OLYMPIC GAMES LEGENDS
They toiled, struggled, sweated, experienced pain, cried, stumbled, fell, got back up and reached the peak of Olympus. And they did it in such a uniquely incredible fashion, that their achievements will be eternally remembered and will become the inspiration for generations to come.
1896 | Athens | The feat of the professional water carrier
1,503 years had passed since the last Olympic Games were held in antiquity when, in 1896, the Games were revived in Athens. The latest recorded Olympian was Armenian prince Varasdat. American triple jumper James Brendan was crowned the first Olympian in modern history. However, an unknown 24-year-old Greek, a water carrier by profession, who won the marathon race, stole all the glory! His name was Spyros Louis and the reason that the whole planet was talking about him is that he won at a race that was appearing for the first time and was considered a feat in itself to reach the finish line…
1900 | Paris | Standing up!
During the second Olympic Games of the modern era, the spotlight fell on American jumper Ray Ewry who won three gold medals, in standing high jump, long jump and triple jump competitions. His achievement became renowned because, at the age of 5, Ewry was struck by polio and became paralyzed. He spent his childhood in a wheelchair, however, thanks to the persistency of his doctor, as well as his inner strength, he managed to -literally- get back on his feet and become an Olympian!
1904 | St. Louis | The wooden leg!
Undoubtedly, the most notable figure of the 1904 Olympic Games was gymnast George Eyser. He won a total of six medals; three gold, two silver and one bronze. What was incredible about Eyser, was that he competed with a wooden prosthesis for a left leg, having lost his leg after being run over by a train!
1908 | London | Unbroken record
A record that remains unbroken to this day was achieved in 1908 in London by Swedish sniper Oscar Swan. At the age of 60, he won 2 gold and one bronze medal and became the oldest ever Olympian. He broke his own record twice: firstly, at the 1912 Games in Stockholm and a second time in 1920, in Antwerp.
1912 | Stockholm | Super Athlete
The first super-athlete in Olympic Games history was Jim Thorpe, a US athlete with native-American roots who won in both the decathlon and the pentathlon in the Stockholm Games. His performance would be admirable even with today’s standards. Sadly, he lost his Olympic titles after it was found he had been paid for playing two seasons of semi-professional baseball before competing in the Olympics, thus violating the amateurism rules that were in place at the time. In 1983, 30 years after his death, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) restored his Olympic medals. His co-athletes Ferdinand Bie from Norway and Wieslander from Sweden refused to receive their fellow athlete medals and have always claimed Thorpe is the only champion.
1920 | Antwerp | The phantom runner
The great Finnish champion in long-distance running, Paavo Nurmi, was the top figure of the Antwerp Olympics. He won two gold medals (in the 10,000m and 8,000m cross country races) and a silver medal in the 5,000m. Nurmi was admired for his airy style, which earned him the nickname ‘the phantom runner’.
1924 | Paris | ‘’Tarzan”
The Games are hosted for the second time in Paris. All spotlights fell on a swimmer, not only because of his amazing performance, but also due to his appearance. His name is Johnny Weissmuller. The American won 3 gold medals, while in the 100m freestyle he became the first to break the one-minute barrier, swimming the distance in 59 seconds. He completed his career by winning two more gold and one bronze Olympic medals. He went on a successful cinema career by embodying the legendary Tarzan.
1928 | Amsterdam | Double in sprints
Sprinter Percy Williams managed to become the great protagonist of the 1928 Olympic Games. The Canadian sprinter made it double, winning the gold medal in both the 100m and the 200m races. In the 100m race, he made a new world record with 10.3 seconds, an incredible performance for the era’s standards.
1932 | Los Angeles | Herald of a new era
Four years after Williams, American Edward Tolan imitated his achievement. He was crowned Olympic gold medalist in both 100m and 200m races, achieving performances that were world and Olympic records, respectively. He was the first black athlete to do so and his victories were the harbinger of black supremacy in running competitions.
1936 | Berlin | The man who humiliated Hitler
Hitler’s Nazi regime used Berlin Olympics to propagate their unfounded theories of Aryan superiority. The Nazis received an answer in the track by black American Jesse Owens who achieved an impressive quadruplet, winning gold medals in the 100m and 200m races, in the 4 x 100 metre relay and in the long jump.
1948 | London | The flying housewife
At a time when the world was trying to heal from the wounds of World War II, London Olympics provided the opportunity to mark a fresh start for humanity. Such a fresh start was made by Dutch Fanny Blankers-Koen, a mother of two who had already turned 30. She became the first female star of the Games. She won 4 gold medals (100m, 200m, 80m hurdles and 4x100m), something no other female athlete had achieved in sprints. She went down in history as the ‘flying housewife’. In 1999, the International Athletics Federation named her the top female athlete of the 20th century.
1952 | Helsinki | ‘Locomotive’ man
The star of a new world sports legend shone in the homeland of the legendary long-distance runner Paavo Nurmi. Emil Zatopek, was nicknamed ‘locomotive man’ because he moved his hands in a way that resembled a piston while running. Zatopek set a unique track record by winning gold medals in the 5,000m, 10,000m but his final medal came when he decided at the last minute to compete in the first marathon of his life! On the day he won the 5,000m race (July 24, 1952), his wife Dana Zatopkova (born in the same year and day with him) also won the gold medal in javelin!