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10 Great Achievements at the Olympic Games

Updated on November 12, 2016

Inspirational Moments

Here are some very inspirational achievements in the history of the Olympic Games. Whether it was overcoming great personal battles or getting the most Olympic medals, the stories of these athletes should not be forgotten.

There are, of course, more than 10 great Olympic achievements so the choice was difficult and surely debatable. But here are at least 10 great achievements at the Olympic Games.

(illustration: Paavo Nurmi lights the Olympic fire in Helsinki in 1952, public domain)

Larisa Latynina

Larisa Semyonovna Latynina is a Russian and Ukrainian gymnast. She holds 18 medals including 9 gold medals, not counting the ones won by the team she was coaching after she retired as an active athlete (the team won 3 gold medals). Before the London Olympics 2012, she was the most medaled Olympian ever, title she lost to Michael Phelps after those games.

Born in 1934, she first practiced ballet, but turned to gymnastics after her choreographer moved out! A good thing for her after all.

More about her at wikipedia: Illustration attribution:

Michael Phelps

Michael Phelps is an American swimmer and the most medaled Olympian ever with 22 medals among which 18 are gold ones. He has also broken 39 world records. Unfortunately, he has announced his retirement and will not take part in competitions anymore: "I won't swim past the age of 30".

Useful links: the wikipedia page about him and the official website of the Michael Phelps Foundation.

(illustration: Michael Phelps shows off his Olympic gold medal as he stands on the victory podium with teammate Ryan Lochte, bronze medalist, and Hungary's Laszlo Cseh, silver medalist, at the National Aquatics Center in Beijing.)

More about Michael Phelps

Beneath the Surface: My Story
Beneath the Surface: My Story

Here is an autobiographic book by the most medaled athlete in the world. Full of details and a great read.


Derek Redmond

Derek Redmond is a retired British athlete who held the British record for the 400m event and who won several gold medals in 4x400 relays. One of the most inspirational video from the Olympic games ever is the one where he finishes his run despite the intense pain caused by a torn hamstring.

Old articles from the news

If you are interested in reading more about what happened, I found these articles about this event which are particularly interesting.

Abebe Bikila

Abebe Bikila was a two-time Olympic marathon champion from Ethiopia. He is especially known for his participation in the 1960 Olympics marathon where he ran the entire marathon barefoot (the photo is from the 1964 marathon where he did wear shoes). The sponsor did not have shoes that fit to his feet so he simply decided to run barefoot.


"I wanted the world to know that my country, Ethiopia, has always won with determination and heroism." Abebe Bikila, about running the marathon barefoot.

Nadia Comaneci

Nadia Elena Comaneci is one of the most famous gymnast, especially famous for being the first one to get the perfect score of 10. This was at the 1976 Olympics where she actually got 7 of those perfect scores. Daniela Silivas must be mentioned as well as she too got 7 perfect scores (this was in Seoul in 1988).

To learn more about her, check the book featured in the first paragraph about the Top 10 Women Gymnasts

Dara Torres

Dara Torres is a swimmer who has competed in 5 Olympics. The 2012 London Olympics would have been her 6th Olympics but unfortunately, she failed to qualify, finishing the qualification race 0.09s behind the second qualifier (only 2 are qualified to the Olympic games).

Even though some athletes have been to more Olympic games, such as Hubert Raudaschl, 9 times and 2 medals and Ian Millar, 10 times with the London Olympics and 1 medal), Dara Torres deserves her place in this list because of her success (12 medals including 4 gold) and because she is a proof that high-level athletes can also be mothers. She effectively gave birth to her child in 2006 and participated in the 2008 Summer Olympics. If this was not enough, Dara Torres is a now swimming for Swim Across America, a charitable organization that raises funds for cancer research.

(illustration coming from, Bryan Allison)

Kerri Strug

Sometimes, it is not only the medal that counts but the way you got it. Have a look at how Kerri Strug performed in 1996 for her team despite being injured at her ankle. This girl deserved more than a gold medal.

Jesse Owens

No articles about the Olympics could be complete without naming Jesse Owens, or James Cleveland "Jesse" Owens. In the Berlin Olympics, he won 4 gold medals (100m, long jump, 200m and 4x100m). These gold medals meant actually a lot for the world at that time because it was an event that Nazi propaganda used to promote the "Aryan racial superiority". A black man winning 4 gold medals was exactly what was needed to disprove them.

More about Jesse Owens:

Illustration: Reproduction of photograph in "Die Olympischen Spiele, 1936" p.27, 1936. Unknown author. Public domain.

More about Jesse Owen

Jesse Owens: Fastest Man Alive
Jesse Owens: Fastest Man Alive

Nice book about Jesse Owens with great illustrations.

Jesse Owens: Young Record Breaker (Childhood of Famous Americans)
Jesse Owens: Young Record Breaker (Childhood of Famous Americans)

This one focus more on the childhood of Jesse Owens. Nice gift idea if you have a child who likes this athlete


Greg Louganis

Gregory Efthimios "Greg" Louganis is an American diver who showed an incredible courage in the 1988 Seoul Olympics. After hitting his head on the springboard during the preliminary rounds, he suffered concussion but did not give up and went up to the final where he won the gold medal. Being able to dive after such an accident shows how much athletes give to the Olympics and to their sport in general.

The video chosen in this article is not from the Olympics and is not "spectacular". It is simply beautiful. So simple and yet so beautiful. Sensitive readers are advised not to look for the video on youtube showing again and again Greg Louganis hitting his head on the springboard.

Eddie Eagan

You may not have heard of Eddie Eagan, but he truly deserves his place here as he managed to get a gold medal in both the Summer Olympics and the Winter Olympics. He is the only one who has "truly" achieved that, as the other person having got a gold medal in both Olympics (Gillis Grafström) had gold medals for the same event (figure skating). The event was simply part of both Olympics (figure skating was first a Summer Olympics event).

Also, when an athlete gets a medal in two different events, it is generally for events that are "compatible". For example, biathlon and cross country skiing, or swimming and water polo. Eddie Eagan managed it in boxing and... bobsled, a quite uncommon combination. Carl Schuhmann is another example, winning both gymnastic events and ... wrestling events. For the record, Carl Schuhmann also participated in athletics and weightliftings.

Illustration: Eagan at the 1920 Summer Olympics (public domain).

Most Inspirational

Among the athletes presented in this article, which do you find most inspiring?

See results

Not making it to this list

It is of course impossible to choose objectively, who are the greatest athletes or which are the greatest achievements as it is not possible to compare a race to a gymnastics performance. However, this article tried to choose 10 very great achievements at the Olympic Games.

Some did not make it to the list but were highly considered such as Lawrence Lemieux who broke away from a sailor racecourse to save lives or Bobby Pearce who stopped rowing to avoid injuring a family of ducks who strayed into his lane. Also very inspirational was the story of the first Jamaican bobsled team depicted in the Cool Runnings movie.

Let's hope 2012 will bring even more fantastic achievements!

There are probably many achievements or athletes not mentioned in this article who deserved to be here. You are welcome to mention them by leaving a comment. -

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    • adragast24 profile imageAUTHOR


      5 years ago

      @Kidz Cards: Same for me! I am also a big fan of the football World Cup!

    • profile image

      Kidz Cards 

      5 years ago

      The Olympics is one of my favorite events along with the football world cup

    • BodyHairRemoval profile image


      5 years ago

      I love the Olympics. One of my favorite times of the year.

    • adragast24 profile imageAUTHOR


      5 years ago

      @Ibidii: This must have been an awesome experience!

    • profile image


      5 years ago

      My dream was met in 2002 when I was chosen to be a volunteer at the SLC Olympics and Paralympics! I made some lenses about my experiences. Some of the names here are new to me, but all are very special! Awesome lens!

    • profile image


      6 years ago

      Very good Olympic athlete choices. I agree with you for all of them. I might have a couple of them in my mind who could be on your list but after reviewing again your athletes I think you picked the best! Well done:=)

    • adragast24 profile imageAUTHOR


      6 years ago

      @KentuckyGal LM: I also want to go to the Olympics once in my life and it is a shame I couldn't go to the London Olympics as it was that far from where I live.

    • KentuckyGal LM profile image

      KentuckyGal LM 

      6 years ago

      I've always wanted to see an Olympic Games and figured chances would be better for a Winter Games. Then I moved away from Salt Lake City in Texas! Now I live in Kentucky. Neither of those states is every likely to host an Olympics, let alone a Winter Games. *LOL*

    • adragast24 profile imageAUTHOR


      6 years ago

      @Erin Mellor: I am also looking forward to the next winter Olympics and seeing that more and more people are visiting this article, we are not the only ones! Must have been wonderful to go to the Olympics! My brother went to the judo and he loved it too!

    • Erin Mellor profile image

      Erin Mellor 

      6 years ago from Europe

      I'm looking forward to the winter Olympics already. As the 2012 Olympics were in my country I was lucky enough to see them. I could only get tickets to football and Paralympic cycling, and I loved it.

    • adragast24 profile imageAUTHOR


      6 years ago

      @Loretta L: This is so nice!

    • adragast24 profile imageAUTHOR


      6 years ago

      @anonymous: I have the same wish. I wanted to go to the London Olympic so much... but then, you know how life is. I suddenly other things to do, etc...

    • Loretta L profile image

      Loretta Livingstone 

      7 years ago from Chilterns, UK.

      I'm crazy about them! I'm so crazy about them I wrote a book about them, and was lucky enough to get my copy autographed by two British Olympians! And I was also lucky enough to go twice to London 2012. The chance of a lifetime!

    • adragast24 profile imageAUTHOR


      6 years ago

      @RhondaAlbom: Thanks!

    • adragast24 profile imageAUTHOR


      6 years ago

      @NoYouAreNot: Thanks for telling me about him!

    • profile image


      6 years ago

      I would also mention Spyros Louis, a Greek runner who won at the first-ever modern Olympics (1896), running also barefoot. He was a shepherd, and he had no money for athletics shoes!

    • RhondaAlbom profile image

      Rhonda Albom 

      6 years ago from New Zealand

      Wonderful collection of Olympic heroes.

    • jayavi profile image


      6 years ago

      I appreciate your effort. nice work well done.

    • profile image


      6 years ago

      Excellent Squid! I love the Olympics and I hope I get to go for at least 1 event some day.

    • Gypzeerose profile image

      Rose Jones 

      7 years ago

      I love the Olympics, even though I am not a jock. Well done!

    • Escapes2 profile image


      7 years ago

      So many great moments throughout the Olympics -- so hard to choose, but I loved them all!

    • CoolFool83 profile image


      7 years ago

      I love the olympic games. True entertaining lense.

    • flycatcherrr profile image


      7 years ago

      @adragast24: Ah, but if you included all the Olympic moments that brought us to the edge of tears, over the years, this would have to be a Top 100 list - at the very least. :)

    • MJsConsignments profile image


      7 years ago from Central Ohio, USA

      Nicely done. You've picked some great ones. I once went to a conference where Mary Lou Retton was the keynote speaker. Before she came out, they played the video of the vault that won the gold for the team that she did with a badly sprained ankle. There wasn't a dry eye in the room re-watching that. Rocket Squid Tip: Make sure you credit your images.

    • adragast24 profile imageAUTHOR


      7 years ago

      @Melissa Miotke: I completely agree! That's why I wanted to make a lens about them.

    • Melissa Miotke profile image

      Melissa Miotke 

      7 years ago from Arizona

      These are all very inspirational athletes!

    • adragast24 profile imageAUTHOR


      7 years ago

      @LoriBeninger: Thanks for your comment! Yes, it was quite difficult to select just 10 of them. I find it also a bit unfair to those who did not make it in the list, but I had to choose some (who would read a top 1000 Olympic achievements?) and I believe those 10 are really great achievements

    • adragast24 profile imageAUTHOR


      7 years ago

      @flycatcherrr: You are so right, I should completely have included this performance! I do remember it and I found it really emotional. Thanks for mentioning it!

    • LoriBeninger profile image


      7 years ago

      Picking ten from the thousands of great athletes who have participated in the modern games can have been no mean did an admirable job. Thank you!

    • flycatcherrr profile image


      7 years ago

      You've done a wonderful job here - I can't begin to imagine how one could go about choosing just ten achievements of Olympic athletes, from such a wealth of possibilities.

      I know we're all focussed on the Summer games this year, but I would love to just give mention of a Winter Olympian - a young athlete who showed amazing courage to face the highest level of competition when she must have been just devastated by shock and grief. At the Winter Olympics 2010, the mother of Canadian figure skater Joannie Rochette died suddenly of a heart attack, two days before Joannie was to compete. Joannie persevered in her mother's memory, won everyone's hearts along with a bronze medal. Her gala performance, which she skated to her mother's favourite Celine Dion song, had us all in tears of affectionate admiration. For me, one of the most memorable moments of many Olympics.


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