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45 Photos of the Best Moments in Olympics History

Going for the gold.
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Whether it's the summer or winter games, the Olympics is a display of skill and sportsmanship that is unmatched by any other event. From record-breaking performances to emotional personal strife, revisit some of the most defining sports accomplishments in Olympic history.

1900 Summer Olympics in Paris

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After years of being excluded from competition, the 1900 Olympics introduced five events for women—tennis, equestrian, croquet, sailing, and golf. British tennis player Charlotte Cooper Sterry became the first female Olympic tennis champion, after winning both the mixed doubles and singles competitions.

1936 Summer Olympics in Berlin

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Jesse Owens won four gold medals for track in the '36 Olympics, proving himself a phenomenal, non-Aryan athlete as Nazi Germany and Adolf Hitler looked on.

1936 Summer Olympics in Berlin

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American sprinter Helen Stephens took home two gold medals and set a new Olympic record at the 1936 summer games in Berlin for the 100-meter event. Stephens' world record (11.5 seconds!) stood unmatched for decades, until 1960 when Wilma Rudolph beat it.

1960 Summer Olympics in Rome

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Abebe Bikila set an Olympic marathon record with a time of 2:15:16, becoming the first African athlete to win a gold medal. And he did it barefoot—just like he trained in his home country of Ethiopia.

1960 Summer Olympics in Rome

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Muhammad Ali won a gold medal boxing in the '60 Olympics. he then allegedly threw it in the Ohio River after being denied service at a "whites only" restaurant.

1960 Summer Olympics in Rome

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American track and field star Wilma Rudolph was crowned the "fasted woman in the world" at the '60 games. She also became the first American woman to win three gold medals at the same Olympics.

1968 Summer Olympics in Mexico City

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To protest racism in the States, sprinters Tommie Smith and John Carlos put on scarves and beads—to represent lynching—and took off their shoes—a symbol of poverty—before taking the podium. During the national anthem, they bowed their heads and raised their fists in the Black Power salute. Their protest is one of the most iconic sports moments of all time.

1968 Summer Olympics in Mexico City

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American long jumper Bob Beamon barely qualified for the Olympics. Then, he went to set an Olympic long jump record, leaping so far the judges' devices couldn't measure the 29+ feet. His record holds to this day.

1968 Summer Olympics in Mexico City

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Between her three Olympic games, V?ra ?áslavská was awarded a total of 11 medals, which made her the most decorated Olympic athlete in Czechoslovakia. However, it was her protest during the 1968 Olympics that she's best remembered for. While sharing the podium with Soviet gymnast Larisa Petrik, ?áslavská turned her head away from the USSR flag in protest of the Soviet invasion in her home country.

1972 Summer Olympics in Munich

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With 3 seconds left on the clock and the Soviets leading by one point, the U.S. scraped up two foul shots to pull ahead 50-48. The buzzer sounded, and the U.S. team celebrated wildly, only to be told the Soviets had called a time-out. Three seconds were added back on, and the Soviets scored, winning the game.

1972 Summer Olympics in Munich

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In protest, the U.S. team refused to accept silver, boycotting the medal ceremony instead of standing beneath the Soviets on the podium.

1972 Summer Olympics in Munich

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Soviet gymnast Olga Korbut performed the "Korbut flip" during her uneven bar routine in 1972—a move where the athlete stands on the high bar and backflips off of it only to re-grasp the bar again. The move is now banned from competition, because it was deemed too dangerous.

1972 Summer Olympics in Munich

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One German student decided to take his hijinx to the international stage at the 1972 Olympics. The prankster entered the stadium during the marathon and initially fooled everyone into thinking he was about to win the race. In reality, the winner was American runner Frank Shorter.

1976 Summer Olympics in Montreal

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At just 14 years old, Nadia Comaneci of Romania became the first Olympian to nail a perfect 10 gymnastics score, on the uneven bars. Then, she did it six more times to get three gold medals.

1976 Summer Olympics in Montreal

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Vasily Alekseyev is one of the most impressive Olympic athletes of his time, thanks to his performance at the 1976 games. The Soviet weight lifter defeated his competitor in one fell swoop and also went on to shatter his own weight record with a 562-pound overhead lift.

1980 Summer Olympics in Moscow

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While competing in Moscow, Polish pole vaulter W?adys?aw Kozakiewicz took his gold medal win as an opportunity to show his discontent for the host country. Kozakiewicz turned and made a bras d'honneur gesture (similar to the American middle finger) to the USSR crowds in the stadium, for which he was almost stripped of his medals.

1980 Winter Olympics in Lake Placid

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Also known as the "Miracle on Ice," a team of nobodies with a coach from Minnesota were able to beat the seemingly unstoppable Soviet hockey team 4-3 and advanced to the final round, where they beat Finland to take home the gold.

1984 Winter Olympic Games in Sarajevo

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It wasn't just their gold medal win that made Jayne Torvill and Christopher Dean the talk of the 1984 Olympics. The British figure skating duo became the highest-scoring figure skaters of all time thanks to an impeccable routine to Maurice Ravel's "Boléro," which earned them a perfect score from each judge.

1984 Summer Olympic Games in Los Angeles

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American gymnast Mary Lou Retton became one of the most popular Olympic athletes when, at only 16 years old, she took home five medals and became the first American to earn an all-around gold medal in the sport of gymnastics.

1988 Winter Olympics in Calgary

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The Jamaican four-man bobsled team didn't win any medals in its first Olympic appearance, but that didn't stop the world from loving them.

1988 Summer Olympics in Seoul

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In preliminary competition, U.S. diver Greg Louganis smacked his head on the diving board, suffering a concussion and a 2-inch scalp wound. But a day later, he returned to competition, stitches and all, to snag gold.

1988 Summer Olympics in Seoul

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U.S. sprinter Florence Griffith Joyner, or "Flo-Jo," set world records for the 100m and 200m sprints that have yet to be beaten; she's still the fastest woman of all time.

1992 Summer Olympics in Barcelona

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The U.S. took to the basketball court at the Barcelona Olympics with a "Dream Team," better known as Michael Jordan, Charles Barkley, Magic Johnson, Scottie Pippen, Larry Bird, Karl Malone, and Patrick Ewing.

1992 Summer Olympics in Barcelona

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Arguably the best basketball team in U.S. history, they swept the competition, as expected.

1992 Summer Olympics in Barcelona

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British sprinter Derek Redmond's story is a heartbreaker: He tore his Achilles tendon in the '88 Olympics and returned in '92 determined to medal, but his hamstring popped. His father Jim dashed past security to help him cross the finish line anyway, medal or no.

1994 Winter Olympics in Lillehammer

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Right before the '94 Olympics, Tanya Harding's ex-husband planned an attack on her competitor, Nancy Kerrigan. Harding was permitted to compete, but had to re-skate her program after her laces broke. She only came in eighth, while Kerrigan took home silver.

1994 Winter Olympics in Lillehammer

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It was a long road to the podium for United States speed skater, Dan Jansen—10 years, to be precise. The athlete narrowly missed out on a medal at three prior Olympic games, but took home the gold in the 1,000 meter in 1994.

1996 Summer Olympics in Atlanta

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In '96, Ali returned to the Olympics, where he was given a new medal to replace his lost gold and lit the Opening Ceremony torch.

1996 Summer Olympics in Atlanta

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U.S. gymnast Kerri Strug was the only thing that stood between the Soviets and taking home the gold in '96, so she had to nail her vault. But she tore ligaments in her ankle in her first attempt.

1996 Summer Olympics in Atlanta

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Despite the pain, Strug took her second attempt and crushed it, scoring a 9.712 and winning gold for the U.S. team, known as the "Magnificent Seven."

1996 Summer Olympics in Atlanta

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While competing in Atlanta, Michael Johnson finished the 200 meter race at a record time of 19.32 seconds. A few days later, he took home another gold medal in the 400-meter sprint, making him the first athlete to win both races at the same Olympic games.

2000 Summer Olympics in Sydney

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For the first time in Olympic history, South and North Korean delegates united under one flag for the opening ceremony.

2000 Summer Olympics in Sydney

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After winning his fourth gold medal in '96, British rower Steve Redgrave said, "Anybody who sees me in a boat has my permission to shoot me." Well, he got back in a boat and won his fifth gold in 2000 by a matter of feet against Italy.

2000 Summer Olympics in Sydney

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Eric "the Eel" Moussambani of Equatorial Guinea wasn't supposed to be an Olympian. He learned how to swim just eight months before the games, and only qualified for the 100m freestyle via wildcard. But the two competitors in his heat got disqualified, so he awkwardly flailed his way across the finish line alone, setting the record for slowest Olympic time. Everyone cheered wildly.

2000 Summer Olympics in Sydney

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No one expected American wrestler Rulon Gardner to beat three-time Olympic champion Alexander Karelin of the Soviet Union, who hadn't lost a match in 13 straight years. But Gardner shocked the world, defeating Karelin 1-0 in overtime for the gold in gold in Greco-Roman wrestling.

2004 Summer Olympics in Athens

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The women's U.S. soccer team beat Brazil 2-1 by netting a spectacular goal in overtime.

2008 Summer Olympics in Beijing

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Usain Bolt thundered onto the Olympic podium in 2008, breaking the 200m dash Olympic record and 100m dash world record.

2008 Summer Olympics in Beijing

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In 2008, Michael Phelps won eight gold medals in eight days, breaking an Olympic record. His eighth medal was for the record-setting 4x100m medley relay, which he swam butterfly for in the third leg.

2008 Summer Olympics in Beijing

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Sprinter Shawn Crawford earned silver due to a technicality that disqualified Churandy Martina of the Netherlands Antilles and Wallace Spearmon from America in 2008. After accepting the award in Beijing, Crawford mailed his Olympic medal to Martina with a note that said, "I know this won't replace the moment, but I want you to have this, because I believe it's rightfully yours!"

2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver

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Shaun White had a stunning run in his second Olympics, with his signature "Tomahawk"—the first-ever Double McTwist 1260—winning gold in the men's halfpipe.

2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver

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The world applauded Joannie Rochette when she took home the bronze medal in women's figure skating in 2010—but it wasn't just her routine they were moved by. The figure skater took to the ice days after her mother, Therese Rochette, died from a sudden heart attack. Joannie dedicated the medal to her mother.

2012 Summer Olympics in London

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In 2012, Phelps brought his medal count up to 19 to become the most decorated Olympian of all time. In 2016, he added even more, finishing his Olympic career with 28 medals and 23 golds.

2016 Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro

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Bolt competed in his last Olympics in Rio, becoming the first man to win all three sprint events in three separate games: the 100m, 200m, and 4x100m relay. He finished with nine gold medals.

2016 Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro

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Abbey D'Agostino and Nikki Hamblin finished last in the 5000 meter race in 2016 after they collided. American athlete D'Agostino stopped to help her competitor finish the race, despite an injured knee, and was heard encouraging her fellow racer, "Get up, get up! We have to finish! This is the Olympic Games. We have to finish this."

2016 Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro

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Neymar led Brazil's men's soccer team to victory on its home turf, beating Germany in a penalty shoot.

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