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- The opening ceremonies generally qualify, while the closing ceremonies are much more chaotic and informal, but the 2008 Beijing Games' opening ceremony deserve a special mention, as do the 2012 London Games' opening ceremony, which features James Bond, The Queen, Mr. Bean, Mary Poppins, Voldemort, and the Industrial Revolution, among others.
- The University of Southern California has produced a Gold Medalist in every Olympics for the last century, omitting the 1980 Moscow Games' boycott.
- The U.S. women's basketball team is on a 37-game win streak.
- Any time a world record is broken, or the country you support wins gold.
- In a nice counterpart to that depressing "Abandoned Olympic Venues" slideshow that gets released as every Olympics approaches, there's another one showing that some cities actually did manage to make good use of the infrastructure built for the games.
- In the first Modern Olympic Games, the Greeks hadn't won any track and field eventnote . All that was left was the marathon. It started with thirteen Greek athletes and four non-Greek athletes. After such 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 were tremendous celebrations and Louis got company in his last meters by none other than Greece's Crown Prince Constantine and Prince George, 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 in the discus throw. This was the first time 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 was in awenote .
- At the opening ceremony, track and field competitor Ralph Rose, the U.S. flag bearer, refused to lower the flag before the royal box. Most of his teammates were Irish Americans or of Irish heritage and agreed to this show of defiance. Years later his teammate Martin Sheridan was asked why they did that, and replied, "This flag dips to no earthly king." They haven't dipped the American flag at the Olympic Games since.
- 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—along with those of all the German athletes—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's surprise appearance at the 1996 Atlanta Games, above Bob Beamon's record jump at the 1968 Mexico City Games, and above Michael Phelps winning eight gold medals in one Olympic games at the 2008 Beijing Games. Owens is still widely considered to be a national hero to this day.
- This moment is lessened because Owens and another black athlete, Ralph Metcalfe, replaced two Jewish runners, Sam Stoller and Marty Glickman, in the 4*100m relay, the only time in U.S. Olympic history that athletes were replaced without being injured or otherwise unable to compete. Reasons are disputed, but what is known is that the coach was a founder of a Nazi-sympathizer group, the America First Committee. Stoller claimed to have been told later that Goebbels himself told the coach that Hitler would be embarrassed by Jews in the race.
- Also, in Germany, the fact that Owens was black didn't matter, as racial laws focused on Jews and Gypsies. He could sit wherever he wanted on German public transportation and he got huge cheers from the mainly German crowds. His victory in the long jump happened because he got a tip from his German opponent. And contrary to popular belief, he was not snubbed by Hitler. Hitler was told by the Olympic Committee that it was improper for the leader of the host country to congratulate the athletes. Owens even said Hitler waved to him as they met in passing. He waved backnote .
- The mere fact that a heavily bombed city in a virtually bankrupt country that was still rationing food post-World War II was able to host the Olympic Games at all. No new venues were built, the male athletes stayed at Army and RAF barracks, and the women stayed at colleges in London.
- At the Games themselves, the stand-out athlete was Fanny Blankers-Koen, a Dutch athlete who won four gold medals—the 100m, 200m, 80m hurdles and 4*100m relay. It is quite possible that she could have won more medalsnote , but the rules in force at the time prevented women from competing in more than three individual athletic events. Her feats were made more remarkable by the fact that she was written off because she was 30 years old. Whilst being involved in sports in your fourth decade is commonplace today, it was virtually unheard of in the 1940s.
- The 1952 Summer Games in Helsinki were awesome Games for Czechoslovakia:
- Emil Zátopek, a Czech long-distance runner nicknamed "The Czech Locomotive", won three gold medals. He won gold in the 5000m and 10,000m runs, and he decided at the last minute to compete in the first marathon of his life, which he surprisingly won as well. No one before or since has repeated this triple.
- 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 5000m run.
- The Hungarians beating the Soviets in the Blood in the Water match, just a month after the Hungarian revolution was violently put down. They won the gold a few days later, before most of them defected to the U.S..
- Abebe Bikila of Ethiopia became the first sub-Saharan African to win an Olympic gold medal. In the marathon. Barefootnote . He repeated his win in 1964—this time wearing shoes—becoming the first Olympic marathon winner to defend his gold. He did this 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 200m 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 made no such objection to the German athletes making Nazi salutes in the 1936 Berlin Games.
- The silver medalist, Australian Peter Norman, wore an Olympic Project for Human Rights badge—given to him by U.S. rower Paul Hoffman—to show solidarity with Smith and Carlos. Considering Australia wasn't too keen on that sort of thing, especially at that time, counts as a MoA 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 medalists knew their sporting careers were on the line and had everything to losenote . And yet they walked out onto the podium fearlessly, consequences be damned.
- Another moment of protest: Czechoslovakia's Vera Caslavska turning her head down and away during the Soviet anthem, for which she too was punished when she returned home. Only a few months prior to the Games, Czechoslovakia had been invaded and the Prague Spring crushed by the Soviet Union and other Warsaw Pact countries. For additional Awesome that mixes with Tear Jerker, Caslavska had openly protested the invasion and had subsequently been forced to go into hiding to avoid arrest. She was therefore forced to train in secret in a forest while her competitors traveled early to Mexico City to acclimate to the altitude. Despite this, Caslavska went on to win four gold medals and two silvers.
- Bob Beamon beating the previous long-jump record by 55 cmnote . His record stood until 1991, and still hasn't been surpassed in the Olympics.
- Felipe "El tibio" Muñoz, a Mexican swimmer best known for his then-unusual 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.
- Dick Fosbury managed to win the gold medal and set an Olympic record in the high jump with his "Fosbury Flop" technique. The admittedly silly-looking technique was mocked in the media prior to the Olympics. However, the technique is now standard amongst almost all high jumpers.
- The opening ceremony. Its concept was something completely new at the time and you can see where the fantastic opening ceremonies of today's games have their roots. Especially the music during the entry of the nations is awesome, as it it is one huge, 80 minute medley, where pre-recorded music is mixed with live drummers. You can listen to it, and watch the whole ceremony, herenote . Kudos to the German organizers who gave us light pop tunes instead of martial airs, pastel colored outfits, the Olympic Flag brought in by athletes instead of soldiers as had been customary, and the adorable Blumenkinder dancing to Karl Orff's "Sumer is icumen in".
- 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 remain silent. Wolf repeated the feat in the 1984 Los Angeles Games, being the first Colombian sportsman to obtain two Olympic medals.
- Olga Korbut's legendary performance on the uneven bars. It must be seen to be believed. Her signature Korbut Flip is not only one of the most Difficult, but Awesome skills in gymnastics, it's now banned from competition!note
- Mark Spitz winning seven gold medals, a record that would stand for 36 years until Michael Phelps surpassed him with eight gold medals at the 2008 Beijing Games. Spitz also set seven world records in the process.
- Franz Klammer's spectacular death-defying gold medal run in men's downhill skiing.
- 14-year-old Nadia Comăneci 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 Comăneci performed in that Olympics, seven were perfect 10s. She didn't Break the Rating Scale—she left it curled in the fetal position crying for its mother, then cackled and ground it into the dust.
Lake Placid 1980
- The 1980 Miracle on Ice, in which the U.S. hockey team managed to beat the heavily favored Soviets. The U.S. team was 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. Then they completed the incredible run by beating the Swedes to win the gold.
Al Michaels: Do you believe in miracles? Yes!
- American speed skater Eric Heiden won gold in all five events, at distances ranging from 500m to 10,000m. This made him the first person ever to win five individual gold medals at a single Games.
Los Angeles 1984
- The 1984 Summer Games 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-Schiess staggered into the stadium, half-paralyzed and barely able to stay on her feet due to 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 more awesome than any medalist due to her determination.
- When the Jamaicans entered a team into the bobsledding competition for the 1988 Winter Games, everyone treated them as a joke. They were Jamaicans, from a near-equatorial country that had no natural snow, and they had almost never practiced on ice. They did not win—in fact, they crashed rather horrifically. Then, when everyone was 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.
- Figure skater Debi Thomas winning bronze, becoming the first African-American to win a medal at the Winter Olympics.
- Greg Louganis repeating his 3m springboard and 10m platform gold sweep from 1984. What makes this even more amazing is that in the 3m preliminaries, he hit his head on the boardnote , but still managed to come in third. He then won the gold by just a shade under 26 points. Did we mention that he was diagnosed as HIV positive before the Olympics?
- Naim Süleymanoğlu of Turkeynote , nicknamed the "Pocket Hercules" due to his 147 cm—roughly 4'10"—stature, setting records in the featherweight divisionnote of weightlifting by lifting 190 kgnote in the clean and jerk—more than three times his body weight—and a combined 342.5 kgnote .
- Florence Griffith-Joyner winning gold in the women's 100m, 200m, and 4*100m relay. She set records in the 100m and 200m events, both of which are still standing todaynote .
- Flo-Jo's sister-in-law, Jackie Joyner-Kersee, won the heptathlon with a record score of 7,291 points, which is also still a record to this day. Her 1,264 points for her 7.27m long jump is still the highest score for a single event in the heptathlon. Oh, and did we mention she also overcame severe asthma?
- During a race where Canadian sailor Lawrence Lemieux was in 2nd place and all but guaranteed to advance to the medal round, he noticed that the Singapore team had capsized, were injured and were in serious danger of drowning. Deciding that winning a medal was not worth letting people die when he could do something, Lemieux turned back to save them, which cost him the race. However, since the world saw this Heroic Sacrifice, things worked out—the International Yacht Racing Union unanimously voted to officially award Lemieux with 2nd place in the race. In the end, he didn't get a medal for a top-three place in the medal round...but he was awarded the Pierre de Coubertin Medal, the supreme and rarest of all Olympic medals, for exemplifying the spirit of the Olympic Games at its finest.
- Kristi Yamaguchi's gold-medal winning performance that was so good she won even though she fellnote .
- Midori Ito finally landing her elusive, signature triple Axel jumpnote and coming from behind to win the silver medal, after a disastrous week that left many wondering if she would medal at all.
- American figure skater Paul Wylie. After years of a disastrous career, he ended up at the Olympics on a fluke and wasn't expected to win anything. Instead, he skated not only the best performance of his life, but of the night and won the silver medal.
- Anyone remember the 1992 Olympics? No? Well, Michael Jordan, Larry Bird, and Magic Johnson, along with several other NBA greats were there. When they played, they won by several miles. The closest any team had against them was 33 points. And they never called a timeout during the entire tournament.
- Vitaly Scherbo was there too. And how. A Belarusian representing the post-Soviet Unified Team in gymnastics, he won five individual golds, tying Eric Heiden's record from the 1980 Moscow Games.
- Also on basketball, the bronze medalists of Lithuania were a great case of overcoming the odds, to the point a documentary on them was named The Other Dream Team. The country was still rebuilding following their departure from the Soviet Union two years prior, and the basketball confederation did not have any funds. The team's re-estabilishment depended on two players who had won the gold for the USSR in 1988, Arvydas Sabonisnote and Sarunas Marciulionisnote . After losing the semi-finals to the U.S., Lithuania beat the Soviet reminders of the Unified Team for the bronze, making the victory both political and symbolic.
- Paralympic archer Antonio Rebollo lit the cauldron with a flaming arrow. Best. Torchlighting. Ever!
- American gymnast Shannon Miller's Ensemble Darkhorse victories. She went into the games well in Kim Zmeskal's shadow, as it was Zmeskal, the reigning world champion, who many predicted would come home draped in medals of varying colors—only for Miller to emerge as the most decorated athlete of the Games, with two silver and three bronze medals. See the two flawless vaults that nearly cinched Miller the all-around gold before Tatiana Gutsu of the Unified Team, who was also competing the meet of her life that same night, just barely edged her out by twelve thousandths of a point. The results of that meet have been hotly debated for decades, and it is still the closest women's all-around in the history of the Modern Olympics.
- Indonesia got their first gold medal in badminton—which debuted that year. Who got it? Alan Budikusuma in men's singles and Susi Susanti in women's singles. They're credited as the "Golden Couple". And eventually, they got married. Doubles as Heartwarming.
- In the ice hockey final, Sweden ties the favored 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 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 tendency to crack under pressure, and skating her best performance. So what if she only won silver?note
- Oksana Baiul was really awesome back then—giving Ukraine its first, and up until now, only figure skating gold at age 16/17, and after quite the Dark and Troubled Past as well—dead mom and grandparents, absent dad, growing up in Soviet/post-Soviet Ukraine, etc.
- China's Chen Lu. In the midst of the all the Tonya/Nancy/Oksana hype, it's easy to overlook that her bronze medal was the first ever Olympic figure skating medal for China. It's she who put the sport on the map for her country.
- American speed skater Dan Jansen finally winning the Olympic gold, then taking his victory lap while holding his baby daughter in his arms.
- Media coverage of the U.S. 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 U.S. team rotation. She proceeded to fall on her rear on her first vault and badly tore two ligaments. Nonetheless, when told by coach Bela Karolyi that she had to vault once more for enough points to clinch the gold, she calmly walked back to the end of the runway, vaulted again, and appeared to stick her landing on one footnote . Her courageous vault, which tore another ligament in her already injured ankle, sealed the first U.S. women's team gold in Olympic history, and marked the first time since the dawn of the Iron Curtain that women's team gold was won by a nation outside the Eastern Bloc. Although, it later turned out her vault wasn't needed to win gold, but they didn't know it at that point.
- The entire U.S. women's gymnastics team. Their performance that night was so spectacular that they would have won even without Kerri Strug's valiant second vault—they had that many points and were that far ahead of the competition that even Moceanu's two falls and Kerri's one didn't dent their lead.note
- 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 hands 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, with many audience members even chanting "Ali! Ali!"
- Anti-abortion terrorist Eric Robert Rudolph planted a bomb in the Centennial Olympic Park. Security guard Richard Jewell noticed an unattended backpack and immediately began to evacuate the park. The explosion killed two and injured 111, but the casualty toll could have been in the thousands had it not been for Jewell's quick-thinking and bravery. Not to mention his heroic dignity and bravery in facing the onslaught when the media got wind of the FBI investigation of himnote . The media and entertainment industries decided he was the chief—indeed, only—suspect and treated him accordingly. When exonerated, he sued several news outlets and won, received public apologies from law enforcement and served as the Grand Marshal of the Carmel, Indiana July 4th parade, where the theme was "The Unsung Hero". And he did get another job, as a sheriff's deputy, before dying at age 44 of heart trouble.
- Kurt Angle winning Olympic gold in the men's 220 lb. freestyle with a broken freaking neck!
- Five weeks before the Olympic Games, Romanian gymnast Gina Gogean underwent an emergency appendectomy in Bucharest. She came out of that Games with four medals, including a silver in the all-around and bronzes on both vault and balance beam. Again, this was five weeks after she had abdominal surgery.
- Hong Kong windsurfer Lee Lai-shan's gold medal win in the women's mistral, the first ever medal for the former British colony since its first appearance at the 1952 Helsinki Games. Her famous declaration that "Hong Kong athletes are not rubbish!" is still an enduring rallying cry for the city, which, despite its handover to China, has also inspired its subsequent generations of athletes and the general public.
- Naim Süleymanoğlu winning his third consecutive gold medal in weightlifting in a historic battle against Greece's Valerios Leonidis, with the two of them setting records in the 64 kg division several times during the event. In the end, Leonidis set the clean and jerk record at 187.5 kg—which Süleymanoğlu also matched, but Leonidis held the record due to his lower body weight at the time—while Süleymanoğlu set the combined record at 335 kg.
- No Brazilian women had ever won any medals since they debuted in 1932, twelve years after the men. Come the 1996 Atlanta Games, the women's beach volleyball has an all-Brazil final, ensuring the first medal they get is a gold! There was also a silver in basketballnote and a bronze in indoor volleyballnote .
- The Nigerian men's soccer team, after qualifying from the group stage, faced off against Mexico, Brazil and Argentina in succession. In the semi-finals match against Brazil—to whom they lost 1-0 in the group stages—they overcame a 3-1 halftime deficit to level at the 90th minute, before going on to win by golden goal. Nigeria also scored in the 90th minute against Argentina, this time a game-winning goal to give Nigeria Africa's first ever gold in the sport.
- Canadian sprinter Donovan Bailey winning the 100-metre in 9.84 seconds, setting a new world record and salvaging the reputation of Canadian track athletes after Ben Johnson was stripped of his medal for taking steroids in the 1988 Games in Seoul.
- The Czech National Ice Hockey Team wins the gold medal. In 1998, the NHL allowed to have a break for the Nagano Games for the first time. The national ice-hockey teams could send their very best players and build all-star ideal teams, and Canada and the U.S. were nearly 100% sure that they would be playing the final. However, the U.S. lost to the Czech Republic in the quarterfinals—with the Czechs four unanswered goals after being down 1-0 after the first period—and Canada was subsequently beaten by the Czechs in the semi-finals in a nerve-biting shootout. 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 Nagano 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 Czech ice hockey. It is fondly remembered as one of the most awesome moments of Czech sport ever.
- Tara Lipinski's surprising gold-medal winnote . With nothing to lose and knowing that she was bound to win a medal of some color, she simply went out and skated the performance of her life, full of energy and zest, edging out Kwan's technically flawless but very reserved performance.
- After a year of struggling that sent her sliding into obscurity, Chinese figure skater Chen Lu got her act together to win bronze again in what she had decided would be her final competition and bowed to her trainers as a show of gratitude and respect.
- 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 finals against the legendary Alexander Karelin, a man who had not lost in international competition for thirteen years, hadn't even been scored on for seven years, and had already won three Olympic gold medals in the 1988 Seoul Games, the 1992 Barcelona Games, and the 1996 Atlanta Games. 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 1996note , Redgrave became the first person to win a gold medal at five consecutive Summer Olympics. Pinsent would later win a fourth consecutive gold medal four years later in Athens 2004.
- Colombian weightlifting champion María Isabel Urrutia won Colombia's first ever gold medal in its Olympic history.
- Le dunk de la mortnote . NBA star Vince Carter, playing in a pool match for the U.S. against France, pulls off what could be the greatest dunk in basketball history. Getting the ball off a steal, the 6'6"note Carter drives to the basket, only to find France's 7'2"note center Frédéric Weis in his way. What does Carter do? Keeps going...takes off...and jumps over Weis' head to throw it down.note
- The opening ceremony is just full of these. Special note goes to the Tin Symphony, which features, among other things, a dragon turning into a windmill and a flaming violin, and then shortly after, a tap-dancing performance featuring Adam Garcia from the dance troupe Tapdogs, capped off with angle grinders!
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 ceremony marked the first time ever that all five 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 ceremony 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 Gamesnote 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 flag-bearer skated in, "two thousand two: SALT LAKE CITY!" and the Salt Lake City flag is designed to look like blazing flamesnote . And that was the moment that the first of that opening ceremony's many elaborate and beautiful pyrotechnics were set off.
- Also noteworthy: when President George W. 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 dialed their mother on their cell-phone and handed it to the President. Judging by the looks on their faces, the surprised parent was incredulous.
- The sign for Team Germany was carried into the stadium by a local man named Gail Halvorsen. A USAF transport pilot during the Berlin Airlift, Halvorsen was immortalized as "Uncle Wiggly Wings" for airdropping candy to Berlin children, many of whom had not had candy in years.
- Who better to light the cauldron than the 1980 Men's Hockey Team? The Miracle on Ice reunited!
- Sarah Hughes' electrifying figure skating performance, earning her a completely unexpected gold medal. Much like Tara Lipinski in the 1998 Nagano Games, she knew she was bound to earn a medal of some color. And much like Lipinski, without the pressure on her to earn gold like it was on Michelle Kwan, she skated the performance of her life.
- All controversy aside, one cannot deny the magnificent performance of Sale and Pelletier.
- Belarus defeats Sweden 4-3 in the quarter-finals of the men's ice hockey tournament, 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—the semi-finals and the 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. The 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 playing style. 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. Gretzky's reaction: "[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 took them straight to the finals, winning their first Olympic gold medal in ice hockey in exactly fifty 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 the gold medal. He came back strong after the freeskate—while performing the most technically difficult program, which contained the crazy 4-3-3 combination jump, and managed to secure the silver medal.
- The introduction of female bobsledding, capped off by the U.S. winning gold, making Vonetta Flowers the first African-American to win a gold medal at the Winter Olympics.
- An overall excellent Games, including the U.S.' best performance at the Winter Olympics yet, despite the 9/11 attacks having taken place only five months earlier. There had even been serious discussion of cancelling the Games altogether due to security concerns.
- The 2004 Athens opening ceremony deserves special mention, as they manage to summarize the history of Greece—which began around 1750 BCE—in a matter of minutes. Without any narration.
- 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 Germans Nicolas Kiefer and Rainer Schüttler, and then he won singles gold against American Mardy Fish.
- What makes it doubly Awesome? Those two gold medals were Chile's first ever two gold medals.
- Russian judoka Dmitri Nossov broke his arm in the semi-finals 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 Irish priest Neil "Cornelius" Horan invaded the track and pushed Brazilian Vanderlei de Lima, who was leading the race, into the crowds alongside the course. Then comes an awesome moment as a huge Greek bystander named Polyvios Kossivas helped Lima get freenote , and another as despite Lima being distressed enough to let two others pass him, he still got the bronze medal, 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-aroundnote , and uneven barsnote .
- Speaking of gymnastics, Carly Patterson's gold medal win in the women's all-around—the first since Mary Lou Retton twenty years earlier, and the first for an American at a fully attended Olympicsnote . Patterson began what is currently a four-peat all-around women's gold streak for the Americans, followed by Nastia Liukin in the 2008 Beijing Games, Gabby Douglas in the 2012 London Games, and Simone Biles in the 2016 Rio Games. Even better, another American—Paul Hamm—won the gold medal in the men's all-around that same year.
- For the U.S. women's gymnastics team, disaster struck in the team final when team anchor Courtney Kupets fell to injury. Having only warmed up the three athletes planned to compete on the balance beam—including Kupets—the team sent up instead 25-year-old Mohini Bhardwaj, who hadn't so much as set foot on a beam in three days. Under the glare of the Olympic spotlight, in the highest-pressure situation of her competitive career, and with the Americans' medal chances riding on her slender shoulders, Mohini, a ten-year veteran of elite gymnastics, delivered a clutch performance that, despite a missed connection, almost undoubtedly kept the United States in medal contention. The team won the silver medal.
- In the men's sailboard, Gal Fridman became Israel's first-ever gold medalist.
- Chinese athlete Liu Xiang, winning the 110m hurdles, with a world record-equaling time of 12.91 seconds, matching the feat of Colin Jackson at the 1993 Stuttgart World Championships. Liu became one of the few men to win the event in under 13 seconds and was China's first men's Olympic gold medalist in a track and field event. Particularly notable because Chinese athletes do not traditionally excel in track events.
- Chinese figure skater Zhang Dan fell while attempting a quadruple salchow jump during the free skate program, injuring her leg as a result. But she 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, Bjørnar Håkensmoen. Because of this supreme act of sportsmanship by Håkensmoen, 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 medalsnote , 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 Turin Games 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 "Four Nations Cup"note —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 a convincing 27.12 point lead over the silver medalist, Stephane Lambiel. Plushenko 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 three out of four disciplinesnote and one bronze from the Ladiesnote .
- Team Canada's stellar men's curling win, led by skip Brad Gushue, the first Newfoundlander to win Olympic gold. Schools across the province were shut down by government order so that students could watch the match.
- While many people will forever remember Michael Phelps winning a record eight gold medals, and also tying Heiden and Scherbo with five golds in individual events, the greatest feat of aquatics in the history of swimming goes to Jason Lezak. In the 4*100 freestyle relay, the Americans were favored just slightly ahead of the French. The French, namely Alain Bernard, decided to talk some trash—note that the following is paraphrased—"We're going to smash them like guitars". After the third leg of 100m in the four-man relay, Bernard had a one body length lead on Jason Lezak. In the last 25m of the total of 400m race, 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. Mitcham, 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, Mitcham 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 20m. 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 Chusovitinanote was made of this in Beijing. Not only is she one of the very few gymnasts to return to competition after having kidsnote , but she won the silver medal for vault at the age of 34, and four years later in the 2012 London Games she did pretty well there too. She has gone to six Olympics. Most female gymnasts hardly dare to dream of going to one.
- American gymnasts Nastia Liukin and Shawn Patterson's 1-2 finish in the women's all-around.
- Brazilian long jumper Maurren Maggi had under-performed in the 2000 Sydney Games, missed the 2004 Athens Games due to both a doping suspensionnote and a pregnancy, and went to the 2008 Beijing Games at the age of 32, promising to bring her daughter a medal. And it was the gold, with her first attempt!note If that doesn't seem extraordinary, in 2016 Maggi revealed that she slept only four and a half hours prior to the finals, having been up until 5:30 playing in her tablet.
- 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 fourteenth and best gold medal for lastnote for men's ice hockey, where Canada defeated the U.S. in overtime and the entire country erupted in celebration.
- Sidney Crosby's overtime goal and the incredible assist by Jarome Iginla in the gold medal game for men's hockey has to be the best way to end an Olympic tournament, while the icing on the cake is the fourth arm of the cauldron got repaired and Catriona Le May Doan was finally able to light it.
- Everyone thought the Canadian men's hockey team would have an incredibly tough tournament ahead of them after losing to the U.S. in the round robin, alongside the pressures of playing on home ice. When they were pitted against their bitter Russian rivals in the quarter-finals, 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 U.S. 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 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 U.S. 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 Games. 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.
- Slovenian cross-country skier Petra Majdic takes a brutal spill in practice, falling about ten feet down a hill into a gully. She comes out for the qualifying run and qualifies collapsing in pain and unable to stand after. After returning from x-rays at the hospital, she wins her quarter-final, then gets a lucky loser spot in the semi-finals to qualify for the final, all in abject agony. Four races, five broken ribs, and one pneumothorax later, she came out of it all with a bronze medal.
- South Korean Yuna Kim completely cleaned the field in the 2010 Vancouver Games 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 Games, 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 160 kilometresnote 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.
- The opening ceremony is often overlooked—especially since the 2008 Beijing Summer Games was such a Tough Act to Follow—but Vancouver did well with its relatively simplistic style. Case in point: Who Has Seen The Wind, a tribute to the Canadian Prairies. A person on a wire, huge projectors, and some beautiful music took many a viewer's breath away.
- An honourable mention to the Vancouver-area First Nations for performing traditional welcoming dances throughout the Parade of Nations.
- The U.S. finally wins their first bobsled gold medal since 1948. This is after struggling for decades after decades—even using second-hand sleds imported from other countries up until 1992, when Geoff Bodinenote decides to build his own bobsled, because he deemed it unacceptable that the U.S. used sleds from other countries. Needless to say, Bodine's sleds successfully led the bobsled team to the long-lost glory. Heck, Bodine even said that this victory is far more incredible than winning the Daytona 500note !
- This sentence said by John Furlong, CEO of the Vancouver Organizing Committee, during his speech at the Vancouver 2010 closing ceremony: "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".
- Special points to one scene in the 2012 opening ceremony, where James Bond and the Queen parachute out of a helicopter into the Olympic Park. All right, they were stunt doubles there, but still...but the Queen in everything up to that point was actually her (and one can't help but wonder if she would have jumped out of the helicopter as well if given the option). 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.
- But Wait, There's More! Surprise! Ladies and gentlemen, the Spice Girls!
- Another meta one for London 2012. After criticism from the right-wing media and rentaquotesnote saying it was too multiculturalnote , an Internet Backdraft ensued, forcing a particularly controversial tabloid papernote to edit the article, then eventually pull the article after several people chose to screenshot the article and point out what they'd originally said.
- The 2012 closing ceremony were just as amazing as the opening, with Eric Idle singing "Always Look on the Bright Side of Life" from Monty Python's Life of Brian, as well as Queen performing "We Will Rock You" alongside Jessie J, which was preceded by a clip of Freddie Mercury.
- Writing for Time, James Poniewozik said that the 2012 London Games' opening ceremony "could not have been more British if you put a bowler hat on top of your television."
- Open the Beijing 2008 folder and read the first entry. Done? All right. Fast-forward four years later, and this time, the U.S. and Australia were overwhelmingly favorites for the gold, Australia sporting the "missile" James Magnussen along with Eamon Sullivan and Jamie Roberts, and the U.S. having multi-medal winners Michael Phelps or Ryan Lochte to lead their relay. The commentaries before the race mostly focused on whether Phelps would be enough to beat Australia. The first leg saw the U.S. leading Australia, and after three legs, the U.S. still lead everyone by more than half a second. So, guess who ended up beating them during the last 50m? That's right, France, who was considered, along with bronze-medalist Russia, to be a challenger. Talk about Best Served Coldnote .
- The British men's gymnastics team winning Great Britain's first medal in gymnastics in 100 years. And in women's gymnastics, 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 epee semi-finals. South Korean fencer Shin A-Lam refused to leave the pistenote 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 took more than one second to land her winning touch. By refusing to leave the piste, Shin refused to officially accept the judges' rulingnote . 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.
- After qualifying for the finals for 200m freestyle, 17-year-old U.S. swimmer Missy Franklin had less than fifteen minutes of rest before she had to appear for the 100m 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.
- Ruta Meilutyte winning the 100m breaststroke. At the tender age of 15, she became not only the youngest Lithuanian to win the gold, but also became the first Lithuanian to win the gold medal in swimming.
- Upon winning the 4*200 freestyle relay, Michael Phelps earned his 19th overall medal, 15 of which are gold. This made him the most decorated Olympian of all time. He ended with 22 medals, 18 of which are gold. Good luck to future athletes who want to surpass him.
- South African Chad le Clos gets a special mention for beating Phelps, his idol, by milliseconds.
- Phelps' teammate Ryan Lochte also gets a special mention for besting Phelps in the 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 U.S. or Russia. What's their response to this? In the 2012 London 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 U.S., Russia, China, and Romania, who have dominated the sport for decades. Ladies and gents, Canada has arrived. And it was awesome.
- Canada's women's soccer 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 semi-finals defeat against the U.S.. 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.
- 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, for cycling and speed skating, respectively. 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 the 2012 London Games, despite previously retiring from cycling 12 years prior. She finished a disappointing 32nd in the road race. 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 six weeks before the London Games 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 semi-finals! He didn't make it to the finals, but his mere presence in these games was awesome enough by itself.
- The semi-finals was followed by a Heartwarming Moment when Grenadian Kirani James, who would go on to win the 400m gold, came up to Oscar and traded bibs. Even later on during the 4*400m relay heats, South Africa's runner Ofentse Mogawane 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 legnote . 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-finals, American lead-off runner Manteo Mitchell ran 46.1 seconds to help his team qualify for the final, and they eventually won silver. This is despite him 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 U.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 also 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 Jordyn 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-aroundnote to help start the U.S. women's gymnastics run to the gold with the very first routine for the U.S.. She continued to shine on every event she performed, nailing a beautiful vault—the very first U.S. routine—solid bars set and a spectacular floor routine to boost the U.S. 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 picture with U.S. President Barack Obama◊.
- Maroney deserves major kudos for even making that Olympic team; one of the team alternates was Elizabeth Price, who had a surprising surge in early 2012 and made a bid for the Olympics that very nearly succeeded. In fact, reports suggest that, after McKayla broke her toe, team coordinator Marta Karolyi was debating up until the very last possible minute whether or not to pull Maroney and put in Price; "Ebee" had the second-best Amanar vault in the world and a floor exercise nearly the quality of Maroney's, and was a much better all-arounder to bootnote —but Maroney's vaultsnote were so far superior to anyone else on the team that they kept her in despite the broken toe, meaning she couldn't be used on floor exercise. McKayla Maroney made it into Olympic competition by being just that damn good at her job.
- 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 the 1996 Atlanta Games: U.S., Russia, Romania for gold, silver, and bronze.
- And considering that the entire U.S. team had been molested by team doctor Larry Nassar for years, you're looking at a group of extremely badass spirits. More than 100 women gymnasts have spoken up about what this creep did to them. This has been going on for decades.
- 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 7note , and 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 within 45 minutes. 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 the 2008 Beijing Games, 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 U.S. 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, Catherine 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 U.S. women's team defeating Japan in the final, avenging their loss to Japan in the previous year's Women's World Cup.
- How about Megan Rapinoe's Olimpico goalnote against Canada, making her the only person in the world to score one in the Olympics.
- Epke Zonderland won the first men's gymnastics medal for the Netherlands with an epic high bar routinenote that got him gold by a wide margin and led many viewers to dub him the "Flying Dutchman". Plus his name is Epke Zonderland.
- 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 the 2004 Athens Games, the 2008 Beijing Games, and the 2012 London Games, 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 95% 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.
- As revealed only after the Olympics, Kerri Walsh Jennings was also five weeks pregnant during the Games, but didn't let that stop her from being aggressive.
- The Austrian Schweiger sisters, Doris and Stefanie, deserve a MoA for being the only team to steal a set from Misty-and-Kerri in their Olympic career.
- Jen Kessy and April Ross, the U.S. beach volleyball team who upset the top-seeded Brazilians to set up an all-U.S. final. They fell to Misty and Kerri in two sets, taking home silver and giving the U.S. 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 around 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 2012 London Games, 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 quarter-finals 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 semi-finals and that it had been 20 years since the last time a U.S. 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 U.S. diving team, who, after having been shut out the previous two Olympic games—2004 Athens and 2008 Beijing—got three other medals in synchro.
- And Ilya Zakharov, who upset the Chinese in the men's 3m springboard.
- Ugandan Stephen Kiprotich 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 not only repeating his victories in the 100m, 200m, and 4*100m relay from the 2008 Beijing Games, but becoming the first man to do so.
- Grenadian Kirani James winning the country's first Olympic medal ever—a gold in the 400m.
- Serena Williams dominating on her way to Olympic gold. With the gold, she became only the fourth player ever and just the second woman to win a singles Golden Slamnote , 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 MoA 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 quarter-finals match with Russia and a somewhat easy semi-finals match with Japan, comes a Heroic Rematch with the U.S. 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 U.S. swimming 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 eight minutes of the race!note By the end of the race, she was several body lengths ahead of everyone else!
- The greatest 800m race ever run in the men's final, when Kenyan David Rudisha 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 800m finals.
- Can we just say the entire Games were a Moment of Awesome for Britain? There were many rumors 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 flag-bearer and placard-bearer for one of the athlete delegationsnote —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 London Games 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. And just to make it sweeter, her uneven bars gold ended a twelve-year Olympic gold-medal drought for Russian women's gymnastics. Plucky Girl, thy name is Aliya.
- 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 the 2012 London Games, makes the world number 1 submit in the semi-finals, and then beats the surprise home-country finalist to win the U.S.'s first-ever gold medal in Judo.
- Another American woman, Kristin Armstrong. By the standards of the Olympics, she's pretty oldnote , and a mother of two. In fact, soon after winning gold in the 2008 Beijing Games, 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.
- In field hockey, British skipper Kate Walsh had her jaw broken in their opening game, which was expected to see her miss the rest of the tournament. Instead, it kept her out of the tournament for two games before returning to the tournament and captaining the team to the bronze medal.
- When you're at championship point, you'd expect to be wearing the gold medal in a few minutes, wouldn't you? The Brazilian team in the men's volleyball probably thought so as well. Instead, Russian Dmitry Muserskiy carried the team over, as they turned the third set and won the next two with 31 points by him, leading to Russia's first gold medal in the event—as well as the first from either them or the Soviet Union in a non-boycotted Games since 1968note .
- The U.S. winning the gold medal at the women's 4*100m relay after mishaps at the previous two Olympicsnote . Even more Awesome, they set a new world record, one that had been set 27 years prior!note
- The opening ceremony for the 2014 Sochi Games, which captured 1000 epic years of Russian history, had, unlike many other opening ceremonies, absolutely no criticism. From anyone. It's been held as one of the best opening ceremonies ever, full stop.
- Equally matched by the opening and closing ceremonies for the Paralympic Games - the latter of which featured a live game of Tetris.
- U.S. President 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 U.K. got into the act with this and the BBC's coverage was headed by Clare Balding, who is openly lesbian. The Guardian website colored its letter G with the rainbow colors.
- Here is Canada's similar response.
- Germany may as well have been flipping the bird with their uniforms.
- Indian luger Shiva Keshavan crashing and recovering. At the other end of the rankings, Russian Albert Devchenko and Italian Armin Zoeggeler 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 15. Well done, kid!
- Canadian Alexandre Bilodeau 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 Salt Lake City Games 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.
- 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 quarter-finals 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 from 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 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 any Winter Olympics and also the first-ever Southeast Asian figure skater at the Winter Games, where he qualified for the free skate and scored the best out of his opening group.
- Swiss skier Dominique Gisin just barely qualified for the 2014 Sochi Games after a career that included nine knee surgeries and a horrific crash in her only run in the 2010 Vancouver Games, which resulted in a concussion and immediate withdrawal from those Olympics. However, in Sochi, she has the run of her life, posting a score that was ultimately tied by Slovenia's Tina Maze. After all she went through, she won the gold medal and immediately called her grandparents when she won.
- Polish Justyna Kowalczyk wins gold in the women's cross-country skiing classic...on a broken foot.
- Jeremy Abbott of the U.S. 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 favorite and skating legend, Evgeny Plushenko of Russia in the team event, fell apart and was panned by people on message boards and the press.
- Japanese Noriaki Kasai 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 U.S. scoring 4 shootout goals in the U.S. 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 the 2010 Vancouver Games. Sochi was, simply put, a triumph of an Olympics for ice dancing.
- Norwegian Ole Einar Bjorndalen 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 ten 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 favorites 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 U.S., 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—who are 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 Nagano Gamesnote .
- 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.
- 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 the 1998 Nagano Games, and Great Britain's fourth medal overall—tying their record Winter Olympic medal haul.
- Canadian Kelsey Serwa 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 becoming the second person in the history of figure skating who collects four Olympic medalsnote . Plushenko managed to place second in the short program and placed first in the team event long program while competing with guys who were 10 years younger than him. He contributes a massive 19 points, which secures Russia's hold on figure skating for the team event gold, despite a) being 31, which is geriatric in figure skating terms, and b) having to skate with torn meniscus in both knees and four bolts holding his spine together. Badass.
- It should be noted that the only reason he withdrew from the men's event was because one of the bolts in his spine broke. To paraphrase a quote, only God could keep him off the ice. The broken bolts are made from medical-grade metal, which is also used as materials for aircraft. Now imagine how much force his body takes after each landed jump.
- The music he skated to was nothing to sneeze at either: A combination of the most memorable parts of Plushenko's most well-known programs, arranged by long-time friend and collaborator Edvin Marton. The title? "The Best of Plushenko".
- As controversial as it may be, Adelina Sotnikova's winning performances in the 2014 Sochi Games were unexpected, due to her history of inconsistency. She was left out of the team event in favor of Yulia Lipnitskaya, and she used this as motivation to finally put together two clean skates and win. Her win may be disputed, but most will agree that she earned her place on the podium.
- Canada defeats Sweden 3-0 in the men's hockey game for the gold medal, causing both Canada's men's and women's hockey teams to have a perfect Olympic Winter Games, going 11-0 combined—6-0 for the men, 5-0 for the women. In the men's case, Canada finally erased the ghosts of the 1994 Lillehammer Games' hockey shootout loss to Sweden from their collective minds.
- On 15 February 2013, a meteorite exploded above the Russian city of Chelyabinsk. One year later, the first anniversary of the event happened during the 2014 Sochi Games. To mark the anniversary, all of the gold medals awarded on that day had pieces of the Chalyabinsk meteorite embedded in them with the date of the meteorite explosion inscribed, because a meteorite impact is as global an event as the Olympic Games are.
- In speed skating, there were four medal clean sweeps—achieved by the Netherlands. The women's 1500m saw the four Dutch skaters take the top four positions. They won at least one medal in every event and their domination saw them more than double their previous record medal haul.
Rio de Janeiro 2016
- Rio's opening ceremony had a lower budget than London and Beijing, and still managed to be visually spectacular and raise awareness of the environment. The closing ceremony got even better. The "Rio to Tokyo" handover had a flashy clip featuring Captain Tsubasa, Hello Kitty, Pac-Man, Doraemon, and Nintendo's Mario! Just to get hyped for the 2020 Tokyo Games.
- The real highlight, however, of said closing ceremony was Shinzo Abe, the Japanese Prime Minister himself appearing on top of a green pipe, holding a red ball all while dressed up as Mario. At this point, that alone should make anyone watching it hyped for the 2020 Tokyo Games.
- Even before the Games started, Oksana Chusovitina qualified for her seventh Olympics, at the age of 40; she turned 41 before the Games started. While this is impressive itself, what really makes this a CMOA is that Oksana is a gymnast. This is a sport where most competitors are in their teens, and very few compete past their early-20s, maybe mid-20snote . Again, Oksana is in her early-40s, making her both the oldest and longest-running Olympic gymnast.
- Refugees are allowed to compete as an Olympic team of their own for the first time. The cheer for the Team Refugee delegation was one of the loudest ones to come from this Parade of Nations, beaten only by Brazil and maybe Portugal's. And then Fehaid Aldeehaninote , at double trap, becomes the first independent Olympic athlete to win a gold medal.
- This is Kosovo and South Sudan's first time competing under their own flags. Less than two days after the start of the Olympics, judoka Majlinda Kelmendi won the first medal for her country, Kosovo. And just not any medal—it was the gold medal. What a way to make history.
- Juan Martín del Potro won the bronze medal in men's singles tennis in the2012 London Games, but had been plagued by injuries since then to such an extent that he spent almost two years out of competition to undergo multiple wrist surgeries and was ranked only No. 141 at the time of Rio. To make matters even worse, he drew World No. 1 Novak Djokovic as his first-round opponent. Del Potro, however, refused to be discouraged by his constant bad luck—not only did he beat Djokovic, but he also beat Rafael Nadal in a grueling semi-finals to make the gold medal final, where he still had enough energy and guts left to battle with defending gold medalist Andy Murray for over four hours! Murray beat him to become the first tennis player to win two singles gold medals, which in itself is a Moment of Awesome, but seeing del Potro better his London bronze with silver against all odds and after all the hardships he'd gone through was an Awesome and Heartwarming sight for much of the tennis community.
- Rafaela Silva, a judoka in the 57 kg weight class, is the first to give Brazil a gold medal. To make things Heartwarming too, she's a native of one of the most dangerous parts of Rio de Janeiro, and had initially started taking judo as a joke. To switch back to Awesome, she defeated the No. 1 ranked fighter in the worldnote for the medal, Sumiya Dorjsuren, and had been disqualified for an illegal move four years prior in the 2012 London Gamesnote .
- Boxer Robson Conceição got Brazil's first gold in this sport. He came from a poor upbringing in Bahia, took boxing to get better at street fights, and had lost in the opening bout in both the 2008 Beijing Games and 2012 London Gomes. Come his third Olympic opportunity, all uncontested wins to the title and the crowd's delight.
- After getting silver in the 2012 London Games, the Japanese male gymnastics team led by Kohei Uchimura finally gets gold in the team all-around. Uchimura then becomes the first man in 44 years to win back-to-back gold medals in the men's all-around gymnastics, in an incredibly high-quality final that saw him win by less than a tenth of a point over Ukrainian Oleg Verniaiev.
- Weightlifter Óscar Figueroa Mosquera gets the third gold medal for Colombia, with a total of 318 kg in the men's 62 kg class. In the 2008 Beijing Games he was injured, in the 2012 London Games he lost the gold to the Indonesian Eko Yuli Irawan, and since he had planned to retire after Rio...here he gets it in his last chance. He then left his shoes on the mat to signal his retirement. He went out in style.
- Another one for weightlifting: In the men's 77 kg class, Kazakhstan's Nijat Rahimov not only wins gold but also sets a world record in clean and jerk...of 214 kg, with the total being 379 kg.
- Lithuanian Aurimas Didzbalis celebrates his weightlifting bronze medal...with an incredible backflip.
- The entire U.S. women's gymnastics team. With a total of 9 medalsnote , they have been deemed the greatest team in history. To wit:
- After dominating in qualifyingnote , the team, led by Simone Biles, successfully defended their team gold, dominating from beginning to end—they were so far ahead by 10 points after the qualifying round that the commentators quickly conceded that the real battle was for second and third placenote . They won by more than 8 points after having won by 5+ in the 2012 London Games. Their nickname is the "Final Five", since starting with the 2020 Tokyo Games, only 4 members will be allowed per team and, more heartwarmingly, because this was the final bow for Márta Károlyi, closing just about three decades of training gymnasts between her husband Béla and herself.
- As predicted, Simone Biles got the gold in the all-aroundnote , becoming both the second African-American woman to win the all-around, as well as the second American gymnast to win both the team and the all-around at the Games, after teammate Gabby Douglas first accomplished that in the 2012 London Games. To put Simone's dominance in perspective, according to Olympic records, her margin of victory is larger than all the margins for the Women's all-around since 1980...combined. Biles also later earned gold on the vault, becoming the first U.S. woman to do so, and by no small margin either—she scored the two highest vaults in the competition, 15.900 and 16.033note . Biles followed this up with a bronze on the balance beam, which could have been yet another gold had she not touched the beam in an effort to not fallnote , and capped off her Olympics with a fourth gold on floor exercisenote , tying the record for the most golds and the most medals won by a female gymnast in a single Games. And just to cap off the Awesome, in the process Biles also did something that hadn't been done in twenty years, and only twice since 1972: She came into the Games as the reigning world all-around champion and won the Olympic all-aroundnote .
- Meanwhile, teammate Aly Raisman made up for barely losing the bronze in the 2012 London Games by getting the silver in the all-around, marking only the second time that U.S. gymnasts have gone 1-2 in the all-round competitionnote . Raisman was just fine with the silver because she knew who she was up against, and expressed the same sentiment about her silver medal in the floor exercisenote .
- Laurie Hernandez, a 16-year-old in her senior international debut, not only contributed excellent scores on three of four events in the team finals, but went on to make the balance beam event finals and win silver. Now that's how to start your senior career off with a bang.
- Madison Kocian was brought for one event—the uneven bars. In her three performances, she: 1) qualified first into the event finals, 2) tied Russia's Aliya Mustafina, who was the defending Olympic champion on the event, for the highest score on any event in the team finals, and 3) won silver in the event final, finishing less than a tenth behind the aforementioned Mustafina, who brought out every trick in her arsenal for potentially the last routine of her career. What American weakness on the uneven bars?
- Four years after the 2012 London Games and six years after her all-around win at the 2010 World Championships, Russian gymnast Aliya Mustafina wins the bronze medal in the all-around, repeating what she did in London four years earlier and becoming the first woman since Simona Amanar in the 2000 Sydney Games to make the Olympic all-around podium in two consecutive Games. Given that an ACL tear in 2011 had many questioning whether she'd even return to the sport at all, the fact that she is not only back at the Olympics, but once again on the podium, proves that she is indeed one of the sport's greatest. And then she capped off her magnificent career by successfully defending her Olympic gold in her best event, the uneven bars, just edging out American Madison Kocian.
- Sanne Wevers wins the first ever individual Olympic medal for the Netherlands in women's gymnastics with an incredibly difficult and gorgeously performed routine on the balance beam—and it's gold.
- Great Britain had never won a gold medal in men's gymnastics in its 116 years of competition...until Max Whitlock wins two gold medals on the same day in floor exercise and pommel horse. In addition, Alexander Naddour wins bronze on the pommel horse, the first U.S. medal in that event since the 1984 Los Angeles Games. And Brazil managed to win silver and bronze on the floor.
- Danell Leyva originally wasn't even supposed to compete at the Olympics—he was brought in as an alternate on the U.S. men's gymnastics team after one of its members became injured—but he made the most of his unexpected opportunity by winning two silver medals in one day on parallel bars and horizontal bar to become the most successful U.S. male gymnast in the 2016 Rio Games.
- Third Time's the Charm applies for Brazilian gymnast Diogo Hypolito, after two floor competitions that went badly, a quadrennium where he was dismissed from his old club and suffered from depression, only to to finally go well and get a silver in front of his home crowd in 2016: "First I fell on my butt, then I fell on my face, but now I fell on my feet!"
- German artistic gymnast Fabian Hambuchen wins the gold on high bar, after winning the bronze in the 2008 Beijing Games and the silver in the 2012 London Games. Rio is his last competition, and he topped off an incredible career with the one medal he wanted most.
- Kristin Armstrong from the U.S. gets gold in the women's individual time trial for the third timenote ...the day before she turned 43. What a birthday present.
- Kayla Harrison of the U.S. defended her judo gold, and with authority, too. All her victories came by scoring ippon, the highest class of technique and an instant win. This included the finals. She was ahead by way of penalties, but with just seconds to go, she forced her longtime rival, Audrey Tcheumeo of France, to tap out to her infamous armbar. And this after being out of the sport for some time, due to knee surgery and time spent wanting to become a firefighter.
- Harrison's Arch-Enemy Mayra Aguiar, who only lost the semi-finals to Tcheumeo because the Frenchwoman kept on doing nothing and thus had Aguiar lose on accumulated penalties, easily got the bronze to celebrate with the home crowd.
- Rugby sevens is played for the first time at the Olympics. What country gets the honor of winning the first gold medal in men's rugby sevens? None other than the tiny island archipelago of Fiji, 43-7 against Great Britain. To make things even more Awesome, this is Fiji's first ever medal in any Olympics.
- And how about golf, the sport that entered the Olympics alongside rugby sevens?note Justin Rose took gold after a hole-in-one in the first round and out-dueling reigning Open Champion Henrik Stenson in the final round with a tight pitch shot on the last hole, and Matt Kuchar shot an outstanding eight-under 63 in the final round to steal bronze. For many Brazilians, this was their first world-class exposure to the sport, and the finish delivered.
- The women's golf tournament was a strong follow-up to the men's, whose finish wound up with some parallels to the end of the men's tournament: Seven-time major champion and former World No. 1 Inbee Park added a gold medal to her incredible career by finishing at Justin Rose's winning score of 16 under par, and current World No. 1 Lydia Ko won silver with a 72nd hole birdie, every stroke as clutch as Rose's—she also carded a hole-in-one earlier in the tournament for good measure. And this field was much more top-heavy than the men, including nine of the top ten players in the world—the odd woman out was because South Korea had more than four players ranked in the top 15 to begin with!
- Simone Manuel becoming the first African-American woman to win an individual swimming medal—a gold in the 100m freestyle. The best part: She tied with Canadian Penny Oleksiak for the gold, both of them beating out heavy favorite Cate Campbell in an incredible dash to the wall. They both were surprised and delighted with the results, and hugged each other after getting their gold medals. They also broke the previous Olympic record. The following night, Manuel swims again, this time as the anchor in the women's 4*100 medley relay, and the Americans win comfortably, reaching another historic milestone: The first country to amass 1000 gold medals in the modern history of the Games. Oleksiak's performance is also Awesome on its own: At the age of 16, she surprised everyone by becoming the first Olympic champion born in the 2000s and the Canadian with the most medals in one edition of the Summer Gamesnote .
- Michael Phelps got his 4th consecutive gold medal in the 200m medley, and broke a record for most individual golds...a record from the Ancient Olympics.
- Michael Phelps had won all the gold medals he competed for...until it was time for the 100m butterfly competition. Then, the Singaporean Joseph Schooling—who had taken a photo with Phelps in 2008◊—blew Phelps, his rival Chad Le Clos and the Hungarian Laszlo Cseh out of the water, winning the gold, which was the first Olympic gold ever for Singapore, and setting a new Olympic Record. To be fair to Phelps, Le Clos and Cseh, all three tied for silver, which is noteworthy in itself.
- Katie Ledecky accomplishes a mission she set out years ago and claims four gold medals in Rio, in the process becoming only the second female swimmer in history, after Debbie Meyer in the 1968 Mexico City Games, to sweep the distance freestyles—the 200m, 400m, and 800m. And if you thought her performance in London was impressive, in the 400m and 800m, she literally left everyone else in her wakenote and took nearly two seconds off each race's world record. In the process, she maintains an impressive undefeated streak in individual finals: Starting with that first gold in London 4 years ago, she has been to 15 finals in international competitionnote ...and won every one of them.
- The controversy concerning Russia's Yulia Efimova, who was re-admitted at the last minute following an appeal after the Russian doping controversy, proves moot in the 100m breaststroke. American Lilly King beats Efimova for the gold while her countrywoman Katie Mieli wins the bronze just behind Efimova.
- Hungarian swimmer Katinka Hosszu had been to three Olympics, getting at most a fourth place. After a quadrennium where, driven mostly by her husband, she trained so hard and swam so dominantly to earn the nickname "Iron Lady", Hosszu won the 400m individual medley with a world recordnote , the 200m medley with the Olympic record, a third gold in the 100m backstroke, and a silver in the 200m backstroke...
- ...losing to Maya Dirado, where third time proved the charm after two silvers in the individual medleys. But in their final encounter in the 200m backstroke, Dirado managed to chase down Hosszu on the final stretch and out-touch her by a mere 0.06 seconds. What a way to Earn Your Happy Ending.
- On male swimming, Ryan Murphy continues an American hot streak on the backstrokes dating back to 1996 in Atlanta by sweeping the 100m and 200m and then going on to set the 100m world record during his leg of the 4*100 medley relaynote . Meanwhile, also in the 100m, David Plummer took the bronze in the event; not bad for a 30-year-old, and not bad for a US swimming team full of first-timersnote .
- In the 2000 Sydney Games, Anthony Ervin surprised the swimming world by tying with fellow American and defending champion from Atlanta Gary Hall, Jr. for the gold medal in the 50m freestyle. In spite of the 16-year gap since that time, Ervin jumped in the pool and out-touched defending champion Florent Manaudou by 0.01 second to win the gold, becoming the oldest swimmer to win gold at age 35 in a highly-competitive field where the difference between him at gold and fellow American Nathan Adrian at bronze was just 9 hundredths of a second.
- Dutchman Dorian van Rijsselberghe won the gold medal for the second time in a row in the men's RS:X windsurfing. And just like four years ago in London, the actualnote medal race was a complete formality. After the penultimate race, his lead was so big he only had to sail the last race to win—although he went on to win that one, too, because why not?
- Italy's Tania Cagnotto, after finishing 18th at the 2000 Sydney Games, 8th at the 2004 Athens Games, 5th at the 2008 Beijing Games, and missing the bronze medal in the 2012 London Games by a very few points, finally managed to break the string of bad luck by winning the bronze medal at the 3m individual diving. And, just a few days before, she and her fellow countrywoman Francesca Dallapé won the silver medal at the 3m synchronized. The kicker? These are her last Games! That's a great way to sign out!
- Almaz Ayana from Ethiopia destroying the competition in the women's 10,000m to win gold, breaking the world record that had stood since 1993 by a staggering 14 seconds. And the rest of the field wasn't even slow, either—Kenya's Vivian Cheruiyot set a national record while winning silver and Ethiopia's Tirunesh Dibaba ran a personal best too to win bronze and get on the podium for this event for a third consecutive Olympics. Even more: All of these women plus Kenya's Alice Nanowuna broke the Olympic record from the 2008 Beijing Games, which belonged to Dibaba at 29'54"66.
- Wayde van Niekerk of South Africa won the men's 400m, at the same time breaking Michael Johnson's 1999 world record of 43.18 seconds by finishing in 43.03. And he did all this in the outside lane, a lane which is statistically harder to win from. And Johnson, to his credit, was a Graceful Loser.
- Jamaica's sprint dominance continues:
- A gold for Elaine Thompson and a bronze for Shelly-Ann Fraser Prycenote in the women's 100m dash.
- Another gold for Elaine Thompson in the 200m dash.
- A bronze for Shericka Jackson in the 400m dash.
- A gold for Omar McLeod in the 110m hurdles—Jamaica's first ever gold in this event.
- A silver for the women's 4*100m, the women's 4*400m, and the men's 4*400m relay teams.
- And the legendary Usain Bolt three-peated his victories in the 100m, 200m and 4*100m relay, becoming the first man to win these events three times in three consecutive Olympics, with speeds in all races that were his slowest yet, yet still faster than his competitorsnote . He's now tied with Carl Lewis and Paavo Nurmi for the most Olympic track and field medals, and with Lewis, Nurmi, Mark Spitz, and Larisa Latynina second only to Michael Phelps for the most gold medals won for a single sport.
- Though the Americans weren't as dominant on the track as they have been in the past, Brianna Rollins, Nia Ali, and Kristi Castlin pulled off a first: Going 1-2-3 in the women's 100m hurdles, the first time the American women pulled off such a feat, and the first time this event ever got swept.
- Anita Włodarczyk, hammer thrower from Poland, completely outclassing her competition by first setting a new Olympic record, then breaking it and her own world record in the next throw. She was so much better than the rest, even her worst throw would give her silver medal...and the best would give her gold in men's competition four years agonote .
- Michelle Carter winning the U.S.'s first Olympic gold in women's shot put.
- Pole vaulter Thiago Braz da Silva gives Brazil its second gold medal, setting a new Olympic record and defeating the gold medalist from the 2012 London Games, Frenchman Renaud Lavillenie, in the process, while using a high risk/high reward strategic movenote . Quite amazing, especially since Thiago is only 22 years old!
- Christian Taylor becomes the first athlete to repeat as champion of the triple jump since 1900-04. Even more amazingly, between the 2012 London Games and the 2016 Rio Games, Taylor was forced to start from scratch by switching legs. Throughout his career up through London, he launched from his left foot, but after he began experiencing terrible knee pain there, he switched to launching with his right foot, and still managed to best the field in Rio with his very first jump. In fact, all the medalists made their marks with their first jumps.
- Despite possibly being overshadowed by Usain Bolt's triple-double, Ashton Eaton defended his decathlon gold, becoming only the third man to do so, after fellow American Bob Mathias in 1948 and 1952 and Britain's Daley Thompson in 1980 and 1984.
- Puerto Rico obtains its first gold medal thanks to tennis player Mónica Puig, who beat three Grand Slam champions—Garbiñe Muguruza, Petra Kvitová, and Angelique Kerber—to win it.
- Despite being eliminated from the singles and doubles tournaments in the first round, Venus Williams still became the second person in history to win five Olympic medals in tennisnote with a silver in the mixed-doubles game.
- American Helen Maroulis defeats 3-time Olympic gold medalistnote and 13-time World gold-medalistnote Saori Yoshida to win the 53 kg freestyle wrestling gold, and the first American woman to win a gold.
- While her fellow countrywoman Saori Yoshida was unsuccessful, Japanese wrestler Kaori Icho managed to win her fourth consecutive gold medal, becoming the first female in any sport to win individual event gold at four consecutive Olympics. Incidentally, Icho won the bout 3-2 after being down 2-1 after the first period and scoring a critical two point takedown in the final seconds.
- Three of Icho's teammates—Eri Tosakanote , Risako Kawainote , and Sara Doshonote , also won gold in Rio. Kawai dominated her match, not conceding a single point in her final, while both Tosaka and Dosho earned critical two point take-downs in the final seconds of their matchesnote .
- Ahmad Abughaush winning for Jordan its very first medal in their entire history, for Taekwondo - 68kg. And it was a gold!
- Kimia Alizadeh Zonoozi became the first woman to win a medal for Iran: A bronze in Taekwondo - 57kg. A Muslim, she wore her traditional khimār scarf under her helmet.
- Even though it was their first gold in the event since the 2004 Athens Games, the Chinese winning the men's 10m platform isn't necessarily notable. What is notable is the winner, Chen Aisen, getting three of his six dives over 100: One over 102, another over 105, and his final dive a 108.
- In their previous twelve tries to gain Olympic gold, the Brazilian men's soccer team had never succeeded. Cue the 2016 Rio Games for the gold medal, when, after a 1-1 slug-fest against Germany—the same country which had destroyed the host Brazil 7-1 in the 2014 World Cup—the game heads to penalty kicks. With the count at 4-4 the Germans suffer a blocked kick. Neymar Jr., the Brazilian captain, comes up for his last penalty kick, and makes the shot, securing Brazil's first soccer Olympic gold medal ever...on home ground. Here's the clip.
- Repeating the women four years before, the Brazilian men's volleyball—which is probably the country's second favorite sport after football—were nearly eliminated in the group round. Despite the female team suffering a Tear Jerker elimination the day beforenote , the men handily beat Argentina in the quarter-finals—to the crowd's delight, as the neighbors are an Arch-Enemy in soccer and The Rival anywhere else. Come a semi-finals match against Russia, who in the 2012 final against Brazil had a staggering comeback to get gold, Brazil steamrolls, 3-0. Final with Italy, who beat them in the group stage, and had a huge semi-finals comeback on favorite United States? Another 3-0! It was even more Awesome for Brazil's libero Sérgio Santos, who managed to be chosen tournament MVP at the age 40.
- Great Britain win their first gold medal ever in women's field hockey. Against the Netherlands. Who are ranked number one in the world. Mostly thanks to their amazing goalkeeper Maddie Hinch, who saved every goal in the penalty shootout. Two of the members of the British team—Kate and Helen Richardson-Walsh—also created history by being the first same-sex married couple to win gold medals.
- And on the same day as the above, Nick Skelton—who has competed in seven Olympic Games—wins gold in the individual showjumping...at the age of 58. What makes this even more amazing? Not only did he have a hip replacement back in 2011, but he broke his neck in 2000 and was told that another fall would kill him.
- Niger, the poorest country in the world, won its second medal evernote when Abdoul Razak Issoufou got a silver on Taekwondo.
- Spanish Carolina Marín became the first non-Asiatic woman to win the gold medal in badminton. After losing the first set.
- How many countries won their first Olympic gold ever in Rio? Not one, not two, not three, but nine: Bahrain, Fiji, Ivory Coast, Jordan, Kosovo, Puerto Rico, Singapore, Tajikistan, and Vietnam. Plus the aforementioned gold by Fehaid Aldeehani, the first under no country's flag.
- Marriage proposals can be both these and Heartwarming Moments. Doing so on public stage even more so. And it's hard to have more public a stage than the Olympic Games. Interestingly, Rio has brought forth the idea of athletes proposing to one another like never before. There were at least five marriage proposals during the Games, and all were accepted. And to further emphasize the idea of acceptance and openness from the Games, two of the proposals were made to homosexual partners.
- Normally, the host country of one Olympics goes on to do poorly in the next one. Great Britain bucked that trend massively and made Rio their best Games since 1908, even better than the 2012 London Gmes. In fact, they actually won more gold medals than Chinanote . For added Awesome, many of the medals the athletes won were in sports that Britain had not won any medals in for years.