12 Iconic Moments That Made Us Love The Olympics Forever

Photo: IOP/AFP/Getty Images.
It's hard to believe, but the opening ceremony for the 2016 Olympic Games is just a few days away. And that means one thing: Olympic fever is set to take over the world.

It happens like clockwork every two years. From Rio to Rwanda, all anyone can talk about is the Olympic Games. Every television set will be tuned to heats, races, and qualifying competitions to catch the moments we'll never forget.

To get geared up for all the amazing moments to come in Rio this summer, we thought it'd be fun to take a look back at some of the standout, extraordinary moments of the past: the moments that made us cheer, gasp, and believe in something bigger than ourselves.

Click ahead to remember some of the best moments of Olympic glory throughout history. And don't forget to mark your calendar for your favorite events. See the 2016 schedule here.

1 of 12
Mary Lou Retton Wins The First Gold Medal In U.S. Gymnastics History
1984 Summer Olympics in Los Angeles

Once upon a time, no American — male or female — had ever won a gold medal in gymnastics. Then, a 16-year-old gymnast with a pixie cut named Mary Lou Retton came along and won all-around gold by just .05 points. The best moment from her victory? When Retton scored a perfect 10 on not one, but both of her vaults — just to show she could.
Advertisement
2 of 12
Kristi Yamaguchi Ends Team USA's 16-Year Gold-Medal Drought
1992 Winter Olympics in Albertville

Kristi Yamaguchi was only 22 years old when she claimed the first medal for U.S. women's figure skating since Dorothy Hamill in 1976. Her free skate included some insane triple-triple combinations that edged out the competition. But Yamaguchi didn't just end a 16-year gold-medal drought for Team USA; with this win she also became the first Asian-American woman to win Olympic gold in any sport.
3 of 12
Jesse Owens Wins Gold & Sets Records In Nazi Germany
1936 Summer Olympics in Berlin

Jesse Owens went down in history for his incredible performance at the 1936 Olympic Games, held in Nazi Germany. The story is so good that it's been turned into a movie. Yes, Hitler was there. Yes, Owens was thought to be "inferior" because of his race. And yes, he still competed.

Owens won a total of four gold medals that year: in the 100m, the 200m, the 4x100m relay, and the long-jump competitions. He also managed to break or equal nine Olympic records, and also set three world records. Hitler wanted the 1936 Berlin Games to prove his theory of Aryan racial superiority. Instead, Jesse Owens left a hero.
4 of 12
Michael Phelps Wins 19th Olympic Medal
2012 Summer Olympics in London

First, Michael Phelps made history when he passed Mark Spitz by winning eight gold medals at the Beijing Olympics in 2008. Then, he became a legend at the 2012 Olympic games, where he became the most decorated Olympian of all time.
5 of 12
Photo: AP Photo.
The Dream Team Wins Gold
1992 Summer Olympics in Barcelona

Imagine a basketball team with Michael Jordan, Magic Johnson, Larry Bird, and Charles Barkley. Sounds like a classic basketball dream, right? Except in 1992, it became a reality. Team USA filled its roster with the best of the best from the NBA — which included several future Hall of Famers. The Dream Team dominated the Olympics that summer, and easily defeated its competitors (by an average of 44 points) to earn gold.
6 of 12
Florence Griffith-Joyner Becomes Fastest Woman In History
1988 Summer Olympics in Seoul

It's been nearly 30 years since Florence Griffith-Joyner, known to fans as Flo-Jo, set the records for the 100-meter and 200-meter races in track. But incredibly, her world records still stand to this day. Flo-Jo was so fast that after the '88 Games she was dubbed the "fastest woman in history." She set the world record for 100 meters at 10.49 seconds at the 1988 Olympic trials in Indianapolis, then won the 200 meters at the 1988 Games in 21.34 seconds. She won gold in both events, and in the 4x100-meter relay.

Griffith-Joyner tragically passed away at age 38 following an epileptic seizure.
Advertisement
7 of 12
Photo: Ron Antonelli/ NY Daily News Archive/ Getty Images.
Abby Wambach's Overtime Win
2004 Summer Olympics in Athens

The first time U.S. women's soccer won gold was in 1996. The team would do it again at the 2004 games — with a now-historic overtime goal scored by soccer legend Abby Wambach. The match against Brazil was tied 1-1 for much of the game until Wambach flawlessly headed the ball into the net at the 112th minute.
8 of 12
Muhammad Ali Lights The Olympic Torch
1996 Summer Olympics in Atlanta

In 1996, the 100th anniversary of the modern Olympic Games, Muhammad Ali surprised the crowd in Atlanta and lit the Olympic Cauldron to start the games. The iconic boxer was a champion in Rome in 1960. Later, in 1984, Ali was diagnosed with Parkinson's disease. By 1996, Ali's tremors were visible, yet he was still the same "The Greatest." His presence provided an emotional and inspiring start for athletes of all stripes in the '96 games.
9 of 12
Nancy Kerrigan Makes A Comeback
1994 Winter Olympics in Lillehammer

It's without a doubt the most dramatic moment in figure-skating history. In January 1994, Nancy Kerrigan was clubbed in the knee with a police baton after a practice. The craziest part? The person behind the plot to ruin Kerrigan's knee was the ex-husband of her rival Tonya Harding. Incredibly, Kerrigan was back on the ice seven weeks later — after intense training and therapy — and was able to win a silver medal at the '94 winter Games.
10 of 12
Photo: File/ AP Photo.
Tommie Smith & John Carlos Raise Their Fists
1968 Summer Olympics in Mexico City

At the 1968 Olympics, runners Tommie Smith and John Carlos won gold and bronze medals in the 200m race. The men used their time in the international spotlight to make a powerful statement. On the podium, while wearing one black glove each, Smith and Carlos raised their fists in the air in the Black Power salute. Their aim was to call attention to racial inequality in the U.S. and call for human rights. After the gesture, they received death threats and were suspended from the national team.
11 of 12
Derek Redmond Crosses The Finish Line With Help From His Father
1992 Summer Olympics in Barcelona

Derek Redmond was a runner for Great Britain in 1992. His 400m race isn't remembered for medal wins, but instead for its emotional finish. During the race, Redmond pulled a hamstring and collapsed on the track. He forced himself to get up and tried to hop to the finish line. That's when his father jumped the fence. Redmond cried as his father helped carry him to the finish line.
12 of 12
Kerri Strug Sticks It
1996 Summer Olympics in Atlanta

The 1996 women's gymnastics team was close to winning gold. The team just needed Kerri Strug to nail her vault. On her first attempt, Strug fell and injured her ankle. But here's where that Olympic magic happens: Despite her injury, Strug completed her second vault and stuck the landing — on one leg. Moments later, she collapsed onto the mat in pain. But that moment is iconic and made Strug an Olympic hero.
Advertisement