The Olympic Games are always an exciting time, when we gather to watch athletes at the top of their game compete to bring home the gold. This year's roster of American athletes includes a diverse group, each with a unique story about the trials and tribulations that brought them to the Rio Games. But before the first event begins, Team USA has broken new ground with these exciting firsts.
1. Competing in a hijab
Self-described Jersey girl Ibtihaj Muhammad is hoping to bring home the gold in women's fencing at this year's Olympic Games. But no matter where she winds up in the standings, Muhammad will make history, becoming the first American woman to compete in a hijab.
"I feel like my hijab is liberating. It is a part of who I am, and I believe that it allows people to see me for my voice and not necessarily how I look," Muhammad told CBS News. "I hope that it'll change a lot of the misconceptions that people have about Muslim women specifically," she added.
2. An Olympian born in 2000Ready to feel old? This year, Team USA is sending two athletes to Rio who were born in this millennium. Table tennis player Kanak Jha (pictured above) is the youngest Olympian to represent the U.S. this year. (He turned 16 on June 19.) Gymnast Laurie Hernandez, born on June 9, 2000, missed the distinction by just a few days. The other two 16-year-old athletes representing Team USA — rhythmic gymnast Laura Zheng and hurdler and sprinter Sydney McLaughlin — were born in 1999 and will turn 17 later this year. Incidentally, McLaughlin is the youngest American athlete to qualify for the Olympic Games in track and field since 1972
3. And 3 Olympians competing for the sixth time
The oldest athlete to represent Team USA in Rio is equestrian Phillip Dutton (pictured.) Dutton, 52, is also one of the three U.S. Olympians headed to their sixth Olympic Games this year. He joins shooters Emil Milev and Kim Rhode, who will become the ninth, 10th and 11th athletes from both summer and winter sports to achieve this milestone in U.S. Olympic history.
4. Women rule the world (or at least the roster)
The 554-member roster of Team USA is comprised of 262 men and 292 women. This is the most women who have competed for any nation in the history of the Olympic Games.
In addition, for only the second time in history, the roster for Team USA features more female athletes than male.
"I am especially excited for the historic achievement of our women’s delegation, which is a true testament to the strength and growing number of women's sport opportunities in the United States," said U.S. Olympic Committee CEO Scott Blackmun in a statement.
5. And Michael Phelps will continue to make history
With 22 medals — including 18 golds — swimmer Michael Phelps is the most decorated Olympian of all time, from any nation. No one else has a medal count that's even close. Among the Americans going to Rio, the one with the second most medals is swimmer Ryan Lochte, who has won 11 medals. So even if Phelps closes out his Olympic career without a single medal in Rio, it's likely that he will hold on to his record. It's also worth noting that he's the first American male swimmer to qualify for five Olympic teams — so it’s only fitting that he’s been selected as U.S. flag bearer for the opening ceremony in Rio.