Reliving The Olympic Dreams

Posted on: 05 August 2008 by Gareth Hargreaves

With the Beijing Olympics about to get underway, we relive in video Great Britain's top ten moments at the Olympic Games.

Since their inception in 1896 the modern Olympic Games have produced countless moments of sporting triumph, drama and disaster.

The impact the Olympics has had on the world has stretched far beyond the field of play and into the world of politics where a win on the track is worth more than a gold medal.

Jesse Owens is the most famous example when he ran against an ideology in 1936 to win the 100m at the Berlin Olympics.

Cathy Freeman gave Australian Aborigines hope and recognition when she won the 400m for Australia at the Sydney Olympics in 2000.

And Steve Redgrave proved age was no barrier when he battled his way to his fifth Olympic gold in the coxless four at the same Olympics in 2000.

With the Beijing Olympics commencing this week, we take a look back at those winning runs, leaps and throws and retrace the best British Olympic moments over the past 112 years.

Top Ten

1) Steve Redgrave, Sydney 2000

Rated as Great Britain’s greatest ever Olympian, he is the only British athlete to ever achieve five gold medals.

The rower won his medals during the 1984 Olympics through to the 2000 Sydney Olympics.

Immediately after winning gold at the 1996 Olympics in Atlanta, in an interview Redgrave stated if anyone found him close to a rowing boat again they could shoot him.

Yet in 2000, Redgrave won his fifth consecutive Olympic gold. He retired from the sport and became the BBC Sports Personality of the Year.

He was made an MBE in 1987, a CBE in 1997, and he became a Knight Bachelor in 2001.

2) Kelly Holmes, Athens 2004

Plagued by injury and illness in her athletic career, Kelly Holmes was in the Army when she decided to chase her Olympic dream.

Arriving in Athens in 2004 feeling fit and fresh for the first time in her career she rewrote British Olympic history, winning two gold medals in the space of a few days.

After winning the 800m in a fascinating race, Holmes followed up her success with a stunning race in the 1500m.

3) Sebastian Coe, Moscow 1980

Sebastian Coe remains one of athletics’ all-time greats.

A holder of four Olympic medals and eight world records in middle-distance running, his rivalry with fellow Britons Steve Ovett and Steve Cram dominated middle-distance racing for much of the 1980s.

Few will forget the Moscow Olympics in 1980 when both Coe and Ovett were at their peak.

Ovett claimed gold in the 800m but Coe rose to the most pressure-packed race of his career to win 1500m gold.

His gaping expression of joy and relief at the finish line remains as one of the most striking in Olympic history.

When the 1984 Olympics rolled around, few gave Coe much chance of winning more gold, but again he rose to the occasion, taking silver in the 800m and gold in the 1500m.

4) Torvill & Dean, Sarajevo 1984

Jane Torvill and Christopher Dean’s free program at the Sarajevo Winter Olympics, performed to the music of Maurice Ravel’s Bolero, became world famous.

They received nine '6.0' marks for artistic impression, the highest possible score and the only time ever that an all-perfect score was achieved.

One of the most popular achievements in the history of British sport, Torvil & Dean were watched by a British television audience of 24 million.

5) Sally Gunnell, Barcelona 1992

Sally Gunnell won the 400m hurdles at the 1992 Barcelona Olympics but her defence of her Olympic title in Atlanta in 1996 was cut short as she pulled up in one of her races, injured.

This seemed a particularly cruel blow as the race occurred on her 30th birthday but nonetheless, Gunnell had already written her name into the record books.

6) Linford Christie, Barcelona 1992

Born in Jamaica and brought to England by his grandmother at the age of seven, Linford Christie didn’t take up athletics seriously until he was 19.

Christie’s early track career was not promising and he failed to make the GB team at the 1984 Los Angeles Olympics.

It wasn’t until he began working under the coaching of Ron Roddan that he began to fulfil his potential.

In 1986, he was the surprise winner of the 100m at the European Championships and two years later won silver behind Olympic legend Carl Lewis at the ’88 Seoul Olympics, though only after Ben Johnson had been disqualified for a doping offence.

After becoming British Olympic 100m champion, Christie was in his prime and though his great rival Lewis was not in Barcelona for the ’92 Olympics, the Briton was in fabulous shape. At the age of 32, as he won gold in 9.96 seconds, Christie became the oldest Olympic 100m champion by four years.

7) Mary Peters, Munich 1972

Britain’s largest-ever team at an overseas Olympics returned home with only four gold medals from Munich in ’72.

The only gold in the Olympic stadium was achieved by Mary Peters in the pentathlon.

The blonde secretary from Belfast put together one of the finest series of performances ever seen by a female British athlete, including clear wins in the shot put and high jump and the run of her life in the 200m at the end of the second and final day of competition to beat local favourite Heide Rosendahl into second place.

She scored 4801 points, an improvement of 26 points on the previous world record and her previous Olympic finishes of fourth in ’64 and ninth in ’68.

8) Jonathan Edwards, Sydney 2000

Widely regarded as the best triple jumper of all time, Jonathan Edwards has held the triple jump world record since 1995 and won gold at the 2000 Olympics.

There are few triple jumping titles Edwards hasn’t won. However, it was in Sydney that he finally achieved his ultimate Olympic dream.

He captured the nation’s heart and returned home to a hero’s welcome.

9) Denise Lewis, Sydney 2000

A magnificent all-rounder, Denise Lewis came of age in the heat of competition at the 2000 Sydney Olympics. Suffering from an Achilles injury throughout her seven events, she battled with incredible strength and willpower and during the closing 800m, held out under intense pressure to secure a memorable gold medal.

After the first day of competition in Sydney, Denise lay in third position overall. With a fantastic performance in the final day's javelin competition, she found herself leading the heptathlon outright, needing to finish the final event of the 800m within 10 seconds of Russian Yelena Prokhorova to take the gold medal home.

With heavy strapping around her ankle to protect the damaged Achilles tendon, it looked doubtful whether Denise Lewis would be able to make it to the start line, let alone complete the race. But plucky Denise was not to be denied her title on the grandest stage of all and finished the 800m only 6.5 seconds adrift of her closest competitor.

10) Chris Boardman, Barcelona 1992

Amid dismal displays by Britain at the 1992 Games, Chris Boardman not only saved Team GB some face, but excelled to such a degree that the country had something to shout about.

Known as 'The Professor' for his scrupulous attention to detail in training, Boardman went to Barcelona as a 24-year-old who was already the world record holder for the 5000m.

He also had a secret weapon. His Lotus Engineering 'super-bike' was innovative and something the world had never seen before. Its revolutionary aerodynamism helped him to sail through the initial stages in the 4000m individual pursuit.

Against Danish cyclist Jan Petersen, he set a new world record. This was broken a few days later as Boardman shattered his old time against New Zealand Commonwealth Games champion Gary Anderson in the semi-final.

Half an hour later and Boardman was back on the track against Jens Lehmann, part of the gold-winning German team pursuit squad.

But fatigue proved negligible for the great Briton, who caught up with Lehmann, thus rendering him victorious, with a lap to spare to take gold.

What’s your favourite Olympic memory? Who is the most famous British Olympian and who achieved the most during their Olympic career?

Let us know by leaving a comment in the box below. Alternatively, share your thoughts in the 50connect forums.

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