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Where does White rank on the list of greatest U.S. Olympians?

Olympics Wire logo Olympics Wire 2/14/2018 Chris Chase

Getty © Getty Getty

Shaun White already had his place in history; Wednesday was all about legacy building. And after his historic, come-from-behind, walk-off gold medal win in the halfpipe, White's became as big as ever, getting a signature win that puts him on the short list of the greatest athletes of his generation.

In terms of Winter Olympians, the honor is his alone. White won his third gold medal in the same event, something only four other men from any country can boast. He left behind a pack of nine Americans with two golds to join the exclusive, two-person club of athletes with three golds or more: Eric Heiden and Bonnie Blair.

And White did all that with pressure that would have been unimaginable if you hadn't been feeling the same thing in your living room. If he'd failed on that final run, the last eight years would have been considered an athletic disappointment. That fourth in Sochi still stings, but the silver in Pyeongchang would have hurt even more. Having gold in your hand and letting it go - that's far worse than a few bad runs on a mushy track in Sochi.

But the greats don't think like that. Shaun White dropped in and laid down a flawless run to take back the Olympic title he'd given away in 2014. The legend had grown.

Where does that legend leave White on a list of modern-day Olympic heroes? We looked at every athlete - from the Winter or Summer Games - since 2000 and present the list of the 10 best Olympic athletes of our generation.

Agence France-Presse © Agence France-Presse Agence France-Presse

1. Michael Phelps

Now that they're etched in stone, the numbers don't seem real. Twenty-three golds, three silvers, two bronzes. Phelps had the all-time greatest Olympics in history (Beijing 2008) and had at least four races where he was somehow able to get to the wall first despite seemingly having no chance just a few meters before. Phelps wasn't just a great front-runner, he could step up in those pressure-packed moments, just as White did on Wednesday. His Olympic records will never be broken. He's the best athlete of this, or any, generation.

Katie Ledecky of the United States celebrates after winning the gold medal in the 200m Freestyle, in Rio de Janeiro, on Tuesday. © Stefan Wermuth/Reuters Katie Ledecky of the United States celebrates after winning the gold medal in the 200m Freestyle, in Rio de Janeiro, on Tuesday.

2. Katie Ledecky

Ledecky was a surprise member of the U.S. team in 2012 - at 15 she figured to have wait until 2016 for her first shot at the Olympics. But she dominated the 800 at U.S. Trials, vanquished the field at the Olympics (where she was the youngest member of Team USA) and then came back four years later to win three individual golds (the 200, 400 and 800 free - disciplines that don't usually overlap) and add another in a relay. Ledecky isn't done yet and by the time her career is over, she could be the most decorated Olympic athlete not named Phelps.

a man jumping in the air on a snow covered mountain © Getty

3. Shaun White

No Winter Olympian from Team USA had won three gold medals in the last 25 years. With his Valentine's Day Miracle, White became a category unto his own, only trailing Eric Heiden and Bonnie Blair for most golds ever won by an American at the Winter Games. Neither of them have competed in the last 20 years.

Simone Biles performs the balance beam during women's gymnastic qualifications in the Rio 2016 Summer Olympic Games at Rio Olympic Arena, Aug 7, 2016; Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. © Robert Deutsch/USA TODAY Sports Simone Biles performs the balance beam during women's gymnastic qualifications in the Rio 2016 Summer Olympic Games at Rio Olympic Arena, Aug 7, 2016; Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.

4. Simone Biles

Though she's only been in one Olympics, Biles earns a spot near the top of this list anyway thanks to her staggering showing in Rio - four golds (including the team event) and a bronze on the balance beam. No American woman had ever done better.

Bode Miller after the men's combined downhill at the 2002 Salt Lake City Winter Games. © AFP/Getty Images Bode Miller after the men's combined downhill at the 2002 Salt Lake City Winter Games.

5. Bode Miller

Miller had the most successful Olympic career for any American skier. That might seem surprising given that his most famous moment at the Games came in 2006, when he was talked about as a five-medal hopeful then walked away with nothing following a series of disappointments. But he got back on the podium in Vancouver (winning his first and only gold) and capped off the career with a bronze in Sochi. Miller won six medals (1 gold, 3 silver, 2 bronze) over four Olympics and is one of just five skiers, male or female, to win an Olympic medal at four different disciplines.

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6. Apolo Anton Ohno

Ohno has the most Winter Olympic medals (8) of any American in history and some of his medals - the two golds (the 1500m in Salt Lake City and the 500m in Turin) and one of the silvers (the 1000m in Salt Lake) - are among the most memorable moments of the last century.

Kerri Walsh Jennings of the United States celebrates during the gold medal match against Kinga Kolosinska and Monika Brzostek of Poland at the FIVB Rio Grand Slam on Copacabana beach on March 13, 2016 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. © Alessandra del Bene/Getty Images Kerri Walsh Jennings of the United States celebrates during the gold medal match against Kinga Kolosinska and Monika Brzostek of Poland at the FIVB Rio Grand Slam on Copacabana beach on March 13, 2016 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.

7. Kerri Walsh

Walsh won three gold medals in beach volleyball with partner Misty May-Treanor and then, after her partner's retirement, took home bronze in Rio alongside April Ross.

Women's super-combined bronze medalist Julia Mancuso poses with the U.S. flag after a flower ceremony in the Sochi 2014 Winter Olympics. © Charles Krupa/AP Photo Women's super-combined bronze medalist Julia Mancuso poses with the U.S. flag after a flower ceremony in the Sochi 2014 Winter Olympics.

8. Julia Mancuso

Nobody will ever say Julia Mancuso was a better skier than Lindsey Vonn, who's the most successful skier in American history and on a short list of the greatest of all time. But disappointments and injury have hindered Vonn's Olympic success. Mancuso, on the other hand, peaked in skiing's biggest event. Her four medals (one gold, two silver, one bronze) are the most for any American women's skier. And while the world waits for Vonn or Mikaela Shiffrin to one day pass that total, the mark is Mancuso's until (or if) they do.

FILE - In this Aug. 9, 2016, file photo, United States' Ryan Lochte checks his time after a men' 4x200-meter freestyle relay heat during the swimming competitions at the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. A Brazilian police official told The Associated Press that Lochte fabricated a story about being robbed at gunpoint in Rio de Janeiro. (AP Photo/Martin Meissner, File) © (AP Photo/Martin Meissner, File FILE - In this Aug. 9, 2016, file photo, United States' Ryan Lochte checks his time after a men' 4x200-meter freestyle relay heat during the swimming competitions at the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. A Brazilian police official told The Associated Press that Lochte fabricated a story about being robbed at gunpoint in Rio de Janeiro. (AP Photo/Martin Meissner, File)

9. Ryan Lochte

Get all the jokes out now. Go on, I won't hold you up. But putting aside his Rio ridicule, Lochte will go down as the third-most successful men's swimmer in history. He won seven individual medals (two gold) and five relay medals (four gold) in his 12-year Olympic career. Those 12 medals are tied for eighth all time. Natalie Coughlin, a contemporary of Phelps and Lochte, also won 12 medals but Lochte's haul was more golden and a little less reliant on relays.

10. Allyson Felix

It's a big nitpick when you're critiquing six gold medals, but Felix's haul needs a big asterisk next to it because five of those wins came in relays. But three individual silvers to go with the one individual gold and all that relay glory combined to make one of the 10 best Olympians of our era. Easily.

[Celebrate Shaun White with this White Gold shirt from BreakingT.]

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