It has been exactly ten years since Team USA won the gold medal at the 2012 Olympics. The 2012 team featuring Gabby Douglas, McKayla Maroney, Aly Raisman, Kyla Ross, and Jordyn Wieber was collectively known as the “Fierce Five.”
It is shocking to think about how quickly time flies and most TMC readers probably feel like this moment occurred only yesterday. But the best things about gymnastics, it always produces the most inspiring athletes. Athletes who impress you with the athletic feats they demonstrate at the Olympics, athletes who impress you outside of competition in the effort they give to be role models for the young fans. But most gymnasts will continue to impress long after they retire, when they transition out of the sport and find new career paths to excel in.
The 2012 team was all of that. And in the ten years since, time has proven how valuable they were to the sport, and how capable they are when it comes to excelling outside of sports. We saw their skills as athletes, now we are seeing their other talents as they found success in exciting new career paths.
Most importantly, these were five gymnasts you could be proud to cheer for. They could always be depended upon to make the right choices, treat others with respect, and the sport is better because of their contributions to it. They were also one of the most well rounded teams the sport has ever experienced.
Most teams are a mix between highly decorated gymnasts and gymnasts who go their whole career without ever winning a medal in an individual event at the World Championships or Olympic level (Group-1). The 2012 Fierce Five was different. Every single member won multiple medals in the individual events. Every member of the team either won gold in an individual event, or has multiple medals in the highly prestigious All-Around. The least decorated member of this team has four career medals, three of which are gold.
The 2012 Fierce Five wasn’t so much a legendary team, but a collection of gymnasts who each brought their own legend to the table.
Aly Raisman: The oldest member of the team, Aly would go on to become a 2x Olympian and a 6x Olympic medalist. Since 1984 she is one of only three gymnasts to win multiple Olympic medals on floor. Raisman would also be an outstanding All-Arounder having won a silver medal in 2016, and only narrowly missing out on another in 2012 due to tiebreaking rules.
Jordyn Wieber: In 2011 Jordyn became an All-Around Champion, the equivalent of being considered the top ranked athlete in any particular year. Jordyn finished as the #4 ranked gymnast of the 2012 Olympics, but because two of her teammates finished ahead of her, Jordyn was unable to advance due to country limits.
McKayla Maroney: At the height of her career fans were treating Maroney as the greatest vaulter the sport had ever seen. While Simone Biles would later take that title, it should be remembered that in the only instance Simone and McKayla ever competed directly against each other in a Group-1 competition, McKayla won. Maroney is the only member of the 2012 team who didn’t win an All-Around medal in her career. But she was a strong All-Arounder in her junior days who was only forced into the role of a specialist because of injuries and Team USA’s depth chart.
Gabby Douglas: She became the 2012 Olympic All-Around Champion and one of the biggest household names gymnastics has ever had. In 2015 she became the first gymnast since Elena Davydova in 1981 to win a second All-Around medal in Group-1 competition while being the reigning Olympic Champion. Gabby’s appearance at the 2016 Olympics marked a historic comeback that was so rare for Olympic All-Around Champions, the last Olympic All-Around Champion to do it was Nadia Comaneci in 1980. Gabby’s 3rd place finish in All-Around qualifying at the 2016 Olympics was one of the most historic accomplishments in modern gymnastics history. But country limits prevented her from competing in All-Around Finals where she could have contended for a medal.
Kyla Ross: The youngest member of the team and hadn’t yet reached her full form at the 2012 Olympics, Ross would return to the sport with a vengeance in later years. At the 2013 World Championships she won silver medals on 3 of 5 events. If not for Simone Biles, Kyla would have become an All-Around Champion that year. In 2014 she accomplished the highly prestigious feat of being a 2x All-Around medalist. Ross was on track to become one of the most successful gymnasts of the 2013-2016 Olympic cycle before a growth spurt hindered her career at the elite-level. Instead, Ross would transition to the NCAA level where she continued her run of success.
What makes the story of the Fierce Five so special is who they competed against. The Americans brought home the gold medal while competing against one of the toughest Russian lineups ever assembled. In the points system, Russian gymnasts from the 2012 Olympics finished 2nd, 3rd, and 4th in the all-decade rankings for 2010-2019. The Americans needed an All-Star American lineup to prevail and the Fierce Five delivered.
It also occurred while the gymnasts in question had to endure horrific circumstances and members of the Fierce Five took active roles in curtailing abuse culture within the sport. For a team that found so many different ways to win the affection of fans, the Fierce Five’s role in pioneering a culture change and working to end abuse in gymnastics was one more addition to the list of reasons they are so widely revered.
The 2012 team of Wieber, Maroney, Raisman, Douglas, and Ross has a high status in the gymnastics community. This team is widely loved because they represent legendary athletic success, conducted themselves in ways that made them personally likable, and worked to prevent future gymnasts from being harmed.
Ten years later, we continue to see what else they are capable of, what other fields they can excel in, and the talents that have that we didn’t know about back in 2012.
Aly Raisman became one of the most powerful anti-abuse advocates in the sport. Jordyn Wieber became the head coach of an SEC program at an unprecedently young age in modern NCAA history. Kyla Ross had a successful college career at UCLA, graduated from one of most prestigious academic brands in the country, and is currently gaining experience as an assistant coach directly under Wieber and will likely become a head coach herself one day.
McKayla Maroney is trying out her business skills by building a personal wellness brand and still remains successful on her social media platforms. And finally, Gabby Douglas who walked away with so much fame from the 2012 Olympics, it wouldn’t make sense for her to follow any traditional career path. Instead, she enjoys life on the ranch and raising animals (cows and llamas) in between her appearances on celebrity television shows.