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12 inspirational moments from the Olympics

These Olympians’ remarkable feats continue to inspire even years after their triumphs
By Grace Reader |

Days since the opening of the 2016 Summer Olympics, the Olympic spirit has spread around the globe, enveloping nations in full cheer.


For the Philippines, Hidylin Diaz made history after bagging the country’s first Olympic medal in 20 years, scoring a Silver medal in the early hours of August 8, Monday in the weightlifting competitions.


As people get into the sporting spirit, Entrepreneur US recognized Olympic athletes that have shaped and inspired the world we live in today. Running and winning a marathon barefoot, hobbling to the finish line with your father, saving the lives of your competitors—these are only a number of the incredible moments that we have witnessed in the Olympics throughout history.


So as excitement across the globe builds, take a look at past Olympic moments that have sparked inspiration, motivation and even made us shed some tears.


Related: 6 companies backing Rio Olympic athletes




Abebe Bikila

Back at the 1960 games in Rome, then 28-year-old Ethiopian runner Abebe Bikila did the impossible.


After Adidas—the Olympic sponsor of the 1960 Games—had few suitable pairs for the marathon runner to race in, Bikila decided to run barefoot. The athlete not only ran the 1960 Summer Olympic marathon barefoot, he won.


On top of his shoeless win, the barefoot runner was also the first East African athlete to win a medal.



 Derek Redmond

After pulling out of the 1988 games in Seoul for an achilles tendon injury, four years and five surgeries later Derek Redmond arrived at the 1992 Barcelona Summer Olympics determined to win.


Devastatingly, the British runner who specialized in the 400-meter race tore his hamstring halfway through the semifinals. Collapsing from pain, Redmond got up and began to hobble to the finish line. His father, Jim Redmond, soon appeared by his side and together they made their way to the finish line. Steps from the end, Jim released his son and the athlete finished the race.



“I wasn't doing it for the crowd. ... I was doing it for me. Whether people thought I was an idiot or a hero, I wanted to finish the race,” Redmond said.




Lawrence Lemieux

Canadian sailor Lawrence Lemieux sacrificed his chance at gold to save the lives of two fellow competitors at the 1988 Seoul Summer Olympics. Sitting in second place during the fifth of his seven races, Lemieux rowed off course to rescue Singaporean sailors who had capsized in the dangerous and choppy waters. Lemieux hauled the men onto his sailboat until the rescue team came to retrieve them, and the Canadian waterman made his way back into the race.



Despite coming in 11th place after the incident, Lemieux was awarded an honorary second-place finish and a Pierre de Coubertin medal for his “sportsmanship, self-sacrifice and courage,” the former International Olympic Committee president Juan Antonio Samaranch said.



Matthias Steiner

At her bedside in the hospital, German weightlifter Matthias Steiner promised his wife that he would win an Olympic gold medal one day. A year after his wife tragically died in a car accident, Steiner was determined to get her a gold at the 2008 Beijing Summer Olympics.


He did. Claiming the "strongest man in the world" title, Steiner lifted a total of 461 kilograms (about 1,016 pounds) and won the superheavyweight category. Standing on the podium receiving his gold medal, Steiner kissed a picture of his late wife Susann.


"I managed to lift it because I had this strong, innermost urge," Steiner said.



Greg Louganis

Leading the 11-dive preliminary springboard event, American diver Greg Louganis cut it just too close during his ninth dive at the 1988 Seoul Summer Olympics. Without enough distance from the board, Louganis hit his head going 65 to 70 mph on his way down into the water. Landing awkwardly and with a serious concussion, the athlete told the doctor: “Stitch it up. … I’ve got two more dives.” 



Successfully completing his last two dives, Louganis got stitched up at the hospital and returned the following day even more determined to win the gold. Eleven dives later, Louganis stood on the podium, gold medal in hand.



Kerri Strug

After tearing two ligaments in her ankle on her first vault jump, Arizona-born gymnast Kerri Strug fought off the pain as she prepared for her second and final vault at the Atlanta Olympics in 1996.


“This is the Olympics. ... This is what you dream about from when you’re five years old. I’m not going to stop,” she later told the media.


Perfectly landing the second jump, Strug further damaged her ankle. Picking it up and folding it behind her to keep her balance, she finished with her post-performance pose, hopping on one foot to face the crowds and forcing a grin to face the judges.


Collapsing to the floor in pain and rushed off in a stretcher, Strug scored a 9.712 score, and the U.S. gymnastics team won the gold medal for the first time in history—beating Russia and Romania. At the medal ceremony, her coach Bela Karolyi carried her up to the podium to be with her teammates.




Dan Jansen

After receiving news that his sister Jane Beres had died from Leukemia, American speed skater Dan Jansen fumbled during the 500- and 1000-meter events at the 1988 Games in Calgary. Seeking redemption at the 1992 Games in Albertville, again Jansen stumbled.


His last chance at a medal came in 1996 at the Olympic Games in Norway. Again, halfway through the 500-meter race, Jansen lost his balance. As it all came down to the 1,000-meter, Jansen sped to victory.


Not only did he win his first gold medal, Jansen set an unexpected world record. In a victory lap around the rink, the gold medalist carried a baby girl -- whom he named after his sister Jane.



Wilma Rudolph

“Don’t blink your eyes, you might miss her!” fans would say about American runner Wilma Rudolph, whose nickname was the "Tennessee Tornado."


Rudolph never thought she would be an Olympic gold medalist and the "fastest woman in the world." Born premature and stricken with polio as a child, it would have been a miracle for Rudolph to walk. If that wasn’t hard enough, Rudolph grew up poor in the repressive 1950s south.



That didn’t stop her though. Overcoming the crippling disease and shedding a leg brace at 12 years old, Rudolph took up basketball but ultimately ran track and field in college. Qualifying for the 1960 games in Rome, she became the first American woman to win three gold medals.



Joannie Rochette

Days after losing her mother to a sudden heart attack, Canadian figure skater Joannie Rochette took to the ice with a flawless performance at the 2010 winter games in Vancouver. Rochette’s impeccable and emotional performance landed her in third place.


As the event ended in tears from both the skater and members of the audience, Rochette dedicated her bronze medal to her mother.




Nadia Comaneci

The 1976 Summer Olympics in Montreal marked a big moment for female gymnasts. At 14 years old, Romanian Nadia Comaneci became the first gymnast -- male or female -- to ever be awarded a perfect 10.0 score for her performance on the uneven bars.


It didn’t stop there. Comaneci went on to score six more 10.0 scores, becoming the youngest all-around Olympic gold medalist ever.



Jesse Owens

African American track and field runner Jesse Owens was the star of the Berlin Olympics in 1936. While under the rule of Nazi leader Adolf Hitler, Germany was an unwelcoming place to anyone who wasn’t of the Aryan race.


Despite discrimination from the country’s political powers, Owens went on to win four gold medals in the 100 meter, 200 meter, long jump and 4x100-meter relay.




The Jamaican Bobsled Team

Although they may have come out medal-less, the Jamaican bobsled team marked a moment in history for the country as its first ever appearance at the winter Olympics.


At the 1988 Games in Calgary, the Caribbean country came in last place but received enormous media coverage and support from fans worldwide. Recognized for their hard work, motivation and teamwork, the underdogs returned to the winter Games in 1992.


Their efforts inspired the 1993 film, Cool Runnings.




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