With the 2010 Winter Olympics in full swing, it is a good time to do a post that relates to the cold weather sports that people love. When temperatures drop, when it snows, and when water freeze, for many it means huddling up and staying indoors until spring. For others however, it means that it is time to get outside and play – ski, skate and toboggan. The athletes of the winter games have perfected speed, endurance, agility and grace in their sports, and so in honour of the years of training they put in and the hours of enjoyment they provide for us to watch them compete, this list presents 10 Great Moments in Winter Olympic history.
10. Jamaican Bobsled Team (1988 Calgary)
Courage and the spirit of the Olympics personified. They funded their Olympic journey by selling sweatshirts in Calgary malls and restaurants and recorded a reggae team theme song, “Hobbin & A Bobbin” – “We be trainin’, gainin’, strainin’ and painin’, but we ain’t complanin’/Jamaica bobsled, ragamuffin, Jamaica bobsled, we ruff’n tuff’n/Everything cool, mon.” The bobsledders from Jamaica were the underdog heroes of the Calgary Winter Olympics. In a moment that stopped hearts around the world, their sled flipped over on the track, and before the cheers of the crowd they picked up the sled and walked to across the finish line. To show that this was not a one shot deal, at the 1994 Lillehammer Games, the Jamaicans finished 14th, ahead of both sleds from the USA.
9. Sonja Henie (1928, 1932, 1936 Germany)
Sonja Henie was a two-time Olympic gold medalist and the most recognized female athlete of the 1936 Winter Olympics,and won gold at three different Olympics, as well as ten World Champion titles (1927-1936) and a six European Championships (1931-1936). The Norwegian skater revolutionized women’s figure skating by wearing short skirts and performing balletic routines set to music. After skating, Henie hit gold in Hollywood (at the height of her acting career she was one of the highest paid movie stars in Hollywood) and starred in 15 movies through her second career as an actress. She died in 1969, leaving a sporting legacy and an estate worth nearly $50 million at the time.
8. Franz Klammer (1976 Innsbruck)
In 1975, Franz Klammer – the man known as “Kaiser Franz”, or “The Austrian Astronaut”, or “The Klammer Express”, won 8 of 9 World Cup downhill races. So the hometown crowd in Austria, where skiing is sacred, expected nothing less than gold. Austrian downhill ski legend Franz Klammer needed a seemingly impossible final run to take the gold from Switzerland’s Bernhard Russi. Klammer was one of the final skiers to race, meaning that by then the course was icy and rutted. With an estimated 60,000 home fans roaring on the side of the course, Klammer let his skis run freely, pointed his shoulders straight down the hill and literally stayed on the edge of disaster through his run, taking “crazy air” and careening out on one foot several times. He flew across the finish line with the quickest downhill time in Olympic history, taking the gold and providing one of the most memorable and exciting downhill runs in Olympic history.
7. Jean Claude Killy (1968 Grenoble)
Monsieur Killy was a skiing legend in his day, and winning three gold medals at the 1968 Olympics in his native France was a record breaking moment for hte sport. he remains the only skier to win gold ion three siiking disciplines – downhill, giant slalom and slalom. There was a moment of doubt when Austrian skier Karl Schranz dclared a distraction on the course and was allowed to retake his run, yet this second chance did not beat Killy’s time. Killy remains one of the great names in ski racing and a national hero to the sport in France.
6. Dick Button (1948 St. Moritz)
Dick Button changed the sport of figure skating in the 1948 games by being the first skater to perform leaps and spins. The 18-year old was the first skater to complete a double axel, which is 2 1/2 revolutions in the air after a forward takeoff. Then four years later, at the 1952 winter Olympics in Oslo, Button landed the first triple loop – three revolutions to defend his title and win a second straight Olympic gold.
5. Salé and Pelletier (2002 Salt Lake City)
When Russian skaters Elena Berezhnaya and Anton Sikharulidze won gold in the 2002 figure skating, allegations of corruption were rife. It appeared to everyone but the judges that the Canadian pairing of Jamie Salé and David Pelletier had performed the superior routine. The IOC decided to declare both the Russians and the Canadian pairs as gold medal winners and held a new medal ceremony where all four stood on top of the podium to receive their medals. The incident forced the ISU to implement changes as to how figure skating competitions are now judged.
4. Eric Heiden (1980 Lake Placid)
At the Lake Placid games, world champion speed skater Eric Heiden collected five individual gold medals, set four Olympic records and smashed the world record in the 10,000-meter race, after winning gold in his previous four races. The achievement of winning five gold medals in individual events in a single Olympic games was unprecedented at the time, and ranks in the same league as Mark Phelps’ history setting in swimming at the 2008 Beijing Olympics. Following his historic Winter sport performance, Heiden turned to cycling, where in 1985, he won the U.S. professional cycling championship. He competed in the Tour de France in 1986, and, now retired from sport, is today a surgeon in the USA. His sister Beth was also an accomplished speed skater.
3. Nancy Kerrigan (1994 Lillehammer)
American skater and favorite to win an Olypmic gold medal for the US, Nancy Kerrigan was injured in an attack and forced out of the 1994 US figure skating championships. Tonya Harding, another American skater and competitive rival of Kerrigan, was victorious and took a place in the squad for the Lillehammer Olympics. As it turned out, however, Kerrigan’s assailant had been Shawn Eckardt who, with Harding’s ex-husband, Jeff Gillooly, had perpetrated the crime with Harding’s knowledge and blessing. At the Olympics, Harding came eighth while Kerrigan took silver in the ‘Battle of wounded knee’.
2. Steven Bradbury (2002 Salt Lake City)
Knowing he couldn’t outrace a field led by American short track speed skating superstar Apolo Anton Ohno, Australian Steven Bradbury’s strategy in the 1000-meter final was simple. Stay in the back, and wait for chaos. Short track, in which skaters race against each other around a 111-meter oval, is roller derby on ice, so that plan often works. Just 20 meters from the finish line, Ohno and archrival Li Jiajun of China tangled arms, sending Jiajun sprawling, before Korean Ahn Hyun-Soo collided with Ohno and Canada’s Mathieu Turcotte, causing a massive pileup. Bradbury, who had stayed at the rear of the pack, skated past the pile-up for the first Winter Olympic gold in Aussie history. Some fans booed Bradbury – one even cursed him – thinking Bradbury’s gold was a fluke. It was. But Bradbury said, “I’ll take it for the hard slog that I’ve put in.”
1. Dual Gold Canadian Men’s/Women’s Hockey Each Win TWICE! (2002 Salt Lake City; 2010 Vancouver)
Leading into the tournament, the press was saying that “The women had no chance (they had lost 8 straight international championships to the US). The men were nothing but one of six teams capable of winning”. Yet, in 2002, Canada won 17 medals at the Salt Lake City Games for fourth place in the medal standings, and ended a 50-year drought in the Olympics by beating the United States, 5-2, for the gold medal in hockey. The icing on the cake for the nation that claims hockey as its national sport was the gold medal for both its men’s and women’s teams. In this Olympics, Canada not only made hockey history, but the teams also made Olympic history by having the first dual gold medal won in a single sport by men’s and women’s teams.