Tuesday, July 31, 2012

My Top 10 Olympic Moments

I love sports, its in my blood. Nothing gets me going quite like a sporting event.  The excitement, the drama, the athletes, all of it.  I also love this country! Combine sports and the USA and I'm in heaven!!  So it shouldn't be a surprise that I thoroughly love the Olympics! I love everything about them.  I love seeing the host nation and learning more about their culture and country. I love the Opening Ceremonies.  Seeing each country walk in and feeling the unity gives me goosebumps. I love hearing the back stories and yes most of the time they make me cry. And I love seeing the athletes perform on such a grand stage.  Watching someone strive to reach their dream is INSPIRING!! I've watched the Olympics for as long as I can remember and each Olympics have provided some amazing moments.  And as someone who loves hearing back stories I've watched many moments from Olympics I wasn't alive to watch.  So after all that and since the 2012 London Olympics are going on right now I decided to list my top 10 Olympic moments.  Please take the time to watch the video clips.  It may take up some of your time but I promise it will be worth it!

10. Kerri Strug- At the 1996 games in Atlanta the "Magnificent 7" won the gold medal in the Women’s Team Competition for the first time. It was an epic win for the United States, considering the former Soviet Union had won the event in every Olympics it had entered since the 1950s. The team was packed with all-stars, and the competition full of dramatic moments. The most dramatic moment came when Kerri Strug, despite injuring her ankle on her first vault attempt, stuck the landing on her second go.

9.  Dan Jansen- Ten years after his Olympics debut, speed skater Dan Jansen finally won the gold he had fought so hard for. After falling short in Sarajevo, Calgary (racing the afternoon after his sister’s death), and Albertville, Jansen finally struck gold.

8.  Jamacian Bobsled Team- Who doesn't remember the movie 'Cool Runnings'?!  In the country’s first ever appearance at the winter Olympics, they may have come out medal-less, but certainly won the hearts of Olympic viewers (and the media) at the 1988 Calgary games.

7.  Mary Lou Retton- In 1984 Mary Lou Retton became the first American — male or female — to win a gold medal in gymnastics. She was only 16 at the time, and had only minimal experience competing internationally, but she received perfect 10s for her stunning performance on the vault.

6.  Nadia Comaneci: the first 10- Romanian gymnast Nadia Comaneci won three gold medals at the 1976 Summer Olympics in Montreal, and became the first female gymnast ever to be awarded a perfect 10 in an Olympic gymnastic event.

5.  Derek Redmond- A British runner specializing in the 400 meters. He tore his hamstring halfway through a semi-final race in the 1992 Barcelona Summer Olympics. He refused to give up and rose to finish the race despite his intense pain. But what gets me and makes this one of the most memorable moments came next, when his father leapt over the railing from the stands and helped his son complete the race. Steps from the finish line and with the crowd cheering them on, he let go of Derek, so his son could cross the finish line by himself. The video below isn't the greatest quality but it is so touching. This moment is why I love the Olympics.

4.  The 1992 Dream Team- Jordan. Johnson. Bird. Barkley. Malone. Pippen. Ewing. The 1992 U.S. men’s basketball team featured what was arguably the greatest assemblage of athletic talent in Olympic team history. The all-star American squad put up triple-digit scores in all 7 rounds, sometimes blowing away teams by as much as 60 points. Even the gold medal match against Croatia, with a final score of 117-85 U.S., was a slaughter. In 2010 the team was inducted into the Basketball Hall of Fame, one of only eight squads to ever earn the honor.

3.  Jesse Owens-  So obviously I wasn't alive for this moment but it is one that has touched me and made me so proud. Jesse Owens wasn’t “supposed” to win. He was black and he was competing in track and field in 1936 Berlin. But in one of the greatest demonstrations of actions speaking louder than words, African American sprinter Jesse Owens shocked his Nazi hosts by winning four gold medals in the 100m, 200m, 4x100m relay, and the long jump. This grandson of slaves won with conviction and with grace!

2.  Michael Phelps-  So it was a hard decision not to put him as number 1 seeing as I'm kind of in love with him!  But my feelings aside, his performance in the 2008 Beijing Olympics was amazing!  He took home 8 gold medals, beating Mark Spitz's record of 7 gold medals in one Olympics. Of all his races none was more exciting then the men’s 4x100m medley relay. The French were supposed to win, in fact one of the French swimmers, Alain Bernard, said they would "smash" the Americans in this event. But oh how wrong he was.  The last seconds of the race were so intense.  Jason Lezak was behind Bernard and it looked liked Phelp's 8 gold medals dream was over.  But in the last seconds Lezak gained on Bernard and when thrust his right arm for the wall, desperation and determination met perfect timing. The lunge beat Bernard by an eye blink.  A finish that could earn its own spot in my greatest moments!  Michael Phelps 8 gold medals and Lezak's comeback finish were nothing short of miraculous! 

1.  Miracle on Ice- In 2004 I sat in a theater next to my dad and with the rest of my family to watch a movie called 'Miracle'.  It would be the last movie I would attend with my father.  As I sat watching I asked myself how I had never heard of this story.  I sat on the edge of my seat and when the lights came up in the auditorium I was changed.  The story of the 1980 USA hockey team is truly miraculous.    The U.S. team was made up of mostly collegiate players and they were not expected to advance past group play. The Soviet Union was consider the greatest team having won the gold medal in 1956 and every year since 1964.  The Rivalry between the U.S. and the Soviet team only mirrored the political and military tension that existed between them at the time because of the Cold War.  The met each other in a game that the Russians were supposed to dominate.  And according to the media the day before the match, unless a miracle happened, the Russians were expected to win not only that game but the Gold medal too.  Little did they know a miracle was indeed going to happen!  But the more I think about it, it wasn't just a miracle.  It was a coach that used strange but effective coaching tactics.  It was a team that came together and formed a bond and a family.  It was the belief that they could win and that belief affected every minute of the game.  They never gave up and at the end of 20 minutes the came out on top.  So whenever I think that something is impossible I think of this moment, pop in the 'Miracle' dvd and watch the impossible happen!  

Here is one of my favorite scenes form the movie.  Herb Brooks pushes the team nearly to the breaking point after a lack luster performance against Norway.  He makes them skate after the game.  Before this moment each player had identified themselves as an individual and as a player of their college.  What Mike Eruzione says not only stops the drill but is the start of them uniting as a team!

And the pre-game speech by coach Herb Brooks.  Very inspiring!

I hope you enjoyed these moments.  They are truly inspiring and help us remember to never give up and that with enough dedication, determination, and motivation your dreams can come true!