AS the world focuses on the spectacle of the London Olympics it is timely to look at some of the event’s proud history and some amazing stories of courage and athleticism that transcend mankind’s potential.
The history of Olympic Games proves that only supreme human effort brings an Olympic medal but even competitors that never make the medal dias can inspire the world.
So here are our top 5 five Olympic moments – a word of warning, the video of our number one moment might make you shed a tear.
5. Abebe Bikila wins the Olympic Marathon barefoot – Rome 1960.
Ethiopians and Kenyans are believed to be the best long distance runners in the world. But racial stereotypes prevented African athletes from participating in the Olympics. Abebe Bikila became the first African sportsman to break all racial stereotypes and prejudices by representing Ethiopia on the 1960 Olympics.
From the very beginning of the marathon he wasn’t taken seriously because he was black and barefoot. Abebe Bikila could have worn any pair of sneakers, but didn’t manage to find any that were comfortable. He chose to run the marathon the way he had trained – barefoot.
With quiet grit and determination he would claim victory showing the other competitors the soles of his feet.
4. George Eyser, the first athlete with a disability to win gold – St Louis 1904.
The Paralympics entered the world’s sporting landscape in 1960. But George Eyser’s story predates that event by 56 years. Competing with a prosthetic wooden left leg was no impediment to his gymnastic feats at the 1904 Olympics in St. Louis, Missouri.
He became the first gymnast to take individual golds in the rope climb, parallel bars, and vault competitions. Eyser lost his leg in childhood after being run over by train, but it didn’t prevent him from Olympic glory.
3. Nadia Comaneci sets a record – Montreal 1976.
The story of Nadia Comaneci proved the smallest athletes can achieve the impossible. The Romanian 14-year-old set an unbelievable record that no gymnast had achieved before. She accomplished her routine on the uneven bars scoring a perfect 10 – something that had been considered impossible.
Not a one-off, Comăneci would earn six additional tens at the Montreal Olympics as she went on to win the all-around, beam, and bars golds, a team silver, bronze in the floor routine and the hearts of millions.
2. Eric Moussambani, the slowest swimmer – Sydney 2000.
Olympic Swimming events are traditionally dominated by great competitors from China, Australia, USA excluding smaller nations. At the 2000 Olympics an attempt was made to address this issue by allowing wildcard entries. Eric Moussambani of Equatorial Guinea was about to burst on to the world’s stage.
The 22-year-old athlete had only learned to swim eight months before the competition and had little chance of victory. But when the two other swimmers in his heat were disqualified a roaring audience recognized the winner before he had even started swimming. It took Eric almost two minutes to finish the 100m more than twice the time of the fastest swimmers, yet it was still a victory.
1. Derek Redmond, tears his hamstring during the 400m sprint – Barcelona 1992
Participating in the Olympic Games for many athletes signifies a crowning moment in their sporting career. It is pay-dirt for all the hours of dedication, sweat and grunt put into training.
Derek Redmond easily won his heat in the 400m sprint at the Barcelona Olympics. However his performance in the semi-final would become the most heart-wrenching moment of the games when he tore his hamstring in the sprint.
Redmond’s father rushed past security to the track to help his son cross the finish. The incident touched the world and became the subject of one of the International Olympic Committee’s ‘Celebrate Humanity’ videos.