1. 1992 Olympics — Barcelona: Great Britain’s Derek Redmond was a medal favorite in the 400m. He was in the best shape of his life and seemed to finally be past a string of injuries that had led him to drop out of the ‘86 Commonwealth Games.
Redmond got off to a fantastic start, but just after he rounded the bend, he heard a pop. It was his hamstring, and he went down.
Despite the pleading of officials, Redmond got up and began hopping down the track.
His father raced by security and joined his struggling son on the track.
Redmond refused to quit and walked across the finish line.
2. 1936 Olympics — Berlin: Hitler wanted to use the Olympics as a means of demonstrating to the world the superiority of the Aryan race. Jesse Owens had other plans. He went on to win three gold medals in track and field.
Note: Jesse Owens was added to this post after it was published. He was initially left off the list, because I had underestimated YouTube’s ability to have footage from 1936.
3. 2008 Olympics — Beijing: Usain Bolt sets world records in both the 100m and the 200m, blowing his competition away. It’s one of the most dominant track performances of all time.
4. 1996 Olympics — Atlanta: One of the greatest athletes of all time, Muhammad Ali, fights through his Parkinson’s to light the Olympic torch.
5. 1972 Olympics — Munich: The US Men’s Basketball Team was playing the USSR squad in the gold medal game. After a timeout that should not have been allowed, the USSR inbounded the ball with almost no time left.
They took a desperation shot and missed. The US believed they had won gold.
But then it was ruled that there should have been three seconds instead of one, and the teams were called back on the court. The ref told the US defender that he couldn’t defend the inbound pass, which allowed a full court heave…
And a last second basket. The USSR were now champions.
Team USA unanimously agreed to not accept their silver. The podium was left blank during the presentation of medals.
6. 1968 Olympics — Mexico City: Bob Beamon broke the long jump world record by nearly 2 whole feet. He actually out jumped the measuring equipment so it took a few minutes to figure out just how far he had leapt.
When Beamon finally found out his distance, he had what was called a cataplectic seizure. His legs gave out from under him, and he couldn’t stand back up. He was overcome with emotion and joy.
7. 1976 Olympics — Montreal: Nadia Comaneci became the first gymnast in the modern Olympics to receive a perfect 10. She would receive seven total.
8. 1968 Olympics — Mexico City: Tommie Smith and John Carlos won medals in the 200m.
They used their positions on the podium to make a political statement, raising one fist in the black power salute.
9. 2000 Olympics — Sydney: Eric Moussambani swam for Equatorial Guinea. He qualified for the games under a “wildcard” provision that allowed for athletes from developing countries to compete.
Before getting to Sydney, he had never seen an Olympic size swimming pool.
After the other two swimmers in his heat false-started, Eric was left to swim the heat alone.
Both his form and his time left something to be desired, and by the end of the race Moussambani was struggling to finish.
But despite having never swam in a pool this big, nor being properly prepared to swim this distance, Moussambani finished. The fact that his time was more than double the next slowest seemed beside the point.
10. 1996 Olympics — Atlanta: After Dominique Moceanu fell on her two vaults, the US believed that it needed a strong showing from its final vaulter Kerri Strug to clinch the gold medal over the Russians.
She injured her ankle on the fall, but walked back, because the team still needed her.
Strug landed her second vault beautifully and immediately picked up her foot. The team won gold.
11. 2008 Olympics — Beijing: Michael Phelps won more gold medals (8) than any Olympian has ever won in a single Olympics before.
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