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What Team USA Looks Like: A By-The-Numbers Look At America's Olympians

Julian Finney Getty Images
Michael Phelps leads U.S. athletes in the opening ceremony of Rio's Olympics. In terms of age, height, and experience, America's Olympians vary widely — particularly by sport.

If there's such a thing as an average U.S. Olympic athlete at the Rio Games, she might look something like this: a 26-year-old woman from California who stands about 5 foot 8 — and is now at her first Olympic Games.

Those qualities are among the most common NPR found after sifting through data about Team USA's 554 athletes in Rio, identifying averages and common characteristics.

In case you're wondering if there's an American in Rio who matches most of those qualities, the answer is yes: boxer Mikaela Mayer, 5 foot 9, is a Los Angeles native who turned 26 last month and is a first-time Olympian. Mayer now lives in Marquette, Mich., where she attended college.


As for colleges, Stanford University produced more athletes on Team USA than any other school, with 29. In terms of hometowns, California cities were among the most cited, with San Diego and Los Angeles leading the way and Houston not far behind.

[To see which U.S. Olympians are from your state, visit our page Where Team USA Lives.]

So far, we've discussed common trends — but Olympians vary widely, particularly by event. And some sports are so large — looking at you, track and field, with your 129 athletes in everything from hurdles to shot put — that the teams hold a wide variety of athletes.

Both male and female Olympic athletes are taller than the American norm: For Team USA, the average height is 6 foot 1 for men and 5 foot 8 for women.

In terms of age, the youngest team is the gymnastics squad. The oldest are in shooting and equestrian. And some athletes are attracting attention at these games for refusing to be defined by their age. Consider cyclist Kristin Armstrong, who turned 43 on Aug. 11, the day after she won the time trial gold medal for the third time.


Many of the Team USA athletes in Rio are in the Summer Olympics for the first time, and that's only partly due to the presence of two new (or renewed) sports — golf and rugby — which together account for 31 athletes. By contrast, the 14 U.S. fencers are mostly Olympic veterans.

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