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Team USA's Infamous Bronze Medal In Athens Is Easily The Biggest Olympic Upset In History

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Team USA's Infamous Bronze Medal In Athens Is Easily The Biggest Olympic Upset In History

By Ryan Rosendale

With each Olympic Games comes the chance for star athletes to further enhance their standing within their chosen sport.

But it also gives up and comers or underdogs the chance to prove themselves against the world's best.

The Olympics has been filled with plenty of upsets and underdogs across the years, so we've decided to name and rank 10 of the very best.

Just a heads up, we've had to include two upsets from the Winter Olympics given just how great they were!

10. Misty Hyman upsets Susie O'Neill - 2000 Sydney Olympic Games

Heading into her home Olympics, Australian Susie O'Neill was the favourite to take out the 200m butterfly in the pool. Not only was O'Neill the defending gold medallist and undefeated in the race for six years, but she was also the world recorder holder. Enter American Misty Hyman. The 21-year-old shocked the world when she beat O'Neill to win gold and go down in history as one of the sport's biggest upsets with her use of fish kick largely credited to her victory.

Misty Hyman. Credit: PA
Misty Hyman. Credit: PA

09. Jamacia's bobsled debut - 1988 Calgary Winter Olympic Games

While we can't regard this as an upset, this is a story of the underdog. The 1988 Calgary Winter Olympic Games saw the debut of a Jamaican bobsled team. It was a historic moment given the country known for its relatively hot climate was taking their chance in a winter sport but when sprinter Derice Bannock failed to qualify for the 1988 Summer Olympics, he looked elsewhere. Led by disgraced former American bobsledder Irving Blitzer, the team shocked the world and qualified for the finals and while they never officially finished their final race due to a crash, their determination to carry their bobsled across the finish line proved that not all great underdog stories need to result in a gold medal. Their heroics were told in the 1993 Disney film Cool Runnings.

08. Japan ends America's softball dominance - 2008 Beijing Olympic Games

Since its introduction to the Olympics in 1996, America had dominated softball and won gold every time. So, the world was shocked when Japan claimed victory over the dominate powerhouse in Beijing. The underdogs would claim victory 3-1 with the 2020 Tokyo Games seeing the re-introduction softball for the first time since Beijing after the IOC discontinued the sport three years before Japan's win, with many believing they made the premature call due to America's 12-year dominance.

07. Rulon Gardner wrestles away gold from Aleksander Karelin - 2000 Sydney Olympic Games

Russian wrestler Aleksander Karelin was the sports dominate force throughout the late 80's and the 90's. He'd won gold at the Games in 1988, 1992 and 1996 while also winning the prior eleven world championships heading into the 2000 Sydney Olympics. He was without a doubt the clear favourite throughout the Games but was upset in the final by American Rulon Gardner with the Wyoming native handing Karelin his first defeat in 13 years on his way to the gold medal.

06. Great Britain's 4x100m relay victory over America - 2004 Athens Olympic Games

We touched on what a moment this was in our Top 10 Olympic Moments, so we won't carry on for too long here. While also standing the test of time as a great Olympic moment, this was also one of the biggest upsets the games had ever seen, especially considering three of the four members of the American relay team had finished first, third and fourth in the 100m final. They went in as undeniable favourites but a botched baton hand-off on the second leg would ultimately cost the Americans and hand Great Britain one of its most famous Olympic victories.

05. Emil Zatopek's marathon gold - 1952 Helsinki Olympic Games

Back in 1952, Olympic rules were not as tight as they are today. This gave Czechoslovakia's Emil Zatopek the chance to create history. After winning both the 5,000 and 10,000 metre races, Zatopek decided to enter the Olympic marathon race - and was allowed to. The decision resulted in one of the Games most famous upsets when Zatopek won gold ahead of favourite Jim Peters with his victory even more impressive given he won by a full two-and-a-half-minutes and it was his first ever marathon.

04. "Miracle on Ice" - 1980 Lake Placid Winter Olympic Games

The second of our two Winter Olympics entries takes place in the sport of ice hockey and involves a team of professionals in the Soviet Union and a team of mostly amateurs in America led by coach Herb Brooks. Having won gold in five of the six previous Winter Olympics, the Soviet Union were the clear favourites heading into the 1980 Games. After going through the group stage undefeated, the Soviets faced off against the also undefeated Americans in the first game of the medal round yet were still undeniable favourites. In what was later dubbed as the "Miracle on Ice", America would go onto upset the reigning champions 4-3 and carry that momentum into their gold medal winning game against Finland while the Soviet Union would claim silver against Sweden. The heroics of the Americans would later go onto be portrayed in the 2004 Disney film Miracle starring Kurt Russell.

03. Soviet Union win gold amongst a sea of controversy - 1972 Munich Olympic Games

The gold medal basketball match of the 1972 Munich Games was marred by controversy that is still talked about today. With America winning gold in every Games since 1936 and dominating their opponents throughout the group stage of the 1972 Games, it looked like their dominance was set to continue. And while their opponents in the final, the Soviet Union, had also dominated their opponents in the group stage, many still believed the Americans would win the final comfortably. After a close opening three quarters, the final minutes were marred by controversial officiating. After twice restarting the clock in the final three seconds, the Soviets scored on their third attempt to claim a one-point victory with the Americans then refusing to take the podium to receive their silver medals due to the controversial officiating in the game's dying stages. It was drama not ever seen before on the Olympic stage.

02. Chad le Clos' upsets "The Baltimore Bullet" - 2012 London Olympic Games

Michael Phelps was a gold medal machine in Beijing with many believing the greatest swimmer on the planet would go onto replicate his 2008 heroics in London. While Phelps would leave London with four gold, he was upset in the 200m butterfly event by South African Chad le Clos. With Phelps on track to win his third consecutive gold in the event, Le Clos caused one of the biggest swimming upsets in history when he came from third at the final turn to edge out Phelps by 0.05 seconds with the swimmer admitting post-race it was "the greatest moment of my life".

There's not too many people who can say they've swam faster than Michael Phelps. Credit: PA
There's not too many people who can say they've swam faster than Michael Phelps. Credit: PA

01. Argentina beats Team USA - 2004 Athens Olympic Games

After winning gold at the last eight Olympic Games, Team USA headed into the 2004 Athens Games as clear favourites to extend their gold streak to nine. With NBA superstars LeBron James, Allen Iverson, Dwyane Wade, Tim Duncan and Carmelo Anthony a part of the line-up, it was a shock when the star-studded squad was defeated by Argentina in the semi-finals by seven-points in what was just their fifth Olympics defeat. Argentina would go onto win gold against Italy in the final, but it was their defeat of the American powerhouse that they are still remembered for today.

Team USA looked buzzing with their bronze medals. Credit: PA
Team USA looked buzzing with their bronze medals. Credit: PA

Featured Image Credit: PA

Topics: Basketball, olympics, olympic games, Tokyo Olympics, Team USA, Australia, top 10

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