Ahead of the Rio 2016 Games, here is a look at some of the most unforgettable moments in Olympic history.
Few events have the ability to capture the public’s imagination like the Olympic Games. Each Games seems to produce flashbulb moments that live in our collective memory for years. From Jesse Owens’s triumph in Germany to Mo Farah’s historic runs at the 2012 Games, here is a look back at some of the moments that are forever etched in Olympic history. Usain Bolt bursts onto the world scene in Beijing
The Jamaican sprinter, who will be centre stage during the athletics competition at the Rio 2016 Games, first burst onto the world scene at the Beijing 2008 Games. The towering Jamaican sprinter dominated the field, posting a time of 9.69 in the 100-metre sprint, a record that redefined the sport. After winning gold again at the London 2012 Games, Bolt hopes to add third Olympic 100m win to his tally in Rio, making him arguably the greatest sprinter in history.
Michael Phelps dominates in the pool
Like Bolt, swimmer Michael Phelps became an international sensation at the Beijing Games, winning an unprecedented eight medals.
Phelps’s eighth gold medal came in the 4×100m medley relay. Phelps and his team-mates set a new world record with a time of 3 minutes and 29.34 seconds, more than a second faster than the previous world record.
With 22 medals to his name, Phelps is the most decorated Olympian ever and he hopes to add to his total at the Rio Games.
Bob Beamon’s incredible leap
World records are usually broken in small increments – hundredths of a second or fractions of a centimetre. But Bob Beamon shattered the long jump record at the Mexico City 1968 Olympic Games in a way that may never be repeated. The USA athlete jumped 8.90 metres, breaking the previous record by 55cm.
Beamon was not a highly-touted long jumper heading into the Mexico City Games. In fact, he barely qualified. But on a windy night, he sailed through Mexico City’s thin air to set a record that stood until 1991 when the USA’s Michael Powell set a new mark.
Even now, whenever an athlete shatters a record, the achievement is often described as “Beamonesque.”
Dream Team ushers in NBA era
The USA team assembled for the NBA’s debut at the Barcelona 1992 Olympic Games could be arguably be the greatest basketball team ever assembled in any sport.
The Barcelona Games marked the first time players from the National Basketball Association could compete in the men’s basketball tournament. With a roster of Hall of Fame talent like Michael Jordan, Magic Johnson and Larry Bird, the Dream Team cruised to a gold medal win and ushered in a new era of Olympic basketball.
Derek Redmond’s emotional finish
Some great Olympic moments have nothing to do with winning gold. Over the years, Derek Redmond’s performance at the Barcelona 1992 Olympic Games has come to embody the spirit of the Olympic Games.
Redmond was competing in 400m semi-final for Great Britain when his hamstring snapped shortly after the starting gun. He fell to the ground in agony, but managed to carry on, limping his way down the track on one leg.
Redmond’s father ran onto the track to help his son. The sellout crowd at stadium cheered as they crossed the finish line together, a testament to the spirt of competition and the strength of the bond between father and son.
Nadia Comaneci’s perfect 10
Forty years later, Nadia Comaneci’s performance at the Montreal 1976 Olympic Games still defines athletic perfection. The 14-year-old Romanian gymnast was awarded a perfect 10.0 score for her performance on the uneven bars. She received seven 10.0 scores in Montreal – four on the uneven bars and three on the balance beam – and two more perfect scores at the Moscow 1980 Games.
Jesse Owens wins four gold medal at Berlin Olympics
The impact of Jesse Owens’s four gold medals at the Berlin 1936 Olympic Games extended well beyond the world of sport. Competing in Nazi Germany, the African-American track star won four gold medals in the 100m, 200m, long jump, and 4×100m relay, thwarting Adolf Hitler’s plans to spread the myth of Aryan supremacy.
Cathy Freeman sprints to gold at Sydney Games
Widely remembered as one of the great moments in Australian sports history, sprinter Cathy Freeman won the 400m on home soil at the Sydney 2000 Olympic Games, becoming the first Indigenous athlete to win gold for Australia in an individual event.
Steven Redgrave wins fifth gold medal at fifth Olympic Games
Great Britain’s Steven Redgrave was the picture of consistency during his illustrious rowing career, winning five gold medals at five Olympic Games. Redgrave first won gold in Los Angeles in 1984. In later years, he battled injuries as well as Type 1 diabetes, and kept on winning. At the Sydney 2000 Olympic Games, Redgrave’s team won gold in dramatic fashion, beating silver medallist Italy by just 0.38 seconds to make him the most decorated rower in Olympic history.
Ethiopian runner wins marathon in bare feet
A late addition to the Ethiopian team, runner Abebe Bikila didn’t like the new shoes he was given after his old pair fell apart in training. He decided to run the marathon barefoot. In a tightly-fought race through the streets of Rome, Bikila pulled away from his opponent by the famed obelisk of Axum – a monument that was taken from Ethiopia to Rome by Italian troops – to become East Africa’s first gold medallist.
Tanzania’s Akhwari finishes marathon after injury
John Stephen Akhwari of Tanzania struggled mightily during the marathon at the Mexico 1968 Olympic Games. Early in the race, he suffered cramps due to the city’s high altitude. Less than halfway through the race, he took a hard fall, badly injuring his shoulder and dislocating his knee. Undeterred, he bandaged himself up and limped to the finish, a full hour after the gold medallist. After finishing the race in a nearly empty stadium, Akhwari told a reporter, “My country didn’t send me to Mexico to start the race. They sent me here to finish.”
Team GB’s golden weekend
For most Britons, the highlight of the London 2012 Olympic Games was a 24-hour span that saw Team GB win several medals. Jessica Ennis won gold in the heptathlon, Mo Farah won the 10,000 metres while Greg Rutherford took home gold in the long jump sending fans across Great Britain into a frenzy.