We've taken a step back through time to round-up the craziest, most incredible moments in Winter Olympics history.
Chris Giblin 1 / 11
The upcoming Winter <a href="http://www.mensfitness.com/topics/olympics" target="_blank">Olympics</a> in Sochi is much more than that one time every four years when you might walk into a sports bar, look up at a TV and see a group of guys sweeping ice in front of a rock (that’s curling - USA! USA!). It’s also a source of some great memories in sporting history, whether it was pulling for the Americans against the mighty Soviets during Cold War hockey games, rooting for serious underdogs like Eddie the Eagle and the Jamaican bobsled team, or witnessing true greatness, like Eric Heiden’s five speed skating gold medals in one Olympics, or Shaun White’s tremendous half-pipe run in the last Olympics. It’s more than just a few sports to hold you over between the Super Bowl and <a href="http://www.mensfitness.com/march-madness" target="_"blank">March Madness</a> – you’re bound to see some of the best athletic performances of the year during the event. Here’s a look back at some of the most memorable performances we’ve seen in Winter Olympics history.<p>
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1. 1960, the Original “Miracle on Ice”
Although not the miracle everyone remembers, the 1960 US hockey team (like the one in 1980) also came out of nowhere to take down the world’s best teams, one by one, grabbing the gold medal after winning all seven of their Olympic matches. The TV coverage just wasn’t in place to make this underdog triumph widely celebrated throughout the country, but it was no less exciting. This Games featured a six-team round robin medal round in which the Americans defied all odds be beating hockey titans Canada and the Soviet Union in consecutive games, 2-1 and 3-2, respectively. The US followed this up with a come-from-behind 9-4 victory over Czechoslovakia to clinch the gold. Canada defeated the Soviets in the last scheduled match of the Games to salvage the silver, although schedule organizers had assumed it would end up being the Gold Medal match.
2. 1980, US Speed Skater Eric Heiden Wins Five Gold Medals
Before Michael Phelps made his run at eight golds in Beijing in 2008, there was speed skater Eric Heiden skating to victory five times during the 1980 Lake Placid Games – setting an individual record for gold medals in a single Olympics at the time. In the year that saw the Miracle on Ice, Heiden became nicknamed the Man of Gold, winning the 500 meter, 1000 m, 1500 m, 5000 m and at last, the 10000 m, in which he set a world record time by a whopping 6.2 seconds. Interestingly, Heiden shied away from the limelight in the wake of his success, opting to leave speed skating on top to take up professional cycling before he eventually moved forward in his medical studies – he worked as the team physician for the US Speed Skating team in the past three Olympics, among other professional endeavors.
3. 1980, US Men's Olympic Hockey "Miracle on Ice"
The Miracle on Ice remains the benchmark for legendary Olympic competition. In a time when only amateur athletes were allowed to participate for the US, the Soviets made it their mission as a country to produce the world’s best hockey team, giving the Americans a slim chance at even competing. With the political tension of the Cold War punching up the rivalry of the game, the US managed to stay within striking distance through the first two periods, trailing 3-2 thanks to some great goaltending from Jim Craig (the Soviets outshot the US 12-2 in the second period). Of course, that set the stage for the tying and winning goals in the third, with the game culminating with the classic “Do you believe in miracles?!” call by sportscaster Al Michaels. The Americans won their last game of the tournament against Finland two days later, securing the gold medal.
4. 1988, Jamaican Bobsled Team Debut
The most common criticism of the Winter Olympics is that it’s a competition amongst cold-weather countries (not to mention how expensive a lot of the events are to participate in). However, in 1988, the Jamaican bobsled team served as a welcome, tropical addition to the spirit of the Games. Some of the details in the widely known film Cool Runnings, which was based off the establishment of the team, is a bit inaccurate – the four-man team was made up of Jamaican military men, not track runners, and the real team had a bit more bobsled competition experience than in the movie version. Regardless, the Jamaicans were fan favorites in 1988 and in subsequent years, when they would return and break into the middle of the pack.
5. 1988, Eddie the Eagle Flies
In the mid-1980s, Eddie “the Eagle” Edwards decided to shift away from downhill skiing (he narrowly missed a spot on the British ski team for the ’84 Games) and over to ski jumping, due to lack of competition from his countrymen in the event. Despite a lack of success, to say the least, Edwards was invited to compete in the 1988 Games due to his being the only Brit who had competed in ski jumping events. Eddie the Eagle was a heroic failure at the Games, finishing dead last in both of his events, garnering sarcastic cheers and endearment from English and American viewers. Edwards, in a way, has never stopped cashing in on his bizarre celebrity status in the UK, having been featured in various ads and programs ever since. As for the sport of ski jumping, rules were tightened up to prevent competitors like Eddie the Eagle from qualifying for future Olympics.
6. 1994, Dan Jansen Finally Takes the Gold
Every athlete goes through a number of trials and tribulations before eventual success, but few have needed as much determination and resilience as Dan Jansen did to earn his gold medal in the 1000 meter race in ’94. Six years earlier, Jansen had raced in his first Olympics just hours after hearing about his sister’s passing from leukemia. While racing with a heavy heart, Jansen fell during both races he competed in that year. He also failed to medal in the 1992 Olympics, but at age 28, during his last shot at Olympic glory, he pulled through for the win, setting a world record time in the process.
7. 1998, Hermann Maier Takes Two Gold Medals After Seemingly Catastrophic Crash
In the Nagano Olympics, Austrian downhill skier Hermann Maier proved to be the real-life version of Bruce Willis from Unbreakable, surviving a truly epic crash during an early-Olympic run, in which he lost control, went flying for several seconds, landed on his head and careened through two makeshift fences before coming to a stop. So, not only did he come away from that unscathed, he got back on the lift and won gold medals in the Super G and Giant Slalom events – a crazily successful result considering how badly things could have ended.
8. 2002, Apolo Anton Ohno Takes His First Gold
Apolo Anton Ohno won his first of two Olympic gold medals in short track speed skating in the 1500 meter event in 2002. Despite winning on a disqualification, it was the start of something special for Ohno, who had just become the face of US speed skating for the next two Olympics. Ohno amassed a short track record eight medals over three Olympics, finishing up with a gold and a silver in ’02, a gold and two bronze in ’06, and a silver and two bronze in Vancouver in 2010. Ohno is expected to continue to be a big promotional part of the sport as a commentator for these Olympics.
9. 2010, Shaun White’s Glorious Half-Pipe Run
After taking gold in Torino in 2006 at just 19 years old, Shaun White defended the title in brilliant fashion at the Vancouver 2010 Games. As spectacular as his competitors were, no one was able to come close to White’s effortless ability to soar high above the pipe while pulling off combinations of spins, flips and grabs never seen before. White’s gold medal run was practically flawless, and makes you wonder how much further the sport can be taken. If there’s anyone who can answer that, it’s Shaun White himself, at these upcoming Olympics.
10. 2010, Canadians Defend Their Home Ice Against the US
If there’s one thing Canadians can always boast about over Americans, it’s having a better ice hockey talent pool. It’s the national pastime of an often frozen, vast country, so naturally they’d at least have that to fall back on. So, in 2010, that assumption of Canadian superiority was put to the test when the US ended up facing Canada in both the men’s and women’s hockey gold medal games. On the women’s side, both countries had blown away every opponent to reach the final, but the Americans finally met their match, losing 2-0 (the US had won the past two golds in women’s ice hockey). As for the men’s pool, the gold medal game was teeming with top NHL talent, which led to a brilliant final in which the US’s Zach Parise forced overtime by tying the game at 2 with just 25 seconds left. But eventually, it was Sidney Crosby finishing the game for Team Canada just under eight minutes into OT. Vancouver, of course, took a collective sigh of relief and rejoiced after their hockey teams defended their turf.