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These Are The Top 10 Biggest Underdog Stories And Upsets From The Winter Olympics

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These Are The Top 10 Biggest Underdog Stories And Upsets From The Winter Olympics

By Ryan Rosendale

Ask any real sports fan if they love an upset or underdog story and there's a decent chance, they'll tell you they do.

In the long and rich history of the Winter Olympics, there has been many moments of an underdog rising up to upset race and competition favourites and create a moment long remembered by fans across the globe.

Here, we count down the ten best!

10. Great Britain breaks Canada's gold medal hold - 1936 Garmisch-Partenkirchen Games

In every Winter Games until 1936, Canada had won ice hockey gold, going three for three in 1924, 1928 and 1932. It wasn't until the 1936 Garmisch-Partenkirchen Games that the streak would come to an end at the hands of Great Britain. Both teams would finish the group stage undefeated before the Brits defeated the reigning champions in the semi-finals meaning they would finish first on the medal round table to take the gold while the Canadians would take the silver.

09. Ester Ledecka's 0.01 second gold - 2018 PyeongChang Games

Heading into the Women's super-G alpine skiing event at the 2018 PyeongChang Games, defending champion Anna Veith was expected to claim gold again despite strong competition from American Lindsey Vonn and eventual bronze medallist Tina Weirather from Liechtenstein. However, it was Ester Ledecka, known predominantly for snowboarding, that would shock her competition and take home the gold. The 22-year-old from the Czech Republic had only skied in a total of 19 world cup races in her career and her win was even more extraordinary given only 0.01 seconds separated her and Veith from the gold medal.

Ester Ledecka. Credit: Alamy
Ester Ledecka. Credit: Alamy

08. A 46-year American drought is ended - 2002 Salt Lake City Games

Given the Americans hadn't medalled in bobsled since the U.S. men won the four-man bronze in 1956, nobody believed the duo of Jill Bakken and Vonetta Flowers could change that heading into the 2002 Salt Lake City Games. The duo wasn't even considered the best from their country but somehow, they managed to defeat the favoured Germans and their fellow countrywomen to take home the gold. The victory was even more important given it meant Flowers became the first African American in history to win gold at the Winter Games.

07. Oksana Baiul's victory - 1994 Lillehammer Games

While the Tonya Harding-Nancy Kerrigan incident stole the headlines of the skating event at the 1994 Lillehammer Games, it's often forgotten who walked away with the gold from said event. That was sixteen-year-old Ukrainian Oksana Baiul. Baiul would be injured the day before the long program and given Kerrigan was also injured due to the attack orchestrated by Harding, it wasn't clear if either competitor could compete. But both ended up being able with Baiul beating Kerrigan by the narrowest of margins: Five of the nine judges gave first-place scores to Baiul and four to Kerrigan after the four-minute freestyle programs. Those scores, which accounted for two-thirds of the final score, led to a controversial gold for Baiul and a silver for Kerrigan. It made Baiul the youngest women's gold medallist since Sonja Henie of Norway in 1928.

Jill Bakken and Vonetta Flowers. Credit: Alamy
Jill Bakken and Vonetta Flowers. Credit: Alamy

06. Tara Lipinski creates Winter Olympics history - 1998 Nagano Games

In 1998, there were two U.S. figure skating darlings: 17-year-old Michelle Kwan and 15-year-old Tara Lipinski. Lipinski was the reigning world champion heading into the 1998 Nagano Games, but Kwan was still favoured to win the gold medal against her younger opponent. In the short program, Lipinski created a near-perfect program, but Kwan still won the day. The long program however belonged to Lipinski with the younger of the two's more technical program and her famous triple loop-triple loop combination leading her to the gold and becoming the youngest individual gold medallist in Olympics history while Kwan would take home silver.

05. Sarah Hughes stuns to win gold - 2002 Salt Lake City Games

American Sarah Hughes would have been lucky to claim the bronze following a fourth placed finish in the short skating program at the 2002 Salt Lake City Games. During her long program, though, she wowed the judges by landing an astonishing seven triple jumps as the three skaters ahead of her in the standings were all penalized for mistakes. However, at the time, the fourth-place finisher in the short program couldn't automatically win the event if the skater won the free skate, so Hughes had to win the free skate and rely on first-place Michelle Kwan to lose to both Hughes and another competitor. That's exactly what happened, and Hughes became the first skater in Olympic history to come back from fourth place to take the gold.

Sarah Hughes. Credit: Alamy
Sarah Hughes. Credit: Alamy

04. The Forgotten "Miracle on Ice" - 1960 Squaw Valley Games

One of the very first Winter Games upsets is also one of the most forgotten. The 1960 Squaw Valley Games saw the American ice hockey team come out of nowhere to win gold. They went through the round robin medal stage undefeated and defied all the odds by beating hockey titans Canada and the Soviet Union in consecutive games, 2-1 and 3-2, respectively. They then followed this up with a come-from-behind 9-4 victory over Czechoslovakia to clinch the gold. While it's the 1980 American team that often gets talked about, it was their fellow countrymen 20 years earlier that created just as big as an upset on the ice.

03. Eddie Edwards becomes a national hero - 1988 Calgary Games

Quite possibly one of the most recognisable Winter Games underdogs is Eddie "the Eagle" Edwards. The once downhill skier turned ski jumper became a household name during the 1988 Calgary Games. While the relatively inexperienced ski jumper was a heroic failure and finished dead last in both events, his willingness and determination to compete would make him a national hero and earn admiration worldwide. While he never competed at a Winter Games again, his story was so inspirational that it would be retold in the 2016 film Eddie the Eagle starring Taron Edgerton and Hugh Jackman.

02. The 'Miracle on Ice' - 1980 Lake Placid Games

Included at number two on both our Most Shocking and Best Moments lists, there's absolutely no doubt this deserves a place in here too but while it may not be the best or most shocking Winter Games moment, it stands as the biggest upset the Games has ever seen. The 'Miracle on Ice' is without a doubt the most memorable upset in Winter Games history and despite the American ice hockey side, made of mostly amateur players, remaining undefeated until meeting the all-powerful Soviet Union, nobody really believed they would be a much for the defending gold medal champions. But under the tutelage of coach Herb Brooks, the Americans pulled off the greatest upset in Winter Games history and would defeat the Soviets 4-3 in their first-round medal game and would carry that momentum into their gold medal winning game against Finland while the Soviet Union would claim silver against Sweden.

01. Steve Bradbury speeds into Australian sporting history - 2002 Salt Lake City Games

A moment that featured on both our Most Shocking and Best Moments list is easily also one of the biggest upsets the Winter Games has ever seen. Despite being a part of the short track relay team that won Australia's first Winter Olympic medal, a bronze in 1994, Steve Bradbury was still a relatively unknown name heading into the 2002 Salt Lake City Games. After winning through to the 1000 Meter Short Track Speed Skating final, many still didn't believe Bradbury could match it with the competition. But when race favourite Apollo Anton Ohno and the three other finalists collided in an epic crash; the trailing Bradbury was close enough to the pack to cross the finish line before any of the fallen skaters, becoming Australia's first gold medallist in the Winter Olympics history and creating an underdog moment for the ages.

Featured Image Credit: Olympics/Alamy

Topics: Australia, Winter Olympics

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