With the Winter 2022 Beijing Olympics wrapped up, our news feeds and television screens are filled with Olympic athletes who brought home gold. Celebrities in their own right, Olympic athletes are cherished talents who serve as role models for younger generations who aspire to be at the top of their sport someday.
Life is all about moments, and the Olympics have delivered on some of the greatest moments of our time. From a figure skater embroiled in a scandal, to an unlikely Bobsled team from a Caribbean Island nation, we’re taking a look at some of the greatest Winter Olympic moments that are still talked about today.
Most Popular Winter Olympic Sports
Before we dive into some of the most defining Winter Olympic moments of all time, let’s recap the most popular sports that have our eyes glued to the TV screen every-other-winter.
- Figure Skating
Whether it’s their unnatural ability to spin and not get dizzy, or land triple axels on razor-thin blades, figure skaters never fail to captivate our attention. Their grace, skill and strength are the envy of youth figure skaters around the world, who watch them flow across the ice and jump with ease. The U.S. has had several gold medal skaters in its Olympic history, including Dick Button, Scott Hamilton, Brian Boitano, Peggy Fleming, Dorothy Hamill, Kristi Yamaguchi, Tara Lapinski and Sarah Hughes.
- Ice Hockey
The fast-paced, aggressive game of hockey is a U.S. favorite, so it’s no wonder that cheering on our country’s hockey team is a priority for most Olympic viewers. While it’s rare that we’re treated to our favorite NHL players taking the ice in the Olympics due to its overlapped timing with their regular season schedule, the U.S. has managed to bring home two gold medals, eight silver medals and one bronze medal.
Many of us watch Olympic bobsledding with our breath held, considering these teams of two or four are racing down an ice track at 90mph. The tremendous risk factor and suspense makes this event a favorite of millions of Olympic viewers. The U.S. has made Olympic history a handful of times in bobsleigh, taking home gold in 1928, 1932, 1948 and 2010 for men and in 2002 for women.
Perhaps the most relatable Winter Olympic sport considering how many individuals and families ski recreationally, skiing is rated as the top Olympic sport in terms of TV viewership. The U.S. always sends an impressive team with a high likelihood of bringing home several golds every Winter Olympics. Some of the most notable U.S. Olympic skiers of all time have included Ted Ligety, Bode Miller, Picabo Street, Lindsey Vonn and Mikaela Shiffrin.
Defining Winter Olympic Moments
The Winter Olympics have had some defining moments in Olympic history that are still talked about today, from scandals to major underdogs bringing home gold.
- 1980 Men’s Ice Hockey Team
One of the most exciting moments in Winter Olympic history is known as the “Miracle on Ice,” when the U.S. men’s hockey team won the gold medal round versus the Soviet Union in Lake Placid, New York. The Soviet Union was the 4-time defending gold medalist and heavily favored to win, but the U.S. upset them in a 4-3 victory. Making the win even more exciting was the fact that the Soviet Union team was largely comprised of their country’s professional players, in stark contrast to the U.S. team which was made up of amateur players and only four players with limited minor league experience. They were also the youngest ice hockey team in the Olympics. The 1981 movie Miracle On Ice is the real-life story of their gold medal victory.
- 1988 Jamaican Bobsleigh Team
No one ever considered a bobsleigh team from a Caribbean Island nation would command attention at the Winter Olympics, but that’s exactly what happened in 1988 with a tropical island entered a 4-man team into an event dominated by cold-weather countries. Their first year in Olympic competition, they finished 30th out of 41 teams, and by the 1994 Olympics in Lillehammer, Norway, the bumped their rank up to 14th place – ahead of the U.S., Russia and France. The 1993 movie Cool Runnings starring John Candy was loosely based off the Jamaican National Bobsleigh Team.
- 1994 Nancy Kerrigan and Tonya Harding Scandal
A scandal that unfortunately still defines the figure skating careers of both talented athletes, the 1994 Winter Olympics was rocked by an assault on gold medal favorite Nancy Kerrigan that was orchestrated by Harding’s now ex-husband. He hired two men to assault Kerrigan, striking her right leg with a metal baton in an effort to eliminate her from the competition. Kerrigan ended up taking the silver medal, and while Harding finished in 8th place, she was ultimately banned for life by the U.S. Figure Skating Association.
Capturing Youth Sports Memories
While it’s a tradition of families across the globe to tune into the Olympics every two years, watching Olympic moments represents the ultimate level of sports. Until a child demonstrates an incredible level of skill in their chosen recreational sport, parents have their cameras out snapping photos and taking videos of their kids falling on skis, stumbling into fellow ice hockey players, and holding onto the edge of the ice skating rink for dear life. Capture those moments and preserve them forever, and someday they might serve as an NBC retrospective for their Winter Olympics debut.