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Mon, Jan. 20

Column: 10 Olympic moments that have stayed with me

Today is the official start of the XXIX Olympiad in Beijing. The Olympics seem to always bring hope for the human spirit. There have been miracles in the past, performances that defied logic, and expectations met and missed. The Olympics embody the human spirit because, even if only for a couple of weeks, there is a platform where the world gets along.

Now that the Olympics are upon us, I thought it would be a good time to share some moments that helped shape me in my sports life. The Olympics have helped to broaden my scope of sports.

Listed below are my top 10 Olympic moments. The placement is about how the moment affected me and not how I view its placement in history.

10. Bruce Jenner's gold medal in the decathlon in 1976 at the Montreal Olympics. I remember Jenner representing everything that was American. His strength, speed and desire for excellence was a great lesson at the time.

9. The seven gold medals won by Mark Spitz in the Munich games of 1972 was and continues to be awe-inspiring. Spitz made us proud to be Americans with his domination that year. The experts say that Michael Phelps could challenge his record this year. The Olympics have taught me to wait and see.

8. The way he seemed to zip around the ring and box, not necessarily fight, puts Sugar Ray Leonard's gold medal in 1976 in the top 10. Leonard was an underdog back then, and his energy level made you want to dream right along with him.

7. The Katie Couric of the sports world took America by storm in 1984. Mary Lou Retton was the first woman outside of Eastern Europe to win the all-around competition in gymnastics and showed us what perseverance could do for an athlete. She won by only 0.05 points because of her perfect 10s on the floor exercise and the vault.

6. After Romania's Bela and Martha Karolyi took over USA gymnastics, I knew it would be only a short time before our girls took the team gold. That happened in 1996, but it required a courageous effort from Kerri Strug who stuck the vault to score a 9.712 despite a severe ankle sprain with tendon damage. Thanks, Bela!

5. Soon after capturing the U.S. Open title in 1988 and laying claim to tennis' Grand Slam, Steffi Graf of Germany won gold at the Seoul Olympics to become the only person to ever win the Golden Slam. This gave the history-minded sports fan something to be in awe about for many years. It's impossible to put this achievement on too high of a pedestal.

4. If there was ever a story to teach that more hearts are broken in sports than dreams fulfilled, it's the 1972 USA men's basketball team. USA had never been beaten in basketball, and as time wound down, USA held a 50-49 lead over the Soviet Union. USSR was given three attempts to win the game, as the clock was reset twice. On the third attempt, the Soviets stole the gold from America. When the medals were handed out, the silver-medal platform was empty because the American players refused to accept it.

3. Falling way off the pace while wearing what would become a signature golf cap, Dave Wottle won gold in the 1972 men's 800-meter run. Wottle was the epitome of the come-from-behind winner. His gold-medal race was heart-wrenching as he fell far behind the pace. As usual, Wottle put his tall, lanky frame into high gear and barely won by only 0.03 seconds. Wottle taught that no matter how far one gets behind, there's still a chance.

2. "Do you believe in miracles?" That's what Al Michaels asked as the 1980 men's hockey team pulled off the upset of the ages with its 4-3 win over the Soviet Union. The team caused some angst as it went for the gold in its next game against Finland. Despite trailing 2-1 after two periods, USA pulled out a 4-2 win and claimed the gold. Yes, I do believe in miracles.

1. The Olympic moment that had its most profound affect on me was the performance of 14-year-old Nadia Comaneci of Romania at the Montreal Olympics in 1976. Comaneci recorded seven perfect 10s in gymnastics while winning three golds in the all-around, beam and uneven bars. Comaneci's performance forever changed my stance on women's gymnastics. The Olympics' gymnastics competition is now one of my favorites, if not my favorite.

By no stretch of the imagination do I think these are the most memorable moments ever. But these are the 10 that have profoundly made their footprints on my life as far as the Olympics go. It's the time to believe, and for our country to come together despite our differences.


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