We use cookies to give you the best possible experience of our website. If you continue, we'll assume you're happy for your web browser to receive all cookies from our website. See our cookie policy for more information on cookies and how to manage them.


8 of the most memorable moments in Olympic history

With the Olympics being the scene for ground breaking, inspirational, and often controversial, moments in history, it seems that there are a few momentous instants that stand out. Muhammad Ali argued that ‘he who is not courageous enough to take risks will accomplish nothing in life’, and it certainly seems that these accomplished athletes owe some of their success to their courage.

Lawrence Lemieux (1988 Olympics)

Canadian sailor Lawrence Lemieux threw away his chance at victory, after abandoning the race to help save two other competing sailors who had come into trouble in treacherous winds. After ensuring the stranded two were in the safe hands of a rescue crew, Lemieux resumed the race, managing to still place 21st out of 32 competitors. Although on track to place in second, had he not assisted the two. Lemieux received an honorary medal for his selfless act. 

John Carlos and Tommie Smith’s Black Power Salute

Despite encouragement from civil rights campaigners to boycott the Olympics, African-American’s Carlos and Smith instead held their own form of non-violent protest at the games. They each raised their fists in a symbolic Black Power Salute during the 200 meter medal ceremony, and accepted their medals shoeless in support for the impoverished African-Americans. This action subsequently caused their suspension from the Olympic Village, but also gained their movement a great amount of coverage and respect. Alongside them, Australian sprinter and silver medallist Peter Norman wore an Olympic Project for Human Rights badge to show his support for the cause. 

Jamaican Bobsled team (1988 Olympics)

Momentous not only for it being the country’s first appearance at the winter Olympics, but also for the support the Jamaican Bobsled Team received from the public and media alike – despite coming away from the games with no medals. The team created such an impact that Disney even created a movie based on their endeavours. 

Derek Redmond (1992)

Perhaps one of the most humane acts televised in the Olympics, Derek Redmond’s 400 meter race showed a significantly valiant performance from the athlete. After tearing his hamstring midway through his semi-final race, Redmond continued to finish the race, regardless of the immense pain he suffered. Showing momentous compassion, the runner’s father jumped to help his son complete the race, and selflessly, with only steps before the finish line, he allowed Derek to cross it alone.

Jesse Owens (1936)

Racing in Hitler’s Germany, Owens was not expected to win, and was at a significant disadvantage due to the racist attitudes surfacing at this time. Yet, he secured himself four gold medals. Another breakthrough came as he befriended German competitor, Luz Long, and the pair did a lap of honour to show the unity sport can bring, regardless of society’s philosophy. They remained friends up until Long’s death in World War II, with their children and grandchildren even presenting the long jump medals at the 2009 IAAF World Championships in Berlin. 

The ‘Dream Team’ Basketball team (1992)

This team is historic for recruiting active NBA basketball players for the first time in the Olympic team – with Michael Jordan and Charles Barkley among those involved. The team won all eight games they played, and ultimately brought home the gold medal. The team is still hailed as one of the ultimate teams in sport. 

The Magnificent 7 (1996)

The US women’s gymnastics team won the gold medal in their Team Competition, beating former winner, the Soviet Union, who had won the event in every Olympics they had entered since the 1950s. Contributing to the victory took the courageous effort of Kerri Strug, who fell and injured her ankle during her first vault attempt. Knowing her removal could cost the team their win, Strug vaulted again, and this time stuck her landing on one leg – before collapsing in pain. 

The Medal of Eternal Friendship (1936)

Despite Sueo Oe and Shuhei Nishida (both representatives of Japan) succeeding in their pole vault attempts, and being tied in the competition, Nishida was awarded the silver medal and Oe the bronze – with no deciding reasons disclosed. Once back in Japan, both had their medals cut in half, and soldered together to form two mixed medals, to give them both an award in silver and bronze – now known as the Medals of Eternal Friendship. 


Any views or opinions expressed in this briefing are for guidance only and are not intended as a substitute for appropriate professional guidance. We have taken all reasonable steps to ensure the information contained herein is accurate at the time of writing but it should not be regarded as a complete or authoritative statement of law.