“We are here to represent the greatest country on earth. We did not come here to lose gracefully. We came here to win–and win decisively.”
So ordered American Olympic Committee president Gen. Douglas MacArthur before the start of the 1928 Games. His athletes would deliver, easily winning the unofficial national standings for the third Olympiad in a row.
The U.S. men won eight gold medals in track and field, but were victorious in only one individual running race (Ray Barbuti in the 400 meters). In the sprints, Canada's Percy Williams became the first non-American to win both the 100 and 200. Finland claimed four running titles, including Paavo Nurmi's victory in the 10,000 meters–his ninth overall gold medal in three Olympic Games. Teammate and arch-rival Ville Ritola placed second in the 10,000 and outran Nurmi in the 5,000.
These Games marked Germany's return to the Olympic fold after serving a 10-year probation for its “aggressiveness” in World War I. It was also the first Olympics that women were allowed to participate in track and field (despite objections from Pope Pius IX). And in swimming, the U.S. got double gold performances from Martha Norelius, Albina Osipowich and Johnny Weissmuller, as well as diver Pete Desjardins.