With the Tokyo Olympics 2020 in full swing, we take a look at some of the greatest track and field moments to have taken place at the Olympic Games throughout history.
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Everybody in their starting positions? Let’s get into it.
Derek Redmond (1992, 400-Meter Run)
Despite a career that has been dotted with injuries, there were high hopes for Derek Redmond as he prepared to take part in the 1992 Olympic Games. Unfortunately, his heroic efforts were not meant to be, as his hamstring gave out just 15 seconds into the semi-final.
What made this moment so impressive is that he didn’t allow his injury to deter him, and he rose to his feet with the determination of an ox before hobbling towards the finish line, refusing all medical assistance and ignoring the officials who attempted to stop him.
His father’s reaction was similarly tear-jerking as having supported his son’s dream his whole life, he was able to make his way to the track (fighting off security guards who tried to stop him) and joined Redmond Jr. to help him cross the finish line. This heartbreaking yet in many ways uplifting moment truly embodied the enduring spirit of the Olympic Games.
Bob Beamon (1968, Long Jump)
Beamon didn’t just win the long jump at the 1968 Olympics, he completely obliterated his competition. Seriously. To the point where even the judges didn’t even know how to mark his performance because it was THAT off the charts. A full two and a half feet ahead of the rest.
As a result of such an incredible athletic feat, he is now considered one of the greats and his name bore the complement “Beamonesque”; a performance that goes far beyond the likes of what has been seen before. Talk about setting a standard for future Olympic Games.
Mary Decker-Slaney (1984, 3,000-Meter Run)
Immortalized in a captured image of the exact moment it happened is the time Mary Decker went down hard on the track after a near collision with teenager Zola Budd due to mutual inexperience when it comes to running in a pack formation on the track,
Budd, who was ironically a huge fan of “America’s sweetheart” and reigning world champion, faced huge backlash after the event, including from Decker herself, although has since been exonerated after Decker conceded that her own inexperience contributed to the fall.
Tommie Smith and John Carlos (1968, 200-Meter Dash)
Although it would receive a much warmer response today (or at least, we would like to think it would), the moment that Tommie Smith and John Carlos decided to express their social beliefs and stand up for human rights violations against black people was a divisive one.
After taking the grand stage and making the “Black Power” pose, they were disqualified from the Olympics and Avery Brundage of the IOC even threatened to expel the entire US team.
As attitudes evolved and more people woke up to the fact that racism was rampant in their own backyard, the athletes were allowed to return. Sadly, there has been the need for similar political protests, but none quite like the moment that Smith and Carlos raised their fists.
Usain Bolt (2008, 100-Meter Dash)
How could we not include Usain Bolt? He is one of the most renowned Olympic athletes to have ever graced the track thanks to his incredible performance and showmanship.
Not only did he smash his other opponents, but the final margin by which he won was even less than what it could have been after he boldly opened his arms out wide in celebration as he drew near to and slapping his chest as he hurtled across the finish line with time to spare.
It was pretty badass to watch, and it is unlikely that we will ever see the same level of spectacle again.