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Manliest Moments In Olympics History

31 July 2008 10 Comments

We are just a mere week away from the start of the 2008 Summer Olympics and I thought it important to highlight some incredible historical moments. This is a list of “manliest” moments in Olympic history. Many times, they are not the most heroic or most successful – just ones that make us all stop and think what we are capable of as human beings.

When considering manliness, we often think of facing our shortcomings and our greatest fears. We want to win, but also know that it is not always possible. In the absence of victory, great men and women show unbelievable courage and strength to endure. Oftentimes, at a great sacrifice personally. Now that fits into our manliness definition.

In the presence of victory, it is those who should not be there or got there under incredible circumstances that stand out the most. These folks deserve our admiration as champions and as human beings.

Some on this list are well known and others are forgotten for people in my generation. I have to admit, in doing the research for this article, I uncovered some amazing stories.

My list of manliest moments

1980 US Hockey Team (1980 – Lake Placid, NY)
We all know the story. The US team is a HUGE underdog against the Goliath Soviet Union in their national sport, Hockey. It is the semifinals, and the odds are overwhelming. The US beats the Soviets and goes on to win gold against Finland 4-2 (another Goliath in the game at the time).

Remember, these were all kids in their early 20’s that played part time. The Soviets were all full time professionals; had all the experience; and dominate the sport. Many believed they were not the best team in the Olympics – many believed they were the best team of ever! They went 5-3-1 against NHL Teams the year prior.

Time and again, we witness miracles that defy all logic. We sit in amazement at what some people can accomplish. When somebody decides there is no way they will lose, something special happens. Is there a better example of manning up in the face of sure defeat than that of the young hockey punks in 1980 staring down the Red Curtain – at the height of the Cold War nonetheless? Not in my book.

A couple of really cool video’s documenting the story.   Video 1 and Video 2

Derek Redmond (1992 – Barcelona, Spain)
Britain’s Derek Redmond was a champion sprinter for years. His career was peppered with injuries. By 1992, he had undergone eight operations, including one on his Achilles tendon – just a mere four months prior to this fateful day.

In the 400m semi-final, Redmond tore his right hamstring and fell to the ground in massive pain. When he saw the stretcher-bearers running towards him he began to hobble down his lane on one good leg. The race had already ended, but Redmond was going to finish that final race if it had to kill him.

His father, standing on the sidelines watching this unfold, elbowed past officials and raced over to his son. Putting his arms around him, his father helped his son to the finishing line. I am tearing up just writing this. Watch the video and feel what happened.

The spectacle caused an unbelievable ovation from the 65,000 people in attendance. To this day, this one single act of shear manliness sends shivers up my spine. Redmond’s dad, in my opinion, epitomizes what being a father is all about. He would have done ANYTHING to help his son that day and it would have taken an army to keep him off the track.

Tommie Smith and John Carlos (1968 – Mexico City)
Doesn’t matter if you believe what they did was right or not. These two men put their lives in great danger for something they believed in so deeply that it has to be included in this list.

Protests in the Olympics have been around since Ralph Rose, the US flag bearer, refused to lower the flag in the 1908 Games held in London due to English occupation of Ireland. When these two men raised their gloved fists and bowed their heads during the medal ceremony in protest against racism in US, they did so at great personal expense.

The protest met with outrage and both men were suspended from the national team and banned from the Olympic village. It had a huge impact on the massive Civil Rights movement of the time. Death threats came to them very quickly (which shows they were actually right in what they did) and they both admitted afterwards that they thought for certain they were going to be shot on the podium.

Mark Spitz (1972 – Munich)
These games were remembered most for the atrocity of the Palestinian terrorists that wasted the Israeli Olympic team. The men who died were the manliest of men and bravest of the brave. The cowards that killed them were some of the biggest douchebags in history (not the biggest, however, see below.)

Mark Spitz during the Games won an unmatched, seven gold medals. He won the gold in every individual event he entered – nobody has ever done this and probably never will.

What was really amazing is, prior to the Olympics, he promised he would win the 7 gold medals. He not only delivered on that promise, but also broke 7 world records! Are you kidding me?

He also gets the manliness nod for shattering records and re-writing history – all with a classic mustache. If he were in Track and Field, not a big deal. He was a swimmer and everyone knows that those fella’s shave every square inch of their bodies to reduce the drag. He had a freaking stache and he still broke records! Classic…

Jesse Owens (1936 – Berlin)
Hitler, the biggest douchebag in history, was using these Games as his personal propaganda whore for his Aryan supremacy campaign. The world was watching as Hitler promised his genetic freaks would win just about every event.

What did Jesse do? He opened up a huge can of you know what and won 4 gold medals in Track and Field. He single handedly denied Hitler his crowning moment of glory and showed the world what Americans were capable.

Legend has it that Hitler would not shake Jesse Owens’ hand. This is not true as it was never in the cards to begin with, but I suspect he wouldn’t have done it if it were. Jesse’s 4 gold medals end up in the list for his incredible global manliness. Talk about the fear of getting shot. Jesse was probably in several cross hairs over his history setting achievements which occurred in the devil’s backyard.

Paavo Nurmi (1924 – Paris)
In one of the most remarkable displays of manning up, Paavo Nurmi from Finland not only won gold in the 1,500m but went on to triumph in the 5,000m – with less than 90 minutes between events! Anyone who races competitively will tell you running races that close together is VERY difficult.

If you still are not sure this qualifies, consider the fact he also set new world records in both races.

Wilma Rudolph (1960 – Rome)
Won three gold medals in the 100m, 200m and relay, Rudolph was nicknamed “The Tenessee Tornado” for her amazing speed and agility.  What puts her moment in 1960 on this list?  She had polio as a child!  She only had learned to walk when she was 7.   Talk about overcoming unbelievable odds.

Honorable Mention

Kerri Strug (1996 – Atlanta) – Landing on one foot in the vault that sealed the women’s gold medal. As huge underdogs, she completely delivered. She was later diagnosed severe laterial sprain and tendon damage.

Michael Phelps (2004 – Athens) – Total domination in the pool. Made a run at Spitz 7 gold medals but fell short. Holds several world records so deserves a nod, but he didn’t do it with a mustache, so not as impressive.

Nadia Comeneci (1976 – Montreal) – Gymnast that rewrote the record books. She scored 7 perfect 10’s when everyone thought a perfect 10 was not possible. Yes, judging is subjective, but when all agree it was perfect, you end up with perfection – no questions asked. She did it 7 freaking times. The scoreboards were not equipped to show a perfect 10 since it had never been done before – so it showed up as 1.00.  Did I mention she was 14 years old???

Rulon Gardner (2000 – Sydney) – HUGE underdog against Alexander Karelin, but still beat him to win the gold medal. What made this so great? Karelin had not given up a point (forget about losing a match – he had not given up a point!) in over 6 years!

Eric Moussambani (2000 – Sydney) – From Equatorial Guinea, he set a record for the SLOWEST time in the 100m freestyle. He learned to swim only 8 months before the Olympics and before arriving had never even seen a 50m pool. He knew he had no shot, but still showed up. The crowd cheered his remarkable achievement of just finishing.

George Eyser (1904 – St. Louis) – US Gymnast who won two gold medals, a silver and a bronze – with one wooden leg!!!

What are the manliest moments in Olympic history? I know I missed some amazing ones, so please let me know!


  • Hayden Tompkins said:

    Those are all incredible stories. You actually make me want to see the olympics.

    Hayden Tompkinss last blog post..More Fun Than A Bucket List

  • Rasheed said:

    The patriotic Canadian in me has to point out the performance by Donovan Bailey in the ’96 Summer Games in Atlanta. Donovan won gold in the 100m, setting a world record in the process, and then followed that up by anchoring the Canadian 4 x 100m relay team in their gold medal-winning performance. Fuckin’ right, eh?

    Rasheeds last blog post..Charmin Won’t Get Stuck on Your Ass

  • Style Habits said:

    You’re right about the myth that Hitler refused to shake Jesse Owens, what’s not widely reported/known is that Franklin D. Roosevelt never shook his hand.

    “Hitler didn’t snub me—it was [FDR] who snubbed me. The president didn’t even send me a telegram.” – Jesse Owens

    Style Habitss last blog post..What Every Man Ought to Know About Layering Clothes

  • Kevin (author) said:

    That is incredibly interesting. I never knew that, but it would not surprise me. The times were very different and the prejudices so deep. That’s why I say you can’t knock what Tommie Smith and John Carlos did.

    Muhammad Ali threw his gold medals into a River after not being served in a restaurant upon returning from the Olympics because of his color.

  • rummuser said:

    I somehow never did get too involved in the Olympic movement Never did follow. This post makes me regret it. Thank you for creating another interest for me.

    rummusers last blog post..People of the Services. What service do they render?

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    Good article. I used to spend alot of my time boating and watching games. It was probably the most memorable sequence of my childhood and your article somehow brought back me of that period of my life. Thank You

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