Olympians are the stuff of legends. From humble beginnings, overcoming tragic injuries, or odds-defying adversity, their gritty and gallant stories have captivated us for years. The stakes are bigger, therefore the wins are that much bolder. In honor of the 2016 Summer Olympics kicking off in a couple short weeks, we’re showcasing our picks for the most inspirational and awe-inducing olympic moments of all time.
The Miracle on Ice of 1980
In 2008, the International Ice Hockey Federation, celebrating its 100-year history, dubbed the 1980 semifinal game between the USA and the Soviet Union the “Number One International Hockey Story.” And why? Team USA, made up of amateurs and collegiate players, was never expected to win much of anything, much less defeat the six-team gold medalist Soviet powerhouse. But in a whirlwind 4-3 nailbiter, the USA pulled off the seemingly impossible, and went on to beat Finland for the gold.
Derek Redmond’s Tender Father-Son Moment
In this 1992 semi-final race of the Barcelona Summer Olympics, once the last competitor crossed the finish line, there wasn’t a dry eye in the house. Derek Redmond, a crowd favorite for medal potential, tore his hamstring halfway through the trek. Despite any intense pain, he kept pushing on, and his dad leapt off the stands to help his son to the end. The crowd roared, and just a few feet from the finish line, Redmond’s dad let go and watched Derek cross the line on his own.
Jesse Owens: Against All Odds
The year was 1936, and the location was Berlin, Germany. The times were hard, tensions were high, and no one expected an African American to win the sport’s highest honor (much less win it four times). Jesse Owens, after breaking three world records in the qualifier races, came to dominate in track and field, and left Germany with four gold medals in his possession.
Bobsledding’s Most Unlikely Heroes
Sometimes a prodigious moment doesn’t come at the end of gold medal, but happens to remind everyone that drive, heart and fortitude can be enough to inspire the world. The 1988 Jamaican Bobsled team, glorified in the Disney flick “Cool Runnings,” did just that. When an unlikely team of heroes from a tropical, totally snow-less country entered the race, the reaction was dubious from sportscasters and spectators alike. And although they didn’t win a medal, by the end of the race, they certainly won the respect and hearts of millions.
Nadia Comaneci’s Perfect Score
Up until 1976, no woman had ever scored a perfect 10 in an Olympic Gymnastics Event. But a 14-year-old from Romania was about to change that, many times over. Nadia Comaneci’s performance at the 1976 Montreal Olympics earned her seven “perfect 10” scores, three gold medals, and the record as the youngest gold-medalist in history.