In celebration of the Olympic Games, it seems appropriate to award medals to bank stocks that deserve as much limelight as world-class athletes. After all, if curling is an Olympic sport, I don't see why managing a multibillion-dollar company shouldn't be.

And the winners are …
The majority of contestants either failed to qualify for the final round, or have been disqualified due to illegal derivatives doping. However, these three well-run companies rise above the rest, and they're no doubt worth their weight in gold (pun intended).

All rise for the national anthem: Here are the summer 2008 winners in the little-known sport of financial domination.

Bronze: Annaly Capital (NYSE:NLY)
CAPS rating: **
Talk about a dark horse. Annaly has been able to flourish in an area synonymous with bankruptcy and bailouts: the leveraged mortgage investment industry. Annaly sticks to what it knows best -- purchasing and holding securities insured by Fannie Mae (NYSE:FNM) and Freddie Mac (NYSE:FRE). By spreading out interest rate risk with a mixture of fixed and variable-rate products, and keeping its head on its shoulders with a modest but beneficial amount of leverage, Annaly has been able to keep its coveted dividend -- now yielding around 15% -- going strong while others scramble for capital. What's more, the never-ending torrent of pessimism in financial markets has caused Annaly's net interest spreads to surge, sending net income gushing in the wake of others' misery.

Silver: Bank of New York Mellon (NYSE:BK)
CAPS rating: ***
Probably the most underfollowed of the megabanks, Bank of New York Mellon has a lot in its favor right now. It's hardly been fazed by the shoddy lending practices hampering rivals like Citigroup (NYSE:C) and Wachovia (NYSE:WB), counting itself among the few banks whose earnings haven't been obliterated in the past year. What's fueling the performance? Its exceptionally diverse line of businesses -- including the world's largest custodial service unit, with more than $23 trillion in assets under custody and administration, clearing and execution services, transfer agency, and corporate trust services -- are doing well, and have actually paved the way for what could be one of Bank of New York's best years ever in terms of net income per share.

Gold: US Bancorp (NYSE:USB)
CAPS rating: ***
To put it mildly, US Bancorp is probably one of the wimpiest banks in the country -- and that's exactly the kind of quality needed to survive, let alone succeed, in today's market. The bank has barely ever heard of the word "subprime," derives half its revenue from non-interest, fee-based sources, and has returns on equity hovering near 20% -- spectacular in the banking sector.

Just to give you an idea of how strikingly different US Bancorp is from its peers, its April quarterly conference call brought news that it would maintain target capital ratios by delaying its share buyback program. While other banks -- such as Citigroup, Merrill Lynch, and Washington Mutual -- can't seem to raise enough capital, US Bancorp's problems stem from not being able to buy it back fast enough. Rough life.

Add in a 5.4% dividend yield that isn't going away anytime soon, and there's little to fret about. Don't forget, you have Warren Buffett on your side with this stock, too. Not only has US Bancorp held up exceedingly well over the past year, but it's also one of only a handful of banks with a shot at gaining market share as its peers get shunned by customers and shareholders who've been burned.

Congratulations, medal winners. Michael Phelps has nothing on you.

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US Bancorp and Annaly Capital Management are Motley Fool Income Investor recommendations. Try any of our Foolish newsletters today, free for 30 days.

Fool contributor Morgan Housel doesn't own shares in any of the companies mentioned in this article. It never gets credit, but the Fool's disclosure policy was actually the first one to bite down on a gold medal on the podium.