Skip to main content

5 Greatest Winter Olympics Moments of the Last 40 Years


"The Miracle on Ice" will never be forgotten

Great Olympic moments always boil down to the country you live in and the year you were born. For example, if you were born in Norway in 1940, it may be hard to truly nail down your five greatest Winter Olympic moments.

But if you were born in the United States in 1978, a handful of Winter Olympics moments truly stand out. Here are my five greatest moments over the last 40 years.

5. "Housewife Curlers"

Salt Lake City, 2002

Scottish curlers Rhona Martin, Debbie Knox, Janice Rankin and Fiona MacDonald took home Great Britain’s first gold medal in the Winter Olympics in 18 years. What made the win even more remarkable was that this was a team that Martin assembled that competed for years on their own while holding down regular jobs. In the semifinal of the Medal Round, the “Housewife Curlers” defeated Canada, which in turn means considerable more support, namely monetary, for Great Britain's curling program. The fact that this story has not been dramatized for the silver screen seems like a missed opportunity to me.

4. "The Herminator"

Nagano, 1998

Austrian Hermann Maier was competing in the men’s downhill when he rounded a bend too fast, went airborne 30 feet, and smashed through two fences. The crash was the equivalent of an Indy car crash, but “The Herminator” suffered only minor injuries and won the gold medals in the giant slalom and super-G a few days later. The accident and subsequent comeback made Maier a household name throughout the world.

3. Eric Heiden Wins Five Gold Medals

Lake Placid, 1980

The United States won six gold medals at the 1980 Winter Olympics. The men’s hockey team won one and speed skater Eric Heiden won the other five. 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).

2. Nancy Kerrigan'’s Comeback

Lillehammer, 1994

After the infamous assault on Nancy Kerrigan at the 1994 U.S. Figure Skating Championships in Detroit, it almost immediately became clear that Tonya Harding’s husband and bodyguard were involved. While Harding threatened to go to court to keep her spot on the team, the U.S. Figure Skating Association quickly decided that Kerrigan should be one of the two skaters to compete in the Olympics. There, Harding finished eighth, while Kerrigan bounced back from the assault to win the Silver Medal in one of the most bizarre moments in Olympic history.

1. The Miracle on Ice

Lake Placid, 1980

The U.S. Men’s Hockey Team’s win over the Soviet Union in the semifinal of the Medal Round is considered by many to be the greatest sports moment of the 20th century. Therefore, it easily tops this list too.

— 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.