Eric Heiden's five gold medals in 1980 top this list
The 2018 Winter Olympics in PyeongChang, South Korea, are here and we will most certainly see great performances. Whether they stand the test of time will depend on the athletes themselves.
Everyone should be in awe of gold medals, but there are certain performances that are truly exceptional, even by Winter Olympics standards. Here are the 10 greatest performances in Winter Olympics history.
10. Meryl Davis and Charlie White
The ice dancing duo set world records in both the short dance and overall score en route to winning the gold medal. Their performance in the team event also helped the U.S. team win the bronze medal.
9. Franz Klammer
The Austrian launched a new era of alpine ski racing with his performance in the downhill. Starting in 15th position and already more than a half second behind Bernhard Russi, Klammer skied with the reckless abandon that X-Gamers would emulate 20 years later. He beat Russi by 0.33 seconds and his time of 1:45.73 was more than 32 seconds faster than Egon Zimmerman’s gold medal run on the same course in the 1964 Winter Olympics. Many alpine ski racers that followed, including Bode Miller, cite the “Klammer Express” as part of their inspiration to take up the sport.
8. Soviet Union National Ice Hockey Team
After losing to Team USA in the “Miracle on Ice” at the 1980 Winter Olympics, the Soviet Hockey Team came to Sarajevo with a vengeance. They won all seven of their games, outscoring their opponents 48-5. Of the Soviet Union’s seven gold medal hockey teams, the 1984 squad was the most dominant.
7. Shaun White
The man who put professional snowboarding on the map recorded a 46.8 on his first run in the halfpipe (50 was the highest allowed). The score was high enough that White did not have to do his second run to win the gold medal. He did it anyway, punctuating it with the debut of the Double McTwist in snowboarding, which White named the Tomahawk. His 48.4 score on the second run is an Olympic record that still stands.
6. André Lange
The most successful pilot in bobsledding history won gold medals in the 2002, '06, and '10 Olympics. But his best performance came in 2006 when he took home the gold for Germany in both the two-man and four-man bobsleigh events.
5. Kazuyoshi Funaki
The Japanese ski jumper reached the pinnacle of his career in front of his home country. Funaki won gold medals in the individual large hill and the team large hill and took home the silver medal in the individual normal hill. He also became the first and only Olympian to record a perfect jump since Austrian Anton Innauer in 1976.
4. Yuna Kim
The South Korean figure skater set world records in the short program, free skate, and total score to win the gold medal in the Ladies’ Single competition. Her world records have since been broken, but they still stand as Olympic records.
3. Norway Nordic Combined Team
Chamonix, 1924; St. Moritz, 1928; Lake Placid, 1932; Garmisch-Partenkirchen, 1936
In 1892 Oslo hosted the first Nordic Combined event, which is a mix of cross-country ski racing and ski jumps, so one would expect Norway to be highly competitive at the Olympics. However, Norway’s dominance in the first four Winter Olympics was unprecedented. Norwegians won the gold, silver and bronze medals in each of the first four games. If the 1940 and '44 games were not canceled because of World War II that dominance may very well have been extended.
2. Bjørn Dæhlie
Albertville, 1992; Lillehammer, 1994; Nagano, 1998
The most successful cross-country skier of all time holds the record for the most gold medals in Winter Olympics history with eight and the most medals overall with 12. If not for a roller-skiing accident that ended his career in 1999, the Norwegian icon might have added to that record at the 2002 Winter Game in Salt Lake City.
1. Eric Heiden
Lake Placid, 1980
Heiden took home the gold in the 500m, 1000m, 1500m, 5000m, and 10,000m, becoming the first person to win all five speed skating events and the only athlete to win five gold medals at one Winter Olympics. To give you a little perspective, Heiden won more gold medals than only two countries, the Soviet Union (10) and East Germany (9).
— Written by Aaron Tallent, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network. Tallent is a writer whose articles have appeared in The Sweet Science, FOX Sports’ Outkick the Coverage, Liberty Island and The Washington Post. Follow him on Twitter at @AaronTallent.
(Top photo courtesy of Getty Images)