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Katarina Witt Wins First Gold Medal – February 18, 1984

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Katarina Witt won the first of her two Olympic gold medals at the Winter games in Sarajevo, Bosnia and Herzegovina (formerly Yugoslavia) on February 18, 1984.
Skating for East Germany, Witt was 18 years old. She was competing against Americans Elaine Zayak and Rosalyn Sumners. Zayak won the World Championship in 1982 and Sumners was champion in 1983.

At Sarajevo, Sumner won the compulsories which counted for 30 percent of the total score. Claudia Leistner of West Germany was second in the compulsories and Witt finished third. Zayak placed a distant 13th.

In the next phase, Witt won the short program (They counted for the 20 percent of the total and the long program counted for fifty percent.) Sumner fell to second place overall after placing fifth in the short program, but the gold medal was still within her reach. If either of two judges would have given Sumner another tenth of point for her long program performance, she would won the competition.

In 1988 Witt won the gold medal at the Winter Olympics in Calgary, becoming only the second woman to win back-to-back gold medals in figure skating. Sonja Henie was the first, winning three consecutive gold medals from 1920-1936. Witt attempted a comeback in 1994 and qualified for a spot on the unified German team. At the 1994 Winter Olympics in Lillehammer, Norway she placed seventh.

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Lindsey Vonn Wins Downhill Gold – February 17, 2010

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A week before her historic win, she told Matt Lauer on the Today show that she couldn’t even get her injured foot into a ski boot, but with the help of a prescription pain killer to quiet her throbbing shin, a rush of adrenaline, and an inordinate amount of guts, Lindsey Vonn smoked the dangerous hill at Whistler, Brittish Columbia and became the first American Woman to win a gold medal in the Downhill, at the 2010 Winter Olympics.

In one of the most stirring descents in Olympic downhill skiing history, Vonn ignored the pain in her injured shin, chased down Mancuso and caught up to nearly a lifetime of expectations to become the first American woman to win an Olympic downhill gold medal. Read more NY Times.

With some Lidocaine cream numbing the bothersome bruise, some advice from her husband and a heap of skill and confidence, Vonn set everything else aside Wednesday and did what she does better than every other woman in the world: ski fast. Read more ESPN.com

Throbbing or not, the much-reported injury didn’t keep Vonn, a reigning two-time World Cup overall champion, from scoring the Gold in the women’s downhill ski event Wednesday – the first American ever to do so. (Her American teammate Julia Mancuso took the silver.) Read more People Magazine

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Frazier KO’s Jimmy Ellis to Win WBA Title – February 16, 1970

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Joe Frazier knocked out Jimmy Ellis in the fifth round of their re-unification title bout, on February 16, 1970, at Madison Square Garden in New York. By winning the fight, the undefeated Frazier layed claim to the title of undisputed heavyweight champion of the world. The only problem with that was, there was that other undefeated, undisputed heavyweight champion who hadn’t exactly gone into hiding. His name was Muhammad Ali.

In 1967 Ali was stripped of his title when he refused induction into the Army. Ali claimed that he should have been exempt from the draft because he was a Muslim minister.

Ellis, a close associate and former sparring partner of Ali, won the WBA championship after he survived its eight-man elimination tournament between 1967 and 1968. Frazier had also been invited to compete in the tournament, but he chose not to participate. Instead, he fought and knocked out Buster Mathis (who was undefeated, but not selected by the WBA for their tournament) to win the New York State version of the title. Five other states also recognized Frazier as the champion.

Ali watched a close circuit broadcast of the Frazier-Ellis fight (along with a sold out crowd) at the old Arena, in Frazier’s home town of Philadelphia. Ali was also living in Philadelphia at that time.

The Philadelphia Bulletin reported:

The deposed champ, trim in white shirt, black tie and flared gray pin-striped trousers, did take over the audience as soon as the televised battle was over.

Feinting and mugging and shouting, he soon had the throng cheering him on. When
he got outside, Clay danced down Market Street to renewed shouts of, “Here comes the champ!” At the parking lot he climbed atop a car and shouted, to the delight of the shoving crowd trying to touch him, that “I want Frazier! I’m starting my comeback now! This town is too small for both of us!” Ali drove off to his newly purchased, $92.000 Overbrook home in a lavender Cadillac with a white top. But he did not rush. He seemed to savor the sight of fans climbing over hoods of cars to surround him.

Even during the match he found it impossible to devote himself entirely to his blow-by-blow analysis for the magazine [Esquire Magazine paid Ali $8,000 to record his reactions to the fight.], to make sure the crowd knew exactly where he was sitting, he leaped up in his seat from time to time, shouting, waving, shadow boring.

“There’s the champ.” partisans shouted. Heads turned from seats on the floor, grandstand and upper deck. He arrived while the preceding bout was on, carved a path through the crowd outside that could not get into the sold-out Arena, and held up tickets to show that he was not getting free seat favoritism.

Meanwhile, joining Frazier and Ellis on the under card, there was still another undefeated heavyweight by the name of George Foreman, who was roundly booed by the Garden crowd after he was awarded a unanimous decision following his unimpressive ten round showing against Gregorio Peralta.

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Sonja Henie Wins 3rd Consecutive Gold Medal – February 15, 1936

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Sonja Henie won the gold medal in Women’s Figure Skating on February 15, 1936, in Garmisch-Partenkirchen, Germany. She is the only woman to ever win three consecutive Olympic skating titles.

At the age of 11 she represented Norway at the 1924 Winter Olympics in Chamonix, France. That year she came in last among a field of eight.

Henie won her first of 10 consecutive World Championships in 1927 and the following hear she won her first Olympic gold medal in St. Moritz, Switzerland. She won again at Lake Placid, New York in 1932.

Skating in Berlin, ahead of the 1936 Winter Olympics, Sonja was told that Hitler and his entourage had been seated. She skated into the rink at full speed, did her sharp little skid stop in front of the Führer, raised her arm and declared, “Heil Hitler.” The crowd went mad. The next day, her compatriots in Scandinavia were distraught, the newspapers asking, “Is Sonja a Nazi?” Her impulsive act was a stain on her white velvet. At the Olympics, a chastened Sonja did not salute, though word that she and her parents had lunched with Hitler at his retreat in the mountains didn’t help matters. According to her brother’s writings, Sonja’s response to the uproar was “I don’t even know what a Nazi is.” Read more VanityFair.com

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Jake LaMotta vs Sugar Ray VI “You Never Got me Down, Ray”- February 14, 1951

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Jake LaMotta and Sugar Ray Robinson fought for the sixth and last time at Chicago Stadium on February 14, 1951. Robinson took the middle weight title from LaMotta, stopping him by TKO in the 13th round.

Dubbed the “Boxing Version of the Saint Valentine’s Day Massacre,” the fight, was depicted in Martin Scorsese’s 1980 film “Raging Bull.” In the movie, when the fight is being stopped in the 13th round, LaMotta (portrayed in an Oscar winning performance by Robert DeNiro), beaten to a bloody pulp, repeatedly tells Robinson (Ray Barnes) “You never got me down, Ray.”

Here’s how Red Smith described it:

In the third minute of the 13th round Ray Robinson hit Jake LaMotta for-what was it? – the thousandth time? The five thousandth? Jake was hung on the ropes like a picture on the wall, like an old, wrinkled suit in the attic closet. Now he came off the hook, sagged forward, bent double at the waist. He embraced Robinson about the drawers and the referee, Frank Sikora, pushed in between them and motioned to Robinson to desist. The greatest fist fighter in the world was middleweight champion of the world, and one of the toughest had suffered the first believable knockout of his life.

Jake LaMotta was slugged, tortured, flayed, bloodied and bludgeoned tonight by a better fighter. He was stripped of his title and nearly detached from his intellect as well. Yet when it was over he was on his feet and had not left his feet. After 96 professional fights, the lovable character from the Bronx still can say he has never been knocked down.

The previous five fights between Robinson and LaMotta took place between 1942 and 1945. None of these bouts was a title fight. LaMotta only beat Robinson once. That was on February 5, 1942 at Olympia Stadium in Detroit, when LaMotta won a unanimous decision. Incredibly, they fought again exactly three weeks later in the same place. This time, LaMotta, who outweighed Robinson by 15 pounds, floored him for an eight count in the seventh round, but Robinson got up and held on to win the decision.

When they met for the fifth time, at Comiskey Park in Chicago on September 26, 1945, Robinson won a split decision that was booed by the crowd.

The Real Fight

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Shaun White Wins Gold – February 12, 2006

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Shaun White lived up to the hype and won the gold medal in The Half Pipe at the Winter Olympics in Turin, on February 12, 2006.

Less than two weeks before the Turin games, White had won gold medals in the Winter X Games in Aspen, Colorado. He won in both Slopestyle and Superpipe. Winning those events was nothing new for him. He had won Slopestyle and Superpipe in three previous Winter X Games competitions.

By the the time he got to Turin the “Flying Tomato” (because of his long flowing red hair and big ears), in addition to being heavily favored to win the gold, had achieved almost cult status as the “coolest dude on the slopes.”

Competing in his first Olympics, White could only manage the seventh best run in the first round. But he notched the highest score in the second round and that got him into the finals. White took such a commanding lead after the first run of the final round, his win became almost a foregone conclusion. Of greater interest in the second run was whether his teammates Danny Kass and Mason Aguierre would join him on the podium as the silver and bronze medal winners. Kass did wind up winning the silver medal, but Aguirre fell to fourth place behind Markku Koski of Finland.

he gold-medal ride was emblematic of White’s grace — the way he glided over the snow, the way he held his board dramatically in midair, the way he bled consecutive 1080-degree spins into consecutive 900-degree spins, as if they were all part of the same move. The coach of the United States team, Bud Keene, said of White’s ride, “It’s like he was skating.” Read more NYTimes

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Mike Tyson Knocked Out by Buster Douglas – February 11, 1990

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This one didn’t end the way it was supposed to, although for at least 10 seconds, most of the fans at ringside in Tokyo, Japan thought it was going to. That’s when undefeated heavyweight champ Mike Tyson caught Buster Douglas with an uppercut that knocked him on his rear end. The knockdown came three seconds before the bell to end the round, but the rules that night called for no “saving-by-the-bell.”

Douglas got up when referee Octavio Moran got to a count of nine. There was nothing like a delayed long count a-la the infamous Dempsey-Tunney fight. On the other hand, video replays definitively showed that Moran just counted kind of the slow. Also Moran never picked up the count from the official time keeper as he was supposed to, but that wasn’t Douglas’s fault. It’s the knocked down fighter’s responsibility to rise to his feet before the referee gets to a count of 10, and there’s no disputing that Douglas met his obligation.

Two rounds later it was Mike Tyson who was knocked down and not getting up by the count of 10, and even if he had, the fight should have been stopped because Iron Mike was in no shape to continue.

Promoter Don King was not happy with the results. He had Tyson booked to fight Evander Holyfield in June, for a much bigger payday than a Douglas-Holyfield fight could bring. So King protested the results. At first WBC and WBA both suspended recognition of Douglas as the new champion. The next day, Tyson was telling the press that he was still champion. One day later though, King withdrew the protest and Douglas was rightfully and officially declared the Heavyweight Champion of the World.

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