The Olympics: an opportunity to see the lighting of the torch, a huge party, and the flags of 206 participating countries waving. Check out these 11 inspirational moments from Olympics past and present!
1. Rio’s 2016 Refugee Team
In the 2016 Rio Olympics, a team of ten will march behind the Olympic flag. They don’t speak the same language, they aren’t from the same country. The thread that binds them together is their shared identity as refugees. The athletes’ countries of origin include Ethiopia, Sudan, and Syria. They’ll compete in swimming, judo, the 400 meter and other athletic events. Rami Anis is featured in the Olympic promotional videos, and says that next year he “hopes there doesn’t have to be a refugee team” and that all can compete for their respective countries.
2. Muhammad Ali Lights the Olympic Cauldron
Muhammad Ali became an Olympic boxing champion in the Roman Olympics of 1960. 24 years later, he was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease. Despite his illness, in 1996, he carried the final torch to light the Olympic cauldron.
3. Andy McMenemy: Torch Carrier, London 2012 Olympics
Andy McMenemy is known as the ‘Marathon Man.’ At age 50, he ran 66 marathons right after another over the course of 66 days. He didn’t run for bragging rights, though. Andy ran all of those miles to raise money and awareness for the armed forces charity in England. His efforts resulted in over $80,000 raised for the charity. He was selected to be one of the torch bearers in the London 2012 Olympic opening ceremony.
4. Keri Strug: Gold against the Odds
Keri Strug’s vault was the last chance that the USA Women’s Gymnastic Team had at winning the gold medal in the 1996 Olympics. Her teammate before had stumbled and fallen twice, and Keri’s vault was crucial. The first time she attempted the vault, she also stumbled, injuring her left ankle. Yet she put aside the pain in her leg and returned for her second vault. She landed with a score of 9.71, earning the team the gold medal. The injury caused her to have to not compete in the individual competitions, but her sacrifice has won her team gold.
Here’s the video evidence:
5. Karnam Malleswari: First Indian Woman to Win a Medal in Weightlifting
By the time Karnam Malleswari turned 20 years old, she already had won the world title for weight lifting in her weight division. She won the bronze in in the 2000 Olympics, and this medal earned her the title of first Indian woman to receive an Olympic medal. She is also the receipient of the Rajiv Gandhi Khel Ratna award, and the Padma Shri award. All of Karnam’s sisters are trained weightlifters, and so is her husband.
Here’s what happened:
6. Jesse Owens Proves Hitler Wrong
Jesse Owens competed in the 1936 Berlin Olympics, representing America. In the games, he won four gold medals, proving Hitler’s theories about the so-called Aryan superiority false. The year before his Olympic victory, Owens had shone at a track meet in Michigan. He set three world records, and tied with a fourth – all in less than an hour. Sports Illustrated called the feat the “Greatest 45 minutes ever in sports.”
The race, and Hitler’s reaction:
7. North and South Korea stand together under one flag
In the 2000 Sydney Summer Olympics, athletes from North and South Korea put aside their differences and marched together under a flag that symbolized unity. It was the first time that the countries ever walked in together. They competed separately in the Olympic games themselves, but the symbolic march in the opening ceremony prompted Juan Samaranch, the Olympmic Committee president to say, “I think this is very good news for the sport, for the Olympic family, and also for the Games of Sydney.”
8. Rulon Gardner: The Farm Kid from Wyoming
Rulon Gardner tells people that his strength in wrestling came from the work he did growing up on his family’s dairy farm. When it came time to compete in the 2000 Olympic games, Gardner went up against Aleksander Karelin. Karelin was a Russian wrestler who was internationally undefeated for 13 years.
In 2004, despite a dislocated wrist and recently amputated toe due to a motorcycle accident, Gardner again qualified and competed. He retired after winning Bronze in his division.
9. Derek Redmond’s Father and Son Olympic Sprint
During Redmond’s 400 meter run in the 1992, Olympics, he tore a hamstring. He collapsed on the track, crying. But he was not going to let the injury stop him. He picked himself up off the track and began to slowly limp towards the finish line. A man burst out from behind of security and ran to Redmond’s side and helped him along the track – it was Redmond’s father. With his father’s help, Redmond completed the entire lap of the track and received a standing ovation from the crowd for his perseverance.
Can you ever hold back tears?
10. Abe Bikilia wins gold…barefoot
Ethiopian athlete Abe Bikila came to the 1960 Olympics and found that Adidas only had a few shoes left to choose from. Because none of them fit, he decided to run the race without any shoes on at all. He kept neck and neck with competitor Rhadi Abdesselam, until the very end of the race, when Bikila rushed ahead and won in record time. Not only did he win barefoot, but also was the first Sub-Saharan African to ever win an Olympic gold medal. He told news sources that he ran barefoot because he “wanted the whole world to know that my country, Ethiopia, has always won with determination and heroism.”
11. Dan Jansen: A Medal for Jane
American speed skater Dan Jansen would tell you he first became interested in skating because of his sister, Jane. When he qualified for the 1988 Winter Olympics, he was favored to win in both the 500 and 1,000 meter races. Before he raced, Dan spoke on the phone to Jane, who was battling Leukemia. But before the race began, he was told that Jane had died that morning. He did not win any medals, but received the U.S. Olympic Spirit Award for his performances. In 1994, he had a chance again at gold, and he succeeded not only in winning but also beat the world record for the 1,000 meter race.
He received the medal with his daughter in his arms – who was named Jane after his older sister.
Did we miss any of you favorites? Link them in the comments below.