Most American Olympic moment: Miracle on Ice vs. Jesse Owens beats Hitler? | The Tylt
Most American Olympic moment: Miracle on Ice vs. Jesse Owens beats Hitler?
The U.S. has been a world leader for so long, people forget being the underdog is a position the country is comfortable in. No team may have personified the underdog spirit like the 1980 U.S. Hockey Team.
This ragtag collection of college students from across the country banded together during the 1980 Winter Olympics at Lake Placid to thrill the home crowd. But when they reached the semifinal round, they found themselves facing off against the USSR—a team that was 27-1-1 since 1960, and won the previous four gold medals. You were more likely to be struck by lightning twice than have the U.S. win against the USSR in 1980.
But they did.
Not only was this one of the greatest sports victories, it was a great Cold War victory. The USSR and the U.S. were locked in a philosophical battle between communism and democracy. Sports were often the venue to gain influence throughout the world. The U.S. victory showed no matter the odds, the country would fight and win. With Al Michaels screaming his iconic "Do you believe in miracles?" USA's victory over the Soviets is the most patriotic moment in the country's history.
Competing against your opponents is hard enough. Competing against an entire nation that has bought into a racist philosophy is another level. Fortunately, Owens was a next level athlete.
The 1936 Summer Olympics were being held in Berlin at the height of the Nazi’s hold on Germany. Black people were already looked down upon, but the Nazi Party attempted to exclude them and Jewish athletes from the Games. After pressure from other nations, Black and Jewish athletes could compete, but Hitler and his party’s philosophy were already on full display.
Hitler wanted to show Aryan dominance at the Olympics, but Owens shut that down quickly.
Owens won four gold medals, including the 100m, 200m and 4x100m sprints. He also set a world record in the long jump, out leaping German European Champion Luz Long, who helped Owens with some technical issues. By the end of Olympics, Owens was one of the most decorated track and field Olympians ever, and showed the world Black men belonged on the same stage as everyone else.