Looking back on 7 great Winter Olympic moments

Photo of USA - Soviet Union 1980 hockey match
Henry Zbyszynski/Creative Commons

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The 2020 Olympics may have been postponed, but that doesn’t mean we can’t still retroactively enjoy them. Here are seven great Winter Olympic moments. 

Miracle on Ice — Team USA beats perennial Soviet superpower, Lake Placid 1980 

The so-called “Miracle on Ice” was one of the most impressive upsets in Olympic history. The American underdogs, a scrappy team mostly made up of college students, remarkably made it to the medal round of play undefeated. As the seventh seed, however, Team USA was up against the first-seeded, four-time defending champions, the Soviets. Expecting a semifinals tilt in favor of the dominant USSR, the U.S. team dramatically took a lead in the third period, ultimately defeating the Soviets in a spectacular upset and then going on to win gold. The 2004 movie “Miracle” was made to memorialize the historic victory.

Jamaican bobsled team defies odds, Calgary 1988

This team may not have won any medals, but it earned admiration from around the world and inspired a movie about one of the most feel-good Olympic stories. The Jamaican bobsled team was formed by two American businessmen living in Jamaica who saw a pushcart racing competition, which looked familiar. The team members themselves were inexperienced and had to use borrowed equipment, but were immensely popular at the Olympics. Teammates Dudley Stokes and Michael White placed 30th in the two-man competition, then decided to compete in the four-man as well, drawing a crowd of 40,000. Unfortunately, their sled crashed during the four-man race, but they were still well loved by the crowd. Their journey inspired the Disney movie “Cool Runnings,” although the movie is not considered to be very realistic.

Mirai Nagasu lands the triple axel, Pyeongchang 2018

In the last Winter Olympics, Mirai Nagasu became the first American woman to nail the triple axel — one of the most challenging jumps in figure skating — at the Olympics. Her routine helped Team USA to a bronze medal win in the team event. She, along with her friend and fellow skater Adam Rippon, missed out on qualifying for the 2014 Games in Sochi. However, they both stayed determined and returned in 2018, medaling and becoming fan favorites in the process.

Nancy Kerrigan makes a comeback, Lillehammer 1994

In one of the most famous Olympic scandals of all time, figure skater Nancy Kerrigan was attacked shortly before the Olympic trials by a hitman, who clubbed her in the back of the knee. It was later revealed that Kerrigan’s rival Tonya Harding’s ex-husband had hired the man. The rivalry between the two at the Olympics was intense, but Kerrigan ultimately earned the silver medal, while Harding came in eighth. This story was portrayed in the 2017 film “I, Tonya,” which has been praised for its depiction of Harding’s complexity it was nominated for three Oscars and won one.

Eric Heiden earns historic five gold medals, Lake Placid 1980

Team USA won six gold medals in 1980, one of which was the famous “Miracle on Ice” hockey medal, and the other five of which were Eric Heiden’s. Not only did Heiden win every single speedskating event, but he also set a world record in the 10,000-meter race. He also broke the record for most gold medals in a Winter Olympics, a record that still stands. Only two athletes, American swimmers Michael Phelps and Mark Spitz, have won more gold medals in a single Olympics than he has.

“Housewife” curlers win gold, Salt Lake City 2002

In 2002, the British women’s team upset the favored Canadians in curling, bringing home Great Britain’s first Winter Olympic gold medal in 18 years. The four women — Rhona Martin, Debbie Knox, Janice Rankin and Fiona MacDonald — were dubbed “housewife superstars” for their improbable victories. The group had been playing together for years prior to their Olympic appearance and was still able to win despite Martin getting sick. The team members swiftly became stars back home. 

U.S. women’s hockey team upsets Canada in shootout, Pyeongchang 2018

After losing to Canada in two prior Olympic finals, the U.S. women’s hockey team was finally able to beat its rival in 2018, earning Team USA’s first gold medal win in the event since the inaugural tournament in 1998. After being tied after the 20-minute sudden-death overtime period, the game had a thrilling shootout finish, in which the Americans ultimately won 3-2. The Canadians were visibly shaken during the medal ceremony — Canadian player Jocelyne Larocque took her silver medal off immediately after receiving it and did not wear it for the ceremony.

Rachel Alper writes for Bear Bytes. Contact her at [email protected].