This is our second installment of the Most ‘Merican Olympic Moments. Here’s part one on the 1992 Dream Team.
1996 Olympics, Atlanta: Michael Johnson 200m Sprint
I don’t know what it was about Michael Johnson. Maybe it was his trademark golden shoes that he always wore. You just knew that when he got is feet into the starting blocks, you were about to see something incredible – especially during the 200 meter sprint. When world records are beaten in short races like this, they are usually beaten by a just couple hundredths of a second. Michael Johnson smashed is own world record by nearly 1/3 of a second. It was jaw dropping. This record stood for twelve years until finally beaten by Usain Bolt.
1996 Olympics, Atlanta: The “Magnificent 7” Women’s Gymnastics Team
This may be the most dramatic storyline during my time of Olympic fandom. Until the ’96 Olympics, these seven girls had spent most of their lives competing against one another at local and national level gymnastics contests. Now, working together during the team competition in the Olympics, they were united by their goal to establish the U.S. Women at the top of the sport. Throughout most of the team competition the Americans held a strong lead over their formidable Ukrainian rivals. However, that lead narrowed after several falls by U.S. girls late in the day. If they didn’t get back on track, the gold could slip through their fingers. It all game down to the pint-sized Kerri Strug on the vault. She just needed to land one really good vault to clench gold for the U.S. team. On her first jump, she landed awkwardly and fell backwards. She limped back to the start point of the runway, knowing she was injured. We would later find out that she had torn two ligaments in her ankle on that first jump. She paused as she stared with laser focus down the runway at the vault for their final chance to secure the gold. Rallying heroically for this final jump, she stuck the landing, made her salute to the crowd and judges on one foot, then collapsed in agony to be carried off by her flamboyant coach, Bela Karolyi. America absolutely fell in love with these girls for being both adorable young ladies and fiercely relentless competitors.