Favorite Olympians of all time- Summer and Winter
The history and inspiration to such a question could be a lifetime of study in itself. In the modern era I would not know where to begin. For Summer Olympics, Track and Field, it will always be Jesse Owens for me. He inspired an entire race of people who were still yet to be declared "equal" in the United States, and were the subject still of terrible racism in Europe. What he did under Hitler's nose was one of those once is a millenium things that have the handprint of God on it. I was second all around track for my city in 5th grade. My interest dropped off later, but I was a fast little thing at 10 years old. I remember the TV programs about Jesse as a child and was inspired at a time when the 60's unfolded. Every Olympics seems to make someone extraordinary come forward. While I am in awe of Phelps' longevity, and Gabby Douglas' meteoric rise in a sport that is so hard, it is people like Oscar competing with people with perfect bodies while he has prosthetics that amaze me and touch me far more.
We likely have a lot more winter heros and heroines at GS, but it would be cool to hear about who inspires you and why, in this or any Olympiad. For Hockey, there are two matches, when the little American team beat the vaunted Russian team-was it 1982? I have to look it up, but it was a miracle when you look at the makeup of the teams. The Cnadians winning by 1 point in Vancouver was thrilling and it was meant to be. Poor Canada would have gone on a week long binge. It was thrilling Hockey tho we (usa) lost.
For skating, which brings us all here, I have a lot of favorite Olympians and fondly remembered Oly performances. The Olympic performance that hooked me on skating was Peggy Fleming when I was a little girl. i vividly remember her green dress, the outdoor rink, and her balletic approach to the sport. I never could skate well, weak ankles I guess, but that Grenoble Olympics opened my eyes to a beautiful place with a beautiful woman who glided around on the ice. She is unforgettable. The Olympic skater I admired most was Dorothy Hammil as she seemed scared, yet did well. Then she exploded into consciousness and everyone got the hairdo. She was beyond pretty. Forever they are great skaters who defined female ice skaters until Michelle Kwan came along to a younger generation. All three inspire me, but Dorothy went through much more to get where she went and stay there.
Olympic performances that thrilled me were the Battle of the Brians. The atleticism was perfect, and they were elegant too. I recall two male skaters of the seventies that made me think I was watching Nureyev on skates. In 1976, I recall seeing John Curry, and thinking male skaters could be as elegant as the women and do bigger jumps. Another Harvard skater was a man named John Mischa Petkevich. I do not recall what event I saw John in. It could have been the Olympics. The beauty of what they did defines figure skating for me. The performances from the Olympics I thought were worthy of the Olympics were many. When I think of non single Olympians that stay in my mind to this day (and that is not easy, rueful smile) I think of the Russian pair team Rodnina and Zaitsev. I recall speed, power, and perfect unison. I don't think they have an equal. Later another Russian pair would be perfectly romantic and very different, but this R/Z seemed to me what pair skating was supposed to be. In Nagano, there were four inspiring performaances, the best ladies podium ever, and an icedance team from Canada that would never win the medals they should. Bourne and Kraatz were the best team, and I felt as good as the famed British pair who became legends for life after Sarajevo.
As for other winter Olympians, I loved the midwestern girl, Bonnie Blair. She was so wholesome and such an athlete. Dan Jansen thrilled me when he finally won gold. Anton Apolo Ohno's determination with his father made me happy for him. The fearlessness of Shaun White and the joy his smile brings thrill me. One of the bravest and ultimately luckiest skaters is Elena Berezhnaya. It couild have ended so differently. And when I think of Paul I am thankful for Anton S who's love healed Elena to win gold.
There are so many sports besides skating in the winter, but skating consumes me. It is like nothing else exists while waiting for the Olympians who figure skate. I am sure others here are less myopic. Gymnastics is as fascinating as figure skating. The magnificent 7 and Keri Strug were the best. Watching Nadia make her perfect 10 and the expllosion of Bela Karolyi into America. Mary Lou was amazing, a force of personality. The earlier Russian women, Olga Korbut, Ludmila Tourischeva defined gymnastic excellence for me for a long time.
Who inspires you and why from any Olympiad? Every one is this place where several thousand athletes dream their biggest dreams.
Last edited by skateluvr; 08-06-2012 at 02:42 AM.
Gee, what could be more timely...no favorite Olympians? Not even current Olympics? Not even a slew of Yunas here? I am trying to not go crazy from pain. I thought this to be universally of interest. Oh, well, GS is quiet these August days by and large.
Like subtlety in ice dancing
The most inspirational Olympic athletes, for me, come from a sport I don't follow, in a competition I never even saw. They were Natalia Paderina of Russia and Nino Salukvadze of Georgia. They were the silver and bronze medalists at the air-pistols event in Beijing, an event that took place right when Russia and Georgia were waging a terrifying border skirmish/war. The two athletes got on the podium, hugged, kissed and linked arms. Salukvadze said, "When it comes to sport, we will always remain friends. If the world were to draw any lessons from what we do, there wouldn’t be any wars." For me, that was a moment that encapsulated what the Olympics should be about: intense but friendly competition, followed by the sharing of culture and good will among the nations. There was no better demonstration than two people with deadly skills in weapons who nonetheless used those skills only for fair and non-lethal competition, and then embraced each other as friends even as their leaders were waging war.
Wow, what a story...this got moved...? I think it would be a fascinating thread that everyone has knowledge of as it is personal. I think skate fans are myopic if Russian juniors and below are of way more interest...way too in the future for me...it is enough to watch who is actually likely to be at Sochi and the current contenders for the next two seasons. I love to hear about these incredible people you mentioned serious business. THAT was interesting and au courant with the summer games which have had many thrills even if we are more "winter olympics" fans on GS.
Skating and Gymnastics are the two most amazing sports for me, with a close third Equestrian events. I have seen nothing but news clips but plan to watch the replays of dressage, etc. as I love horses and did some riding. I hope NBC.com leaves the replays up for a long time. It's so aggravating to search for gold medal skaters on NBC or youtube in English and not find them 2 years later. Stupid business model/bad for the sport to do this to mfans. The money has already been spent, so NBC build fan bases with better coverage in skating and gymnastics!
I have heaps of favorites, as you do, skateluvr. In this age of the Kardashians, it's hard to remember that Bruce Jenner was the decathlon champ in 1976, way before becoming the stepfather of all those girls whose names start with K. My favorite recent decathlete, though, is Daley Thompson. He had flash on the track and charm off of it. Two of my favorite track and field athletes of all time are Edwin Moses (110 meter hurdles) and Jackie Joyner Kersee, a splendid and versatile athlete who won repeat heptathlon golds and also long jump golds. She was a quietly radiant personality, a true lady and a good sport. Fencing: Peter Westbrook won a bronze for the U.S. (in sabre, I think) and promptly went to start a fencing academy to bring the sport to minority kids who would never otherwise even hear of it, let alone get to learn it. He's sent people like Keeth and Erinn Smartt to the Olympics.
Finally, influenced by Chariots of Fire but also because I went and researched him, I add Eric Liddell. After the Games, he went back to China as a missionary. He was captured and imprisoned in a camp in Japanese-occupied China, where he worked hard to keep morale up among the kids in the camp. He died of a brain tumor while still imprisoned. This was a man in full, and I'm grateful to the film for telling his story. By the way, I read somewhere that China still appreciates his humanitarian work on behalf of the people of China, and they consider him their first Olympic champion. At this point, they don't need the extra medals, but there's something very sweet about their inclusion of him as one of their own.
Hmmm...Winter Olympics, I have so many faves, as we all do. Michelle and Kurt at the top, of course. Then a bunch of ice dancers: Klimova/Ponomarenko, Torvill/Dean, Virtue/Moir, Davis/White. Also John Curry, Yagudin, Toller Cranston, Daisuke, Mao, YuNa.
I had no idea Bruce Jenner was an olympian. I thought his claim to fame was well reality tv and face work/lift gone wrong. Kurt Browning, Klimova and Ponomarenko, Yagudin, butyrskaya, Gordeeva and Grinkov, Sidney Crosby, The Sedin twins, B and S, Oksana Baiul, Liz Manley, brian orser, oh and I have researched the past so I would include the protopopovs, Rodina And Zaitzev,
Kristina Egerszegi- hungarian swimmer
American basketball dream team in 1992
Cathy Freeman- Australian-aborigine runner
Alberto Tomba- italian skier-(Tomba la bomba )
Ole Einar Bjoerndalen- norwegian biathlonist
Gordeeva and Grinkov
aaaaand: Eric Moussambani
Last edited by plushyfan; 08-07-2012 at 07:11 AM.
Oh, yes, yes, yes, Kristina Egerszegi of Hungary. With very little fanfare in this country and no swimming power behind her, she won three golds in the same event in three consecutive Olympics. I just love her, because she exemplifies the talented athlete who just pops up without the benefit of a sports machine to groom her.
And Cathy Freeman as well. What a lovely competitor, a breath of fresh air. I think my heart was beating outside my body when she started her race, I was so nervous and conscious of the pressure on her--from two nations, as it were: Australia itself, and the Aborigine nation. (Though she wasn't the first Aboriginal medal winner. Nova Peris Kneebone won a gold as part of the Aussie field hockey team in Atlanta and then switched to running.)
And did I NEGLECT to mention Gordeyeva and Grinkov? Shame on me, and thank you for rectifying that error. I fell in love with them as we all did, the moment they appeared on the world scene. I hereby add them to my list.
Skaterboy, I have to chuckle at your reaction to Bruce Jenner. Yes, he once competed and I think set a record in terms of points. With his own, God-given face.
Egerszegi is a three time Olympian (1988, 1992 and 1996) and five time Olympic champion.
Originally Posted by Olympia
Height 1.74 m (5 ft 9 in)
Weight 57 kilograms (130 lb) she is a very low swimmer woman
But I disagree with you. The Hungarian swimming sport was very succesful, in Soul they had 4 gold and 2 silver, in Barcelona 5 gold and 3 silver, 1 bronze, in Atlanta 3 gold, 1 silver, and 2 bronze etc. In London Daniel Gyurta: 1 gold, Laszlo Cseh 1 bronze.
And shame on me, I forgot MARK SPITZ!!!!!! He was a hero in Munich, especially after the tragedy in olimpic village.
I stand corrected about Hungary, Plushyfan. I'm glad to hear that they have such a good record in swimming. But even in that group, Egerszegi stands out, doesn't she? I know she must have been hugely popular back home. She deserves it.
Spitz is definitely a standout. As was Eric Heiden, a speed skater who won gold in all five events he competed in I think 1980 in Lake Placid. The guy was unstoppable. I think he later became a doctor.
Yes, Egerszegi deserves the popularity. Her training partner Tamás Darnyi was also very great and popular Hungarian swimmer. He is considered by many to be one of the greatest medley swimmers in history. He won four gold medals at two Olympic Games (1988 and 1992) and was unbeaten in the individual medley events from 1985 until his retirement in 1993. He is the first swimmer ever to swim the 200 m medley (long course) in less than 2 minutes.
Originally Posted by Olympia
Dan Jansen, anyone? Skated after learning his beloved sister died and then fell during his races. Alas, 1992 was not his year either. But he came back again in 1994 to win gold unexpectedly in the 1000 m race - skating a victory lap with his baby daughter Jane, named after his sister.
I must sound so wishy-washy. Every time someone mentions another athlete, I say, "Oh, yes--him too." The truth is that very few athletes leave me cool. They're all pretty extraordinary. (Maybe I don't understand the curlers.)
That was wonderful, yes the baby! what a triumph! Was thrilled for him.
Gotta Have Music
So many great ones already mentioned in this thread. So hard to narrow it down to just one!