Being a competitive swimmer thru college, I have a strong bond with the summer Olympics. From Mark Spitz 7 golds in 72 to Phelps 8 golds in 08, my sport has been in the spotlight for many years. Here is a list of the most iconic moments of the modern era.
Michael Phelps wins eight gold medals (Beijing 2008)
Phelps laid out a program that on paper looked nearly impossible: eight
swimming events in nine days. By winning eight gold medals, Phelps
became the most decorated athlete at a single Olympic Games. And more
than one of his races came down to the last possible instant. Just ask
Kerri Strug vaults with injured ankle (Atlanta 1996)
Believing the U.S. needed her vault to clinch the team gold, Strug
limped to the runway on a left ankle she'd injured moments earlier.
Running with one good ankle, she completed the vault, stood on one leg,
then fell to the ground. Turns out the U.S. didn't need Strug's score,
but we all remember the effort much more than the particulars of the
Muhammad Ali lights cauldron (Atlanta 1996)
always a mystery: Who will light the Olympic cauldron? On July 19,
1996, Janet Evans made the final pass of the flame to a man that will
never need an introduction. With his left hand shaking from the effects
of Parkinson's disease, Muhammad Ali clutched the torch with his right
hand, raised it, then lit a flame that slowly made its way to ignite the
The Dream Team (Barcelona 1992)
For the first time, NBA players were allowed into the Olympic Games. The
result: The Dream Team, a roster that included 11 eventual Hall of
Famers and a team whose closest game was a 32-point blowout.
Carl Lewis wins four golds (Los Angeles 1984)
Lewis entered the 1984 Games with one thing in mind: becoming the second
person ever to win four track and field golds in a single Olympics.
Jesse Owens did it in 1938; Lewis matched him 48 years later.
Nadia Comăneci scored perfect 10s (Montreal 1976)
No gymnast had ever earned a perfect score of 10 until Comăneci turned
in a performance on the uneven bars at the 1976 Games that left judges
with no choice. Comăneci would earn six more perfect scores and the gold
Bruce Jenner wins the decathlon (Montreal 1976)
Jenner dedicated four years to winning gold in the decathlon in
Montreal. The work paid off. Not only did he earn the title as the
world's greatest athlete, but he parlayed his two-day performance into a
lifetime of celebrity that eventually landed him a seat at the head of
the Kardashian's dinner table.
Sugar Ray Leonard leads dominating U.S. boxing performance (Montreal 1976)
Sugar Ray Leonard launched his Hall of Fame boxing career with a
spectacular performance at the 1976 Games in Montreal. En route to
winning one of five golds for the Americans, Leonard marched through the
'76 Olympic tournament, winning each fight 5-0.
USA-Russia basketball controversial final (Munich 1972)
Since basketball became an Olympic sport in 1936, the USA hadn't lost –
until the '72 final against Russia, a game that remains steeped in
controversy to this day. Forty years later, members of the U.S. team
have still not accepted their silver medals, contending they were
cheated out of gold.
Israeli athletes killed by Palestinians (Munich 1972)
On Sept. 5, 1972, a Palestinian terrorist group took members of the
Israeli Olympic team hostage in an apartment in the Olympic village. The
terrorist group, known as Black September, called for the release of
prisoners held in Israeli and German jails. The standoff lasted 21 hours
and ended with the death of 10 Israeli athletes and coaches and one
German police officer.
Tommie Smith/John Carlos medal stand protest (Mexico City 1968)
arguably the most iconic image ever produced from an Olympic Games,
Americans Tommie Smith and John Carlos thrust their black-gloved fists
in the air while standing on the medal podium after having won gold and
bronze, respectively, in the 200-meter dash. The purpose of the salute
was to represent black unity and power during the civil rights movement
Jesse Owens wins four golds in front of Hitler (Berlin 1936)
It was a moment when sport and politics collided on the world stage –
the great American athlete, who happened to be black, performing in
front of a man trying to lead a resurgence of Nazi Germany where the
superiority of an Arian race was propagandized. Jesse Owens sprinted
through Hitler's house and won.
Usain Bolt shatters world records in 100m and 200m (Beijing 2008)
The sprinter with the name to fit ran into the record books, becoming
the first since Carl Lewis in 1984 to win Olympic gold in the 100 and
200. In the process, Bolt established world records at both distances
and sparked a curiosity as to how much faster he could really go.
The greatest Opening Ceremony show ever (Beijing 2008)
Lasting more than four hours and at a cost of around $100 million, the
Opening Ceremony at the Beijing Games featured light shows, fireworks,
dancing and some 15,000 participants. It ended with Li Ning, suspended
in the air, "running" horizontally around the cornice of the stadium,
where he eventually lit the Olympic cauldron.
Marion Jones wins five medals, then forfeits them all (Sydney 2000)
The darling of the 2000 Games after winning five medals, including three
golds, Marion Jones became a symbol of all that was wrong in sport
after it was revealed she used performance-enhancing drugs.
Michael Johnson's unprecedented double gold (Atlanta 1996)
Sporting a pair of custom-made gold Nikes, Johnson entered the '96 Games
in Atlanta with a goal of becoming the first man to win the 200 and 400
meters in the same Olympics. He won the 400 by more than one second,
then shattered his own world record by more than 0.3 to win the 200 and
complete the unprecedented double.
Florence Griffith-Joyner's double world records (Seoul 1988)
How good was FloJo in 1988? The world records she set en route to
winning gold in the 100 and 200 meters still stand today, 24 years
later. In a sport where men tend to get most of the attention, FloJo
grabbed the spotlight, becoming a role model for women wanting to
compete in track and field.
Mary Lou Retton wins gymnastics gold (Los Angeles 1984)
Before 1984, no female gymnast outside of Eastern Europe had won
all-around gold. Mary Lou Retton changed that with a perfect vault. And
when she hit it and flashed that million-dollar smile, a star was born.
Mary Decker collides with Zola Budd (Los Angeles 1984)
The 3,000 meters played up to its billing as Mary Decker Slaney vs.
barefooted Zola Budd. They were running 1-2 just past the halfway point
when Budd appeared to step in front of Slaney, who stumbled, fell to the
ground in a heap and lay on the infield in agony as the race went on
without her. Who was at fault depended on who you were rooting for.
Mark Spitz wins seven golds (Munich 1972)
Michael Phelps' eight-gold medal effort in 2008 was fathomable only
because of what Mark Spitz had done 36 years earlier, when he won seven
at the '72 Games. It was a redemptive performance from Spitz, who'd
predicted he'd win six in the '68 Mexico City Games and came away with
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