In celebration of the 2012 Olympics, here are my top five favorite Olympic moments from my lifetime (Summer and Winter), counting down:
5. 2000 Sydney, Rulon Gardner defeats the previously undefeated Russian champion Aleksandr Karelin.
4. 1984 Los Angeles, Mary Lou Retton wins the first gold medal for the USA in women’s gymnastics, scoring perfect 10s on the vault and floor exercise.
3. 1994 Lillehammer – Nancy Kerrigan and Elvis Stojko both won silver medals for the USA in ice skating. In spite of the bizarre drama with Tonya Harding (Google that one if you don’t know the story), Kerrigan gave beautiful performances. Both she and Elvis were outstanding and, in my humble opinion, robbed of gold. They handled their second-place awards with class and grace.
2. 1996 Atlanta, “Magnificent Seven” – Without one real superstar, the USA women’s gymnastics team performed beyond anyone’s expectations, with the possible exception of Coach Bela Karolyi. Kerri Strug’s final vault, with a hurt ankle from her previous vault, clinched the gold medal for the USA. It was a testament to the greatness of teamwork, Karolyi’s coaching, the leadership of Captain Amanda Borden, and Kerri’s champion heart.
Finally, the greatest Olympic memory of my life…
1. 1980 Lake Placid, Miracle on Ice – The USA defeats the Soviet Union in hockey, ushering in a new era of American exceptionalism and pride. I was 9 years old. I have two overwhelming memories from that game:
- Mike Eruzione scoring the winning goal and dancing around the ice in celebration.
- Jim Craig was an absolute monster in goal. He was like an octopus with magic limbs that were magnetically drawn to the puck. Even at 9 years old, I knew I was witnessing true greatness.
Winning the gold medal against Finland was almost anti-climactic after the semi-final match with the Soviets, but it was the icing on the cake. Watching the whole team join Captain Mike “Rizzo” Eruzione on the podium at the medal ceremony was priceless.
Yes, these are all American Olympic moments. Argue for the Jamaican bobsled team or others, if you wish. There are certainly great moments from other countries. Don’t mess with number 1, though. Greatest moment in sports history. Period.
Honorable mention (also worth Googling): Sarah Hughes, Bruce Jenner, Dan Jansen, Mark Spitz, Michael Phelps, Eric Heiden, Apolo Ono, Scott Hamilton, etc., etc., etc.
So, bring it on. Which great moments did I overlook?