5 Memorable Summer Olympic Moments

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The Rio2016 Summer Olympic games officially begin on Friday, making it the perfect time to reflect on great Olympic moments of the past.

Since 1896, the Summer Olympics have brought together hundreds of nations in celebration of sport and world unity. Throughout the past 120 years, there have been several moments that will forever be entrenched in history.

In honour of Rio 2016, let's take a look back at five of the most memorable Summer Olympic moments.

5. Sydney 2000: Ian Thorpe redeems Australia

Courtesy Huffington Post

Australian swimmer Ian Thorpe had much to prove when the Olympics came to his hometown of Sydney, Australia in 2000. He won twelve gold medals in his previous three minor competitions from 1998-2000, so the Sydney Olympics was set to be his biggest challenge yet - and he didn't disappoint.

Thorpe cruised through the heats of the 400m freestyle on the first morning of competition, setting a world record time of 340:59. Later that day, Thorpe lined up with American swimmers Chris Fydler and Ashley Callus on the 4 x 100m freestyle relay, a competition which the Americans had never lost at Olympic level.

The Australians were only a hare ahead of the Americans going into the final relay, at which point Thorpe pulled ahead of American Gary Hall Jr. to win the race in the final meters.

The result ignited the Australian crowd as Thorpe immediately leaped out of the pool and emphatically hugged his teammates. Thorpe won another gold medal in the 4x 200m relay and two silver medals in the 4x 100m medley, becoming the most successful athlete at the Olympic Games and the most decorated swimmer in Australia's history.

4. Rome 1960: Abebe Bikila wins marathon barefoot

Ethiopian runner Abebe Bikila wasn't supposed to compete at the 1960 Summer Olympic Games in Rome. Just hours before the plane departed to Rome, Bikila was told he would replace Wami Biratu, who became seriously ill.

The 28-year-old runner was born in a small village out of Jato, Ethiopia, and had never competed at a major tournament. He was one of the biggest underdogs going into the 1960 games - but that was just the beginning.

Shortly after his arrival in Rome, Bikila was given a pair of over-sized runners, which were the only shoes available due to his late arrival. Adidas, the shoe sponsor of the 1960 games, failed to send out a pair of shoes in his size in time for the first race, so Bikila decided to run BAREFOOT.

Bikila's main competition was Moroccan runner Rhadi Ben Abdelessam, who was supposed to be wearing number 26.

After about 20km, Bikila had passed several runners in search for Rhadi's no. 26, but little did he know that Rhadi was wearing no. 185 instead and that he had been beside him for most of the race.

Rhadi and Bikila ran together until the last 500m, when Bikila pulled away to the finish line with a record time of 2:15:16.2, becoming the first Sub-Saharan African to win an Olympic gold medal.

3. Bejing 2008: Usain Bolt breaks his own world record

Jamaican runner Usain Bolt has broken numerous records over the course of his career, but none were more satisfying than his performance at the 2008 Summer Olympic Games in Beijing, China.

Courtesy New York Times

Bolt set the world record for 100m sprint on May 31, 2008, just months before the beginning of the Olympic Games. At the Reebok Grand Prix in New York City, Bolt ran 9.72 s with a tail wind of 1.7m/s.

How much faster could Bolt run?

After he easily qualified for the 100m final with times of 9.92s and 9.85 s in the quarter-finals and semi-finals, all eyes were on Bolt in the final race.

Bolt broke new ground in the final, winning in 9.69 s. This was an improvement on his own world record and a far better time than second-place finisher Richard Thomson, who finished in 9.89 s.

Bolt wasn’t finished yet. At the 200m final, he won Jamaica’s fourth gold medal of the tournament, setting an Olympic record of 19.30 s, while also taking home the gold in the 4x100 m relay.

The 2008 Games proved that Bolt is the fastest man on the face of the earth, and one of the greatest sprinters in Olympic history.

2. Seoul 1988: Greg Louganis’ epic comeback

American Olympic diver Greg Louganis thought his Olympic career was over after a freak injury at the beginning of the 1988 Summer Olympics in Seoul.

Courtesy NY Daily News

His suffered a concussion after his head struck the springboard early in the preliminary rounds. Despite the injury, Louganis managed to complete the preliminaries, earning the highest score of the qualifying round for his next dive.

He repeated the same dive in the finals, earning the gold medal by a margin of 25 points. He also won the gold medal in the 10m finals, earning 86.70 points for a total of 638.61, surpassing silver medalist Xiong Ni by only 1.14 points.

In a later interview with the Huffington Post, Louganis said that he told his coach “he worked too long and hard to get there [the Olympics] and he didn’t want to give up without a fight.

Louganis’ triumph earned him the title as ABC Wide World of Sports “Athlete of the Year” for 1988. After testing HIV positive at the end of the 1988, Louganis was forced to retire at age 28, leaving behind a legacy as one of the most decorated American divers in Olympic history.

1. Montreal 1976: Bruce Jenner as an incredible decathlete

Before he became well-known for his appearances on reality TV’s KeepingupwiththeKardashians, Bruce [now Caitlyn] Jenner was once an American Olympic champion.

Courtesy NBC Olympics.com

In the early 70s, Jenner won a number of championships in the decathlon event, which consists of a series of ten track and field events, including runs, jumps and throws. He became famous when he was featured on the cover of Track & Field News magazine’s August 1974 issue.

The 1976 Olympics in Montreal would become a defining moment in Jenner’s career. 

On just the first day of the men’s decathlon event, Jenner set five personal bests – called “a home run” – despite finishing in second place.

After recording successful numbers in both the pole vault and javelin events, all Jenner had to do was win the 1500m sprint to take home the gold medal.

The event was seen a national television and has be heralded as one of the greatest Olympic moments in history. After leading the pack for most of the race, Jenner decided to sprint the last lap, opening up a 50-meter deficit.

He was so far ahead of the competition that he nearly overlapped the event favorite Soviet Leonid Litvineko. Jenner set a new personal best time, taking the gold medal with a world-record score of 8,616 points.

Jenner was so ecstatic after his victory that he took an American flag from someone in the crowd and ran an extra lap while holding it, inventing the term we recognize today as a “victory lap.”

You learn something new every day. 

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