The 10 Biggest Moments In Winter Olympics History

The Summer Olympic Games have a lot of advantages—like NBA players dunking on each other—but we’re here to remind you that the Winter Games are not to be slept on. From Tonya Harding and Nancy Kerrigan, to the Miracle on Ice, to the French judge, to Cool Runnings, past Games have popped off.

This is a photo of the Miracle on Ice USA Hockey Team


This is a photo of the Miracle on Ice USA Hockey Team

When the 2018 Winter Olympic Games got underway in Pyeongchang on Feb. 9, it’s safe to say many American sports fans were wondering the same thing:

Should I really watch this? I know football season is over and basketball and hockey haven’t reached their peak…but would I gain anything from devoting two weeks of my life to following NBC’s coverage of figure skating, skiing, and curling?

Fair enough. The Summer Games have a lot of advantages—namely, basketball (NBA players!), track & field (Jamaica!), and gymnastics (America’s sweethearts!)—and provide better entertainment value. In fact, they generate significantly higher TV ratings.

History has taught us, however, that the Winter Games are not to be slept on. If you decide following the Pyeongchang Games isn’t worth your time, we understand—but we’re here to remind you that past Winter Games have popped off, so you never know what could happen this year.

Some of the storylines that have emerged over the years are just…insane. Even the relatively uneventful 2014 Sochi Games had plenty of drama. First, there were the abysmal accommodations. Then there was Russia’s notorious anti-gay agenda, and their now-public-knowledge systematic doping scandal.

A bobsledder got stuck in his hotel-room bathroom and went all, “OH YEAH!,” literally bursting through the wall. A frustrated figure skater said he wanted to stick his “middle finger in the air and say a big, ‘F-U,’” to his critics. Lolo Jones somehow made the U.S. women’s bobsledding team and everyone had an opinion about it.

A few storylines revolved around the athletic competition, too, like the Canadian women’s hockey team pulling off an insane comeback in the gold-medal game against the U.S. Down 2-0 with 3:26 left, Canada scored twice in the final minutes of regulation and won 3-2 in overtime.

As ludicrous as those Sochi storylines were, they didn’t crack our list. Here are the 10 biggest, craziest, most unforgettable moments in Winter Olympics history.

10. Dan Jansen wins emotional gold in final race

This is a photo of Olympic speed skater Dan Jansen

9. Lindsey Jacobellis’ showboating backfires

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Lindsey Jacobellis is one of snowboarding’s GOATs. She has cleaned up at the X Games and World Championships. She has yet, however, to claim an Olympic gold.

Jacobellis was in the clear to claim her first gold in the women’s snowboarding final in Turin, Italy, in 2006. All she had to do was stay on her board. With a huge lead on the next competitor, Jacobellis, who was 20 at the time, attempted a flashy board grab on the second-to-last jump of the final. It backfired.

Jacobellis fell. The next snowboarder passed her, and Jacobellis finished in second. She cried. She said she was trying “to share my enthusiasm with the crowd.”

She didn’t make it back to the finals in 2010 or 2014.

8. Sidney Crosby shatters American hearts

This is a photo of Canadian hockey player Sidney Crosby playing in the 2010 gold medal game.

7. The Battle of the Brians

This is a photo of U.S. figure skater Brian Boitano at the 1988 Winter Olympics in Calgary.

6. Hermann Maier suffers horrific crash, comes back to win two gold medals

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Austrian skier Hermann Maier suffered an appalling fall after flying 130 feet in the air during his first Olympic run at the 1998 Nagano Olympics. The tumble is at the :23 mark.

It looked so bad that people thought Herman might be paralyzed. Somehow, he suffered only a bruised shoulder and sprained knee.

Miraculously, he came back three days later to win a gold medal in the Super G race. Three days after that, he looked adversity in the eyes and said “another one,” claiming gold in the giant slalom.

His Herculean efforts, coupled with his heritage, earned him the nickname “The Herminator.”

5. Nodar Kumaritashvili dies in Vancouver

This is a photo of Georgian luge athlete Nodar Kumaritashvili

4. Jamaican bobsled team lives Cool Runnings IRL

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“Feel the rhythm! Feel the rhyme! Get on up, it’s bobsled time!”

The story of the Jamaican bobsled team’s journey was immortalized in the 1993 film Cool Runnings—a true cult classic. The film documents their quest to make the 1988 Calgary Olympics.

The real-life story was just as entertaining, TBH. The four-man Jamaican team—comprised of sprinters and military guys who didn’t really know their way around a bobsled—was the toast of the town in Calgary. An unprecedented number of tropical nations visited the frozen tundra to compete.

The Jamaican team didn’t do so great in competition (they lost control of their sled, crashed, and didn’t finish the race)—but they got up and walked to the finish line, earning the adoration of their competition and the crowd.

In 2018, Jamaica has its first women’s bobsled team.

3. Russians influence controversial judging of 2002 skating finale

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You’ve heard the jokes about the “French judge,” right? This is where they originated.

In 2002, Canadian pairs skaters Jamie Salé and David Pelletier went toe-to-toe with Russian pair Elena Berezhnaya and Anton Sikharulidze. It looked like the Canadian skaters were a mortal lock to win the gold, as the Canadians skated flawlessly and the Russians made a huge mistake during their routine.

But the judges shockingly announced the Russians had won the gold. Salé and Pelletier were completely rattled during the medal ceremony, and viewers lost their minds—how did this happen?

Later on, a French judge admitted she had been pressured to vote for the Russian team. A bunch of people were suspended, and the Canadians were awarded the gold medal.

The controversy went down as “Skategate,” linked to Russian crime boss Alimzhan Tokhtakhounov. Things are real in these figure-skating streets.

2. The 1980 Miracle on Ice

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You’ve seen the movie, right? If you haven’t seen Miracle (2004), get on that right now. The film is responsible for Kurt Russell, AKA Herb Brooks, delivering one of the most epic sports-movie speeches of all-time.

The Soviet hockey team looked unstoppable entering the 1980 Lake Placid Olympics. They had won four straight golds. Meanwhile, the American team was basically a rag-tag group of college kids. Adding to the drama of the game—it took place during the Cold War.

No one thought the U.S. could even hang when they squared off in the medal round. But a few American heroes emerged—Brooks, goalie Jim Craig, and captain Mike Eruzione—and the U.S. somehow claimed a 4-3 win. It was the upset of the century, punctuated by the call of the century: “Do you believe in miracles?!” Al Michaels said. “Yes!”

“People wept, strangers hugged each other, and groups around the country broke into stirring renditions of ‘God Bless America’ and ‘The Star-Spangled Banner,’” wrote Kevin Allen.

1. Nancy Kerrigan/Tonya Harding Scandal

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The story of Tonya Harding and Nancy Kerrigan is a hot topic right now, as I, Tonya, starring Margot Robbie, is in theaters and has garnered universal acclaim.

It’s surprising that it took this long for this insane story to be made into a popular movie.

Kerrigan was the favorite to win the 1994 National Championships for figure skating. However, weeks before they got underway she was approached by an unknown assailant and clubbed in the knee. Video showed Kerrigan laying on the ground, holding her leg in agonizing pain, and shouting, “WHY?!”

It was later revealed that Harding’s ex-husband, Jeff Gillooly, had hired the attacker. Harding reportedly did not know the attack was coming, but she learned about it shortly after it happened and lied to investigators.

The story led to endless tabloid coverage for the Lillehammer Olympics. Before the U.S. general populace moved on to another story—the trial of O.J. Simpson in 1995—this tale captivated the country.

Harding’s skate lace broke and she wept during her routine at the Olympics, which took place seven weeks after the attack. She finished eighth. Kerrigan recovered and finished second, claiming silver. Harding was later banned from the sport.

Kerrigan accrued a bunch of endorsement deals and even went on to host Saturday Night Live in March 1994.

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