one of the greatest all-time track and field competitors. She dominated the heptathlon. To understand why she is No. 1 on this list, consider that the heptathlon consists of the 100-meter hurdles, high jump, shot put, 200-meter dash, long jump, javelin, and 800-meter run. Then in her extra time, Joyner-Kersee participated in the Long Jump at the Games, too.
She made her Olympic debut in 1984, earning the heptathlon silver. In 1988, Joyner-Kersee made the adjustments and took home the gold in the heptathlon and the long jump. She defended her heptathlon title in 1992 and added long jump bronze.
But her Olympic moment came back home in the States in 1996. After sustaining a hamstring injury at the Olympic Trials, she concluded her Olympic career with another bronze in the long jump. She showed America she was more than muscles, natural gifts and good coaching. All her success came from the heart of a champion beating inside her chest.
THOMAS SELLERS JR. is the editor of The Millington Star and both the sports editor and a weekly personal columnist for West 10 Media/Magic Valley Publishing. Contact him by phone at (901) 433-9138, by fax to (901) 529-7687 and by email to firstname.lastname@example.org.