Founded by the Greeks in the 8th century BC, the first modern Olympics Games were held in 1896 in its birthplace, Athens. Following the 1,503 year hiatus, the Games have become a symbol of sportsmanship and human peak performance. The Paralympic Games were first held in 1948, but recognition for disabled sports dates back to 1888.
Representing their country, the following athletes are responsible for some of the most inspiring moments in the Games’ history. Let’s take a look at some of the best Olympic moments in modern history.
Derek Redmond Crossing The Finish Line
At the 1992 Barcelona Olympic Games, Derek Redmond stole the heart of the world with his inspiring courage and persistence. Just 250 metres from the finish line, his hamstring tore under the pressure, leaving Derek crying in pain. Rather than give up, he hobbled across the finish line in the arms of his father. Derek proved that even if you finished last, what matters is that you finished at all.
Ellie Simmonds Going For Gold
Though she was the youngest member of the 2008 Great Britain team, aged just 13, Ellie Simmonds won two gold medals for her country. Ellie was born with dwarfism, a rare genetic disorder that affected her physically. However, she didn’t let it slow her down, instead, she broke the 400 metres freestyle swimming world record at the 2012 London Paralympic Games by five whole seconds. An incredible feat for an athlete of any age or ability, let alone a 13-year-old para-athlete.
Torvill & Dean Defying The Judges
When Olympic ice-dancers, Jane Torvill and Christopher Dean, found out that Olympic rules threatened their free dance routine, they found a loophole. Their dance was to Maurice Ravel’s Boléro, and exceeded the time allowance set by the Olympic Committee. To overcome such limitations, the pair choreographed an opening floor segment to comply with the rules and let them keep the routine. The act of defiance went down in history.
Kelly Gallagher Making History On The Slopes
Winner of Great Britain’s first-ever Winter Olympics gold medals, Kelly Gallagher is a pioneer of para-athletics. At the 2014 Sochi Winter Paralympics, she came first in the visually impaired Super-G competition, skiing downhill at break-neck speed. Her guide, Charlotte Evans, helped Kelly to victory, leading her over the icy slopes wearing a bright orange tunic. Kelly and Charlotte are paving the way for British winter athletes.
Jesse Owens Inspiring Change
When faced with adversity, Jesse Owens is responsible for one of the greatest moments in Olympic history. At the 1936 Berlin Olympic Games, he represented the United States, despite the Nazi regime hosting the Games. Jesse broke world records and won gold medals under the scrutiny of Adolf Hitler, taking the glory from Hitler’s “perfect” Aryan Race.
Margaret Maughan Rewriting Stereotypes
At the 1960 Italian Paralympic Games, Margaret Maughan earned the first Paralympic gold medal for Great Britain. As a wheelchair archer, she scored 484 points in the Women’s Columbia round open, finishing ahead of her competitors. Margaret kickstarted Britain’s Paralympic winning streak, an achievement celebrated at the 2012 London Paralympics when she lit the cauldron.
Simone Biles Breaking The Internet
As of 2019, Simone Biles has won a whopping 25 gold medals. However, her achievements extend beyond the physical medals, she is also credited to the recent popularity in Gymnastics. Her floor routines have been watched millions of times online, with audiences enamoured by her slick, smooth style. Called the “greatest gymnast of all time”, Simone continues to define the discipline.
Eddie The Eagle Flying High
Eddie the Eagle is the quintessential British underdog. In 1988, he became the first British competitor since 1928 to compete in the Olympic ski jump. Though he finished last, Eddie’s unwavering self-belief and determination inspired the nation. No one remembers who finished first, but everyone remembers Eddie flying to last place.
Richard Whitehead Racing To First Place
Following his double through-knee congenital amputation, Richard Whitehead turned his hand to athletics. He initially tried to compete as a marathon runner, but was turned away by the IPC as there wasn’t a leg amputee category. Richard competed at the 2012 London Paralympics instead, winning a gold medal in the 200m T42 Athletics event. When faced with disappointment, Richard proves that with perseverance and self-belief success is just around the corner.
Usain Bolt Setting World Records
When someone asks “who is the greatest sprinter of all time” there is only one answer; Usain Bolt. The eight-time Olympic gold medallist shone at the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games, when he set the world record for the fastest 100-metre sprint, with a time of 9.69 seconds. He went on to beat that time in the following year. Usain has pushed the boundaries of human possibility, he is the living embodiment of a lightning bolt.
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