Winter Olympics

Ranking the Craziest Finishes in Winter Olympic History

Brian PedersenFeatured ColumnistFebruary 8, 2014

Ranking the Craziest Finishes in Winter Olympic History

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    Jack Smith/Associated Press

    Now that the 2014 Winter Olympics are underway in Sochi, Russia, it won't be long before we're treated to some amazing performances and wild finishes.

    But will any of them reach the level of craziness to be considered among the best in Winter Olympics history?

    While we wait to see if that's the case, let's take a look back at some of the most unbelievable finishes to events and competitions in the 82-year history of the Winter Olympics.

7. Miracle on Ice

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    When: 1980 (Lake Placid, N.Y.)

    Sport: Men's ice hockey

    What happened: It was the classic David vs. Goliath matchup between the upstart U.S. hockey team and the dominant world beaters of the Soviet Union, a team that had ruled international competition for more than 25 years.

    While the game didn't ultimately determine who would win the Olympic gold medal—the contest was the equivalent of a semifinal match—it still proved to be the greatest single contest in American hockey history after Team USA scored twice in the third period to win 4-3.

    The U.S. would go on to beat Finland, 4-2, once again rallying from a third-period deficit by scoring the match's final three goals.

     

6. Battle of the Brians

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    When: 1988 (Calgary, Alberta, Canada)

    Sport: Men's figure skating

    What happened: Figure skating has always been the most popular winter sport when it comes to American Olympic audiences, and to further that interest, a rivalry developed between Brian Boitano of the United States and Brian Orser of Canada. Orser was the 1984 Olympic silver medalist, while Boitano won the 1986 World Championships and Orser followed up with the 1987 worlds title.

    The pair were head and shoulders above the rest of the men's competition heading into Calgary, and Orser was considered the favorite thanks to the home setting. They were neck-and-neck after the compulsory competition and short program, adding even more drama to the final skate, what was then known as the long program.

    Both skaters were nearly flawless in their performances, but despite Orser finishing higher on four judges' scorecards (to three for Boitano), Boitano earned the gold by virtue of his technical scores on the remaining judges' cards.

5. The Kaiser's Comeback

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    When: 1976 (Innsbruck, Austria)

    Sport: Men's downhill skiing

    What happened: Franz Klammer was considered a rockstar in the Alpine skiing community, a dominant figure in the sport through the mid-1970s. Though only 22 at the time of the 1976 Innsbruck Games, the Austrian was already reaching legendary status when the men's downhill race came up on the schedule.

    As the final skier on the docket, Klammer had the luxury of knowing exactly what time he needed to beat in order to win gold in front of the home crowd. But to do so, he'd need to take some risks, as the video above (and dramatic commentary) will show.

    Klammer took many on that run down Patscherkofel Mountain, nearly smacking into barriers along the course several times as he sought to trim any time he could off. He trailed the time of Switzerland's Bernhard Russi at each of the interval spots, but when he passed the finish line he'd managed to win by what was a relatively large margin of 0.33 seconds.

4. Canada's Golden Goal

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    When: 2010 (Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada)

    Sport: Men's ice hockey

    What happened: It was the gold-medal match that all hockey fans wanted to see: the United States vs. Canada, a renewal of the biggest rivalry in international hockey amplified by the setting and the stakes.

    The teams met in group play, with the U.S. taking a 5-3 victory to finish atop Group A with a 3-0 record. But none of that mattered when they met again for the gold, and the game couldn't have done better to meet its lofty expectations.

    Canada raced out to a 2-0 lead, only to see the Americans force overtime with 25 seconds remaining in regulation, forcing an epic sudden-death overtime period. Both teams had chances in the extra period when Canada's Sidney Crosby fired the gold medal-winning goal past U.S. goaltender Ryan Miller, sending the arena into an eruption of Canadian pride and elation.

3. Double Golds in Figure Skating

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    When: 2002 (Salt Lake City, Utah)

    Sport: Pairs figure skating

    What happened: Canadians Jamie Sale and David Pelletier and the Russian duo of Elena Berezhnaya and Anton Sikharulidze ended up being part of the most bizarre finish in Olympic figure skating history after both pairs performed in the free skate of the pairs competition.

    The Russians led entering the free skate, but a strong performance from the Canadian duo made it appear that they'd be able to pull ahead and win the gold. Yet despite getting higher technical scores, the Canadian pair finished second because Berezhnaya and Sikharulidze scored higher on presentation, which at the time counted for a larger portion of the free skate's total score.

    Allegations of judge-fixing arose after the competition, with French judge Marie-Reine Le Gougne at the center of the controversy. After a drawn-out investigation, Olympic officials eventually awarded a second set of gold medals to Sale and Pelletier.

2. Jacobellis' Flashy Fall

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    When: 2006 (Turin, Italy)

    Sport: Women's snowboard cross

    What happened: American Lindsey Jacobellis entered the 2006 Games as the favorite to win the first-ever medal in snowboard cross, having won the 2005 World Championship in the event as well as the X Games title from 2003 to 2005.

    In the medal run, Jacobellis used her skills to get out to an early lead on her three competitors, avoiding contact and performing flawlessly. With only a few turns and jumps to go she had what appeared to be an almost insurmountable lead, but on the second-to-last jump Jacobellis tried to add some flair to her run by performing a method grab, a trick move.

    The move backfired, as Jacobellis came down on the side of her board and fell, and by the time she recovered she had been passed by Switzerland's Tanja Frieden for the gold.

1. Speedskating Fall-Down Finish

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    When: 2002 (Salt Lake City, Utah)

    Sport: Men's short-track speedskating

    What happened: The five-person final heat of the 1,000-meter competition included one of the most heralded and hyped Olympic athletes in U.S. history, Apolo Anton Ohno, and all eyes were on him as the skaters whipped by lap after lap.

    It was a tight race between Ohno and skaters from Canada, China and South Korea, while Australia's Steven Bradbury appeared resigned to finish fifth. But, as is often the case in short-track speedskating, the tight confines of the course led to a late crash, with all but Bradbury going down during the final turn.

    What resulted was like a scene out of the classic tale of the tortoise and the hare, with the four faster skaters racing out ahead only to see the hare (Bradbury) coast across the finish line for the gold.

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