The Most Triumphant -- and Devastating -- Winter Olympic Moments

Dorothy Hamill of Riverside, Conn., proudly displays the gold medal she received in innsbruck, Austria, Friday night, Februar
Dorothy Hamill of Riverside, Conn., proudly displays the gold medal she received in innsbruck, Austria, Friday night, February 13, 1976, after her victory in the women's figure skating competition at the 12th Winter Olympic Games. (AP Photo)


In celebration of Sochi, it's a gold-medal roundup of the most inspiring, controversial, and triumphant Winter Games moments of all time.

  • The Underdog Gets Her Day
    <strong>Who: </strong>Figure skater Sarah Hughes 
<strong>Where: </strong>Salt Lake City, Utah 
<strong>What: </strong>The 20
    Who: Figure skater Sarah Hughes Where: Salt Lake City, Utah What: The 2002 women’s figure skating final was supposed to be a climactic face-off between Russian powerhouse Irina Slutskaya and reigning U.S. ice queen Michelle Kwan. But when both women faltered during their long programs, it opened the door for Kwan’s largely ignored teammate, 16-year-old Sarah Hughes. The New Yorker’s near-flawless routine and mile-wide smile charmed viewers and judges alike, catapulting her from fourth place to a historic gold medal. Watch Sarah Hughes’ (frankly, delightful) 2002 free skate here.
  • The Miracle
    <strong>Who: </strong>The U.S. Men’s Hockey Team 
<strong>Where:</strong> Lake Placid, New York 
<strong>What: </strong>In 19
    Getty Images
    Who: The U.S. Men’s Hockey Team Where: Lake Placid, New York What: In 1980, at the height of the Cold War, no one played better hockey than the Soviets; the team had lost just one game in the previous four Olympics. So, when it faced off against a young U.S. squad in a penultimate medal round, most viewers expected a shellacking. Instead, head coach Herb Brooks’ scrappy and unexpectedly cohesive Americans shocked the world, scraping out a 4-3 victory in what would become the most famous hockey game of all time. Watch the last minute of the Miracle on Ice here.
  • The Whack
    <strong>Who: </strong>Figure skaters Nancy Kerrigan and Tonya Harding  
<strong>Where:</strong> Lillehammer, Norway 
    Getty Images
    Who: Figure skaters Nancy Kerrigan and Tonya Harding Where: Lillehammer, Norway What: It’s widely considered the biggest controversy in U.S. Olympic history; in 1994, less than two months before the Games, figure skating sweetheart Kerrigan was attacked by a mysterious man later linked to Harding, another American skater. Whether she was involved didn’t matter; the media and public opinion turned against the rough-edged Harding, who collapsed under the pressure and placed 8th in Lillehammer. (Kerrigan won the silver medal.) Months later, she was convicted of conspiracy and banned from skating for life, though more recent accounts suggest she didn’t play much of a role in the assault after all. Watch Tonya Harding’s bizarre 1994 free skate here.
  • The Cool Running
    <strong>Who: </strong>The Jamaican bobsled team 
<strong>Where: </strong>Calgary, Alberta, Canada 
<strong>What: </strong>Tho
    Getty Images
    Who: The Jamaican bobsled team Where: Calgary, Alberta, Canada What: Though celebrated for runners like Usain Bolt, Jamaica isn’t exactly known for cold-weather sports. That’s probably why its most famous Winter Olympians had to borrow equipment and train on a frozen lake before the Games, and why team member Devon Stokes didn’t even know what a bobsled was until signing up for the event. Despite crashing during the four-man race, the good-humored islanders captured the world’s attention, so much that Disney based 1993’s Cool Runnings on their story. Fun Fact: The 2014 team didn’t have the $80,000 required to attend the Sochi Games until January, when an internet campaign raised more than $120,000 in a matter of days. Watch the 1988 Jamaican bobsled team’s run here.
  • The Crash
    <strong>Who: </strong>Austrian skier Hermann Maier 
<strong>Where: </strong>Nagano, Japan 
<strong>What: </strong>Before read
    Getty Images
    Who: Austrian skier Hermann Maier Where: Nagano, Japan What: Before reading the rest of this slide, take a moment to watch this footage of Maier’s downhill ski run on February 13, 1998. Now that you’ve seen it, know that he not only survived the 80mph crash, but walked away from it, and won the Super-G and Giant Slalom gold medals three and six days later, respectively. “The Herminator” wound up on the cover of Sports Illustrated soon after, and today, is widely regarded as a legend in his sport.
  • The Battle of the Brians
    <strong>Who: </strong>Figure skaters Brian Boitano and Brian Orser 
<strong>Where: </strong>Calgary, Alberta, Canada 
    Getty Images
    Who: Figure skaters Brian Boitano and Brian Orser Where: Calgary, Alberta, Canada What: Today, he's famous for his Food Network show and a (famous, profane) South Park tribute. But in 1988, there was no greater male figure skater than America's Brian Boitano—except, maybe, Canadian Brian Orser. Both men were World Champions, and both had signature skating moves, which were on full display in their highly touted Olympic showdown. Ultimately, the fluid, technically sound Boitano performed slightly better under pressure, taking gold over hometown favorite Orser. Today, their friendly clash remains one of the sport's all-time greatest rivalries. Watch Brian Boitano's story here.
  • The Comeback
    <strong>Who: </strong>Speed skater Dan Jansen 
<strong>Where:</strong> Lillehammer, Norway 
<strong>What: </strong>For pure c
    Getty Images
    Who: Speed skater Dan Jansen Where: Lillehammer, Norway What: For pure cry-your-eyes-out spectacle, nothing beats speed skater Dan Jansen’s gold medal win at the 1994 Games. It was the Wisconsinite’s fourth and final try at a place on the podium; he came up dry in the previous three Olympics, most notably in 1988, when his sister, Jane, died of leukemia the morning of the 500m race. This time around, Jansen fell during his first race, but killed it in the 1000m, beating Belarusian Igor Zhelezovski by 0.29 seconds, and setting a world record in the process. Destiny fulfilled, he took a victory lap carrying his infant daughter, of course named Jane. Watch Dan Jansen’s 1994 gold medal race.
  • The Birth of an Idol (and a Hairdo)
    <strong>Who: </strong>Figure skater Dorothy Hamill 
<strong>Where: </strong>Innsbruck, Austria 
<strong>What: </strong>When a
    Getty Images
    Who: Figure skater Dorothy Hamill Where: Innsbruck, Austria What: When all 18 members of the U.S. figure skating team died in a 1961 plane crash, it seemed like the sport would never rebound from the tragedy. But, just seven years later, Peggy Fleming’s gold medal in Grenoble signaled a rebirth. Then, in 1976, came Dorothy Hamill – America’s first Olympic superstar. Clad in a hot pink mini-dress, the 17-year-old Chicagoan’s elegant and athletic free skate propelled her to gold over tough competition from Holland and East Germany. Dolls, endorsement deals, and millions of lookalike haircuts soon followed, paving the way for future stars like Mary Lou Retton and Michael Phelps. Watch Dorothy Hamill’s 1976 gold medal free skate here.


10 Inspirational Athletes Over 50