18 Powerful Olympic Moments


Janos Baranyai’s Lift

With the eyes of the world upon him, Hungarian weightlifter Janos Baranyai pushed himself to lift 148 kilograms (326.3 pounds) during the men’s 77kg weightlifting competition at the Beijing 2008 Olympic Games. Unexpectedly, his right arm gave, ripping apart ligaments and muscle under the weight. As horrifying as the entire ordeal was, doctors were able to reset Baranyai’s elbow for a full recovery without surgery. Video (Graphic, obviously):



Vanderlei Lima

At the 2004 Olympic Games in Athens, runner Vanderlei Lima of Brazil was well on his way to gold in the men’s marathon final. Then suddenly, after running for two hours straight, a deranged Irishman named Cornelius Horan broke past the guardrail and attacked Lima, pushing him to the side of the road and shattering his chances of winning gold. Vanderlei Lima continued onward and finished in third place to win bronze. Video:



The greatest takes Olympic gold — then has it taken back.

At the 1960 Summer Olympics in Rome, a little-known athlete named Cassius Clay brought home gold at the light-heavyweight competition, defeating the three-time European champion Zbigniew Pietrzykowski of Poland for the victory. Despite the win, Cassius Clay, later known as Muhammad Ali, was stripped of his medal in 1967 after refusing to be drafted into America’s Vietnam War, citing his religious beliefs.** **Correction: Two Imgurians shared that Muhammad Ali actually threw his medal into the Ohio river after being denied service in a Whites Only restaurant. Video:


The Greatest returns in glory to light the Olympic flame.

Thirty-six years after Muhammad Ali took home gold in Rome, he was invited back for an honor suited for the world’s greatest — to light the Olympic flame during the opening ceremony of the 1996 Centennial Olympic Games in Atlanta. Ali, who was then 54 years old and visibly suffering from Parkinson’s disease, rose to the occasion for what is now considered one of the most emotional moments in all of Olympics history. Video:



Jesse Owens

In 1936, the Nazi Party was pushing a political agenda based on eugenics, racism, and hate. For the Nazis, the 1936 Summer Olympics in Berlin was the perfect place to prove that the Aryan race was far superior than any other competitors in the world. That was until America’s Jesse Owens proved them wrong by winning four track and field gold medals (100m, 200m, 4×100m relay, and long jump) that year, a record that stood unbroken for 48 years. Things didn’t turn out so well for Hitler in the end. Video:



At the 1996 Summer Olympics, it was all up to 18-year-old gymnast Kerri Strug to bring home gold for America. Then the unexpected happened: Her first vault ended with a sharp pain in her left ankle — the tearing of two ligaments. Still, Strug pushed forward with a second vault, landing perfectly, then collapsing on the floor in pain. Her coach picked her up in his arms and said, “Don’t worry, you’re going to the podium. I guarantee it.” Because of Strug, the US women’s gymnastics team took home the gold that year. Video:


Angel Matos

Angel Valodia Matos of Cuba was not very happy after referee Chakir Chelbat disqualified him from his bronze medal contest in the men’s +80kg taekwondo competition of the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games. In one swift kick, Matos lashed out in anger, landing a hard blow to the center of the ref’s face. Needless to say, Matos has since been banned from ALL World Taekwondo Federation events for the rest of his life. Video:


Wladyslaw Kozakiewicz

At the 1980 Summer Olympics in Moscow, the relationship between Poland and the Soviet Union was greatly strained. Experiencing the tensions firsthand was Poland’s pole vaulter Wladyslaw Kozakiewicz, who competed amid an onslaught of boos and heckling from the largely Soviet crowd. So it’s no surprise that when Kozakiewicz won gold over the Soviets with a new world record, he responded to the audience with a gesture of appreciation. The Soviet sport officials demanded an explanation for the obscenity, to which the Polish ambassador in Moscow simply responded that Kozakiewicz always makes the gesture after setting new world records. Video:


The Barefoot Champion

Twenty-eight-year-old Abebe Bikila of Ethiopia was relatively unknown when he entered the men’s marathon final in the 1960 Summer Olympics in Rome. After realizing that the running shoes he was given did not fit properly, Bikila arrived at the starting line completely barefoot. The officials, in complete disbelief, allowed Bikila to compete. He went on to win the gold medal with a new Olympic record time of 2 hours, 15 minutes, and 16 seconds. Four years later at the 1964 Summer Olympics in Tokyo he brought home a second gold — this time with sneakers. Video:



Maarten van der Weijden

Gold medalist Maarten van der Weijden of the Netherlands is a living testament to the human spirit. After being diagnosed with leukemia in 2001, winning Olympic gold may have been the furthest thing from van der Weijden’s mind. But he pushed forward to beat cancer, and at the 2008 Olympics in Beijing, he took home the gold medal in men’s 10km marathon swimming. Video:


Two Divided Nations

During the Athletes Parade in the opening ceremony of the 2000 Olympic Games in Sydney, Jang Choo Pak of North Korea and Eun-Soon Chung of South Korea walked hand in hand carrying a special flag depicting the Korean peninsula — a gesture of peace and unification never before shown between the two feuding nations. Video:



Eric Moussambani

Eric Moussambani of Equatorial Guinea had no professional experience as a swimmer, having only trained in hotel pools and local rivers. He soon found himself in a very strange spot when all of his opponents were disqualified for false starts during the men’s 100m freestyle heats at the 2000 Olympic Games in Sydney. In true Olympic spirit, Moussambani pushed past the cramps and pain of swimming for the first time in a full-size Olympic pool. And despite receiving an awful time of 1:52.72, he was the first person in his country’s history to ever complete the 100m freestyle. Video:



Women Take Gold at the 1928 Summer Olympics

At the turn of the 19th century, women were not allowed to participate in the 100-meter race. That all changed when the rules were amended at the 1928 Summer Olympics in Amsterdam, allowing American athlete Betty Robinson (center) to be the first woman in history to take gold in the event. Canadians Bobbie Rosenfeld (left) and Ethel Smith (right) took silver and bronze, respectively. Video:



Bob Beamon’s Leap

Some people beat world records by mere inches — then there are people like Bob Beamon who DESTROY world records by entire feet. At the 1968 Summer Olympic Games in Mexico City, Beamon achieved a remarkable 8.90 meters on his first attempt at the long jump, jumping so far that the optical measuring devices failed to even register the leap. The referees were forced to bring out an old-fashioned tape measure to prove that Beamon had achieved the impossible. Video:



Michael Phelps Takes Home ALL the Gold

Swimmer Michael Phelps was the center of attention during the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games after winning an astonishing eight gold medals — a record never before achieved in the 112-year history of the modern Olympics. Videos:



Tommie Smith and John Carlos

Amid a generation of conflict and racial divide, two American Olympians took to the winners podium after the 200-meter run and declared their protest for freedom and racial equality in the United States. Extending their gloved hands skyward, athletes Tommie Smith (center) and John Carlos stared downward as “The Star-Spangled Banner” played, just after Smith received the gold and Carlos the bronze at the 1968 Summer Olympic Games in Mexico City. Smith later explained, “They called it Black Power. I called it human power or cry for freedom.” Video:


Confusion on the Court

The US basketball team was overjoyed when they claimed 50-49 victory over the Soviet Union in the final game of the 1972 Olympic basketball tournament in Munich. But due to a technicality, officials reset the clock to give the Soviets another chance for a basket — a shot that pushed the score to 51-50 in favor of Soviet Union. The USA team protested the decision by declining to attend the medal ceremony. Video:


Derek Redmon and his Dad Cross the Finish Line–together

Britain’s Derek Redmond was a gold medal hopeful for the 400 meters during the 1992 Olympic Summer Games in Barcelona. But when he was rounding the 175th meter — tragedy struck. Redmond’s hamstring popped under the pressure, and with it went his dreams of becoming an Olympic champion. But Derek Redmond wasn’t about to give up that easy. After refusing a stretcher from the medical staff, Redmond picked himself up and hobbled toward the finish line, determined to complete the race he had trained for. In an emotional act of defiance, Redmond’s father pushed past Olympic security, yelling, “That’s my son out there and I’m going to help him!” In disbelief and awe, the crowds roared as they watch the father and son push past the finish line to complete the race Video:


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