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In perhaps one of the most emotional moments to hit the Olympic stage, Canadian figure skater Joannie Rochette competed in front of millions in the 2010 Vancouver Olympics just four days after losing her mother to a sudden heart attack. And not only did she perform—she won the bronze, dedicating the medal to her late mother.
What’s better than three Olympic golds? Ask Usain Bolt. At the 2008 Beijing Olympics, the Jamaican sprinter broke the world and Olympic records in both the 100-meter and 200-meter events. He also set a 4×100-meter relay record with the Jamaican team, making him the first man to win three sprinting events at a single Olympics since Carl Lewis in 1984.
The most talked-about member of the historic “Magnificent Seven,” Kerri Strug’s heroic performance at the 1996 Olympic Games ensured the United States’ first-ever Team gold medal in Women’s Gymnastics. Despite injuring her ankle on her first vault attempt, Strug stuck the landing on her second go, helping the U.S. Women beat out Russia for the first time in Olympic history.
Derek Redmond, a British runner specializing in the 400 meters, tore his hamstring halfway through a semi-final race in the 1992 Barcelona Summer Olympics. A favorite for the medals podium, Redmond refused to give up and rose to finish the race despite his intense pain. But the most memorable moment came next, when the runner’s father leapt over the railing from the stands and helped his son complete the race. Steps from the finish line and with the crowd cheering them on, he let go of Derek, so his son could cross the finish line by himself.
This story’s so inspirational it was made into a Disney movie! In the country’s first ever appearance at the winter Olympics, Jamaica’s bobsled team may have come out medal-less, but certainly won the hearts of Olympic viewers (and the media) at the 1988 Calgary games.
Call him “The Phenomenon” or “The Fish,” Michael Phelps gave new meaning to blowing the competition out of the water at the 2008 Olympics in Beijing. The American swimmer took home (count ‘em!) eight gold medals, breaking Mark Spitz’s record of seven gold medals in one Olympics. And if our math is correct, counting his six golds from Athens, he’s at 14—and ready to take London by storm.
Shaun White is nothing if not daring, so it wasn’t a complete shock when he elected to take another run during the 2010 Vancouver Snowboarding Halfpipe finals after securing the gold medal. What did shock was the trick he pulled off: the world’s first Double McTwist 1260, which White dubbed the Tomahawk. The most difficult trick in snowboarding history, White’s Tomahawk highlighted how far the sport had come since its introduction at the 2006 Turin Games, which White also won.
Ice dancing may not be considered the most exhilarating of the Olympic Winter sports, but at the 1984 Games in Sarajevo, one British pair managed to change all that. In their performance of Ravel’s “Bolero,” Jayne Torvill and Christopher Dean’s daring choreography and technical prowess earned them perfect scores from every judge, as well as the gold medal.
While most people probably couldn’t do it at all, Ethiopian runner Abebe Bikila did the seemingly-impossible: He ran a marathon barefoot—and won. We’re not talking 2012, when barefoot running was the cool thing to do. This was Rome. In 1960.
The biggest, boldest, most breathtaking moments in Olympic history
The biggest, boldest, most breathtaking moments in Olympic history.