16 Greatest Olympic moments

By Will Florance
7 July 2016

With the 2016 Rio Olympics just around the corner, we’ve compiled a list of 16 of the Games’ greatest and most inspiring moments. From sheer determination to athletic superiority to emotional turmoil, these moments are sure to motivate you to be your best!

Hermann Maier - 1988

After suffering a major crash in the downhill skiing competition at the 1988 Nagano Games, Maier showed true Olympic spirit and didn’t give in. Days later, Maier was back at the slopes to claim gold in two events; the super-G and giant slalom.


Shun Fujimoto - 1976

Having already suffering from a kneecap fracture sustained during his floor exercise routine, Shun Fujimoto made a name for himself by sacrificing his body for his sport. Hiding his injury from the team, Fujimoto went on to compete in his last two events, and after a twisting somersault dismount from the rings, he won a fifth consecutive men’s team gold for Japan, posting a score of 9.7. The dismounts impact further dislocated Fujimoto’s broken kneecap, yet the gymnast hardly flinched, exposing his truly inspirational desire to win.


Usain Bolt – 2008

At the 2008 Beijing Olympics, Jamaican sprinter Usain Bolt smashed numerous records and instantly became a household name. Breaking the world and Olympic records in both the 100m and 200m events, and setting a record for the 4x100m relay with the Jamaican team, Bolt became the first man to win three sprinting events at a single Olympics since Carl Lewis.

Cathy Freeman – 2000

Carrying the nation’s expectations on her shoulder, as well as the country’s hope of creating new racial harmony, Freeman was under incredible pressure at the 2000 Sydney Olympics. After lighting the cauldron at the opening ceremony, Freeman was expected to triumph in the 400m. She delivered in fashion, carrying the burden of Australian expectation effortlessly, winning the event and becoming an integral part of Australian sporting history.

Mohammad Ali – 1996

Perhaps one of the most inspiring moments in Olympic History didn’t occur on the track or field. Lighting the Olympic flame whilst struggling with his severe Parkinson’s disease, Ali inspired the globe during the opening ceremony to the 1996 Atlanta Olympics.  The former professional boxer who beat more champions in the heavyweight division than anyone in history brought tears and inspiration to millions as he overcame his personal struggle to begin the games.

The Dream Team  - 1992

Comprising of arguably the greatest assemblage of Olympic talent in Olympic team history, the 1992 U.S. men’s basketball team set the standard high. Jordon, Johnson, Bird, Barkely, Malone, Pippen, and Ewing put up triple-digit scores in all 7 rounds, occasionally blowing teams away by as much as 60 points. Even in the final against Croatia, the US slaughtered their opposition, with a score of 117-85.  The Dream Teams complete dominance saw their induction into the Basketball Hall of Fame, one of only eight squads to ever earn the honor.  

Matthias Steiner - 2008

Sometimes the right inspiration can push athletes to superhuman feats. Following the tragic death of his wife in a car accident a year earlier, German weightlifter Matthias Steiner did something truly extraordinary. By clean and jerking a weight nearly 30 pounds over his previous best, Steiner won the superheavyweight category at the 2008 Beijing Olympics. Steiner’s emotion filled celebration is one of the most humanizing Olympic moments and reminds spectators of the personal and physical triumphs athletes overcome.


Michael Phelps – 2008

Aiming to usurp Mark Spitz as the winner of the most gold medals in the pool in a single Games, Phelps’ target was eight.  He managed the first six with world records, whilst the seventh was clad in controversy. Nevertheless, Phelps achieved his target, securing his eighth gold medal in the 4 x 100m medley relay, in another record time

Ian Abramashvili - 2010

After fellow Georgian teammate Nodar Kumriatashvili died tragically during a practice run at the 2010 Vancouver winter games, Abramashvili showed true athletic passion. Whilst still grieving the loss of his friend, the Georgian team, lead by Abramashvii stayed strong and competed in their respective events.  Their effort and overcoming of emotional turmoil is one of the games truly inspiring moments.

The Jamaican Bobsled Team – 1998

Who would have thought a country known for its year-round sunshine and beach culture, could possibly have a team in bobsledding?  Nevertheless, during the 1988 Calgary Olympics, the Jamaican bobsled team held their own, winning the respect and admiration of their peers. The snowless country managed to put together a legitimate bobsled team, and in doing so reminded the world that the Olympics aren’t just about sheer athleticism, they’re about determination and heart.

Eric ‘the Eel’ Moussambani – 2000

In the 2000 Sydney Games, Eric Moussambani made a splash. It was the first time he’d ever seen an Olympic-sized pool and only months after he’d taken up swimming. The Equatorial Guinea native gained entry into the Olympics through a wildcard designed for developing countries.  Moussambani completed the 100m freestyle qualifying race and lost miserably, but his effort and perseverance wowed audience globally.

North and South Korean Athletes – 2000

Despite seemingly unsurmountable political differences, both South Korean and North Korean athletes overcame their differences and during the 2000 Sydney Olympics, marched out together as a single nation under one flag. Although these two countries have not yet mended their tattered relationship, their show of Olympic unity highlighted the globally unifying effect of the Games.  

Lawrence Lemieux – 1998

At the 1988 South Korean Olympics, Canadian sailor Lawrence Lemieux showed a feat of true Olympic sportsmanship.   Whilst on track to win silver, Lemieux abandoned the race after noticing a competitor’s dangerously capsized boat.  After helping save the two injured sailors, Lemieux returned to the race and still beat 11 other competitors. Lemieux’s heroic act earned him an honorary medal.


Derek Redmond – 1992

Redmond’s story is one of pure will and determination. After being forced to withdraw from the 1988 Seoul Games just 10 minutes before his 400m race began, due to an injured Achilles tendon, Redmond arrived at the 1992 Barcelona games determine to win. Nevertheless, halfway through the semi-final Redmond tore his hamstring. Motivated to finish, Redmond got up and began to hobble down the track towards the finish line. Aided by his father, he overcame the agony of his injury to finish the race, albeit in last place. Derek received a standing ovation from the crowd and his act of heroism has been engraved in Olympic history books.

Michael Johnson - 1966

In the 1996 Atlanta Olympics, Michael Johnson took home two gold medals, crushing two world records along the way. First was the 400m race, which he finished in 43.49. A few days later Johnson took gold in the 200m sprint, becoming the first man to win both races in the same Olympic Games.

Kerri Strug – 1996

In the 1996 Atlanta Olympics, the US women’s gymnastics team held a slim lead over Russia and needed 17-year-old Kerri Strug to nail her vault.  After tearing ligaments in her ankle during a botched first attempt, Strug knew she needed to perform perfectly in her second attempt. Grimacing through the pain, Strug sprinted down the runway, landing cleanly before collapsing onto the mat.  Her score, 9.712 was good enough to secure an American victory, and cement Strug’s place in the history books.




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