The Opening Ceremonies generally qualify (the closing ones are much more chaotic and informal), but the 2008 Beijing ceremonies deserve a special mention, as do the 2012 London ones (featuring James Bond, the Queen, Mr. Bean, Mary Poppins, Voldemort, and the Industrial Revolution, among others).
Special points to one scene in the 2012 Opening Ceremony where James Bond and the Queenparachute out of a helicopter into the Olympic Park. Alright, they were stunt doubles there, but still... but the Queen in everything up to that point was actually her. So much awesome in just five minutes of an awesome-packed ceremony.
The entire Industrial Revolution segment, especially the moment when you realized that they were forging the Olympic rings.
Another meta one for London 2012. After criticism from the right (mostly the Daily Mail) saying it was too mutlicultural (basically saying there were too many black people, and that it was wrong to praise hardworking doctors and nurses), an Internet Backdraft ensued, forcing a particularly controversial tabloid paper (again, the Daily Mail) to edit the article, then eventually pull the article after several people chose to screenshot the article and point out what they'd said.
The 2012 Closing Ceremonies were just as amazing as the Opening, with Eric Idle singing "Always Look On The Bright Side Of Life", as well as Queen performing "We Will Rock You" alongside Jessie J. (Which was preceeded by a clip of Freddy Mercury).
The opening ceremony for the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, which captured one thousand epic years of Russian history, has already been so well received that some are saying that it was even better than the Beijing opening ceremony.
The University of Southern California has produced a Gold Medalist in every Olympics for the last century, omitting the 1980 Moscow boycott.
Team USA Women's Basketball is on a thirty seven game win streak.
Anytime a world record is broken or the country you support wins gold.
In the first Olympiad, the Greeks hadn't won any track and field event (a victory in discus throw, a classical Greek sport, won by American Robert Garrett was particularly painful). All that was left was the marathon. It started with 13 Greek athletes and four non-Greek athletes. After incidents like the collapse of a French runner and Australian 800m and 1500m winner Edwin Flack, Spiridon Louis took the lead. As he was arriving at the stadium, there were chants of "Hellene, Hellene!" When he appeared, there was tremendous celebrations and Louis got company in his last meters by none other than Crown Prince Constantine and Prince George (both Greek), who rose from their seats to help "Spiros". Wild celebrations ensued. Almost a century later, the Olympic Stadium in Athens was inaugurated. Its nickname is "Spiros Louis".
František Janda-Suk was a Czech athlete who competed for Bohemianote The Bohemian Kingdom was a part of the Austrian-Hungarian Monarchy back then in the discus throw. This was the first time when a modern athlete threw the discus while rotating the whole body. He invented this technique when studying the position of the famous statue of Discobolus. The world of sport awed. It's slightly tinged as he got the silver medal, but it is an awesome moment for modern athletics if there ever was one.
James Cleveland "Jesse" Owens winning gold in the Olympics organized by Nazi Germany. To put this in perspective, a black man went to the country where its leader declared that black people were biologically inferior to white people (especially Germans). He then handed Hitler's ass to him and dispelled the Aryan myth in front of the entire world. When Sports Illustrated made a list of the greatest Olympic moments, they put Owens' showing in the 1936 Olympics on top - above Muhammad Ali at the Atlanta Olympics, above Bob Beamon's record jump at the Mexico City games, and above Michael Phelps winning eight gold medals in one Olympic games. Owens is still widely considered to be a national hero to this day.
The 1952 Summer Olympics in Helsinki were amazingly awesome Games for Czechoslovakia:
Emil Zátopek, a Czech long-distance runner nicknamed "The Czech Locomotive", won three gold medals. He won gold in the 5000 metres and 10,000 metres runs, and he decided at the last minute to compete in the first marathon of his life, which he surprisingly won as well.
Emil Zátopek's wife Dana Zátopková was an outstanding athlete in the javelin throw. She won the gold medal in the javelin, only a few moments after Emil's victory in the 5 km run.
Abebe Bikila of Ethiopia became the first sub-Saharan African to win Olympic gold medal. In the marathon. BAREFOOT.
He repeated his win in 1964, becoming the first Olympic marathon winner to defend his gold. Just over a month after receiving emergency surgery for a burst appendix.
Mexico City 1968
Tommie Smith and John Carlos' Black Power salute while receiving their gold and bronze medals in the 200 meter dash. Nicely followed by the What an Idiot moment for IOC president Avery Brundage, who denounced it for bringing a political issue into the games...and was then reminded that he had made no such objection to the German athletes making Nazi salutes in 1936.
The Silver Medalist, Australian Peter Norman wore an Olympic Project for Human Rights badge (given to him by USA Rower, Paul Hoffman) to show solidarity with Tommie Smith and John Carlos. Given Australia wasn't too keen on that sort of thing, especially at that time counts as a Mo A for him.
Even better, Norman collaborated with Smith and Carlos for the whole thing - they discussed the move before they went out onto the podium, and as Carlos had forgotten to bring his black gloves from the olympic village, Norman suggested that Smith give one of his gloves to Carlos, which is why the pair raised their opposite arms. The three medallists knew their sporting careers were on the line and had everything to lose (especially Norman, whose home country still supported the White Australia Policy, and what he did ended up destroying his career completely, the Australian government only apologized for his treatment in 2012, six years after his untimely death in 2006). And yet they walked out onto the podium fearlessly, consequences be damned.
Bob Beamon beating the previous long-jump record by 55 cm (nearly two feet). His record stood until 1991.
Felipe "El tibio" Muńoz, a Mexican swimmer best known for his unusual (for the time) habit of refusing to swim in an unheated pool, managed to beat out the heavily favored Soviet and American athletes to win gold in the 200m breaststroke. He still stands as the only Mexican athlete to win gold in a swimming event.
Helmut Bellingrodt Wolf became the first ever Colombian silver Olympic medal winner by finishing second in running game target shooting. The Colombian delegation went so wild that the organization had to tell them to please remain silent. Wolf repeated the feat in Los Angeles 1984, being the first Colombian sportsman to obtain two Olympic medals.
Franz Klammer's spectacular, death-defying gold medal run in men's downhill skiing.
14-year-old Nadia Comaneci from Romania gets the first perfect 10 in gymnastics. So awesome that it could not be properly registered in the scoreboard. The scoreboard wasn't designed to handle double-digit numbers, only single digits with decimal points. They hadn't bothered to add a tens place, as it never occurred to anyone that it might actually happen. As it turned out, it happened not just once, but seven times. By the same athlete. That's right - out of the eight routines Nadia Comaneci performed in that Olympics, seven were perfect tens. She didn't Break The Rating Scale - she left it curled in the foetal position crying for its mommy, then cackled and ground it into the dust.
Lake Placid 1980
The 1980 Miracle on Ice, in which the American hockey team managed to beat the heavily favored Soviets. The American team were made up of college kids and players who weren't even starters on their pro teams. Their average age was 22. The Soviet team featured a Dream Team who had been together since 1964, winning golds along the way and who had earlier crushed the NHL All-Stars team with ease. All this at the height of the Cold War too.
Al Michaels: Do you believe in miracles? Yes!
Sixty-five countries boycotted the games in protest of the Soviet Union's invasion of Afghanistan.
The greatest ice skating moment would have to go to Torvill and Dean from Britain. They have been the only team to ever get full sixes across the board. Well deserved. Their dancing interpretation of Ravel's "Bolero" is legendary.
Los Angeles 1984
The 1984 Summer Olympics in Los Angeles was the first year that there was a Women's Marathon. American Joan Benoit came in first; but fifteen minutes later Swiss runner Gabriele Andersen-Scheiss staggered into the stadium, half-paralyzed and barely able to stand from heat exhaustion. When medics rushed to stop her, she ducked away from them, knowing that if anyone touched her she would be disqualified. So the medics followed her as she painfully staggered the final lap around the stadium, occasionally stopping to hold her head before lurching on towards the finish line. When she reached the finish line she literally collapsed over it into the arms of waiting medics who rushed her to an ambulance. Anderson-Scheiss came in thirty-seventh, but was arguably more awesome than any medalist.
When the Jamaicans entered a team into the bobsledding competition for the 1988 Calgary Olympics, everyone treated them as a joke. They were Jamaicans, from a near-equatorial country that had no natural snow, and they had almost never actually practiced on ice. They did not win; in fact, they crashed rather horrifically. Then, when everyone was pretty sure they were dead, they emerged from their overturned bobsled, hoisted it up, and walked it across the finish line. And which was made into a comedy.
The Battle of the Brians showdown with Brian Orser and Brian Boitano.
Greg Louganis repeating is 3M-10M Gold sweep from 1984. What makes this even more amazing is that in the 3M preliminaries, he hit his head on the board, but still managed to come in third; he then won the Gold by just a shade under 26 points.
Kristi Yamaguchi's gold-medal winning performance that was so good that she won even though she FELL. (No doubt helped because everyone else fell, but still)
Midori Ito finally landing her elusive, signature triple Axel jump (she was the first woman to land one)and coming from behind to win the silver medal, after a disastrous week that left many wondering if she would medal at all.
A paralympic archer lit the cauldron with a flaming arrow. Best. Torchlighting. EVER!
In the ice hockey final, Sweden tie favourites Canada in the final minutes and it goes to penalties. After five penalties, it's still tied. After an extra round of penalties, it's still tied. Then young whippersnapper Peter Forsberg steps up to take a penalty, skates towards the Canadian goal... and puts it in one-handed, while skating backwards around the goalie, winning Sweden's first Olympic hockey gold ever. Sweden put him on a stamp◊ for that one.
Nancy Kerrigan finally putting to rest the demons that had plagued her even before her vicious attack, namely, a lack of confidence, and skating what is universally believed to be her best performance. So what if she only won silver?
Dan Jansen FINALLY winning Olympic gold, then taking his victory lap while holding his baby daughter in his arms.
Media coverage of the American women's gymnastics team focused heavily on Dominique Moceanu and Dominique Dawes, but after a two-fall showing from Moceanu, Kerri Strug was the last gymnast to vault on the American team rotation. She proceeded to fall on her rear on her first vault, but Kerri wasn't about to stand for that. Despite injuring her ankle on her first vault, she calmly walked back to the end of the runway, vaulted again, and stuck her landing on one foot because she'd sprained her ankle when she hit the mat. Her courageous vault sealed the first US women's team gold in Olympic history.
Muhammad Ali lighting the torch. To put it in perspective, his participation was kept secret until the second he stepped out of the shadows to receive the torch. His body wracked by Parkinson's, his hand shaking, and it looks like the biggest effort of his career simply to hold the torch up to the crowd... and the entire audience (and probably a sizable portion of the billion people watching on TV) go silent for half a second, refusing to believe their eyes, and then they all stand up and cheer for the greatest boxer of all time.
Anti-abortionist terrorist Eric Robert Rudolph planted a bomb in the Centennial Olympic Park. Security guard Richard Jewell noticed a strange unattended backpack and immediately began to evacuate the park. The explosion killed two people and injured 111, but the toll could have been in the thousands had it not been for Jewell's heroics.
The Czech National Ice Hockey Team wins gold medal. In 1998, the NHL allowed for the first time to have a break for the Winter Olympics in Nagano. The national ice-hockey teams could — for the first time ever — send their very best players and build all star ideal teams, and Canada and the United States were nearly 100 % sure that they would be playing the final. However, in the semi-finals, the USA lost to Russia and Canada was beaten by the Czech Republic in the nerve-biting shoot-outs. The Czech national team won the whole thing. The Czech national ice hockey team is usually solid and there are always some great players with lots of ice hockey heart, but Nagono took it Up to Eleven. Needless to say, everybody in the Czech Republic was watching, every major square in Prague was full of people and everybody was participating (or at least watching) their welcoming ceremony. It created several memes and started a new golden era of the Czech ice-hockey. It is fondly remembered as one of the most awesome moments of Czech sport ever.
The Miracle on The Mat. Rulon Gardner was never a legend in American wrestling up to this point; he was good but never great, but through sheer hard work he found himself in the Olympic Final against the legendary Alexander Karelin, a man who had not lost in international competition for 13 years, hadn't even been scored on for 7 years, and had already won 3 Olympic Golds in Seoul, Barcelona, and Atlanta. This video shows the resulting match perfectly.
British rowers Steve Redgrave, Matthew Pinsent, James Cracknell, and Tim Foster winning the gold medals in the coxless fours; as he had also won gold medals in 1984, 1988, 1992, and 1996 (these last two in the coxless pairs with Pinsent), Redgrave became the first person to win a gold medal at five consecutive Olympics. (Pinsent won a fourth consecutive gold medal four years later.)
Colombian weighlifting champion María Isabel Urrutia won Colombia's first Gold medal ever in its Olympic history. It was so awesome that even when she retired became a politician (in the Chamber of Representatives of Colombia, for Cauca Valley department, TWICE - 2002 and 2006).
Le dunk de la mort.note French for "the dunk of death", the name given to this incident by that country's media.NBA star Vince Carter, playing in a pool match for Team USA against France, pulls off one of the most famous dunks in basketball history. Getting the ball off a steal, the 6'6" (1.98 m) Carter drives to the basket, only to find France's 7'2" (2.18 m) center Frédéric Weis in his way. What does Carter do? Keeps going... takes off... and jumps OVER WEIS' FREAKING HEAD to throw it down. (OK, so he did brush against Weis' head, but still...)
Salt Lake City 2002
The opening ceremony, with the torch's final run being led by several notable past gold-medal winner, before ultimately being lit by the 1980 hockey team.
The damaged Ground Zero flag being brought into the stadium.
The Opening Ceremonies marked the first time ever that all 5 of the Native American tribes indigenous to Utah had gathered together in one place at the same time, and they conducted a ceremony bestowing gifts to the athletes, and imparting their blessing upon the games, and all done in a way that showed appreciable respect to American Indian traditions.
The beginning of the ceremonies had an announcement as follows: "Ladies and gentlemen: Tonight we continue a tradition that began seventy-eight years ago." followed by a fanfare accompanying a sequence of skaters representing each of the previous Winter Games in chronological order, with the announcer calling out the year, followed by the host city's name. Each skater was dressed in a costume based upon what was worn at those Winter Games (based on photos from each of them) carrying a flag with the year and the city's name, each flag a slightly different color, each a bit warmer and brighter color than the last, and then when the final flagbearer skated in, "two thousand two: SALT LAKE CITY!" and the Salt Lake City flag is designed to look like blazing flames (the Salt Lake City games' slogan was "Light the Fire Within"). And that was the moment that the first of that opening ceremonies' many elaborate and beautiful pyrotechnics were set off.
Also noteworthy: when President Bush declared the games open, he did so not from a private box in the VIP section, but standing amid the American athletes in their bleachers. This led later to a Funny Moment when one of the American athletes dialled their mom on their cell-phone and handed it to the President. Judging by the looks on their faces, the surprised parent was incredulous.
Sarah Hughes' electrifying figure skating performance, earning her a completely unexpected gold medal.
The US' best Winter Olympics performance to date.
An overall excellent Games, despite the September 11 attacks having taken place only 5 months earlier—there had been serious discussion of canceling the Games altogether due to security concerns.
Belarus defeats Sweden 4-3 in the quarterfinals of the men's ice hockey tournament, likely one of the greatest upsets in international ice hockey history. Belarusian Vladimir Kopat shoots the puck on Swedish goaltender Tommy Salo just past the center line, bouncing off the latter's shoulder and slowly inches into the net for the game winning goal. To add to the unexpectedness, the Belarus team had already booked their airplane tickets to go home post-game, but had to re-book them because they were guaranteed two more matches in the tournament (semi-final and bronze medal match)!
Canada was facing tough competition in men's hockey, having lost to Sweden and tying with the Czech Republic in the round robin. General Manager of Team Canada Wayne Gretzky would go on to deliver an emotional response against the media questioning the team, their competition and Canada's playstyle. The most heated topic was regarding the game against the Czechs, when Canadian player Theoren Fleury was clearly cross-checked from behind, but the referees failed to call a penalty.
"[If] we would've did what they did tonight, it would be a big story. He blatantly tried to him. I don't understand it.....If it was a Canadian player that did it, it would be a big story; if it was a Czech player, it's okay. Am I hot? Yeah, I'm hot, 'cuz I'm tired of people taking shots at Canadian hockey."
These words not only reinvigorated Canadian players, but take them straight to the finals, winning their first Olympic gold medal in ice hockey for more than 50 years.
Battle between Russian skating legends Alexei Yagudin and Evgeni Plushenko, which is considered one of the greatest rivalry in figure skating. And boy it was EPIC. Yagudin's short program to "Winter" is considered a timeless classic. Plushenko fell in the short program which ultimately cost him gold medal. He came back strong after freeskate; while performing the most technically difficult program which contained the crazy 4-3-3 combination jump and managed to secure a silver.
Chilean Tennis player Nicolás Massú became the only male player to have won both the singles and doubles gold medals in the same Olympic Games. He first got gold in doubles with his partner Fernando González against the Germans Nicolas Kiefer and Rainer Schüttler and then he won singles gold against the American Mardy Fish.
Russian judoka Dmitri Nossov broke his arm in the semifinal and still won the bronze afterwards!
A cross between this and a Dethroning Moment of Suck: with seven kilometers to go in the marathon, crazed priest Neil "Cornelius" Horan invaded the track and pushed Vanderlei Lima of Brazil, who was leading the race, into the crowds alongside the course. Then comes an awesome moment as a huge Greek helped Lima get free (the Brazilian NOC later paid him a trip to the country), and another as despite Lima being distressed enough to let two others pass him, he still got the Bronze, being visibly happy in the final sprint.
The Romanian women gymnasts. Not only did they win team gold for the second straight year in a row, but they won gold in almost every event except for the all around, which American Carly Patterson won, and uneven bars, which Emilie Le Pennec of France won.
Speaking of gymnastics, Carly Patterson's win in the Olympic All-Around — the first since Mary Lou Retton twenty years earlier. She began what is currently a three-peat AA women's gold streak for the Americans, followed by Nastia Liukin in Beijing and Gabrielle Douglas in London. Even better, an American also won men's all-around — Paul Hamm — that same year.
In the men's sailboard, Gal Fridman became Israel's first-ever gold medalist.
Chinese figure skater Zhang Dan fell while attempting a quadruple salchow jump during the free skate program, injuring her leg as a result. But her and her partner Zhang Hao decided to continue the program and they had enough points to finish with a silver medal.
Canadian cross country skier Sara Renner broke a ski pole during the Women's Team Sprint event, and finished only because she was quickly handed a replacement ski pole — by the coach of the Norwegian ski team, Bjřrnar Hĺkensmoen. Because of this supreme act of sportsmanship by Hĺkensmoen, Renner and fellow skier Beckie Scott won the silver medal in the event. Adding to the significance of this act, their silver medal finish meant that the Norwegian team ended up finishing fourth in this event, instead of winning a bronze medal.
Canadian speed skater Cindy Klassen winning five medals (one gold, two silver, two bronze), making her the only female speed skater in history to win multiple medals in a single Winter Olympics.
American and Canadian women were dominating ice hockey for as long as the international scene began: at every world championship and Olympics, both nations were either a runner-up or tournament champion. However, the 2006 tournament saw a shift, as the Swedish team defeated the Americans 3-2 in the semi-finals, sending them to the gold medal game against Canada. This was the first time in women's international ice hockey history (excluding the "4 Nations Cup"note Composed of Canada, Finland, Sweden and the United States) that another team besides the Americans or Canadians made it to the finals.
Russian figure skater Evgeni Plushenko skated lights out and won the men's figure skating gold medal with convincing 27,12 points lead over the silver medalist. He also set a new personal best and world record in the short program.
Russian figure skating team shows its dominance by won gold medal in 3 out of 4 discipline (Men, Pairs, Ice Dance) and one bronze from the Ladies.
While many people will forever remember Michael Phelps winning a record eight gold medals, the greatest feat of aquatics in the history of swimming goes to Jason Lezak. In the 4x100 freestyle relay, the Americans were favored just slightly ahead of the French. The French, namely Alain Bernard, decided to talk some trash (note, the following is paraphrased)"We're going to smash them like guitars." After the third leg of 100 metres in the four man relay, Alain Bernard had a one body length lead on Jason Lezak. In the last 25 metres of the total of 400 metres race, Jason Lezak came back and won the race by 8/100ths of a second. Here it is.
Of course, Michael Phelps' eight gold medals accomplishment is still something well worth going into detail about, especially about how he won one of them with water in his goggles and another one by a mere .01 hundredth of a second.
The win of Matthew Mitcham in the men's 10m platform. China had been bragging about sweeping all of the diving competitions, and came very close. Matthew, after a less than stellar dive, was somewhere around 7th place. After an amazing dive (and a less than amazing dive by the Chinese diver) he shot up to 2nd. Another near-perfect dive (which achieved the highest score in Olympic history), and he took the gold.
As a country, Togo doesn't have much going for it. Enter Benjamin Boukpeti, a slalom canoer who was leading 2008's K-1 Kayak Single event through the final round. While he dropped to third in the end, he nonetheless earned his country their first ever Olympic medal. And There Was Much Rejoicing not just in Togo, but around the world just from seeing him hang on to a podium finish. Seeing him triumphantly snap his paddle in two just showed how awesome this moment was.
Usain Bolt winning the 100m and setting a world record. While showboating for the last 20 meters. With his shoelace untied. It's become one of the most defining moments of the Beijing Olympics.
He wasn't just showboating, but showboating in a way that actually increased drag and made him slower. He was just that far ahead.
Oksana Chusovitina (who first competed for the Soviet Union, later for her native Uzbekistan, and ultimately for Germany after she and her husband got help there to save their Ill Boy son's life) was made of this in Beijing. Not only is she one of the very few gymnasts to return to competition after having kids (and several girls who compete today consider her an example for that), but she won the silver medal for vault at the age of 34, and four years later she did pretty well there too. She has gone to six Olympics. Most female gymnasts hardly dare to dream of going to one.
After never winning a gold medal on home soil, the Canadian athletes were determined to put an end to that drought...and they did, with freestyle moguls skier Alexandre Bilodeau leading the pack and the first historic gold medal, while saving the 14th and best gold medal for last (breaking the record for most gold medals won at a single Winter Olympics AND being the first host country to lead the gold medal count) for men's ice hockey, where Canada defeated the United States in overtime and the entire country erupted in celebration.
Everyone thought the Canadian men's hockey team would have an incredibly tough tournament ahead of them after losing to the United States in the round robin, alongside the pressures of playing on home ice. When they were pitted against their bitter Russian rivals in the quarterfinals, fear and tensions mounted, since the Canadians have never defeated the Russians in an Olympic hockey tournament for years. The game ended with Canada winning 7-3; at one point, Canada was winning 6-1. As Russian goaltender Ilya Bryzgalov stated in an interview, the Canadians were "like gorillas coming out of a cage".
The US men's hockey team had very little international experience and weren't even expected to get a medal, much less have a chance at beating Canada, a team made up of the best players in the NHL. They went undefeated in the preliminary round, including defeating the heavily favored Canadian team 5-3, and went on to win the silver medal.
Though somewhat overshadowed by the men's team performance, the Canadian women's hockey team completely overran their opponents on their way to the gold medals. In the round robin, they beat Slovakia 18-0, Switzerland 10-1, and Sweden 13-1, followed by a 5-0 win over Finland in the semi-finals and a 2-0 win over the USA in the gold medal game. This would be their third consecutive gold medal win in three Winter Olympics.
They were similarly dominant in the 2006 Torino Olympics. In the group stage, they beat Italy 16-0, Russia 12-0, and Sweden 8-1, followed by a 6-0 win over Finland in the semi-finals and a 4-1 victory in the gold medal game against Sweden.
Kim Yu-Na of South Korea completely cleaned the field in the 2010 Olympics when she set the world record for both the short and free program in women's figure skating by skating two flawless performances, and won the gold medal in the process.
Another Moment Of Awesome at the 2010 Olympics, but a really sad one, was Canadian Joannie Rochette who competed in women's figure skating despite losing her mother days before the event. She skated two strong performances, and won a bronze medal.
The fact that the games happened at all. It was one of the warmest winters on record, in a city already given to mild winters, and to even make some of the the events possible, snow had to be brought in by trucks and helicopters from north of Whistler, British Columbia, as much as a hundred sixty kilometres (100 miles) away.
Shen Xue and Zhao Hongbo of China winning gold in figure skating pairs. They are the first Chinese figure skaters to win gold in any figure skating category. To double the awesome is their coach Yao Bin, who is considered one of the first pioneer Chinese skaters and came last in the 1980 World Champions with his partner, being laughed at and ridiculed for years. Now, he proudly watches as his former students, along with his other team Pang Qing and Tong Jian, winning gold and silver respectively in the figure skating pairs.
This sentence said by John Furlong, CEO of the Vancouver Organizing Committee, during his speech at the Vancouver 2010 closing ceremonies: "Alexandre, your first Gold Medal gave us all permission to feel like and behave like champions. Our last one will be remembered for generations." The mention of Alexandre Bilodeau’s name brought cheers from the audience, while the last part brought a one-minute standing ovation, ending with the chant of "Lou."
The British Men's Gymnastics team winning Great Britain's first medal in gymnastics in 100 years.
Elizabeth "Beth" Tweddle, three-time Olympian and the greatest gymnast Great Britain has ever produced, finally winning an Olympic medal, a first for British women's gymnastics. She capped off her eleven-year career winning bronze on the uneven bars at the age of 27, when most female gymnasts' careers are long over.
The Women's Foil semi-finals. South Korean fencer Shin A-Lam refused to leave the piste (fencing platform) after her match with Germany's Britta Heidemann. Why? Shin and Heidemann had fought to a draw. There was one second left in their overtime; however, the clock didn't start and Heidemann arguably took more than one second to land her winning touch. By refusing to leave the piste, Shin refused to officially accept the judges' ruling. Even after the Korean officials appealed the decision and lost, Shin still refused to leave. She eventually had to be taken away by security. The crowd gave her a standing ovation. Also qualifies as a Tear Jerker.
The International Fencing Federation has offered her a "special medal", but she refused it.
She got a medal in the end, when the Korean team as a whole got silver in the end. Doesn't compensate, but at least it makes the deal a little less bitter.
After qualifying for the finals for 200-meter freestyle, 17 year old US swimmer Missy Franklin had less than fifteen minutes of rest before she had to appear for the 100-meter backstroke finals. Proving that being a young Plucky Girl has its perks, she won the gold and broke the American record for the event. WOW.
Speaking of which, Ruta Meilutyte winning the 100-meter breaststroke. At the tender age of fifteen, she became not only the youngest Lithuanian to win the gold, but also became the first Lithuanian to win the gold medal in swimming.
Not to divert from Phelps's accomplishment, but Chad le Clos of South Africa gets special mention for beating Phelps, his idol, by milliseconds.
Phelps' American teammate Ryan Lochte should also get a mention for besting Phelps in the Men's 400m Individual Medley with a gold medal performance, whereas Phelps placed fourth.
Yi Shiwen broke the world record for the 500m individual medley on her way to the gold, beating her personal best by 5 seconds, her time was good enough that she could have been threatening for a medal if she swam in the men's event.
Canada has long been dismissed as a gymnastics lightweight, not really able to compete at the same level of skill or difficulty as powerhouses like the USA or Russia. What's their response to this? In the 2012 Games, Canada not only qualified for the team final, but placed fifth, just a couple of points behind the "Big Four" of women's gymnastics - the USA, Russia, China, and Romania, who have dominated the sport for decades. Ladies and gents, Canada has arrived. And it was awesome.
Likewise with Women's Soccer. The team came last in the 2011 World Cup and Canada has not won a medal in a traditional team sport since 1936. After having new head coach John Herdman, these girls were determined to reach that podium despite being the underdog of women's soccer. They played several amazing games to reach the semi-finals, with captain Christine Sinclair scoring 6 goals in this tournament. In the chase for the bronze medal, the team was struggling against France after an emotional 4-3 semifinal defeat against the US. And with less than a minute remaining in added time, Diana Matheson scored the winning goal and they won the bronze medal. It was not gold but the team and the rest of the country saw it as one, having reached the podium and brought soccer into the spotlight for Canada.
Two words: Clara Hughes. She had already shown her awesomeness before 2012 in being the only Olympian in history to ever win multiple medals at both the Summer and Winter Olympics. She's tied with fellow speed skater Cindy Klassen for the most decorated Canadian Olympian with 6 medals. However she qualified for the road race and road time trial for London 2012 despite previously retiring from cycling 12 years previous. She finished a disappointing 32nd in the road racel. Clara later admitted that during a race earlier in the year, she'd fractured a vertebrae. She had been training and competing for the last 6 weeks before London with a broken back. That makes her 5th place finish in the time trial seem a lot more awesome.
Meet Oscar "Blade Runner" Pistorius, the first double amputee to compete in the regular Olympics. Not only did he beat several full-bodied Olympians, he came in second in his heat and advanced to the semifinals! He didn't make it to the finals, but his mere presence in these games was awesome enough by itself.
The semifinals was followed by a Heartwarming Moment when the competitor who would go on to win the 400m gold came up to Oscar and traded bibs. Even later on during the 4x400m relay heats, South Africa's runner fell just before Oscar was to take the baton. It was ruled that he was interfered with and South Africa was allowed to run in the finals in lane nine with Oscar on the anchor leg (the runner who crosses the finish line). South Africa sadly didn't win the race (they were in eighth by the time he got the baton), however Oscar put forth a sub-46s split, good for second best on the team.
Speaking of the men's 4*400m relay, in the second semi-final, American lead-off runner Manteo Mitchell ran 46.1 seconds to help his team qualify for the final (eventually winning silver). This despite breaking his leg halfway through his part of the run.
For years, British Tennis player Andy Murray had been constantly bested by Roger Federer, most painfully at Wimbledon 2012. As fate would have it, the men's singles finals turned into a rematch between him and Federer on the very same court the two had faced each other just four weeks before. Murray proceeded to defeat the World No. 1 he was never able to defeat before in straight sets, causing the crowd to go wild and Britain to get its first gold medal in men's singles since 1908.
The USA's women's gymnastics squad, aptly dubbed the "Fierce Five," who first qualify as a group for winning the gold:
American gymnast Gabrielle "Gabby" Douglas became the first African-American and first woman of color in Olympic history to become the individual all-around champion, and the first American gymnast to win gold in both the individual all-around and team competitions at the same Olympics; this was the third straight Olympics where an American won the women's all-around.
The Fierce Five's captain, Aly Raisman, wasn't even supposed to be a medal contender, but in the qualifying rounds, she upstages Douglas and Wieber and ends up knocking out the latter from the individual all-round finals. After clinching the team gold medal, she tied the score of the bronze-medal-winner in the individual all-around, but placed fourth due to having a lower execution score. Instead of giving up or getting unnerved, she proved that tenacity, perseverance, and poise under pressure have their perks by winning the bronze in the beam final (ironically, by tying again, but this time having the higher execution score) and the gold in the floor final (becoming the first American to win the floor event final in Olympic history). Although not as hyped by NBC as her teammates, Raisman ended up becoming the most decorated gymnast of the "Fierce Five".
Jordyn Wieber, the reigning world champion going into the Olympics, deserves credit for recovering from the disappointment of not being in the all-around (she finished 4th in qualifying, but there's a two-per-country rule) to help start Team USA's run to the gold with the very first routine for Team USA. She continued to shine on every event she performed, nailing a beautiful vault (the very first Team USA routine), solid bars set and a spectacular floor routine to boost the USA to gold.
McKayla Maroney was brought to the Olympics for one reason: to do a spectacular vault. And she didn't just deliver — on a broken toe she nailed a vault so unbelievably, jaw-droppingly spectacular that it earned the highest score in London Olympic gymnastics competition. Later on, despite falling and settling for silver on the individual vault finals, she was able to make fun of herself (which is notable itself). Quick tip: sitting on one's behind on a vault landing is usually a mortal sin that knocks you right off the podium. Unless you're McKayla Maroney, in which case you merely have to settle for silver. She is just that good.
McKayla deserves another one just for making fun of the not impressed meme. She owns it, and it culminated in this.
Kyla Ross was more than solid on the beam, as well as on the bars, shoring up a notorious American weak spot. At age nine, she whispered to her best friend, "Let's work really hard... so we can go to the Olympics." Seven years later, she won Olympic gold — holding her best friend McKayla Maroney's hand. They've been best friends, teammates, and training partners for over a decade.
The order of finish for the podium was an exact repeat of 1996: USA, Russia, Romania for gold, silver, and bronze.
The home country had a bit of a rough start to the games, but they started to pick up the pace with a Rowing Gold and, of course, Bradley Wiggins winning the Men's Time Trial so soon after winning the Tour de France (in turn making him Britain's most decorated Olympian). Then came the velodrome. Out of a possible 10 gold medals, they took 7 (a disqualification cost them an 8th, they also took a silver and a bronze). No other country took more than 1. They also blew away more than a few world records in there.
Britain's 'Super Saturday', where three different athletes won gold medals in track-and-field events in the same day. First was Jessica Ennis, who won a gold in the Heptathlon event. Then came Greg Rutherford, who was the champion of the long jump event. Finally Mo Farah, a former Somalian refugee turned long distance runner for Great Britain, blowing past the fierce competition from Kenya and Ethiopia to win a gold in the 10 000m event and set the seal on a magical night for British sport.
Each individual victory had its awesome moments as well. Jessica Ennis was considered the 'face' of British female athletes, and was sorely disappointed not to win gold in Beijing, but she did it in front of her home country fans. Greg Rutherford ensured the gold medal with his very first jump, without needing a second. And for Mo Farah, who didn't even make the finals in Beijing, beating the Ethiopian world record holder and previous champion Kenenisa Bekele was a supremely awesome moment. There was also the emotional bonus of seeing his best friend and training partner Galen Rupp of the USA managing to come in second, and later celebrating with his wife and little daughter on the track while a riotous hometown crowd including Sir Paul McCartney and Prince William and his wife, Kate cheered him on.
Alex Morgan's game winning goal against Canada in the 123rd minute of the Women's soccer semi-finals.
Followed a few days later by the United States defeating Japan in the final of the tournament, avenging the loss to Japan in the previous year's Women's World Cup.
Epke Zonderland won the first men's gymnastics medal for Netherlands with an epichigh bar routine that got him gold by a wide margin and led many viewers to dub him the "Flying Dutchman".
Misty May-Treanor and Kerri Walsh-Jennings, the Golden Girls of three consecutive Olympiads and a duo so dominant they are known simply as Misty-and-Kerri, finishing their partnership as the greatest beach volleyball team the world has ever known. Three-time Olympic gold medalists, in Athens, Beijing, and London, they end their career together undefeated in Olympic play, dropping only a single set out of forty-three and winning all twenty-one of their matches over three Olympiads. Best friends, best partners, number one in setting and blocking, with a win percentage above ninety-five percent over twelve years together, they are untouchable, unparalleled and unrepeatable. With the final match of the London Games and Misty's retirement from the sport, the world waves goodbye to a team so legendary its like will never be seen again.
The Schweiger sisters, Doris and Stefanie, of Austria deserve a small CMOA for being the only team to steal a set from the duo in their Olympic career.
Jen Kessy and April Ross, the USA beach volleyball team who upset the top-seeded Brazilians to set up an all-USA final. They fell to Misty and Kerri in two sets, taking home silver and giving the USA a 1-2 sweep.
Katie Taylor's gold medal win in the women's lightweight boxing, essentially putting the sport on par with the men's event and causing massive celebrations among the Irish.
Claressa Shields, the champion in the middleweight division, also deserves a mention. You might ask why—she's American, after all, and aren't Americans supposed to win gold medals? Answer: Not if they're from Flint, Michigan. Ireland has had a bad few years; Michigan had a bad decade or so starting 'round 2002; Flint has been in the toilet since the 1980s. Thus why when Shields' mother said her daughter's victory deserved a ticker-tape parade, people didn't say she was just an overly-proud mom; the city needs something to celebrate.
Colombian Olympic medal wins are quite rare - even a bronze medal is something remarkable. But in the London Olympics, the hard work finally paid off and they saw medals in such diverse events as weightlifting, long jump, judo, Greco-Roman wrestling, and Olympic BMX.
The Mexican soccer team winning their first Olympic medal. Gold, against BRAZIL.
Even better, the first Mexican goal was scored within the first thirty seconds.
The South Korean soccer team beat out the hosts in the quarterfinals in penalty shoot-outs, and went on to win their first Olympic medal, a bronze, against Japan in the bronze medal match.
David Boudia pulling off the diving performance of his life to win the gold medal in the men's 10m platform against the heavily-favored Chinese a la Matthew Mitcham. What makes this even more amazing is that he barely qualified for the semifinals and that it had been 20 years since the last time an US diver had even gotten on the podium in this event. Honorable mention goes to 18-year-old Tom Daley who managed to nab a rare diving medal for Britain in third place too.
Also a nod to the rest of the US diving team, who, after having been shut out the previous 2 Olympics, got three other medals in synchro.
And Ilya Zakharov who upset the Chinese in the men's 3m springboard.
Stephen Kiprotich of Uganda went into the men's Marathon with perhaps an outside shot at a bronze in a loaded field, including three Kenyans and three Ethiopians, who have dominated the marathon for years. In a major surprise, Kiprotich found himself in the top three, running with two of the Kenyan favorites. They tried to drop him in a series of turns and nearly succeeded, but he kept pace with them, until he finally made his own move. He blew past them and ended up with such a huge lead towards the end that he had time to grab a Ugandan flag from one of his presumably delirious countrymen and crossed the finish line flying it over his head. An ultimate Dark Horse Victory if there ever was one.
Winning the discus gold medal was awesome enough, but German Robert Harting's celebration propelled it to this category: he rips his shirt off while roaring then, for shits and giggles, decides to jump the hurdles that were being set up for a race. He cleared most of them too (all except for the last one, which was still being set up). Not bad.
Usain Bolt winning 3 golds again.
Kirani James of Grenada winning the country's first Olympic medal ever—a gold in the 400 meters.
Serena Williams absolutely DOMINATING on her way to Olympic gold. With the gold, she became only the 4th player ever and just the second woman to win a singles golden slam (all 4 Grand Slams plus Gold), and the first EVER to win a career Golden Slam in singles AND doubles. For good measure, the next day she and Venus successfully defended their doubles gold.
Alistair and Jonathan Brownlee, two British brothers, getting gold and bronze respectively even after Johnny, the younger, got a fifteen second penalty. Awesome.
The fact that the aforementioned Oksana Chusovitina not only competed in gymnastics at the age of 37, but qualified for the vault final is a CMOA in itself. Most gymnasts' careers are over well before 30, but Mrs. Chusovitina is still competing as she's nearing 40!
The female Brazilian volleyball team entered the tournament with low expectations due to bad performances earlier in the year. Then they are nearly eliminated in the group round. Following a tense quarterfinal with Russia and a somewhat easy semifinal with Japan, comes a Heroic Rematch with the US team. The first set is a 11-25 loss, but the following three are won for the second gold in a row!
Katie Ledecky, at 15 the youngest member of the American team, swam in the grueling 800m race. The normal conventional wisdom for such a long race is to conserve your energy, let someone else swim out in first at the start, then swim out ahead near the end after that initial first place swimmer has tired herself out. Ledecky didn't go with that. She was in first place by the end of the first lap and stayed in first for nearly the entire 8 minutes of the race!(one swimmer did briefly get ahead of her at the second lap; the 14 remaining laps were all Ledecky) By the end of the race, she was several body lengths ahead of everyone else!
The greatest 800 metre race ever run in the men's final, when David Rudisha of Kenya trashed his own world record time and became the first man ever to run under 1 minute and 41 seconds, posting a 1:40.91 time. Every runner in the race either posted a new national, personal, or seasonal best, and the runner who finished last, still finished in a time that would have won him a gold at the previous three Olympic 800 metre finals.
Can we just say the entire games were a Moment Of Awesome for Britain? There were many rumours about the stadium not being finished on time, complaints about the special Olympic lanes, bad weather, etc. In short, people thought Britain would flop. Instead, not only are some people calling them the best games ever, but it got Britain's economy up and running again when it was in a pretty much hopeless state. And the organizers of the games have been called over to Rio in order to organize their games.
A moment of awesome for Danny Boyle as well. It's a guarantee that you'll find no one who didn't get goosebumps during the Industrial Revolution scene of the Opening Ceremony. And those Olympic rings forming over the stadium... Awesome.
Two words: Olympic Cauldron. Instead of an actual cauldron, they had over two hundred and five copper "petals" - each one carried in alongside the flagbearer and placard-bearer for one of the athlete delegations (204 for nations, 1 for Independent Olympic Athletes, namely 3 athletes from the recently dissolved Netherlands Antilles and an athlete from the just-formed South Sudan which has yet to organize an olympic committee) - and had them all come together in a perfect metaphor. Wow.
Russian gymnast Aliya Mustafina tore her ACL in 2011, which is usually a career ending injury for gymnasts. But for Mustafina? Not only is she able to compete at the Olympics a year later, she came out of the games as the most decorated gymnast there, with a gold on uneven bars, a silver in the team competition, a bronze in the all-around, and a bronze in the floor. She is truly a Plucky Girl!
Chilean gymnast and Memetic Badass Tomás González qualifying for the vault finals and being this close to get in the podium. For a guy competing pretty much alone against massive men's gym powerhouses, it was really damn good.
American Kayla Harrison was a long way coming. She was abused by her trainer as a kid, became disenfranchised with the sport, and then finds a new start with an honest coach. Six years later, she competes in London, makes the world number 1 submit in the semis, and then beats the surprise home-country finalist to win America's first-ever gold medal in Judo.
Another American woman, Kristin Armstrong. By the standards of the Olympics, she's pretty old (38 during these games), and a mother of two. In fact, soon after winning gold in Beijing, she left the sport. She changes her mind, gets back on the bike. She had to ride hurt, as in the months leading up to London she broke her collarbone. In the road race, she crashed and scraped her elbow. But on the event she won four years ago, the time trial, she beats the field comfortably and goes out on top.
Barack Obama sticking it to Russia's homophobic laws by sending two openly gay athletes, and no high level politicians, to participate in the ceremonies.
In a similar vein, Google putting up a rainbow-colored Olympic doodle with a quote from the Olympic charter about how "every individual must have the possibility of practicing sport, without discrimination of any kind."
The UK got into the act with this and the BBC's coverage was headed by Clare Balding, who is openly lesbian.
The Guardian website coloured its letter G with the rainbow colours.
Speaking of luge, Albert Devchenko (Russia) and Armin Zoeggeler (Italy) get silver and bronze in it... at age 42 and 40, respectively.
And on the other side of the spectrum, the Russian figure skater Yulia Lipnitskaya gets a gold medal alongside her fellow Russian ice skaters... at the age of fifteen. Well done, kid!
Alexandre Bilodeau of Canada winning his second consecutive Olympic gold medal in freestyle skiing moguls, which has never been done before, and is the first Canadian since Catriona Le May Doan in the 2002 Olympics to win individual back-to-back gold in the same event.
Likewise, Canadian bobsledders Kallie Humphreys and Heather Moyse win their second straight gold medal in two-women bobsledding, becoming the first in the sport to do so.
The Japanese Ayumu Hirano and Taku Hiraoka get silver and bronze in halfpipe snowboarding. Even more so for Hirano — like Lipnitskaya, he's 15.
Slovenia, a country with 7 ice rinks and 148 registered senior players, qualified for the Olympic ice hockey tournament which is a moment of awesome in its own right, and they made it into the quarterfinals too. David Rodman commented before leaving to Sochi; "Five years ago, had you asked me whether I'll ever play in the Olympics, I'd have said not in this life."
19-year-old Yuzuru Hanyu of Japan breaks his own world record for the men's figure skating short program and becomes the first male skater to score over 100 points in said short program. He then goes on to become the first Japanese male figure skater and only the second male teenager in history to win gold in spite of falling twice during his free skate; the rest of his skating was just THAT good.
From the same competition, Denis Ten was in a distant 9th place heading into the free skate but thanks to a combination of a great performance and mistakes from other competitors, he was able to climb all the way up to 3rd place to win Kazakhstan's first-ever medal in figure skating.
He may not have won a medal, but the 17-year-old Michael Christian Martinez deserves a mention on this page for teaching himself to skate in the Philippines — a country that has a grand total of three ice rinks — and succeeding in becoming the first-ever Filipino athlete to qualify for the Winter Olympics and also the first-ever Southeast Asian figure skater at the Winter Olympics, where he qualified for the free skate and scored the best out of his opening group.
Justyna Kowalczyk of Poland wins gold in the women's cross-country skiing classic...on a broken foot.
Jeremy Abbott of the United States crashed hard on his attempted quad in the men's short program and hit his hip hard on the boards, looking like he would have to withdraw. After lying on the ice for a few seconds, he got up, and landed his triple-triple combination and skated the rest of the program cleanly.
Jeremy, who has been criticized many times throughout his career for crumbling under pressure, skated an amazing long program and was one of the few who skated cleanly that night.
All this after Jeremy, who drew the unlucky position of skating after home country favourite and skating legend, Evgeny Plushenko in the team event, fell apart and was panned by people on message boards and the press
Noriaki Kasai from Japan gets a silver medal in ski jumping... at age 41. Against jumpers who are at least between 15 - 20 years younger than him. The only one who could beat him was the Pole Kamil Stoch, and with a minuscule difference that mostly came from his first jump.
TJ Oshie of the United States scoring 4 shootout goals in the USA vs Russia hockey game. And that's just one part of the truly epic game!
The ice dancing free dance was a cavalcade of personal bests. From Nathalie Pechalat and Fabian Bourzat in fourth to Meryl Davis and Charlie White in first, the top four teams broke their own records for scores, with Davis and White scoring the highest score ever recorded in the history of the sport under the new code. And to make it even better, they won over training partners Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir, who had beaten them for gold in Vancouver. Sochi was, simply put, a triumph of an Olympics for ice dancing.
Ole Einar Bjorndalen of Norway wins gold in the biathlon mixed relay event, his 13th Olympic medal in six Winter Games, becoming the most decorated Winter Olympian in history.
In the Switzerland vs Sweden women's hockey match for the bronze medal, the Swedes lead 2-0 by the start of the third period. The Swiss women react and shift momentum, and with less than 10 minutes left until the end of the game, turn the tables against the Swedes and make it a 4-3 victory, giving Switzerland their first medal in women's ice hockey.
Darya Domracheva from Belarus and her three gold medals in Biathlon.
Latvia upset Switzerland in men's ice hockey during the qualifiers, and then went on to hold gold-medal favourites Canada to a 1-1 tie up until the last several minutes of the game. Special credit to their coach, Ted Nolan, who is a Native Canadian from northern Ontario who has inspired the players with his positive coaching style, and to Latvian backup goalie Kristers Gudlevskis, who stopped 55 shots from the Canadians (compared to Latvia's 16 total shots on goal) and needed medical attention after collapsing from exhaustion and dehydration at the end of the game. That is an Olympic performance!
In a heart-stomping, sweat-breaking minutes until the end of regulation time, the Canadian women's ice hockey team comes back from trailing 2-0 to tie the gold medal game against the Americans, winning 3-2 in overtime, making this their fourth consecutive victory at the Winter Olympics. This also makes Canadian forwards Caroline Ouellette, Jayna Hefford and Hayley Wickenheiser (considered the greatest female ice hockey player in the world) the first athletes in the sport to achieve four back-to-back gold medals.
The Canadian women's curling team led by skip Jennifer Jones goes undefeated during the entire round robin and the rest of the tournament, winning the gold and making her the first female skip in Olympic history to achieve a perfect 10-0 record; this also marks Canada's second gold medal for women's curling since its inception in the 1998 Winter Olympics (and also redemption after losing the gold medal match four years ago in extra ends).
The Canadian Men's curling team, led by skip Brad Jacobs, winning gold over Great Britain 9-3, making it the first time Canada has won gold in both Men and Women's curling.note In a lesser moment of awesome for the British team, the silver was their first medal in men's curling since the sport had been re-introduced as an Olympic event in 1998, and Team GB's fourth medal overall - tying their record Winter Olympic medal haul.
Kelsey Serwa of Canada winning the silver medal in women's ski cross, despite having surgery on both knees for torn ACLs.
Mao Asada skating probably the best long program of her career after having a complete disaster in the short program that included a fall and an omission of a required element. The long program included landing the triple axel, the hardest jump a female can perform and the jump Mao fell on in her short program. She cried Tears of Joy, and her brilliant long program pulled her all the way from 16th place to 6th place.
Evgeni Plushenko skating his FOURTH Olympic at age 31, and be the 2nd person in history of figure skating who collects four Olympic medals (the 1st one would be Gillis Grafstrom 82 years ago). He managed to place 2nd in the SP and 1st in the Team Event LP while competing with boys 10 years younger than him. He ultimately contributes massive 19 points which secures Russia's hold on figure skating Team gold, despite having to skate with torn meniscus in both knees and four bolts holding his spine together. Badass.