X

Have feedback / suggestions? Let us know!

Clubhouse

20 Greatest Performances In Olympic History

1 of 41
NEXT

The 20 Greatest Performances In Olympic History

OLY Opening Ceremony X
Getty Images

On the global stage, some athletes step up and make history. Whether it's a record-breaking performance, political statement or moment, here are 20 performances/moments that are unmatched in Olympic history to this point.

20. USA Women's Soccer Wins In Extra Time of 2004 Olympics

Soccer
Getty Images

20. USA Women's Soccer Wins In Extra Time of 2004 Olympics

Soccer
Getty Images

In one of the more dramatic moments of a team sport, the USA Women's soccer team claimed the gold medal by scoring in extra time. With a dramatic finish, women's soccer in the United States began to grow in popularity.

19. Jamaican Bobsled Team

Bobsleigh - Winter Olympics Day 10
Getty Images

19. Jamaican Bobsled Team

Bobsleigh - Winter Olympics Day 10
Getty Images

Despite not winning a medal, getting to the Olympics as Jamaica's first Winter Olympics team was inspiring. So inspiring, in fact, that a Disney movie has been made that documents the bizarre run of the tropical country to the Winter Games.

18. Shaun White Wins 2010 Gold Medal

2014 PTTOW! Summit - Day 2
Getty Images

18. Shaun White Wins 2010 Gold Medal

2014 PTTOW! Summit - Day 2
Getty Images

Even though he had already essentially clinched the gold medal in the snowboard halfpipe competition, Shaun White decided to go for his last run and he didn't disappoint. If there was any doubt about his gold medal before the run, there wasn't anymore. He made it very clear just how deserving he was of the gold medal he received.

17. Usain Bolt Wins Three Golds At 2008 Games

PUMA Welcomes Usain Bolt For Book Signing Of His Autobiography
Getty Images

17. Usain Bolt Wins Three Golds At 2008 Games

PUMA Welcomes Usain Bolt For Book Signing Of His Autobiography
Getty Images

The Jamaican sprinter once again showed how he was the fastest man in the world in the 2008 Olympics. He took home three gold medals and was the first sprinter to pull off that feat since 1984.

16. Carl Lewis Wins Four Events At 1984 Games

Best Buddies Challenge: Hyannis Port
Getty Images

16. Carl Lewis Wins Four Events At 1984 Games

Best Buddies Challenge: Hyannis Port
Getty Images

For a track-and-field star to win one gold medal is impressive. Lewis did a little more than that, winning three sprinting events as well as the long jump. This performance helped him go down in history as one of the best Olympic athletes of all time.

15. Wilma Rudolph Wins Three Golds At 1960 Games

WILMA RUDOLPH USA
Getty Images

15. Wilma Rudolph Wins Three Golds At 1960 Games

WILMA RUDOLPH USA
Getty Images

Overcoming several complications from being born prematurely, Rudolph shocked the world in 1960. She put herself on the map by blowing away her competition and claiming three sprinting gold medals in those Olympics.

14. Florence Griffith-Joyner Wins Three Golds At 1988 Games

Track and Field
Getty Images

14. Florence Griffith-Joyner Wins Three Golds At 1988 Games

Track and Field
Getty Images

Flo-Jo had a great personality and flare for the dramatic. She put that on display along with her great sprinting talent in the 1988 games in order to claim three Olympic gold medals. This performance made her an idol around the country.

13. Michael Johnson Wins The 200 and 400-Meter In 1996

Oly W 200m
Getty Images

13. Michael Johnson Wins The 200 and 400-Meter In 1996

Oly W 200m
Getty Images

Johnson didn't just win the 200 and 400-meter races in Atlanta in 1996, he dominated them. He set world records in both races, and each of those records lasted for almost two decades before Usain Bolt came along.

12. Dan Jansen Wins 1,000-Meter Speed Skating Gold

13th Annual Michael Jordan Celebrity Invitational Gala At ARIA Resort & Casino
Getty Images

12. Dan Jansen Wins 1,000-Meter Speed Skating Gold

13th Annual Michael Jordan Celebrity Invitational Gala At ARIA Resort & Casino
Getty Images

In the previous Olympics, Jansen was distracted by the death of his sister Jane. In Calgary, however, he recovered and dedicated the race to his sister. Making an inspiring run, Jansen won the gold medal and dedicated that to his sister as well.

11. Nadia Comaneci Gets A Perfect 10

Awards Show - 2013 Laureus World Sports Awards
Getty Images

11. Nadia Comaneci Gets A Perfect 10

Awards Show - 2013 Laureus World Sports Awards
Getty Images

This Russian gymnast made history when she performed a flawless routine in the 1976 Olympics, receiving the first-ever perfect 10 score in Olympic history. This performance lives on in gymnastics and Olympic lore, and will continue to do so.

10. Jim Thorpe Wins Pentathalon and Decathalon

General Views of Rio de Janeiro - Host City of 2016 Olympic Games
Getty Images

10. Jim Thorpe Wins Pentathalon and Decathalon

General Views of Rio de Janeiro - Host City of 2016 Olympic Games
Getty Images

Proving to be Mr. Endurance, famous athlete Jim Thorpe competed in both new Olympic sports in 1912 and dominated. He won the gold medal in both endurance events and left his mark on the Olympic games forever.

9. Mark Spitz Wins 7 Gold Medals In 1972

Fifteen Years of Laureus Press Conference - 2014 Laureus World Sports Awards
Getty Images

9. Mark Spitz Wins 7 Gold Medals In 1972

Fifteen Years of Laureus Press Conference - 2014 Laureus World Sports Awards
Getty Images

Before there was Michael Phelps, there was Mark Spitz. It's hard to believe, but Spitz was just about as dominant in 1972 as Phelps was in 2008. It was Spitz's record that Phelps edged in those games, and there's a reason why that record for gold medals stood for almost 40 years.

8. Muhammad Ali Lights Torch For 1996 Games In Atlanta

19 Jul 1996:  Muhammad Ali holds the torch before lighting the Olympic Flame during the Opening Cere
Getty Images

8. Muhammed Ali Lights Torch For 1996 Games In Atlanta

19 Jul 1996:  Muhammad Ali holds the torch before lighting the Olympic Flame during the Opening Cere
Getty Images

Even though this wasn't technically a performance, it was too inspiring a moment to be left off the list. Ali lit the Olympic torch for the 1960 games when he was just 18. Then, suffering from Parkinson's, Ali again lit the torch when the games were back in the U.S. in 1996.

7. Michael Phelps Wins 8 Gold Medals In 2008

Arena Grand Prix at Santa Clara
Getty Images

7. Michael Phelps Wins 8 Gold Medals In 2008

Arena Grand Prix at Santa Clara
Getty Images

Phelps was as dominant as any Olympic athlete in history in 2008. He kept fans on the edge of their seats as he won one race by just .01 seconds while dominating some of his other races. His ascent to Olympic superstardom was one of the key storylines of those games.

6. 1992 Dream Team Dominates

USA Basketball Senior Men's Training Camp - Barcelona
Getty Images

6. 1992 Dream Team Dominates

USA Basketball Senior Men's Training Camp - Barcelona
Getty Images

In the first year the NBA allowed its players to participate in the Olympics, the USA put together the Dream Team. With several Hall-of-Famers on the roster, the USA cruised through the games and got the gold medals everyone expected them to.

5. Greg Louganis Rebounds To Win Gold

3rd Annual amfAR Inspiration Gala New York - Runway
Getty Images

5. Greg Louganis Rebounds To Win Gold

3rd Annual amfAR Inspiration Gala New York - Runway
Getty Images

In 1988, diver Greg Louganis hit his head on the diving board during a test run, which gave him a concussion. Remarkably, he came back during the games to put on a near flawless performance and land himself a gold medal in the high dive.

4. Mary Lou Retton Becomes First USA Gymnast To Win Gold Medal

2009 Tyson American Cup
Getty Images

4. Mary Lou Retton Becomes First USA Gymnast To Win Gold Medal

2009 Tyson American Cup
Getty Images

It wasn't until Mary Lou Retton did it in 1984 that any American athlete, man or woman, won a gold medal in a gymnastics all-around competition. During her inspiring run, the very marketable Retton put on the performance of a lifetime and sent American gymnastics into a new era.

3. 1968 Black Power

2008 ESPY Awards - Show
Getty Images

3. 1968 Black Power

2008 ESPY Awards - Show
Getty Images

After taking the gold and bronze medals, Americans Tommie Smith and John Carlos raised their fists to represent the Black Power movement at the medal ceremony. Even though this also didn't have to do with a performance, it made a huge statement back home, where the civil rights movement was in full swing.

2. Jesse Owens Shows Up Nazi Germany

Jesse Owens of the USA
Getty Images

2. Jesse Owens Shows Up Nazi Germany

Jesse Owens of the USA
Getty Images

To the embarrassment of Adolph Hitler, Jesse Owens dominated his German sprinters to take the gold medal in 1936. It was an iconic moment in history as the African-American proved Hitler's prejudicial theories wrong in the sports arena.

1. 1980 Miracle On Ice

OLY Opening Ceremony X
Getty Images

1. 1980 Miracle On Ice

OLY Opening Ceremony X
Getty Images

The least likely Olympic moment in history came when a young team full of amateurs on Team USA rallied to beat the mighty USSR hockey team. Taking place during the Cold War and on American soil, this may have been the most significant sporting event in history in terms of political importance.