The Olympic Games are about challenging yourself. A challenge that tests your will, talent, composure and strength. Not only during the Games, that’s just the final act. Four years of hard work culminate in one race, a lift, a basket. And these diabolical details, sometimes award first place to someone unexpected. To an Olympic David that gets the gold from the Olympic Goliath.
In the 1980 Winter Olympic Games, the Soviet Union traveled across the Atlantic to New York, with one of the most fierce teams that Ice Hockey had seen at the time. A team of experienced professional players that turned the four-time defending gold Soviets, into the ultimate favorites.
Against them, the United States, a group of amateur hockey players, led by coach Herb Brooks. After an unbeaten group stage, the two teams clashed in the first game of the medal round and the Americans shocked the world. Their historic win by 4-3 followed by another triumph against Finland in the final.
An iconic moment for an iconic Olympic underdog.
Steven Bradbury is a pioneer in Australia’s sports history and a legend on the ice track worldwide. After winning bronze with the short track relay team at the 1994 Lillehammer Games, Bradbury competed in 2002 in Salt Lake. His eventful route on the short track 1000 metres grant him a place on the final.
Against the big names, the Australian realised that he had to choose a different strategy.
Bradbury decided to wait for a mistake, cruising behind his faster and younger opponents. A few meters before the finish line, a mass crash left Steven Bradbury finishing first as the last man standing.
A win of strategy and destiny.
One of the biggest underdog triumphs of all times, is the win of Rulon Gardner against Aleksandr Karelin.
Gardner entered the 2000 Sydney Olympic Games as a complete unknown Greco-Roman American wrestler and made it to the final. There, he met Aleksandr Karelin, 3 times gold medallist and undefeated for 13 years.
And he did the unthinkable.
During the 2000 Sydney Olympics, most people were surprised, when the Greek sprinter Kostas Kenteris managed to get a slot at the 200m final. Kenteris had recently switched from the 400m discipline to 200m, competing against superstars.
The night of the 28th of September 2000, was the ultimate peak of a controversial career for Kenteris, who at the time astonished the Olympic world.
Im Dong-Hyun’s accomplishments compose a continuous underdog story. The Korean archer, has won team gold medals in Athens and Beijing and a second place in the 2012 London Olympic Games but his achievements become even greater, if someone reckons the fact that Im is legally blind, with vision of 20/100 in his right eye and 20/200 in his left.
A true overachiever.
Argentina’s basketball team wasn’t included in the favorites of the Olympic tournament of 2004 in Athens. The ‘’Albiceleste’’ of Ginobili, Scola and Oberto marched throughout the competition, showing incredible talent and determination.
They eliminated, traditional title contender, Serbia and Montenegro from the group stage and in the knockout phase they knocked out hosts Greece and powerhouse United States.
Argentina’s win against Italy in the final, was the conclusion of a remarkable team effort beyond any expectation.
One the biggest upsets in Winter Olympic Games history belongs to Ester Ledecka. The Czech competed at the 2018 Pyeongchang Games as world champions and big favorite in snowboard, but came out of nowhere winning the Alpine skiing Super-G as well.
Ledecka who had never finished on podium in any alpine event, had to borrow skis to and ultimately complete an unforgettable run snatching the gold from the two-time World champion Anna Veith.
Her reaction after winning first place is gold.
At the 1964 Tokyo Olympic Games, Billy Mills was just an unknown runner on the starting line of the 10.000m final. A US Marine Corps lieutenant, Mills managed to keep contact with the leading athletes throughout the race.
But in the last meters, the native American made an amazing sprint that not only gave him one of the most unexpected golden Olympic medals of all time, but also a very special place to Olympic history.