Top 10 Heartwarming Olympic Moments



Top 10 Heartwarming Olympic Moments

VOICE OVER: Rebecca Brayton WRITTEN BY: Jesse Singer
These heartwarming Olympic moments take the gold. For this list, we'll be looking at the history of the Olympic games beyond the medals and who won and who lost. Our countdown includes the shared Gold medal Jamaican National Bobsled team, Derek Redmond & his dad, and more!

Top 10 Heartwarming Olympic Moments

Welcome to MsMojo, and today we’re counting down our picks for the Top 10 Heartwarming Olympic Moments.

For this list, we’ll be looking at the history of the Olympic games beyond the medals and who won and who lost. These are the moments and athletes that warmed our hearts, spoke to the true power of sportsmanship and the strength of the human spirit.

On your marks, get set… go and leave us a comment below.

#10: Jamaican National Bobsled Team
1988 Winter Olympics, Calgary

The 1988 Winter Olympics in Calgary, Canada featured some world class performances and amazing gold medal wins. But one of the most popular teams of the games was the 4-man bobsled team from Jamaica. They didn’t win any medals. In fact, they crashed in their final run and never officially finished, but that really didn’t matter because just being there was a victory. The team didn’t have the experience the other teams had, they didn’t even have all the equipment they needed and had to borrow some of it from other teams at the games. And let’s not forget they come from a country that doesn’t have snow. They were an inspiration worthy of a Disney movie. Oh ya, Disney made a movie about them.

#9: US & Botswana Runners Finish the Race Together
2020 Summer Olympics, Tokyo

Something amazing happened in 2021 during the men's 800-meter semifinal race at the Tokyo Olympics and it had nothing to do with who finished first. On the final curb of the race, American runner Isaiah Jewett was preparing to make his push to qualify for the finals when Nijel Amos from Botswana accidentally tripped him from behind. In that moment, Jewett could have gotten aggressive towards Amos, and/or he could have gotten angry at him for costing him his chance at an Olympic final. But he didn’t. Instead, seeing how devastated Amos was as well, Jewett helped him up off the ground and told him, "Hey man, let's finish this race, we're not done yet. Let's finish it together." And that’s what they did.

#8: Cathy Freeman Lights the Flame & Wins Gold
2000 Summer Olympics, Sydney

The 2000 Summer Games in Sydney, Australia were great for the host country, which ended up in fourth place in the overall medal count. But while every one of those medals was meaningful, one of them meant a little more to the often-marginalized indigenous people of the country. Aussie sprinter Cathy Freeman is an indigenous person who was also selected to light the Olympic flame. And when Freeman won the 400m gold, she became the first Australian Aboriginal person to win an Olympic gold medal as an individual (as opposed to as part of a team). She even carried the Australian and the Aboriginal flags during her victory lap.

#7: Matthias Steiner Holds Photo of His Late Wife
2008 Summer Olympics, Beijing

In 2005, Austrian-German weightlifter Matthias Steiner married a German woman and moved to Germany. Tragically, just two years later, his wife passed away in a car accident. Steiner was crushed. He lost upwards of 15 pounds, but was able to continue his training and went to the 2008 Olympics in Beijing, competing for Germany in the +105kg category. The competition was tight, but Steiner out-lifted the field and won gold. It was a very emotional moment, especially knowing that his wife would have been there to see it had he not lost her the previous year. To honor her and have her with him, he held up a picture of the late Susann while on the podium accepting his gold medal.

#6: Post-Apartheid Victory Lap
1992 Summer Olympics, Barcelona

In 1962, due to their racist national policy of apartheid, South Africa was banned from Olympic competition. In 1990, there began negotiations within South Africa to end apartheid and in 1992, the nation was allowed back into the Olympic fold at the summer games in Barcelona. In the women's 10,000m race, Ethiopia's Derartu Tulu took home the gold with the silver medal going to South African runner Elana Meyer. Following the race, the runners came together for a victory lap. South Africa still had a ways to go to heal nationally as well as internationally. But seeing these two runners together and even holding hands, provided a heartwarming glimmer of hope that humanity could one day emerge victorious.

#5: The Shared Gold Medal
2020 Summer Olympics, Tokyo

In sports, we are taught that for one person to win, someone else has to lose. Well, at the Tokyo Olympics in 2021, two men showed us that that doesn’t always have to be the case. High-jumpers Mutaz Essa Barshim of Qatar and Italy's Gianmarco Tamberi had been close friends for over 10 years by the time they arrived in Tokyo. During the competition, both jumpers cleared the same high and the rules required a jump-off to determine the winner. Or, if there was no jump-off, then the two athletes would tie. And that’s exactly what they chose to do: joyfully deciding to share the gold medal. As Barshim said, “This is beyond sport. This is the message we deliver to the young generation.”

#4: Georgian Athletes Compete after Losing a Teammate
2010 Winter Olympics, Vancouver

On February 12th, 2010, during his final training run, Georgian luger Nodar Kumaritashvili suffered a fatal crash in the final turn of the course. Following their countryman’s tragic death, the entire Georgian contingent considered leaving and skipping the Olympics entirely. However, the Georgian sports and culture minister later announced that they would stay to compete and "dedicate their efforts to their fallen comrade." During the opening ceremonies, the entire team, now down to only seven athletes, showed respect for Kumaritashvili in a number of ways, including wearing black ribbons and leaving a space among them during the procession.

#3: Lawrence Lemieux Saves Competitors
1988 Summer Olympics, Seoul

Lawrence Lemieux was a Canadian Olympic sailor who competed at both the 1984 and 1988 Olympic games. It was at those 1988 games in Seoul, South Korea that Lemieux won the medal that people are still talking about, and it wasn’t gold, silver or bronze. Lemieux was in the middle of a race when he noticed that the team from Singapore’s boat had capsized in the strong winds and the sailors had been thrown from the dinghy. Lemieux steered off course from his race to go and save the capsized sailors and wait for a rescue boat to pick them up. For this amazing act, he was awarded the Pierre de Coubertin medal for sportsmanship.

#2: Derek Redmond & His Dad
1992 Summer Olympics, Barcelona

Usually it is the winners of a race that are forever remembered. But, alongside his father, at the men’s 400m semi-final at the 1992 Olympics in Barcelona it was Derek Redmond, the man who crossed the finish line last who has gone down in Olympic history. Redmond, a sprinter from Britain tore his hamstring during the race. Rather than just hobble off the track he was determined to cross the finish line. And that’s when this emotional moment came into being. Seeing his son limping along, Derek’s father ran out onto the track and helped him complete the full 400 meters as the crowd rose to their feet and cheered them on.

Before we unveil our top pick, here are a few honorable mentions.

Dan Jansen Finally Gets a Medal, 1994 Winter Olympics, Lillehammer
In His 3rd & Final Olympic Games, the Oft-Jinxed Jansen Gets His Gold

Eric Moussambani Swims, 2000 Summer Olympics, Sydney
Equatoguinean Swimmer Eric “The Eel” Had Never Been in an Olympic-Sized Pool Before

Monica Puig Wins Gold, 2016 Summer Olympics, Rio
Puig Became the First Puerto Rican Representing Puerto Rico to Win a Gold Medal

John Stephen Akhwari, 1968 Summer Olympics, Mexico City
Even after a Bad Fall Halfway through the Race, Akhwari Still Finished the Marathon

#1: Joannie Rochette Skates for Her Mom
2010 Winter Olympics, Vancouver

A two-year old Joannie Rochette was first brought to the local skating rink by her mother, Thérèse Rochette. 22 years and six consecutive Canadian championships later, Rochette was skating for her country in the 2010 Winter Games in Vancouver. Her mother came to see her compete, but shortly after arriving in Vancouver she had a heart attack and passed away. She was only 55 years old. Rochette was given the sad news while practicing for her short program skate. A heartbroken Rochette remained in the competition and just days later, skating for her mother, she had the best short skate of her career, ending with tears in her eyes. She followed that with a strong long program skate and the bronze medal.