By Jason Iannone
For the past 118 years, the Modern Olympics have given us some of the most incredible moments in sports history. Paring them down to a mere five was a monumental task, one that would’ve been far easier had the brass simply let me write a Top 500 list. But they refused, not wishing to pay me 100 times the going rate for one article. Party poopers.
But pare it down I did, and here are the five greatest moments in Summer and Winter Olympic history, as chosen by me and agreed upon unconditionally by you, my loving and blindly accepting fanbase.
5. James Connolly Wins the First Olympic Medal in History
Everything has to start somewhere, right? For the modern Olympics, everything started on August 6, 1896, when the first-ever Olympic event, the triple jump, reached its conclusion. It also happened to be the first day of the Olympics period, since a couple dozen dudes jumping a few dozen feet really shouldn’t take that long to wrap up.
James Connolly won the event, and thus received the very first Olympic medal ever. Oddly enough, it was not gold, as gold medals weren’t introduced until 1904. In 1896, winners received silver medals, second-place finishers received bronze medals and third-place finishers got to look at the other two and seethe with jealousy. No word on whether Connolly pointed at the third-place jumper that day and laughed his mustache clean off.
4. Michael Phelps Wins His 8th Gold Medal of 2008
Going into the 2008 Beijing Olympics, the question wasn’t whether swimming legend Michael Phelps would win gold — it was how many would he win. His goal was to win eight, an all-time record for a single Olympics. The only reason he settled for eight, by the way, is because Olympic regulations stated he was not allowed to win medals for events he didn’t sign up for. That was a damn shame, because seeing Phelps walk around with 300+ medals around his neck would be hilariously inspiring.
Not only did Phelps win eight pieces of gold, he also shattered seven world records in the process. Interestingly enough, he did not celebrate a single victory until his teammates finished the race that won him his eighth medal. Only then did he allow himself to go wild, because no matter who they are or where they’re from or what sport they play, athletes are always single-mindedly about the team.
3. Jamaicans Form a Bobsled Team, Qualify for the 1988 Olympics
This moment is cool enough for us to overlook how it inspired a crappy mid-90s wacky family comedy that made way more money than it ever deserved to. The Jamaican bobsledders, despite having never sledded downhill and having barely seen snow and ice before, somehow managed to qualify for the 1988 Winter Games.
Despite their lack of funding (which culminated in their having to borrow sleds from other teams to practice), the Jamaicans started off fast and strong. Unfortunately, an accident caused them to not finish their final race, though the fact that they even made it to the Games at all was an amazing feat in and of itself. The Jamaican bobsled team returned in 2014, with the goal of winning it all… or at least crossing the finish line.
2. Kerri Strug Tears Her Ankle, Wins Gold for Her 1996 Team Anyway
Athletes trudge on while hurt all the time. Playing through aches, pains and nagging injuries is so commonplace that nowadays it takes near-decapitation before we applaud a jock’s courage to stay on the field.
But in 1996, all it took was a nasty ankle injury to bring us to our feet. Kerri Strug was a US gymnast who needed to complete one impressive vault in order to help her team secure gold. She initially failed to do so, because when you snap your ankle in two while sticking the landing, you can expect to get docked a few points.
Later on, while still wincing in pain from what turned out to be two torn ligaments in her right ankle, Strug got up and somehow managed an even BETTER vault than before. How her leg didn’t rip itself off her body and run away screaming is beyond us, but her 9.7 was still more than enough for her team to win the gold. She was officially America’s Sweetheart, for a few weeks anyway. And for the American media, that’s an awful long time
1. Hermann Maier Wins Two Gold Medals in 1998 Olympics After Almost Dying
Famed skier Hermann Maier exists simply to make you wonder just how he still exists. Seventeen seconds into his turn at the 1998 Olympics, Maier crashed in what looked to be the most horrific and deadly manner imaginable. He flipped over and landed square on his head, crashing through several fences before finally collapsing in a lifeless heap in front of a horrified everybody. Except he wasn’t lifeless. Somehow, he managed to get up and walk away, though his injuries understandably kept him out of the Games.
Well, three days’ worth of them anyhow. After that, he was ready to go, and responded to this second chance at life by winning two gold medals in slalom. He actually crashed AGAIN after winning the first medal, but recovered even faster the second time around, because at this point he had become bored of simply winning, and had moved on to trolling God Himself.