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Tokyo countdown: 25 days, 25 amazing Olympic memories

Posted at 8:43 PM, Jun 28, 2021

The Tokyo Games are almost here. We individually revisit an amazing Olympic memory, per diem, over the 25-day leadup.

This countdown began on Monday, June 28. NBC will have comprehensive coverage of the Tokyo Olympics' Opening Ceremony on Friday, July 23, beginning live at 6:55 a.m. ET. The ceremony will be re-aired at 7:30 p.m. ET for U.S. viewers who tune in for primetime, then replayed again overnight.

For more thrilling Olympic memories, stream the Great Moments channel on Peacock.

16 | Carly Patterson, 2004 Athens Games

Gold - All-Around

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Before Carly Patterson's all-around title at the 2004 Athens Olympics, the United States hadn't claimed a medal of any kind in the event since Shannon Miller's silver at the 1992 Barcelona Games, and hadn't won gold since the legendary performance of Mary Lou Retton at the boycotted 1984 Los Angeles Games.

Ending a 20-year, four-Games drought, Patterson scored a seventh-best bars (9.575), fourth-best vault (9.375) and had the top beam (9.725) and floor (9.712) to win the Olympic title by less than two-tenths of a point and set in motion a U.S. gold-medal streak that still stands today — following Patterson: Nastia Liukin in 2008, Gabby Douglas in 2012 and Simone Biles at the most recent 2016 Rio Games.

SEE MORE: Gymnastics 101: Olympic History

17 | Suni Lee, U.S. Gymnastics Trials in 2021

Session-Best - Uneven Bars

SEE MORE: Trials: Suni Lee hits difficult bars routine on Day 1

Suni Lee received a session-best 15.300 bars score during Day 1 of this year's U.S. Olympic Trials, nearly perfecting the routine's execution.

Not only was it the highest women's bars score across all trials competition — her second-session 14.900 score was next-best, followed by Riley McCusker's 14.800 in the first session — it was called the "hardest bar routine being done in the world today."

Lee, a three-time medalist at the 2019 World Championships, finished runner-up for the trials all-around title behind Simone Biles; but she outscored her on Day 2, handing Biles her first single-day loss of an all-around competition since 2013 nationals.

SEE MORE: Gymnastics 101: Olympic History

18 | Katie Ledecky, 2012 London Games

Gold - 800m Freestyle

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At just 15 years old, American Katie Ledecky made her international meet debut at the 2012 London Olympics. Team USA's youngest member competed in one event, the 800m freestyle, and won her first gold, defeating host nation favorite and 2008 Olympic champion Rebecca Adlington of Great Britain in front of crowd that included Prince William and Kate Middleton.

The Maryland native's winning time of 8:14.63 in the final broke Janet Evans' American record of 8:16.22 that had stood since 1989.

U.S. swimmers topped the medal standings with 16 gold and 31 total medals, and also broke five of the nine world records set during the Games.

SEE MORE: Swimming 101: Olympic History

19 | U.S. Women's Soccer, 2012 London Games

Gold - Final

SEE MORE: Remembering USWNT's redemptive 2012 Olympic win

The United States women's soccer team entered the 2012 London Games the two-time defending Olympic champions. But just the year prior the Americans had lost to Japan by penalty shootout in the 2011 World Cup final, and it would be the Japanese they'd face again in the gold-medal match.

The team finished group play with three wins, did away with New Zealand 2-0 in the quarterfinals and beat Canada 4-3 in the semifinals with a 120th-minute, stoppage-time goal – a header from 21-year-old Alex Morgan. In front of an Olympic-record crowd for the final, 2008 Beijing Games hero Carli Lloyd scored in the eighth and 54th minutes to help Team USA win 2-1.

A World Cup loss avenged and a fourth U.S. Olympic team gold — individually, also a fourth for captain Christie Rampone.

SEE MORE: Soccer 101: Olympic History

20 | Neymar, 2016 Rio Games

Gold - Final

SEE MORE: Rio 2016: Neymar PK wins Brazil's first Olympic soccer gold

After a 2008 bronze and 2012 silver, Brazil claimed its first-ever Olympic gold medal in men's soccer at the 2016 Rio Games, and did so in front of a home crowd, thanks to a match-winning shootout penalty from Neymar in the final.

Brazil opened group play with two straight goalless draws and only clinched an advancement in its final match with Denmark. The team defeated Colombia 2-0 in the quarterfinals, then dominated Honduras 6-0 in the semifinals.

At the famed Maracana Stadium, in a rematch of a 2014 World Cup semifinal, Brazil took on Germany. Neymar, Brazil's captain, scored the nation's only goal in regulation in the first half, then Germany's Max Meyer answered back in the 59th minute. After two goalless extra-time halves, both teams scored each of their four penalty shootout kicks before Brazil saved Germany's fifth, setting up Neymar's game-winner.

It was the first men's gold-medal match to be decided by a shootout since the 2000 Sydney Games. Brazil was the fourth host country to win gold in men's soccer and first since Spain at the 1992 Barcelona Games.

SEE MORE: Soccer 101: Olympic History

21 | Michael Jordan

Gold - 1984, 1992

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In the summer before making his NBA debut with Chicago, a 21-year-old Michael Jordan, recent alumnus of the 1982 NCAA title-winning North Carolina Tar Heels, helped the home nation win gold at the 1984 Los Angeles Olympics, finishing as the leading American scorer with 17.1 points per game. The U.S. beat Spain 96-65 in the final.

Nearly a decade later, after winning his first NBA title, Jordan returned to the Olympics for the "Dream Team" assembly at the 1992 Barcelona Games. The U.S., which had placed a worrisome third at the previous 1988 Seoul Games, put together 11 All-Stars and 1992 NCAA Player of the Year Christian Laettner to create a juggernaut squad unable to lose.

The 1992 team won all eight of its games by an average of 43.75 points, beating Croatia in the final 117-85. Jordan was second this time around in points per game, averaging 14.9 for the Americans behind Charles Barkley's 18.0.

SEE MORE: Basketball 101: Olympic history

22 | Katie Grimes, U.S. Swim Trials in 2021

2nd - Women's 800m Freestyle

SEE MORE: Trials: Katie Ledecky dominates women's 800m freestyle final

Fifteen-year-old Katie Grimes earned runner-up in the women's 800m freestyle at U.S. Olympic swimming trials behind Katie Ledecky, the event's two-time reigning Olympic champion, to qualify for the Olympics.

She'll be the youngest U.S. Olympian in Tokyo and also the youngest swimmer on the U.S. Olympic team since Ledecky, who was also 15 in her debut at the 2012 London Games, where she won 800m free gold.

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Ledecky, who's also the four-time reigning world champ in the event, later said she had told Grimes after an earlier third-place finish in the 1500m that she was "the future." After the 800m, she told her she's "the now."

SEE MORE: Swimming 101: Olympic History

23 | Michael Phelps, 2016 Rio Games

Gold - Men's 4x100m Medley Relay

SEE MORE: Rio 2016: Phelps, USA earn gold in 4x100m medley relay

In the final race of his career, Michael Phelps ended his Olympic reign at the 2016 Rio Games swimming the same stroke he started with – the butterfly – 16 years prior when making his debut at the 2000 Sydney Games in the 200m, a fifth-place finish.

The most decorated Olympian of all time split a 50.33 on his fly leg to help the U.S. win gold – his 23rd – in the final of the 4x100m medley relay, an event in which he helped break the world record at the 2009 World Championships.

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Ryan Murphy, who with the victory won his third gold of the Games, gave the team a sizeable lead to start splitting 51.85 to break seven-time Olympic medalist Aaron Peirsol's 100m backstroke world record. Code Miller was passed in the breaststroke leg by world record-holder Adam Peaty of Great Britain, but Phelps regained the front position to provide anchor Nathan Adrian room to coast home for the title.

The U.S. stayed a perfect 14-for-14 in the event at Olympics in which it competed. Phelps won five golds and a silver in Rio, ending his career with 28 medals across five Games.

SEE MORE: Swimming 101: Olympic History

24 | U.S. Women's Basketball

Gold - 1984, 1988; 1996-2016 (8x)

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Sheryl Swoopes ('96-'04), Lisa Leslie ('96-'08), Dawn Staley ('96-'04), Teresa Edwards ('84-'00) were trailblazers for women's basketball, helping put a spotlight on the sport that had long been male-dominated, and a lot of their success came at the Olympics, together or separately earning Team USA six total gold medals at the Games from 1984-2008.

And the streak has been kept alive even after Leslie's exit with titles at the 2012 London and 2016 Rio Games.

Current U.S. national team member Sue Bird – who's tied with Edwards, Leslie, Tamika Catchings and Diana Taurasi for most career gold medals at four – says the Olympic success "kind of put [the sport] on the map."

"I mean in all reality, and just to be blunt, it started women's basketball in this country for us, professionally," she said, "and gave it the notoriety it deserved."

The team enters Tokyo with a 66-3 Olympic record, last not winning gold at the 1992 Barcelona Games where it took bronze.

Women's basketball made its Olympic debut at the 1976 Montreal Games.

SEE MORE: Basketball 101: Olympic history

25 | Billy Mills, 1964 Tokyo Games

Gold - Men's 10,000m

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Prior to 1964, the United States' only Olympic track and field medal in the men's 10,000m was a silver won by Hopi Indian Louis Tewanima at the 1912 Stockholm Games. But an unlikely hero put an end to the 52-year drought at that year's Tokyo Olympics, out-kicking then world record-holder Ron Clarke of Australia in the process.

Marine lieutenant Billy Mills – who also happened to be Native American, nearly half-Sioux – entered the race more than a minute slower than Clarke on paper. However, the 26-year-old surprised the field and spectators by joining Clarke and Tunisia's Mohamed Gammoudi in the lead pack with about a lap to go.

After Gammoudi sprung to the front by splitting Mills and Clarke on the back stretch, Mills dropped to third. He then came roaring back with 30 to 20 yards remaining, flying by both competitors to win in a shocking 45-second personal-best of 28:24.4 and capture the first and only Olympic men's 10,000m gold medal.

Not until Galen Rupp's silver at the 2012 London Games, nearly a half-century later, did an American man earn an Olympic medal in the event.

His story is portrayed in the 1983 Canadian biopic "Running Brave."

SEE MORE: Track & Field 101: Olympic history

NBC Olympics Research contributed to this article