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Ward: Best Olympic moments

| Friday, April 16, 2021

With a much anticipated Olympics right around the corner, there is much talk about what the Games will mean for athletes in the 21st century, as well as how they will impact the larger world of politics. Instead of focusing on all the negativity the Olympics can produce or how ridiculously corrupt the IOC is, I thought I’d rank my top five Olympics moments in the past 100 years.

  1. Kerri Strug’s vault (1996, Atlanta) 

The Olympics never fail to produce moments and images that can seemingly last forever. This moment is among the most recognizable clips from all the Olympic Games and rightfully so. Strug’s vault, which scored a 9.712, and her coach, Béla Károlyi carrying her off after it became apparent she had attempted the vault on a broken ankle, remains one of the most iconic images from the games and the story of perseverance in the face of adversity is a theme that is consistent throughout the Olympics.  

  1. 1968 United States Track Team (Mexico City)

The 1968 US Track Team produced one of the greatest images in Olympic history. Protesting systemic racism, the Olympic Project for Human Rights was threatening an Olympic boycott of all Black American athletes and several other athletes who supported the Project. Sprinters Tommie Smith and John Carlos raising their fists during a medal ceremony is a moment that seems to transcend time. The moment can and should be analyzed on several different levels; the action got the men kicked off the team, but the images and legacy they created will never be forgotten. 

  1. Usian Bolt’s domination (2008, Beijing)                                                                                                                                                                       

The eleven-time World Champion sprinter made himself a household name after dominating his competition and shattering records that only he would be able to touch again. Bolt’s character and charisma made him a star on the international stage and no one could do anything but love the competitor. Bolt’s best moment came in 100m finals when he would break a world record with ease, even taking some time to wave his arms at the crowd and pump his chest in celebration all before crossing the finishing line in a stunning 9.69 seconds. Bolt would best this record one year later in 2009 at the World Championships in Berlin when he ran a 9.58. 

  1. Michael Phelps domination (2004, Athens; 2008, Beijing; 2012, London; 2016, Rio de Janeiro)

How could one make a list about the best of anything at the Olympics and not mention the most decorated Olympian of all time? Phelps would compete in his first Olympics in Sydney in 2000 at the age of 15 but would not become the decorated legend we know today until 2004 when he would take home six gold medals in Athens. Phelps shattered medal records in 2008 at the Beijing games, taking home eight gold medals and setting numerous world records. His dominance at Olympic games never fails to impress and he’s created a portfolio of memories at Olympic Games that has cemented his legacy in the very DNA of the games. 

  1. Miracle on Ice (1980, Lake Placid)

In the middle of the Cold War, a ragtag group of college amateur athletes beat one of the most well-oiled teams in all of sporting history: the Soviet Union men’s national ice hockey team. The USSR has a long history in the sport of hockey, having played a similar game called bandy, essentially hockey with a ball instead of a puck. After the second World War Joseph Stalin’s son, Vasily Stalin took an interest in the sport and he helped develop a team to represent the air force called VVS Moscow. He named Anatoly Tarasov the player-coach for the inaugural season in 1946-47. Tarasov would be called “the father of Russian ice hockey,” and though he can’t claim to have invented the game, his unorthodox training methods and development of playing and coaching philosophy have allowed him to pioneer the way it was played. Soviet hockey teams would come to dominate the world scene in the following years. The team the Americans faced in 1980 was stacked with talent such as Boris Mikhailov and Vladislav Tretiak, the consensus best goaltender in the world at the time, who would be pulled from the game for giving up a shot as time expired in the first period. 

So when the United States team beat the Soviets in the midst of protests of the December 1979 Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, and subsequent threats to boycott competition in the 1980 summer Olympics at Moscow from President Jimmy Carter, the world was stunned. In their final exhibition, the Soviets beat the Americans 10-3. The Miracle on Ice is a legendary moment that defines American and Olympic history.


About Jimmy Ward

Jimmy is a senior at Holy Cross College, where he studies English and sports management. He is originally from Westfield, Indiana. Currently, Jimmy serves as an associate sports editor at The Observer. You can find him at @jimmyyward on Twitter.

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