Today, the 2018 Winter Olympics kicked off in Pyeongchang, South Korea.
There are plenty of storylines to watch out for, including a rare moment of unity between North and South Korea, but we wanted to take a second to look back at how previous games were rocked by indelible moments that have stood the test of time.
With the spirit of the Olympics in mind, here are eight events that changed the games—emotional personal triumphs, far-sweeping social proclamations, and even life-saving heroics.
1. Jesse Owens Triumphs Over Nazism
The 1936 Olympic Games in Berlin, Germany was to be used by Hitler as a “shining example” of his “new Aryan man.” However, American Jesse Owens would have none of it. He smashed records, nabbed four gold medals and, following his befriending of German athlete Luz Long, took a lap of honor with him as part of a big FU to Hitler and his Nazism.
2. Miracle on Ice
You should know all about this one but it’s always worth revisiting. The 1980 U.S. Men’s Olympic Hockey crew was entirely comprised of amateur players and stood absolutely zero chance against the juggernaut, defending-champion Soviet squad.
Or so the world thought.
In this all-time classic “DO YOU BELIEVE IN MIRACLES??!!” moment, America defeated the U.S.S.R. 4-3 in the semi-finals before dropping Finland for the gold in front of a raucous crowd in Lake Placid, New York.
3. Mary Lou Retton Wins the Hearts of Americans
The 1984 Summer Olympics in Los Angeles birthed a household name—sixteen-year-old Mary Lou Retton, who became the first American (male or female) to ever win gymnastics gold. Despite minimal international experience, she received back-to-back perfect 10s in the vault performance to claim the gold.
4. The Life-Saving Heroics of Lawrence Lemieux
Lawrence Lemieux is a reminder that there are still folks in this world willing to put the welfare of others above their own.
During the sailing competition of the 1988 South Korea Olympics in Seoul, Lemieux was coasting to at least a spot on the podium as a likely silver medalist. However, when he saw a boat capsize due to dangerously high winds, he abandoned the race, disqualified himself, and saved the two competitors, pulling them from the waters and waiting until the rescue crew arrived. He resumed the race and unofficially beat out 11 other competitors, coming in 21st out of 32. For his heroics, he was awarded an honorary medal.
Lemieux is sorta the GOAT.
5. The Greatest Team Ever
America flipped the switch in the 1992 Barcelona Olympic games, opting to field a squad of active NBA players for the first time ever in the basketball competition (partially in response to the Soviet Union’s state-sponsored, full-time Olympic athletes).
The result? The aptly-named “Dream Team.” Charles Barkley, Patrick Ewing, Magic Johnson, Scottie Pippin, Larry Bird, and that dude MJ all stormed the court and ran away with the gold as part of what many consider the greatest sports team ever assembled.
6. Derek Redmond Perseveres in Heart-Breaking Race Finish
A favorite to medal in the 400-meter race of the 1992 Barcelona Summer Olympics, British competitor Derek Redmond snapped his hamstring midway through the semi-finals. Refusing to give up despite tremendous pain, Redmond slowly limped and hopped to the finish line—before his father jumped the railing from the stands to support him.
This one surely remains burned into the memories of many.
7. Rulon Gardner Pulls Off One of the Greatest Upsets in History
Another American triumph against seemingly impossible odds!
Three-time defending Olympic Champion Alexander Karelin headed to the 2000 Sydney Olympics having not lost a match in 13 years. Hell, he hadn’t given up a single point in six.
American Rulon Gardner didn’t give a shit… and the rest is history.
8. Michael Phelps Becomes the All-Time Greatest Olympian
The 2008 Summer Olympics in Beijing were undeniably historic, as American Michael Phelps became the first man to ever win eight gold medals in a single Olympics (beating out former record-holder and fellow American swimmer, Mark Spitz, who grabbed seven in the 1972 Munich Games). The culmination for Phelps occurred as he and his red-white-and-blue teammates set a world record in the medley relay above.
These 2018 Winter Olympics are sure to hold some special moments of their own—enjoy them! Also, keep an eye out for Blenders-sponsored athlete and competing Olympian, Jessika Jensen!