There has been many different great Olympic moments over the history of the games. Some of the highlights include Mark Spitz winning seven gold medals in one games, Jessie Owens winning in pre-war Berlin, and Nadia Comaneci stunning the world with a perfect 10.
I admit that these moments were great, incredible feats and are rightly hearlded in the media but my only regret is not seeing them live because they're just before my time. I missed that feeling of seeing it live and my personal reaction to it.
So I have chosen the best Olympic moments from my lifetime that I actually watched live on T.V. There were brilliant moments that had me glued to the television set and demanding that the athletes immediately give a sample in for tests to be carried out. This was not because I believed that they had taken banned substances but to prove conclusively that these people were actually human! The level of personal achievement and the physical performances they reached that pushed the human body to the limits left me, and the world, stunned. Here's my top 5 Olympic memories:
5. Kerri Strug, 1996 Olympics
In 1996 Kerri Strug was part of the American women Olympic gymnastics team who were vying for a gold medals in a number of disciplines at the games.
Despite entering a number of individual categories it will be in the team event that Kerri will be most remembered for. The Olympic Gymnastic team event had been dominated for years by the Russians, and America who had never won gold at the team event, were expected to battle it out with Romania and Ukraine for second spot and the silver medal.
However, after a great performance from all the Americans gymnasts they were within touching distance of the gold medal with only Russia able to stop them. On the final day of competition, the 23rd of July, the Americans were expected to finally triumph and take the long awaited gold medal.
Late on in the day the US team held a commanding 0.897-point lead with the Russian team having to complete the floor exercise and the U.S.team on the vault. The gold medal was not conclusively won but only an American collapse would deny the US team the gold.
After four of the five US team had completed the vault the scores were poor. All of them landed awkwardly and had lost points for stepping and moving on landing. To add to the drama the usually dependable Dominique Moceanu had fallen twice as the pressure mounted on the Americans. Strug was the fifth and last member of the team to attempt the vault for the United States.
Kerri needed to get a score of 9.43 to guarantee the gold but in her first attempt Strug under-rotated at her landing causing her to damage her ankle. Due to this small error the attempt was given a below average score of 9.162 points. It was not enough to take the gold conclusively and Strug had to take to the floor again.
No-one knew at the time, but her stumble after the first attempt caused a third-degree lateral sprain and tendon damage to her ankle.
Kerri, knowing that she had seriously damaged her ankle had to summon tremendous courage and perseverance for her final attempt. Strug knew that if she did attempt the vault again, she risked further damage to her leg that would make her miss the upcoming individual events, something that she had been working for all her life.
Strug decided to take her final vault attempt and try and secure gold for the American team. She landed perfectly and instantly hoped onto one foot, before saluting the judges and then collapsing on the mat in agony.
She got a score of 9.712 that took the gold medal to the US for the first time.
Due to the damage she aggravated during her last vault she was unable to compete in the individual all-around competition but her personal sacrifice was not forgotten by the media and the adoring American public. When the victorious team returned home Kerri took the deserved applause during a personal visit from the President Bill Clinton, as well as numerous T.V., magazine and chat show appearances.
To Kerri the old adage was true,
Pain is temporary, winning last forever.
4. Phelps wins 8 Golds in the Pool
Sometimes in sport you have good athletes, then once in a while along comes a great athlete and every couple of generations we will see a phenomenon. Someone that redefines the sport and sets new standards of what a human being can actually achieve. Michael Phelps is definitely the latter.
In the Bejing Olympics of 2008 he picked up 8 swimming gold medals from 8 races and produced 7 new world records and one Olympic record at the same time. Absolutely phenomenal.
3. Sir Steve Redgrave Wins 5th Gold Medal
Sir Steve Redgrave, knighted for his services to sport, achieved the incredible feat of winning a gold medal at five consecutive Olympic games in rowing.
It all started back in Los Angeles in 1984 when Sir Steve won his first gold on the coxed fours with fellow team mates Martin Cross, Andy Holmes, Richard Budgett and Adrian Ellison.
Next time around, Sir Steve changed event and rowed with team mate Andy Holmes in the coxed pairs with skip Patrick Sweeney and also in the Coxless pairs, again with partner Andy Holmes. While Redgrave won gold in the coxless pairs event he also won a bronze in the other. It’s one of the great trivia quiz questions of the future, asking how many medals Redgrave won, and I imagine a lot of people will get the answer wrong by forgetting the bronze he won and just mention the 5 golds.
In 1992, Matthew Pinsent teamed up with Steve and it was a partnership that would prolong the Olympic career of both men while keeping them at the top of their game. Gold medals came for the two in the 92 and 96 Olympics. After the 1996 Gold medal in Athens Redgrave said that if anyone saw him near a rowing boat again then they had his permission to shoot him.
However, he did return to rowing and when the 2000 Olympics in Sydney came around the entire nation watched in anticipation. Could Matthew and Steve, who were both going to retire, raise their game and have one last victory? They were rowing in the coxless fours with Tim Foster and James Crachnell. The race was close. Very close.
They won by 0.38 seconds and as they crossed the line I still remember jumping around the front room with my mum and dad, you would have thought one of us had just won the gold.
2. Derek Redmond in 400m Semi-Final
I bet you're asking yourself what can be a better Olympic moment than a swimmer winning 8 golds in one games and possibly the best Olympian ever staying at the top for 5 separate games? Well, the answer is a man that won nothing. In fact he didn’t even make it to the final of his event.
His name is Derek Redmond and he was competing at the Barcelona Olympics in 1992. While racing in the 400 metres semi-final his injury prone hamstring snapped, leaving him in agony, collapsed and crying on the track. As the capacity crowd and the millions of viewers at home expected Redmond to limp onto a stretcher, Derek stood up and continued for the finish line.
With Olympic officials on the track telling the hobbling star to stop Derek kept going. With a stinging pain in his leg, which was so bad he later claim that he thought he had been shot, he made his way to the finish line. Eventually his dad broke through security and helped his son finish what he started because Derek Redmond was a man that simply just didn’t quit. No matter what happened.
His actions became the personification of the Olympic spirit and an example to millions that giving up on your goal is just never an option.
If you can watch this video and not have a lump in your throat, then check your pulse because you might very well be dead.
1. Ali Lights the Olympic Flame in Atlanta
If Derek Redmond encapsulating all that is great about the Olympic movement beats Redgrave, Phelps and Krugg, in my little pole then what on earth can trump the lot. Quite simply a sporting icon.
Although I am too young to have seen Muhammad Ali fight in the Olympics, or indeed his professional boxing career, I am all to aware of what he achieved. A man who transcended sport and was not only a fantastic sportsman but an icon leader for black people in the 60's and 70's during the civil rights movement.
In 2000 the BBC ran a poll to see who came out on top as sports person of the millennium. Ali won in the end by pulling in ten times the number of votes.....of all the other athletes combined. If they removed the word 'sport' from the title I still wouldn't have argued with the award.
I watched this with my mum, dad and brother and nobody spoke a word when it was on. A fantastic moment and in my opinion the best moment ever.