The Rio Olympics has copped nothing but bad press in recent weeks and when you consider what’s been happening, it’s pretty easy to see why. So we thought we’d liven the mood a little by sharing some of the all time greatest summer Olympic moments by both individual athletes and teams.
There might be five Aussies in our list, and hate us if you will, but hey, we’re a little biased.
10. Michael Phelps, Beijing 2008
Slap some gills and scales on this bloke and you’d be hard pressed not to think he was a fish, given his uncanny ability to swim like one. At the 2008 Beijing Olympics he showed who was boss by taking home a staggering eight gold medals, and in doing so became the record holder of most Olympic golds at an Olympics. Not only did Phelps smash the individual events, he proved he was a true team player by taking three of those eight gold medals with his crew.
Race 1: 400-meter individual medley
Race 2: 4×100 freestyle relay
Race 3: 200 free
Race 4: 200 butterfly
Race 5: 4×200 free relay
Race 6: 200 individual medley
Race 7: 100 butterfly
Race 8: 4×100 medley relay
While he couldn’t quite repat those epic feats on 2012 (only winning a measly four golds and two silvers) he’s back in 2016 to deliver more punishment to the rest of his competitors. Catch him if you can fellers… this boy can swim!
9. The Kookaburras, Athens 2004
Hockey is a one of those sports you forget about for four years until the Olympics rolls around and you go “oh yeah”.
Leading up to the Athens 2004 Olympics, in 11 attempts, the Kookaburras picked up three silver and bronze medals apiece but never managed to claim the elusive gold; a title they have been striving for since 1956.
After making the final, they walked out onto the field determined to not go home as a runner-up again. But the challenge got that much harder when the Netherlands scored in the first half to go into the break 1-0 up.
But against all odds the Aussies managed to slip two goals past the Dutch defence to seize gold and end a 48 year drought.
8. Usain Bolt, Beijing 2008
He’s one of the more colourful characters on the Olympic circuit and for good reason too – he’s lightning fast and holds the coveted ‘fastest man in the world’ title. He’s 6’5” tall, has the longest stride length, stride frequency and ground contact time and when you combine all three, it’s of little wonder he leaves everyone else in his wake.
At the 2008 Olympics the Jamaican not only won three gold medals but he broke the world and Olympic records in both the 100m and 200m events in the process. That makes him a bit of a big deal. To back it up he won the same three gold medals four years later in London. Can he go for three for three in three at Rio? We think so.
7. Kieren Perkins, Atlanta 1996
Kieren Perkins is an Australian swimming legend, but leading into the 1996 Atlanta Olympics the Aussie was out of form and wasn’t highly favoured against the likes of Daniel Kowalski.
But Perkins proved he had the heart of a champion and when it mattered he showed he had what it took to win gold.
He gained a sizable lead on the rest of the field and despite the pain and fatigue building up he kept kicking his legs and rolling his arms over to bring the gold home for Australia.
6. Jesse Owens, Berlin 1936
Adolph Hitler was the devil – there’s no two ways about it. So when you read of Jesse Owens well and truly smashing the tiny moustache laden devil’s dreams, it’s hard to not feel a sense of pride. For Hitler, the 1936 Berlin Olympic Games were meant to be a German showcase and a statement for Aryan supremacy. Jesse Owens, the black grandson of Alabaman slaves, squashed that idea.
Owen went on to win four gold medals in the 100m and 200m, the long jump and 4 x 100m relay. How’s that for a kick to the clackers for old mate Hitler?
Owens retired from amateur athletics after the 1936 games and started earning money by racing against cars and horses, and even played with the Harlem Globetrotters for a while. What a legend!
5. Dawn Frazer, 1956, 1960, 1964
Dawn Frazer is a household name in Australia and deservedly so. She’s taken out eight Olympic medals all up and has held 39 records. Quite obviously the best in her class, she won gold for the 100 meters freestyle at three consecutive Olympics! What’s more, she was the first of only three athletes to ever pull off such a feat. Not too shabby Dawn!
4. Flo Jo, Seoul 1988
Almost 30 years on no one has topped Florence Joyner’s 1988 world records at the Seoul Olympics for the 100m and 200m run – and with times of 10.49 seconds and 21.34 seconds respectively it’s not hard to see why.
Apart from her outstanding athletic achievements, the flamboyant American was also known for making her own costumes and running with polished nails that were a full six inches long!
There’s been much speculation over whether Flo Jo took performance-enhancing drugs to achieve her incredible run times but she always maintained her innocence and never failed a drug test.
3. Australian Men’s 4×100 freestyle relay team, Sydney 2000
As there are no gold medallists among us here at ManSpace we can only imagine the pure joy one would experience winning a gold medal. What would make the moment more surreal is doing it with three great mates in front of your home crowd and that is exactly what the 4×100 men’s freestyle team did at the 2000 Sydney Olympics.
In the next lane over to the Aussies were the hot favourites, the undefeated US team and on the final turn it was looking like the Americans were going to claim gold yet again.
But Ian Thorpe had other ideas, stroke by stroke, inch by inch, the Thorperdo clawed them back reaching his hand out and touching the wall just ahead of his American counterpart.
2. Abebe Bikila, Rome 1960
This guy not only won an Olympic marathon – he did it bare foot! Abebe was a last-minute replacement for another Ethiopian runner at the 1960 Olympics and only just made the plane to Rome. The shoe sponsor that year was Adidas and when Abebe went to get his pair, they didn’t have his size! So what did he do? He ran the whole race bare foot, the way he’d trained. Result? He smashed it.
1. Cathy Freeman, Sydney 2000
To many, the image of Cathy Freeman crossing the line at the Sydney Olympics in her green hooded body suit is the defining image of Australian Olympic history. In fact, some would consider it the most iconic moment in this nation’s rich sporting past and who could blame them.
As she turned down the final straight and drew away from the field, the country watched in awe as she headed for the finish line.
Cathy’s remarkable win brought tears to the eyes of many and caused the hair at the back of necks to stand up all across the globe. It is truly a moment no Aussie sporting fan will ever forget.