Sochi Olympics: 10 defining moments
Let the Games begin.
Thousands of athletes from over 80 different countries are ready to descend on Sochi as the 2014 Winter Olympics begin in Russia.
The 17-day sporting extravaganza is being dubbed as the most expensive Olympics ever, with the Russians having spent $50 billion on turning the faded Black Sea resort into a rejuvenated host venue.
It promises to be another memorable occasion — but will it beat Winters Games gone past?
We’ve put our heads together and come up with our top 10 definitive moments in Winter Olympics history.
Do you agree? What have we missed? Give us your views on Facebook and Twitter and enjoy the Games!
‘The Miracle on Ice’
It is the moment that all American ice hockey fans still talk about.
At the 1980 Lake Placid Games, the U.S. team — made up of college students and amateurs — produced one of the greatest shocks in the sport’s history.
Facing the Soviet Union in the semifinals — a team which had won the four previous gold medals — the U.S. was expected to be swept aside easily.
It had been beaten 10-3 in a warmup game two weeks before the Olympics, though the Americans did qualify for the last four without too many problems courtesy of wins over Norway, Romania, West Germany and Czechoslovakia.
Then, in a contest which went down in history as one of the greatest ever, the host nation did the impossible — it defeated a team full of world-class professionals 4-3 in a pulsating contest.
Mike Eruzione scored the crucial goal with 10 minutes remaining to send the U.S. into the final, where it defeated Finland to win gold.
The success was captured on the big screen with the release of ‘Miracle” in 2004, as Kurt Russell played the role of coach Herb Brooks.
The win over its Cold War enemy grabbed the imagination of the U.S. public and was voted the greatest sporting moment of the 20th century by Sports Illustrated.
Dave Ogrean, former executive director of USA Hockey, called the victory “the most transcending moment in the history of our sport in this country.”
It was an attack which shocked the sporting world and laid the foundations for one of the most bitter rivalries ever witnessed on the ice.
Nancy Kerrigan was the U.S. golden girl, a talented figure skater and expected to challenge for gold at the Lillehammer Games.
But her entire world was turned upside down on January 6, 1994, just six weeks before the Olympics.
After leaving the practice rink, she headed to the changing room where she was attacked by a man with a metal bar.
The blow to her knee left her screaming in agony — and so began one of the most famous “whodunnit” cases in Olympic history.
Kerrigan’s doctors told her that had she been hit just a centimeter lower, her kneecap would have been smashed, possibly rendering her unable to walk again.
The FBI launched an investigation and linked the attack to the ex-husband of Kerrigan’s skating rival Tonya Harding.
Jeff Gillooly and Harding’s bodyguard Shawn Eckhardt stood trial alongside the man who wielded the metal bar, Shane Stant.
Harding denied she had taken any part in the attack but did issue a statement for failing to report the incident.
While the drama continued to unfold, Kerrigan made a remarkable recovery and secured her place in the U.S. team for the Games.
With television cameras constantly on both women and the Olympic Village full of gossip, Harding and Kerrigan went head-to-head on the ice.
It was Kerrigan who came out on top, finishing second to take silver, while Harding was way down in eighth.
But Kerrigan’s joy was shortlived — she received death threats and was told to stay away from the closing ceremony as she posed a security risk.
Harding was given three years’ probation, 500 hours of community service and a $160,000 fine for hindering the investigation.
The U.S. Figure Skating Association banned her for life and stripped her of the 1994 national championship title.
Her ex-husband Gillooly and the others were given jail terms.
Hermann Maier cheated death at the Nagano Games in 1998.
The Austrian downhill skier, who was favorite for the gold medal in Japan, was sent hurtling after attempting a bend and flew horizontally through the air at over 70 miles per hour (112.65 kph).
He landed some 50 yards away before crashing head first into the safety nets — it was a moment where everybody feared the worst.
“I was very fast and there was a lot of wind from the back side,” he said in the aftermath of the incident. “And I went up in the air and was looking at the sky. I looked down at the snow and waited for the crash.”
Somehow, Maier escaped with minor bruises and with injuries to his knee and shoulder and was back in action soon after where he won gold medals in the giant slalom and super-G.
Nicknamed “the Herminator,” he went on to become one of the most successful male skiers of all time, winning three world titles, silver and bronze at the 2006 Games at Turin, plus 54 World Cup race wins — second only to Ingemar Stenmark’s 86.
They were four men who captured the hearts of the sporting world — and the tale of the Jamaican bobsled team still remains one of the most romantic in Winter Olympics history.
After holding trials in their home island, a team was selected and traveled to Calgary in 1988 for a test run on ice for the very first time.
With the freezing temperatures and ice a complete culture shock to everyone involved in the Jamaican setup, they faced an almost impossible task of competing with the world’s best.
In the end, the team failed to finish, crashing on its only competitive run.
But what happened next has been immortalized in Hollywood history in the 1993 film “Cool Runnings.”
As the four men got out of the sled and began to walk towards the finish line, they were greeted by handshakes from the sidelines and cheering.
The team gained the respect of its competitors and returned home as heroes.
Speed skater Eric Heiden’s performance at Lake Placid in 1980 is arguably one of the finest ever witnessed.
He was just 17 when he made his debut at Innsbruck four years earlier, finishing seventh in the 1,500 meters and 19th in the 5,000m.
But Heiden had been transformed by the time he arrived for his second crack at the Olympics, when he became the first person to win five gold medals in the same Games
He won all five speed skating events from 5,000m through to the 10,000m and set an Olympic record in every one.
In the 10,000m final he broke the world record by 6.2 seconds and in the 1,500m he recovered from a near slip to win by 0.037 seconds.
The American turned to cycling following his success and won the 1985 U.S. Professional Cycling Championship before competing at the Tour de France a year later, though he did not complete the sport’s premier race.
So near, so far
When it comes to snatching defeat from victory, Lindsey Jacobellis’ 2006 Turin nightmare is likely to haunt her forever.
The U.S. star, who was 20 at the time, looked set to win gold in snowboard cross’ Olympic debut after racing into a huge lead with the finish line in sight.
But with victory seeming inevitable, the American appeared to showboat on the penultimate jump by grabbing her board.
The result was catastrophic. She fell to the ground and watched on in horror as Switzerland’s Tanja Frieden sped past to win gold and leave Jacobellis in second.
“I was caught up in the moment. I think every now and then you might see something like that,” Jacobellis told media following the event.
“I didn’t even think twice. I was having fun and that’s what snowboarding is. I was ahead. I wanted to share with the crowd my enthusiasm. I messed up. It happens.”
Tortoise beats the hare
There was one problem facing Steven Bradbury at the 2002 Games at Salt Lake City — he couldn’t skate as fast as his rivals.
The Australian knew he wouldn’t be able to keep up with the rest of the field and so he had a choice — go at full pace and risk embarrassment or hang back and wait for the rest of the field to crash.
The plan worked beautifully.
With the finish line of the 1,000m in sight, his four rivals managed to collide with each other and allow Bradbury to stroll over the line to win Australia’s first ever Winter Olympics gold medal.
Not bad for a man who earlier in his career was sidelined for 18 months after a skater’s blade sliced through his thigh — leaving him needing 111 stitches.
In 2000, Bradbury had also been told he’d never skate again after breaking his neck when crashing into a barrier during training.
But his Utah triumph was reward for 12 years of hard work and determination — and a tale which will never be forgotten.
Back from the brink
Dan Jansen was a man who refused to give up.
At the 1988 Calgary Games, the U.S. speed skater turned up as favorite to win gold in both the 500m and 1,000m events.
The world sprint champion was in fine form, but on the day he was set to compete, tragedy struck.
Jansen’s sister, Jane Beres, died from leukemia.
Heartbroken, he took to the ice just hours afterward but fell after only 10 seconds of the race and was eliminated — the same happened three days later in the 1,000m.
Four years later at Albertville, he returned with hope renewed as the World Cup champion.
While his past failure meant he was not considered as big a favorite as he had been in Canada, Jansen believed he could still bring home a medal in France.
But a stumble during the 500m meant he finished fourth, while he could only muster a 26th-place finish in the 1,000m.
The opportunity had gone — but Jansen refused to give up.
After another dismal showing in the 500m race at Lillehammer ’94, Jansen was left with one final chance.
The 1,000m had never been his favorite event but it was all that was left — and he skated as if he knew that.
Nobody was going to catch him — even when he made a brief stutter and the world held its breath, he just kept on going — racing to victory to take gold and set a new world record.
He celebrated in front of a roaring crowd and then lifted up his baby daughter Jane, named after his sister.
It was an achievement that was thought to be impossible.
When British pair Jayne Torvill and Christopher Dean took to the ice at Sarajevo ’84, they stood on the cusp of greatness.
Dancing to Ravel’s “Bolero,” they produced not only a flawless routine but a dance worthy of figure skating’s first perfect score — scoring the maximum possible of nine sixes for artistic impression.
The crowd went wild, throwing roses onto the ice and even Britain’s Queen Elizabeth sent the duo a message of congratulations.
“Tonight we reached the pinnacle. I don’t remember the performance at all. It just happened,” Dean said after the routine.
“But I think it was the most emotional performance we have ever given. What just happened out there — getting the medals — that is what we’ve worked for so hard for so long.”
Austria held its breath — this was the one the people wanted more than any other.
The 1976 Innsbruck Games gave downhill star Franz Klammer the opportunity to shine in front of his home fans and add to his burgeoning reputation as the world’s top skier.
After winning three World Cup races going into the Olympics and eight out of nine the previous year, the 22-year-old was a huge favorite to win gold.
But following the draw, which left him 15th out of 15 to ski, Klammer was left facing a course with much of the snow pushed aside by previous competitors.
Bernhard Russi, Switzerland’s defending champion, had set the time to beat after going out third in 1:46:06.
Klammer knew he needed to do something special to pull off a victory — and he did just that.
After his 1,000m split was recorded as just outside Russi’s time, Klammer took every single risk he could to catch up and somehow managed to fly over the finish 0.33 seconds.
He had given the crowd what they wanted.
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