Weekly Five: Inspirational Olympic moments

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The opening ceremonies of the Winter Games are approaching, and an action-packed few weeks full of athleticism, teamwork and patriotism is about to begin. What better way to celebrate than to look back on past Olympic moments still inspirational today?

The USA Team celebrate their win against Russia after the final in the Ice Hockey event at the 1980 Winter Olympic Games in Lake Placid, USA. The USA won the gold medal and Russia the silver medal in this event. (Mandatory Credit: Steve  Powell/Allsport)
The USA hockey team celebrate its win against Russia after the final in the Ice Hockey event at the 1980 Winter Olympic Games in Lake Placid. The USA won the gold medal and Russia the silver medal in this event. (Mandatory Credit: Steve Powell/Allsport)

1. U.S. Hockey Team, Lake Placid, 1980

“It’s a classic underdog story,” said Brandon Borget, an exercise science major from Springville.

The chances of any victories for the U.S. team in these Olympics seemed slim, but through dramatic ties and incredible wins, the U.S. Hockey Team made its way to the semifinals, where it played against its biggest competitor of all, the Soviet team. Due to the Cold War, the two teams were natural rivals, but the world didn’t think the ragtag team of rookie hockey players from America stood a chance against the highly-ranked and established team of Soviets.

With a last-minute goal, the U.S. was up by one point when commentator Al Michaels made his famous statement, “five seconds left in the game. … Do you believe in miracles? Yes! Unbelievable!”

2. Derek Redmond, Barcelona, 1992

The United Kingdom runner wasn’t inspirational because of his medals or records, but because of his refusal to give up when injury threatened his dream.

During the last heat of the semifinal race in Barcelona when he seemed to be heading to the finals, Derek Redmond heard his hamstring pop and fell to the ground in agony. As he watched his dreams of winning an Olympic medal fade away, he staggered to his feet and began making his way toward the finish line.

It was then that his father rushed down from the stands to help his son finish the race. The fans all stood in awe and gave Redmond a standing ovation as he hobbled over the finish line.

“It showed that sports and the Olympics aren’t just about athleticism and skill, it’s about dedication, determination and heart,” said Kayli Hughes, a freshman majoring in elementary education.

3. Jesse Owens, Berlin, 1936

African-American Jesse Owens grew up in poverty as the grandson of a slave and son of a sharecropper in Ohio. After overcoming intense racial discrimination, he earned a spot on the U.S. Olympic team and proved to be the world’s finest in track and field.

Owens won four gold medals at the Berlin games, which were overseen by Adolf Hitler. Hitler had hoped that German athletes would dominate, proving his theory that the Aryan race was superior, and when he was told to personally greet every medalist or not greet any at all, Hitler chose the latter option rather than shake hands with Owens.

Despite the lack of acknowledgement from Hitler, no one could deny Owens was a superior athlete. He had overcome many racial barriers and helped raise the profile of African-Americans throughout the world.

4. Nadia Comaneci, Montreal, 1976

The young gymnast was only 14 years old when she represented communist Romania in the Montreal Olympics and scored her first perfect 10 in the uneven bars event.

At the time perfect scores were unheard of, but by the end of the games, Comaneci had scored a total of seven perfect scores, winning an all-around gold medal. With this victory she set a record as the youngest-ever Olympic medalist, a record that will never be broken, since a rule was passed after the 1976 Olympics requiring athletes to be at least 16 years old.

5. Jamaican Bobsled Team, Calgary, 1988

To many, it sounded like a complete joke. How could Jamaica, a country famous for its sandy beaches and year-long sunshine, be a contender in an event like bobsledding? They were up against powerful teams coming from snow-packed places like Switzerland and Norway that had been dominant in winter sports for years. Nevertheless, this Jamaican bobsled team consisting of Devon Harris, Dudley Stokes, Samuel Clayton and Michael White proved to be a powerful force to be reckoned with.

Jamaica’s magnificent feat of putting together a legitimate bobsled team and gaining respect around the world is told in the famous film “Cool Runnings.”

“This story is especially cool since this is the first time in 12 years that Jamaica has qualified to compete in the bobsled event,” said Alyssa Jarves, a freshman from Manassa, Colo. “The last time was in 2002 when the Olympics were here in Utah.”

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