In the Olympic final, just past the halfway mark, Decker clipped one of Budd's legs, throwing Budd off balance. Five strides later, they collided again. Budd fell awkwardly to the ground and Decker tripped over her right leg, sprawling to the infield. Decker writhed in pain, her left hip injured. Budd got up and tried to resume racing. But the L.A. Coliseum crowd of 85,000, initially stunned and quiet, began to boo and Budd gradually faded, eventually finishing seventh.
8. 1960: Bikila ushers a new era
African runners dominate the world distance running scene today, but at Rome in 1960 they still were outsiders in the sport. In particular, no one knew Abebe Bikila, the skinny Ethiopian who would tackle the 26.2-mile marathon in bare feet because his new running shoes were ill-fitting. "Well, there's one guy we don't have to worry about," American runner Gordon McKenzie said beforehand.
But as the race unfolded, the first Olympic marathon held at night, Bikila remained at the front. Along the route, he passed the Axum Obelisk, a massive statue that Mussolini had brought back to Italy after invading Ethiopia during World War II.
Racing through the darkness, the tiny member of Ethiopian Emperor Haile Selassie's Imperial Guard was dramatically silhouetted by lights as he entered the Stadio Olimpico, a strucure built by their oppressor of just 15 years before. As the first black African to win an Olympic gold medal, Bikila not only signaled a new era in distance running, he conquered Rome.
9. 1984: "I'm one happy dude"
Two years before the Los Angeles Olympics, Greco Roman wrestler Jeff Blatnick was diagnosed with cancer. The American super heavyweight had surgery to remove his speen and apendix, then underwent radiation treatment to kill off the Hodgkin's disease.
Although discouraged by his doctors, Blatnick resumed his training and made the U.S. team. Further inspired by his brother David, who had died in a motorcycle accident in 1977, he defeated Swede Tomas Johansson 2-0 in the gold medal match. Afterward, he fell to his knee, joined his hands in prayer and looked upward. Then he cried -- for the first time since his brother had died.
Johansson was subsequently stripped of his silver medal after testing positive for steroids. A year later, Blatnick's cancer returned and he required 28 sessions of chemotherapy to recover. But during a TV interview after his gold medal victory, Blatnick tearfully told the world, "I'm one happy dude."
10. 2000: No smashing the Aussies
Australia, where swimming is king, unleashed 17-year-old Ian "The Thorpedo" Thorpe in the pool at the Sydney Games. But brash U.S. sprinter Gary Hall Jr. wasn't intimidated. Looking forward to the 400-meter freestyle relay, Hall boasted in an interview, "We will smash them like guitars."
The buildup was immense, and in the relay final Thorpe was pitted against Hall on the final leg. A superb race went back and forth, the Aussies giving Thorpe a slight lead entering the final 100 meters. Hall immediately caught him and surged ahead, but Thorpe was stronger at the finish and the Aussies won in a world-record time.
Afterward, Aussie leadoff leg Michael Klim celebrated by playing the air guitar on the pool deck. Hall was gracious in defeat. "I consider it the best relay race I've ever been part of," he said. "I doff my cap to the great Ian Thorpe."
1928: Australian single scull Bobby Pearce stopped rowing midway through the Amsterdam final to let a family of ducks cross his path. He resumed racing and won the gold medal by nearly 10 seconds.
1972: The U.S. men's basketball team, unbeaten in 62 Olympic games, lost 51-50 to the Soviet Union in a gold medal game climaxed by a controversial finish. The American players, refusing to accept they were beaten fairly, declined their silver medals.
1988: Ben Johnson blistered Carl Lewis in the 100-meter final at Seoul, then three days later became the first big-name athlete stripped of his medal after testing positive for steroids.
1988: American Greg Louganis suffered a concussion when he hit his head on a springboard during the diving prelims. But he recovered to win gold in the event, then won another in platform diving a week later.
1996: With Beethoven's "Ode to Joy" playing in the Olympic Stadium, Muhammad Ali, winner of the 1960 light heavyweight boxing gold but battling Parkinson's disease, lit the cauldron to open the Atlanta Games as the crowd cheered wildly.
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