1. Shin A Lam Refuses To Leave The Piste
After a controversial ruling led to her defeat in the women’s individual épée fencing semifinal, South Korea’s Shin A Lam refused to leave the floor as the ruling was being appealed. She stayed on the piste for the better part of an hour, and when a judge came to tell her that her appeal had been declined and to take her away, she walked away from him and stood defiant on the piste. She would eventually win a silver medal in the team épée fencing competition.
2. Liu Xiang Fights Through His Hurt Achilles, Hops To The Finish Line
Liu Xiang won gold in the 110m hurdles at the 2004 Olympics. Since then, he has battled Achilles injuries that made him a last-minute scratch from the 2008 Games. London was supposed to be his return to form, but on the very first hurdle he crashed. After writhing in pain, Xiang hopped off the track and down the tunnel, before stopping and deciding to return to the track. He hopped the rest of the race, stopping only to kiss the final hurdle. Upon crossing the finish line he was embraced and helped to a wheelchair by his opponents.
3. Oscar Pistorius Becomes The First Double Amputee To Sprint In The Olympics
Oscar Pistorius (aka “The Fastest Man On No Legs” aka “Blade Runner”) not only became the first double amputee to run in the Olympics — he actually advanced a round, coming in second in his first heat in the 400m.
4. Andy Murray Gets Wimbledon Redemption
One month ago, the UK’s own Andy Murray heartbreakingly lost to Roger Federer in the Wimbledon final. Three weeks later, Murray and Federer met again on the exact same court in the gold medal match, where Andy Murray annihilated the defending Wimbledon champ. British tennis fans have been waiting since the 1930s to see one of their own win on that court, and at the 2012 Olympics, Murray gave it to them.
5. Manteo Mitchell Breaks His Fibula In Relay, Finishes His Leg Of The Race
US sprinter Manteo Mitchell heard his fibula break at the 200-meter mark of his leg of the 4x400m relay. Did he stop? Nope. He ran another 200 meters on the broken leg, and kept the US close enough so his teammates could keep them in contention. They ended up finishing the heat in second and moved onto the finals where they won silver.
6. Tom Daley’s Bronze Medal For Dad
18-year-old British diver Tom Daley lost his father last year to a brain tumor. He came into the London games looking to win a medal for his dad, but a bum attempt kept him and his partner Peter Waterfield from nabbing one in synchronized diving. But Daley showed up for the individual event and put together a string of excellent dives. When he won bronze, his teammates threw him into the water like he had just won gold.
7. Kayla Harrison Becomes The First American To Win Gold In Judo, Climbs Into The Stands To Embrace Her Fianceé
23-year-old Kayla Harrison won the United States’ first ever gold medal in judo. That impressive feat has been widely reported; what has been less talked about is that Harrison’s first judo coach (who coached her in her early teens) sexually assaulted her for years. He is now serving time in federal prison, but it left the young Harrison depressed and suicidal — so much so that one of her later coaches found her on the roof of a building about to jump. But she didn’t. She went back to training. And now she’s a gold medalist. I think it’s fair to say she overcame more than just her country’s history of futility in her sport to do it.
8. Saudi Arabia Sends Its First-Ever Female Olympians
Left: (Daniel Ochoa De Olza/AP) Right: (Marwan Naamani/Getty)
For the first time in the country’s history, Saudi Arabia sent female representatives to the Olympics. If the first step of changing a culture is giving that culture’s children a new type of role model, then Saudia Arabia might have just taken a pretty big first step in sending sprinter Sarah Attar and judoka Wojdan Shaherkhani. Granted, some in Saudi Arabia took to calling them “Prostitutes of the Olympics,” but that just makes their courage to compete even more inspiring.
9. Michael Phelps’ Final Medal Ceremony
Michael Phelps won his record 22nd medal and 18th gold medal in his final Olympic race ever: the 4x100m medley. After the race was finished, Phelps stood alongside his teammates and held their hands as they stepped onto the podium. Then, as the National Anthem played, the greatest Olympian of all time fought back tears.
10. South Korea Beats North Korea In Table Tennis, They Shake Hands
South Korea defeated their neighbors to the north in table tennis at the 2012 games. Despite their contentious diplomatic relationship, despite the threat of war, and despite their well-earned contempt for each other, the team’s shook hands following the match. Sportsmanship carried the day.
11. A Legally Blind Archer Breaks A World Record
South Korea’s Im Dong Hyun has 20/200 vision. He’s legally blind. Yet in the first round of the individual archery competition (where archers shoot 72 arrows and the highest scores qualify to move on), Im broke his own world record by posting a score of 699. Im’s received offers to have free Lasik surgery or glasses he can wear during competition, but he refuses, choosing instead to feel the shots.
12. US Wrestler Defeats An Iranian Opponent To Win Gold, Tweets This Photo
This photo, taken on the medal stand after Jordan Burroughs of the United States had defeated Iranian wrestler Sadegh Goudarszi, exemplifies the spirit of the Olympics: to united countries together through sport.
13. Usain Bolt Becomes The First Man To Ever Win Back To Back Gold Medals In The 100m And 200m.
If it wasn’t strictly prohibited by IOC rules, I would assume that Usain Bolt was an extraterrestrial. He became the first man in history to win the 100m and the 200m at back to back Olympics. And to do something that impressive and still remain (with one bragging exception) a delightful, charming, and most of all respectful guy is so mind-blowing.
Here he is posing with British hero Mo Farrah. Farrah is doing Bolt’s famous pose, while the Jamaican sprinter tries his hand at Farrah’s
heartletter “M” pose. There is little more inspiring than watching one of the greatest athletes of all time be humble.
14. Gabby Douglas Becomes The First Black Woman To Win An All-Around Gymnastics Gold
Gabby Douglas captured the hearts of Americans by winning the All-Around gold, but more importantly she became a role model for young black women everywhere. Clichés about hard work paying off become a lot more real when kids can see someone who looks like them making those clichés come true.
15. Serbian Olympian Marko Novakovic’s Arms
Now those are powerful.