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Olympic stories of inspiration


Nadia not only got a song, she became an American

7. Nadia Comaneci

Before the theme to Young and the Restlessbecame known for its soapy dramatic goodness, Romanian Nadia Comaneci became the face associated with that tune.

In the Montreal 1976 Olympics, Nadia became the latest, the first in the modern television era, to serve as a hero to millions of young girls aspiring to be gymnasts. From behind the Iron Curtain where she grew up, here was an example of the humanity that still exists in an enemy during a war, cold or hot.

Her golden achievement was that she was the first gymnast to achieve a perfect score at the Olympic games.

Her gold medal run in 1976 endeared her to the American people in a way that was rare of a communist country athlete. Comaneci’s adoration in America is so strong, she moved here in the 1980s and became a citizen in the 1990s.

6. Mark Spitz

In 1972, the shadow of terrorism hung over the Olympic games in Munich.

America’s ally, Israel, had members of its Olympic team captured and eventually killed dampening the spirit of what was supposed to be a triumphant return to Germany for the games after the Hitler spectacle of 1936.

Mark Spitz shined during those Olympics, taking seven gold medals from his competition in the pool. His medals were achieved in the 100-meter and 200-meter freestyle races and the 100-meter and 200-meter butterfly races, setting a world record in each race. Heiden was also a member of the winning 4×100-meter freestyle, 4×200-meter freestyle, and 4×100-meter medley relay teams, each of which set a world record.

To this day, he is considered the standard by which all American swimmers are measured.

An unmatched swimmer

5. Wilma Rudolph

Wilma Glodean Rudolph should not have been an Olympian. Born prematurely, as she grew up, Rudolph was struck with scarlet fever, double pneumonia and eventually contracted polio. In order to receive treatment, Rudolph’s mother had to take her to a black hospital more than 50 miles away.

Showing off her glory, Wilma Rudolph

Rudolph went on to set Olympic records in track and field that still stand today.

Immortalized on stampShe was a product of the pre-Title IX era, literally having to make her way through sports with perseverance and determination beyond the norm.

Her work paid off, she became the first US woman to win three gold medals in the track and field events. Rudolph arose out of the 1960 Rome Olympics and earned herself the nickname, “The Tennessee Tornado,” aka, the fastest woman on earth.

She holds the world record in the 100 meter and 200 meter races.

By the age of 12, Rudolph had put her disabilities behind her and started her dream of Olympic immortality.

At 16, she earned a ticket on the 1956 Olympic team and came home with a bronze medal in the 4×100-meter relay.

But it is for 1960 that she is most remembered.

Her inspiration for those Olympics was the one and only, Jesse Owens. Who sits ahead on our tribute.

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