South Asia

Beihjing 2022: The 10 most extraordinary moments EVER at the Winter Olympics


The Winter Olympics get underway in Beijing on February 2, with a record 109 events taking place across seven sports in China.

The build up has been marred by political posturing, with several countries refusing to send government delegations to the Games, including the UK, the US and Japan. 

There is also concern over possible protests on podiums, which the IOC has tried to ban, with plenty of possible flashpoints in the making over the next month. 

Usually, however, the talking points are on the ice and snow, and over the course of the Games there will still be plenty of wonderful sport and moments that go down in history, just like these incredible moments from over the years…

‘Superstar housewives’ end 18-year wait for gold – 2002 

For 18 years, the Great British public had been starved of a gold medal success to cheer at the Winter Olympics. Step forward Rhona Martin and her team of all-star, all-Scottish curlers. 

An incredible 5.7million people tuned in to watch their final against Switzerland, with the five-women team clinching gold with the last throw.  

Dubbed the ‘superstar housewives’, captain Martin insisted that the newfound fame wouldn’t go to her head. 

‘I’ll still be a housewife, a mother of two from Dunlop in Ayrshire, that will not change. It’s a small village,’ she quipped. Although there was nothing small about this achievement.  

Rhona Martin and her Great Britain curling team won gold at the Salt Lake City games in 2002

Eddie the Eagle soars in Calgary – 1988

Michael Edwards in action in Calgary, 1988

Michael Edwards in action in Calgary, 1988

If there is one name synonymous with the Winter Olympics in the UK, it belongs to this man. 

Very few could probably tell you his actual birth name, but Michael Edwards soared into the hearts and minds of a nation when he secured his place at the 1988 Games in Canada.

He finished dead last in both the 70-metre and 90-metre ski jumping events, miles behind those in the penultimate places. But it was the taking part that meant the world to the man from Cheltenham. 

His appearance actually forced the IOC to introduce a rule to prevent others taking a leaf out of his book. His experience, therefore, really was one of kind.

There was even a movie made about his efforts, starring Hugh Jackman, in 2015 – a common theme among top Winter Olympic moments.  

'Eddie the Eagle' became a cult hero when he qualified for the 1988 Winter Olympics

‘Eddie the Eagle’ became a cult hero when he qualified for the 1988 Winter Olympics

The Miracle on Ice – 1980 

When telling a David versus Goliath story, you don’t usually expect to be describing the United States as the former. 

However, this was the case in the men’s ice hockey medal-round match at the 1980 Olympics Game in Lake Placid. 

The Soviet Union, a team made up largely of professionals, were looking to secure their sixth Olympic gold medal in seven outings. The US team, the youngest at the Olympics, led by Herb Brooks and largely made of amateurs, were hugely unfavoured.

It mattered little. A 4-3 victory produced the biggest upset in ice hockey history as the US won in front of a home crowd.

The gold medal wasn’t actually secured until two days later, when they beat Finland, but this was the match they are remembered for. 

The USA's victory over the Soviet Union at the 1980 Games was dubbed the Miracle on Ice

The USA’s victory over the Soviet Union at the 1980 Games was dubbed the Miracle on Ice 

Cool Runnings – 1988

Another moment enshrined on the big screen, Jamaica’s bobsleigh team caused a stir when competing at the 1988 Games in Canada.

The brainchild of one bright spark at the American embassy in Kingston, George B. Fitch is credited with coming up with the idea of transferring the power of Jamaican athletes into propelling a sled.  

After qualifying, the team entered two events, but it was the four-man team that caught the imagination of those watching around the world.

After mistakes condemned their first two runs, the third got off to a flying start and had the Jamaicans going toe-to-toe with the top 10 teams in the competition. However, the anticipation was cut short by a crash, the enduring image of the plucky foursome one of them pushing their bobsleigh over the line themselves, although not quite as heroically as in the film, where they held the bob aloft on their shoulders.

Devon Harris, Dudley Stokes, Michael White and Samuel Clayton of the Jamaican four-man bobsleigh team crash out during the Calgary Games in 1988, later inspiring 'Cool Runnings'

Devon Harris, Dudley Stokes, Michael White and Samuel Clayton of the Jamaican four-man bobsleigh team crash out during the Calgary Games in 1988, later inspiring ‘Cool Runnings’

Bradbury’s (incredibly) lucky day – 2002

Even Steven Bradbury would have to admit he was not the best 1,000m speed skater in the 2002 final. The 15 world championship gold medals boasted by his final opponents suggested as much

Up until the final corner of the race, that much was evident to all. The Australian was off the pace and as good as a spectator as he meandered to a fifth-place finish. 

Then the unthinkable happened, as one by one his opponents slipped and tripped just yards from the finish line, allowing Bradbury to saunter over for the most unlikely of gold medals – and a first for Australia at the Winter Olympics.

Steven Bradbury picked up the most unlikely of gold medals when he won in Salt Lake City

Steven Bradbury picked up the most unlikely of gold medals when he won in Salt Lake City 

Kerrigan vs Harding – 1994

While maybe not strictly an Olympic moment, the feud between Nancy Kerrigan and Tonya Harding was hard to avoid in the build up to the 1994 Winter Olympics.

Rivals on the US figure skating scene, Kerrigan was sensationally attacked with a baton by an assailant hired by Harding’s ex-husband, in a bid to injure her and keep her from competing in the US Nationals and the Winter Games in Lillehammer.

The attack, the aftermath of which was caught on camera, did injury her but Kerrigan recovered to take part in Norway, where more than 400 journalists packed into a rink to see Kerrigan and Harding take part in a joint training session. 

Kerrigan won silver, while Harding’s eighth-place finish proved her final daliance on the ice. She was later banned from all competition having been found to have been complicit in the attack. Again, the story has also been turned into a movie, I Tonya, with Margot Robbie starring as Harding.

Nancy Kerrigan (right) recovered from an infamous attack that was ordered by the ex-husband of her rival Tonya Harding (left) in the build-up to the 1994 Winter Olympics

Nancy Kerrigan (right) recovered from an infamous attack that was ordered by the ex-husband of her rival Tonya Harding (left) in the build-up to the 1994 Winter Olympics

Maier’s amazing recovery – 1998 

When Herman Maier crashed out of the downhill race at the 1998 Games in Nagano, the immediate question was would he get up, never mind race again.

Such was the force of the Austrian’s sensational fall that many considered it miraculous that he wasn’t paralysed after he lost control, flew several feet into the air and landed head first. 

Maier was undeterred, however. He got up and dusted himself off. More than that, he returned a few days later to the slopes and secured not one but two gold medals, triumphing in the giant slalom and Super-G events.  

Herman Maier recovered from a huge crash in Japan to come back and win two golds in 1998

Herman Maier recovered from a huge crash in Japan to come back and win two golds in 1998 

Georgia’s luge tragedy – 2010

Without question the darkest moment the Winter Olympics has had to endure, Nodar Kumaritashvili was only on a practice run when tragedy struck in 2010.

Testing himself around the course at Whistler in British Columbia, the Goergian luger lost control and came shooting off the track at 90mph, before colliding with a metal pole. 

He was pronounced dead hours after arriving in hospital, to the shock of all in attendance at the Games. With the accident occurring before the opening ceremony, Georgia’s team were welcomed into the arena wearing black armbands in tribute to their team-mate. 

Tragedy struck at the 2010 Olympics in Vancouver when Georgian Nodar Kumaritashvili died

Tragedy struck at the 2010 Olympics in Vancouver when Georgian Nodar Kumaritashvili died

Five-star Heiden – 1980

As far as individual performances at an Olympics goes, it would take some going to beat that of Eric Heiden in 1980. 

While the likes of Usain Bolt and Michael Phelps have cleaned up on the track and in the pool, Heiden was untouchable on the ice in Lake Placid.

He took all five golds on offer in men’s speed skating, from the 500m all the way up to the 10,000m, even throwing in four Olympic records and one world record while he was at it.  

Torvill and Dean – 1984 

Jayne Torvill and Christopher Dean are up there along with Ant and Dec and Morecambe and Wise when it comes to famous double acts produced in the UK.

Before they were entertaining us on Sunday evenings by teaching celebrities how to ice skate, they were pretty damn good at it themselves.

Having won four consecutive gold medals at the World Championships, the pair took gold at the 1984 Games in Sarajevo with their iconic Bolero routine. 

It was flawless, with their results making them the highest-scoring figure skaters of all time – they received 12 perfect 6.0s and six 5.9s which included artistic impression scores of 6.0 from every judge – all while being cheered on by more than 24million viewers back home in the UK.   

Jayne Torvill and Christopher Dean captured the hearts of a nation with their Bolero routine

Jayne Torvill and Christopher Dean captured the hearts of a nation with their Bolero routine



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