Nadia Comaneci scored a perfect 10, competing on the uneven bars at the Montreal Olympics; July 18, 1976. A few months shy of her 15th birthday, barely five feet tall, and weighing in at 88 pounds (soaking wet); the tiny Roumanian gymnast in addition to memorizing the judges, stole the hearts of an international audience that numbered in the hundreds of millions.
However not everybody was so impressed. The Washington Post reported that:
Russian coach Larissa Latynina, upset at the prospect of Comaneci’s stealing the thunder from Soviet stars Ludmila Tourischeva and Olga Korbut, was critical of the judges decision. “I question the performance,” she said, shaking her head in disgust. “1 can see a 9.5, but it should not have been a 10. There Were some flaws. It was not perfect.” “I knew it would come out well and I was very glad,” Nadia said through an interpreter. The Russian’s Olga Korbut, darling of the 1972 Munich games, questioned Comanci’s perfect mark, first in modern Olympic history but Nadia’s 17th. “I question the 10.0 that was given because there were two flaws in the performance,” said Korbut, vying with Nadia for both meals and popularity.
Knowledgeable gymnastics fans were not the least bit surprised by Comaneci’s performance. At the 1975 European Championships, at Skien, Norway. she won four gold medals and a silver. She also introduced the world to a new dismount on the uneven parallel bars, which the International Gymnastics Federation officially named “The Comaneci Come Down”.
After Comaneci nailed her perfect 10, Omega showed a 1.00.
The Swiss company Omega has had responsibility for the timing and scoring of Olympic events since 1932. Before the 1976 Games they contacted the International Olympic Committee with a question about the scoreboards they were constructing for the gymnastics. Would it be better, they asked, to replace the traditional boards, which had room for three digits such as, say, 9.50, or 9.85, with one that could display four digits, such as 10.00?
“I was told, ‘a 10.00 is not possible,'” recalls Daniel Baumat, now the director of Swiss Timing, which like Omega is part of the Swatch Group. “So we only did three digits.”
Guardian, read more
10.49 controversial record still stands, 25 years later.
Florence Griffith-Joyner, affectionately known as Flo Jo, broke the world record in the women’s 100-meter dash by so much, the broadcasters (see video below) thought for sure that she had run a wind assisted race. Earlier in the day she ran a 10.6, which was faster than the existing world record of 10.76 (Evelyn Ashford, 1984), but her 10.6 actually was wind assisted.
INDIANAPOLIS-As good a runner as she is, Florence Griffith Joyner has been better known through the years for her sense of fashion. Start with the fingernails. At the Los Angeles Olympics in 1984, when they were 4 inches long, she painted three of them red, white and blue. She painted a fourth gold, for the color of the medal she hoped to win in the 200 meters. Instead, she finished second and won a silver medal.
NY Times read more
Even more controversial than Flo Joe’s fashion statement, was the race itself. Nick Linthorne argues that the wind was actually +5.5 m/s at the time of the race.
Perhaps as equally stunning as Flojo’s sprint times was the official wind reading for her quarterfinal: 0.0. This wind reading was greeted with universal disbelief by those who witnessed the race. On that day the winds in the stadium were very strong. Of the wind readings taken in the men’s triple jump, which was conducted at the same time on a runway next to the 100m straight, only three of the 46 measurable jumps were wind-legal. In this competition Willie Banks rode a hefty +5.2 wind out to 18.20m, the longest jump recorded under any conditions. The triple jump wind-indicator board showed +4.3 for the jump prior to the first of the three 100m quarterfinals. Yet somehow the official wind reading for quarterfinal I (and Flojo’s world record) was a nowhere-near-believ-able 0.0.
Read the whole article here.
Tara Lipinski won the gold medal in Women’s Figure Skating at the Nagano Olympics, on February 20, 1998. At the age of 15, she was the youngest Olympic gold medalist in the history of the sport.
Tara Lipinski, a 15-year-old girl wearing ice skates, blue sequins and an infectious smile, became the youngest Olympic gold medalist in figure skating history tonight, using a joyful performance to score an upset of fellow U.S. skater Michelle Kwan. Read more, Washington Post.
“I was obviously beyond elated,” she said, looking at a photo of herself at 15 years old reacting to winning figure skating gold. “I think I just felt a lot of relief. Because there was just so much pressure leading up to this — years of training. Then the months right before the Games were very stressful and that week in the competition I was so nervous. I don’t know what I was doing. Obviously I was losing my mind screaming.” Read more NBC.com
Heading into the 1998 Winter Olympics in Nagano, Japan, the buzz surrounding Tara Lipinski was incredible. She was fresh off of a World Championship win, becoming the youngest competitor in history win the title. The world wanted to know if she could duplicate those results to become the youngest Olympic Gold Medalist in Winter Games’ history. However, there was a lot of fierce competition in her way. Not only was Michelle Kwan, a fellow American, a very fierce competitor, but China’s Chen Lu was in the ’98 games, more determined than ever to win gold after losing out to Kerrigan and Baiul in the ’94 Lillehammer Games. Read more, Olympics30.com
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.
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
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