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By Ryan Rosendale
Each Olympic Games brings another opportunity for athletes to create history.
Most of the time, it involves the competitors standing atop the podium with a gold medal wrapped round their necks.
Although in other cases, those moments of complete and utter greatness can often arise from somewhere else entirely - not just a historic victory.
Here, we count down 10 of the best Olympic moments of all-time. Enjoy!
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10. Abebe Bikila walks barefoot into the history books - 1960 Rome Olympic Games
Bikila, an Ethiopian runner, competed in one of the Game's most famous marathon events. Competing in his first marathon just four years prior, Bikila's Olympics debut was almost ruined when a new pair of running shoes didn't fit. Bikila would then make the choice to run the complete marathon barefoot. He would be in the leading pack for the majority of the race before breaking away at the last 500m meters to claim victory and the world record in 2:15:16, twenty-five seconds ahead of Morocco's Rhadi Ben Abdesselam.
09. Nadia Comaneci's perfect routine - 1976 Montreal Olympic Games
At just 14 years old, Romania's Nadia Comaneci competed at her first Games in Montreal. It was here where she became the first Olympic gymnast to score a perfect 10 for her routine on the uneven bars. This was just the beginning for Comaneci as she would go on to record six more perfect 10s before finishing the Games with three gold medals. The now American citizen would again compete in 1980 and score two more perfect 10s and go home with two gold medals, making her one of the most successful gymnasts in history.
08. Michael Johnson's double Gold - 1996 Atlanta Olympic Games
After a Barcelona Games in 1992 was marred by a bout of food poisoning, American sprinter Michael Johnson headed into the 1996 Atlanta Games as a clear favourite to become the first male athlete to win both the 200m and 400m events. Johnson would run the 400m first, winning the gold and setting a new Olympic record of 43.49 seconds before doing one better in the 200m. Johnson would run a blistering 200m race to claim his second gold and break his own world record by more than three tenths of a second. It was a record held by Johnson until broken by Usain Bolt at the 2009 World Championships.
07. Great Britain's relay victory - 2004 Athens Olympic Games
In what stands as the closest 4x100m relay race in Games history, the Great Britain quartet of Jason Gardener, Darren Campbell, Mark Lewis-Francis and Marlon Devonish raced their way to one of the biggest upsets the track and field events had ever seen. With the Americans heading into the final favourites, a botched baton handoff on the second leg had them behind the eight ball but the work of Coby Miller to chase down Lewis-Francis on the home straight wasn't enough with the Brits declared winners by just 0.01 seconds despite his lower leg and head crossing the line first (Lewis-Francis's foot was grounded and thus declared winners).
06. Flo-Jo becomes the fastest woman of all time - 1988 Seoul Olympic Games
The Los Angeles born Florence Griffith Joyner ran herself into the history books in Seoul when she won gold in both the 100m and 200m events. After demolishing the world-record at the US Olympic trials, she set an Olympic record of 10.62 seconds at the Games before setting a still-standing world record of 21.34 seconds in the 200m event. She would also add gold and silver in the 4x100 and 4x400 events respectively. Joyner would untimely pass in 1998 at the age of just 38.
05. The 'Dream Team' wins Gold - 1992 Barcelona Olympic Games
Often regarded as the greatest sports team ever assembled, the 1992 Barcelona Olympics saw the first time America had sent a team of active NBA players to compete for Olympic Gold. Headlined by superstar Michael Jordan, the team consisted of big-name players Larry Bird, Scottie Pippen, Karl Malone, Charles Barkley and Magic Johnson, among others. With so many NBA superstars apart of the roster, Team USA went into the Games as undeniable favourites and would go onto win Gold against Croatia with an averaging winning margin of 44-points across eight games.
04. Usain Bolt rises to international fame - 2008 Beijing Olympic Games
The man now widely regarded as the most famous Olympian of all-time, Jamaican athlete Usain Bolt shot to worldwide fame throughout the Beijing Games with a show-stealing performance on the track. Bolt became the first man to hold both the 100m and 200m records (since fully automatic time became mandatory) on his way to claiming gold in both events. It would be the beginning of a gold medal winning feast as he replicated his winning ways in 2012 and 2016, finishing his Olympic career with eight gold medals and becoming the coolest athlete in history.
03. Cathy Freeman proves dreams do come true - 2000 Sydney Olympic Games
After breaking through in the early 1990's, Australia's own Cathy Freeman became the first real challenger to France's Marie-Jose Perec's dominance in the 400m the longer the decade went on. She fell short of the gold against Perec in the 1996 Atlanta Games, winning silver and setting an Australian record of 48.63 seconds. With the rematch set for Sydney and Freeman on home turf, Perec abruptly left the Games due to what she claimed was harassment from strangers. Freeman would go onto win gold in a time of 49.11 seconds in what was regarded as one of the country's greatest Olympic moments with the vision of Freeman's victory lap carrying both the Australian and Aboriginal flags, replayed for years to come.
02. Jesse Owens' rises to fame - 1936 Berlin Olympic Games
The feats of African American Jesse Owens's in Berlin had not seen before in the track and field events at a Games prior. With a politically charged climate causing debate as to if the Games should even go ahead, Owens's performance across the seven days proved that they should have. In what was the only Games Owens's would compete in, he claimed gold in the 100m, 200m, long jump and 4x100m relay. Owens's show-stealing efforts in Berlin would stand the test of time with the USA Track and Field's (USATF) highest yearly-accolade named in his honour.
01. Michael Phelps creates Olympic history - 2008 Beijing Olympic Games
Dubbed "The Baltimore Bullet", American Michael Phelps is without a doubt the greatest Olympic athlete in history with his heroics at the 2008 Beijing Olympics a key factor in earning that title. After winning eight medals (6 gold and 2 bronze) at the 2004 Athens Games, Phelps would go onto win eight gold in Beijing, breaking the 1972 record of fellow American swimmer Mark Spitz's seven gold in Munich. It was the greatest single sporting feat on the Olympic stage and made Phelps a household name. He would go on to win nine gold and two silver across both the London (2012) and Rio (2016) Games to take his career total to 28 Olympic medals with Phelps still sitting comfortably atop the medal leader board today.
Featured Image Credit: Creative Commons / PA
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