The Most Passionate Moments in Olympics History

By (Featured Columnist) on February 3, 2014

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Steve Powell/Getty Images

The Olympics are a celebration of many things. There is sports, of course, and also nationalism, competition, and pride. But arguably the one factor that ties all these things together is passion.

Olympic athletes are often not high-paid, well-known figures like they seem during the few weeks that the Olympics take place. They are often just passionate, hard-working people who are dedicated to their craft and spend countless hours working and sacrificing to win a medal on the world's biggest stage.

For this list, I did not include some moments that would be regarded as extremely important, like Jesse Owens' success in 1936, the Black Power Salute in 1968, or the march of Korean Unification in 2000.

These were all incredible displays, but they're not really displays of passion as defined for this article. This list is full of examples of passion and emotion in the athletic arena that was visibly displayed and/or impacted because of the results of the event.

With the 2014 Winter Olympics just around the corner, let's relive the 10 most passionate moments in Olympic history.



Derek Redmond Finishes with His Father, 1992

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Gray Mortimore/Getty Images

Redmond was a star in track for Great Britain, and was one of the favored runners heading into the 400 meters of the 1992 Summer Olympics in Barcelona.

He dominated in the first round and quarter-finals, winning each, and was considered the frontrunner to take home gold in the event.

But the injury-riddled runner suffered a stroke of incredibly bad luck when he tore his hamstring a little more than halfway through the race. Redmond struggled back to his feet and looked as if he intended to hobble to the finish line. 

Then, in one of the most notorious and heart-wrenching moments in Olympic history, Redmond's father ran out onto the track, pushed through security, and helped his son finish the race.

This example of perseverance, courage, family and sacrifice embodied the Olympic spirit and will always be one of the most amazing displays in Olympic history.

Matthias Steiner's Bittersweet Win, 2008

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Julian Finney/Getty Images

This story may have flown a bit under much of the world's radar, it was nevertheless one of the most gut-wrenching stories in recent Olympic history.

Steiner was a powerlifting champion from Austria who attained German citizenship in 2008, and then went on to compete for Germany in the 2008 Summer Olympics in Beijing.

His wife, Susann, died tragically in a car accident roughly a month before Steiner was supposed to take stage in the Olympics. He chose to compete despite the tragedy.

Steiner's  biggest competition was Evgeny Chigishev and favorite Viktors Ščerbatihs. Steiner needed to beat his personal record by more than 10 kilograms to take the gold.

This video is really all you need to see. Just a warning, you will probably cry. Truly one of the most passionate moments in Olympic history

 

Dan Jansen Perseveres to Gold, 1992

Jansen, the youngest of nine children who grew up in West Allis, Wisconsin, developed into a world-class speed skater and competed in his first Olympics in 1988.

He was a favorite to win both the 500 and 1,000 meter events, but was faced with tragedy on the day of the 500 meter race.

Jansen was informed of the death of his sister, Jan, who suffered from Leukemia and passed away on the morning of the race. He went on to fall on the first lap and did not medal.

Just four days later, Jansen had another opportunity in the 1,000 meter, but fell again and did not earn a medal, although he did win the U.S. Olympic Spirit Award for his courage in competition.

He had a chance for redemption in the 1992 Winter Olympics in Albertville, but came up short yet again in both the 500 and 1,000 meter races.

Two years later, at the 1994 Winter Olympics in Lillehammer, Jansen took advantage of arguably his final opportunity and won the gold medal. He dedicated the victory to his late sister and took a lap around the rink with his one-year-old daughter, named Jan, in celebration of his achievement.

Kerri Strug Overcomes Injury, 1996

As part of the "Magnificent Seven", Strug was already a very well-known and popular gymnast before the 1996 Summer Olympics in Atlanta.

But her heroics and incredible passion and toughness in those games would make her a part of not just gymnastic, but also Olympic history. 

The Americans were locked in a heated battle with the Russians for the team gold, and it was so close that it would come down to the final rotation on the final day of competition.

Strug would be the last woman to vault for the U.S., and her score was massively important in dictating the final result.

She landed awkwardly on her first attempt and hurt her ankle badly enough that she struggled to limp back for the next attempt after her coach, Béla Károlyi, told her they needed the second vault.

Krug somehow managed to stick her landing and then hobbled onto one foot almost instantly before collapsing to the ground in pain. But her efforts would help the U.S. go on to win gold, and the image of Károlyi carrying her onto the podium will be entrenched in Olympic lore forever.

 

 

Mo Farah Wins 10,000M, 2012

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Associated Press

No athlete from Great Britain had ever won gold in the men's 10,000 meter run, but Mo Farah is no ordinary athlete.

The Somali-born track and field star is one of Great Britain's most celebrated olympic athletes in recent history, and he had a lot of weight to carry on his shoulders in the London 2012 Summer Olympics.

In his first event in front of the home crowd, the extremely difficult 10,000 meters, Farah won a close and riveting race with a time of 27:30.42.

His celebration was one for the ages, as he absolutely exploded once he finished the race, running around and celebrating with his training partner Galen Rupp, who came in second (watch here). 

Farah then visibly erupted with joy when he saw one of his daughters out on the track after she ran out with a flag to find her father, which was truly a special moment. 

The building roar of the crowd made it obvious that this was not just a win for Farah, but for all of Great Britain, whose athletes took home two other gold medals in the same athletic session.

This video of BBC's Olympic television crew members cheering on Farah while off-camera proves that there is a pride and fandom in all of us.

Miracle on Ice, 1980

The greatest moment in United States Olympic history, the Miracle on Ice has been revered by Americans for decades and was even turned into a movie.

Therefore, the story is rather well-known by now. But as a summary: a group of amateur and collegiate hockey players from the U.S. were brought together in a short time for practice by coach Herb Brooks.

Brooks was an unbelievable coach and motivator, and got his group of young men to mature and grow together to compete with some of the best hockey teams in the world, especially the Soviet Union.

The Soviet Union were widely known to have the best hockey team in the world, but the U.S. ended up defeating them in the semi-final game after captain Mike Eruzione scored in the third period to give the Americans the lead.

They would go on to clinch the victory in front of a raucous American crowd in Lake Placid, New York, and Al Michaels delivered his famous line in the closing seconds of the game while the U.S. players began celebrating.

The rest, as they say, is history.

Joannie Rochette's Emotional Medal, 2010

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Amy Sancetta/Associated Press

Rochette was a decorated figure skater who had won six consecutive Canadian National Titles before being selected to participate in the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver.

Rochette, a Quebec native, was not necessarily considered a favorite, but was a respectable competitor who was not overmatched by any means.

Her mother flew in to watch her perform, but two days before figure skating began, she passed away of a heart attack. Rochette chose to perform in her mother's honor, and her performances envoked an unbelievable roller coaster of emotions for everyone involved.

She performed a career-best short program, which garnered her third place, and then did well enough in the long program to win the bronze medal.

It's impossible not to get emotional while watching the video of Rochette's skates and medal victory.

Cathy Freeman Wins More Than a Gold, 2000

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MICHAEL PROBST/Associated Press

Freeman won silver in the 400 meter in the 1996 Olympics, but she performed on an entirely different stage four years later.

In her home nation of Australia, Freeman was a legend during the 2000 Summer Olympics in Sydney. An Aboriginal Australian, Freeman ended up running for more than just a medal.

The Aboriginals in Australia had endured years and years of oppression in Australia, and Freeman ended up running the race of her life and bringing home the gold.

Watching the incredible celebrations that followed the race, it is clear to see that Freeman clearly secured a victory not just for herself, but for her native people and nation as well.

It's truly an amazing spectacle which shows how the Olympics can transcend beyond sports.

Andy Murray Wins at Home, 2012

A native of Scotland, Murray was the hometown hero in the 2012 London Olympics, winning round after round in front of big crowds.

Murray ended up drawing Roger Federer in the gold medal match, who had just beaten Murray four weeks earlier for the Wimbledon title.

But Murray came out on fire and played one of the best matches of his career, breaking a number of Federer's serves and sweeping him in straight sets.

With the win, Murray became the first Brit to win singles gold since 1908, and it was an extra special moment for Murray and Great Britain to have the win be on his home court.

The match itself was spectacular, as the crowd became downright festive and Murray's display of uncommon display of extreme emotion afterwards captured the grandeur of the achievement.

Michael Phelps Finger Tip Win, 2008

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Petr David Josek/Associated Press

Time seems to make some people forget, but back in 2008 Phelps became the most dominant athlete in Olympic history, winning eight gold medals to break Mark Spitz's record.

To attain that record, Phelps won his seventh gold in as many days in the most dramatic fashion possible. 

The 100 meter butterfly was Phelps' to lose, and he started off poorly, which caused him to fall behind Miloard Cavic, an incredibly strong butterfly swimmer from Serbia.

Cavic withstood a late charge from Phelps, and seemed to beat him to the wall. But Phelps flung his arms out and touched the pad literally 1/100th of a second before Cavic for a truly unbelievable victory.

Phelps' reaction once he sees that he won is passion personified. He rises out of the water and slams his arms down with the roar of a man who knows his legend was continued by a fingernail. 

Watch the video of the whole race and celebration here, and listen to the brilliant commentary and narration of this once-in-a-lifetime race.

 

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