10 US Athletes’ Favorite Olympic Memories
Take a stroll down memory lane with 10 Olympic athletes and see if you share any of their favorite moments. The list includes Michael Phelp’s record-breaking eight gold medals in a single Olympics, and gymnast Kerri Strug’s heroic performance despite a painful injury.
Katie Uhlaender, two-time women’s skeleton Olympian who is making a run in London as a weightlifter “I have to say my favorite Olympic moment is the 1936 Berlin Games because of a story I heard about Jesse Owens. Jesse was a famous black track and field athlete, but in Berlin he faulted his first two attempts on the long jump. I heard a story about how his German competitor gave Jesse some advice on how to fix his technique and after the German’s advice, Jesse won. The story is inspiring not only because this took place during the height of the Nazi’s power, but also it inspires great sportsmanship and self-belief. Stories that inspire our youth to do great things is one of the reasons why I believe so much in what I do and the Olympic Movement.”
Angela Ruggiero, four-time ice hockey Olympic medalist “I remember watching the USA women’s soccer team play so selflessly and with such emotion in the 1996 Atlanta Games that it inspired me to train harder. Seeing them win the gold medal made me feel like anything was possible and it made me want to do the same thing with our women’s hockey team. [Team USA took home the gold in women’s hockey two years later in Nagano.]”
Elena Hight, Olympic snowboarder “My favorite Olympic memory comes from the 1996 Atlanta Summer Games. I was 7-years-old at the time and an avid gymnast. The Olympic gymnast Kerri Strug was the last member of the team to go for the overall team title. She had an injured ankle and only had one vault left and had to land it in order for the team to win gold. She performed an almost perfect vault despite her injury, and secured the US Women’s Gymnastics team the first ever gold in the team overall event. This moment is my favorite Olympic moment because shows a true test of an athlete’s will, determination, and strength. She had the weight of the world on her to perform not only for herself, but also for her team and her country. She was able to fight through it all and come out a champion. I can remember watching this happen on TV, and this being the moment when I said that I wanted to go to the Olympics someday.”
Emily Azevedo, 2010 Olympian in women’s bobsled “One of my favorite moments is from the Vancouver Olympics. I was in the stands with tears streaming down my face as I watched my teammates and friends win gold in the four man bobsled, after a 62-year drought. [The last gold medal in four-man was in 1948 in St. Moritz, Switzerland.] It was special to me because I had watched all the effort each of these men put into winning this medal and felt like in some small way I was a part of it.”
Sarah Haskins, Olympic triathlete “Although I have many wonderful Olympic memories, I can recall one memory that is extraordinary. In 2008, I was in Korea at a training camp preparing for my race in Beijing. My triathlon race was towards the end of the Games, so we spent much of our free time glued to the computer watching athletes compete. I will never forget watching swimmer Michael Phelps in his quest for eight gold medals. The most inspirational race was his 100-meter butterfly, which he won by 100th of a second. He was still behind near the end of the race but he quickly proved that no race is over until the last 100th of a meter and last 100th of a second. I was so pumped and motivated by his performance and knew that I was watching one of the greatest sports achievements of all time.”
Gretchen Bleiler, 2006 Olympic silver medalist in snowboarding “My favorite Olympic memory was watching one of my best friends, Kelly Clark, win the first gold medal for the US in Halfpipe snowboarding at the 2002 Salt Lake City Olympics. I was traveling back from another competition and just caught it on TV at the Aspen airport. I was so proud of my friend!”
Julie Zetlin, Rhythmic Gymnastics National Champion and 2012 Olympic hopeful “I remember watching gymnast Nastia Liukin’s floor routine at the 2008 Olympic Games in China. My immediate thought was, ‘She is going to be the Olympic champion.’ I had no doubt in my mind that it was going to happen for her. I watched her as her score came up, and I almost felt like I was there with her. She had one incredible journey, and I use her as a role model, and example for myself. I couldn’t control my tears when I heard the national anthem, and saw her get that gold
Curt Tomasevicz, 2010 Olympic gold medalist in bobsledding “My favorite Olympic moment displays one of the greatest Olympic values that all athletes should learn—it is also one my first Olympic memories. I was 11-years-old when the 1992 Barcelona Olympics took place. At that age I didn’t quite understand the concept of competing for another reason other than to win. But I remember watching the 400m race and watching British runner Derek Redmond, a medal favorite, sprint the first 200 meters of the race, but pulled up lame half way through. He fell and stayed on the ground for a few moments while his competitors crossed the finish line on the other side of the track. Derek slowly stood up, collected all his strength and courage, and continued to hobble around the track. He simply felt he had to finish the race, no matter his finish time. As he was rounding the last turn at a pace just a little faster than a walk, a man broke through security and ran to Derek’s side to help him to the finish line. It was his father. Together they taught me the great lesson that winning isn’t everything. Just being able to cross the finish line is. I’ll always remember that moment.”
Jessica Mendoza, Olympic gold and silver medalist in softball “My favorite Olympic memory was in Greece in 2004–going to the women’s soccer final where the US team were the underdogs against Brazil. My softball teammates and I had just won gold a couple days prior and we all got painted and cheered on our country. It was incredibly emotional to see something similar to what we had done, but from the fan’s perspective. When our women’s soccer team won, we were so happy for them, for the USA and for female athletes. We even dog piled in the stands in celebration!”
Erin Hamlin, two-time Olympian and Luge World Champion “My favorite Olympic moment is when the “Magnificent Seven” won the team gold in gymnastics in Atlanta in 1996. I was 10-years-old and lived for gymnastics at the time and idolized most of those girls. Seeing the determination and perseverance throughout the competition was incredibly inspiring.”
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