The Olympic Games have long inspired emotional moments. When you think about the dedication, tireless hard work, and sacrifice that could culminate in a medal, the emotions that can surface for us all are truly heartfelt. We are reminded that behind the triumphs and heartaches lies a degree of athleticism that is unmatched and each participant in the Games makes us proud.
As the 2012 London Games come to a close, we have seen just that: The 400 x 100 U.S. women’s relay team shattered the world record; Micheal Phelps became the most decorated Olympian ever, winning his 22nd medal; The U.S. women’s soccer team defeated Japan in dramatic fashion. The list goes on.
Here, NewsOne offers six Olympic moments that will forever touch our hearts. Please feel free to share some of your favorite Olympic moments in the comments below and on our Facebook page.
1) Just imagine the pride that was felt and tears that were shed, when John Baxter Taylor, Jr. (pictured second from left) became the first African American to earn an Olympic gold medal in 1908. At the time, Blacks were considered the lowest in society. Still, Taylor was a member of America’s 1,600 meter (one mile) relay team, and he and his teammates set a world record in this race. Unfortunately, the 26-year-old Olympian was only able to enjoy his success for a few months, he died of typhoid pneumonia five months after having earned his medal.
2) One of the greatest female athletes in history, Jackie Joyner-Kersee was the first American to win gold for the long jump and the first woman to earn more than 7,000 points in the seven-event heptathlon. She ultimately won three golds, a silver, and two bronze, making her the most-decorated female athlete in Olympic track and field history. Even though Jackie suffered from exercise-induced asthma, her athletic explosiveness and can-do spirit made you shed a tear every time she received yet another medal.
Watch Jackie in the 1988 Olympics here:
3) During the turbulent ’60s and at the height of Black pride, two Olympic contenders puffed their chests out and raised their fists as they received their medals, a moment that embodied the spirit of the times. During the 1968 Mexico City Games, Tommie Smith (pictured right) won the 200 meter race and fellow U.S. runner John Carlos (pictured left) took third place. While the “Star-Spangled Banner” played during the medal ceremony, Smith raised his right black-gloved fist to represent Black power, while Carlos raised his left fist to represent Black unity. Their brave political statements, which made Blacks everywhere proud, caused the men to be suspended from the U.S. team. They were also both removed from the Olympic Village. When they arrived home as ostracized heroes, they received countless death threats.
Watch their powerful stand here:
4) The grandson of a slave and the son of a sharecropper, Jesse Owens went on to win four gold medals at the 1936 Olympic Games in Berlin. Adolph Hitler was at the height of his dictatorship and lambasted America at the time for even allowing Blacks on its Olympics’ roster. Owens was the leader of the pack, the most-dominant figure at the competition. He captured four gold medals (the 100 meter, the long jump, the 200 meter, and the 400 meter relay race) and broke two Olympic records along the way, making African Americans everywhere misty when they spoke about his wins. After Owens won the 100-meter event, a fuming Hitler stormed out of the stadium, though there are some who argue that the ‘Fuehrer’ actually congratulated Owens on a job well done. Sadly, Owens had to take the freight elevator in New York City’s ritzy Waldorf Astoria hotel to attend his own reception, a sad sign of the times….
Watch Owens at the Olympics here:
5) After a career plagued with countless injuries, Derek Redmond arrived at the 1992 Olympic Games in Barcelona, Spain, with his eye on the prize, a gold medal. Unfortunately for Redmond, he tore his hamstring in the 400-meter semi-finals, and even though he was in crying and in excruciating pain, he managed to complete the full lap with the assistance of his dad, Jim. Redmond’s father pushed through security from the stands and joined his injured son on the track with the words of comfort, “We’ll finish together!” And they did! The Father and son team took the Olympic spirit to a new level as onlookers gave them a standing ovation and there truly wasn’t a dry eye in the house.
Watch Redmond at the Olympics here:
6) Who will ever forget that boo-hoo moment when boxing legend Muhammad Ali lifted the torch to light the flame of the 1995 Atlanta Games. Ali, who also won a gold medal for the Light Heavyweight boxing category in the 1960 Rome Games, was shaking from the tremors of the Parkinson’s Syndrome Disease he is still battling. Watching Ali as he struggled to keep it together in front of millions of viewers was a memory that evoked emotions from even the most dispassionate. In the words of former U.S. President Bill Clinton, who was there to open the Olympic Games, “It took a sack full of guts to carry that Olympic flame up that ramp the last distance with his hands shaking, but he did it. And it’s taken a lot of courage to continue to go out, to be seen… he wasn’t self-conscious. He’s something special.”
Watch Ali lighting the torch here:
What’s your favorite moment in the Olympics?