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The 8 Most Amazing Olympic 2012 Moments

Olympic Moments
Michael Steele/Ezra Shaw, Getty Images

In the 16 days of Olympic competition, the world celebrated tremendous victories and experienced devastating defeats. But more importantly, we saw the sorts of qualities that embody the true spirit of the Olympic games; perseverance, bravery, and dedication. Now that the games have ended, we can bring your our 9 most memorable moments of the 30th Olympiad.

Liu Xiang’s Indefatigable Will to Finish

Xiang Liu
Stu Forster, Getty Images

Our first moment reminds us that victory isn’t always the point of the Games. Olympians dedicate years of their lives in pursuit of a single moment atop a podium, but the will to compete is often the strongest driving force in the hearts and minds of the athletes. Take China’s Liu Xiang for example.

Xiang was a gold medalist in the 2004 games in Athens. In 2008, he was poised to defend his title in his homeland, but a nagging Achilles tendon injury forced him to pull out of the competition. Undeterred, Xiang continued to train and qualified to compete in the London games. On race day, he suffered the same catastrophic injury that destroyed his dreams in Beijing.

In what can only be described as a heroic act, Xiang refused to quit. (Watch as he hops unassisted across the length of the course before pausing to kiss the final hurdle.)

While things may not have gone as he’d hoped, we have to salute his fortitude. China’s athletics team director later confirmed suspicions by announcing that Xiang had suffered from a broken Achilles tendon. We wish him a speedy recovery.

Oscar Pistorius Breaks Barriers for Paralympians

Oscar Pistorius
Michael Steele, Getty Images

Oscar Pistorius has been dubbed by many as the “fastest man on no legs.” At 11 months of age, he underwent a double amputation between his knees and ankles to correct a congenital birth defect.  Unwilling to accept that he was disabled, Pistorius demonstrated tremendous athletic talent as a member of his high school’s rugby team.

If that wasn’t enough, he also was a skilled athlete in the pool and on the tennis court. After a coach encouraged him to take up running, Pistorius accomplished his most tremendous athletic achievement to date: qualifying as the first paralympian to compete in the able-bodied olympics. His participation in South Africa’s four-by-100 relay removed any doubts that paralympians have a place alongside able-bodied competitors. He even had time to challenge an adorable 8 year old double amputee named Ellie May Challis to a race.

Saudi Arabian Runner Sarah Attar Makes History

Sarah Attar
Michael Steele, Getty Images

The London games have been historic for several reasons. In addition to 54 Olympic records smashed, the games are the first Olympiad featuring at least one female athlete from each of the 205 countries. That includes Saudi Arabian runner Sarah Attar.

While Attar, clad from head to toe in modest attire, was more than a half-minute slower than her nearest competitor, her efforts endeared her to the crowd. To her surprise, she received both a rousing welcome and a standing ovation from onlookers.

The daughter of an American mother and a Saudi father, Attar hails from California and is a track athlete at Pepperdine University in Southern California. While her score may not have qualified her for a medal, she hopes her efforts on the track, as well as those of countrywoman Wojdan Ali Seraj Abdulrahim Shahrkhani in Judo, show other women in the ultra-conservative nation that everyone can compete with pride.

Claressa Shields takes First Women’s Gold in Boxing

Claressa Shields
Scott Heavey, Getty Images

We’ve mentioned that the London games were the first Olympics where women were represented in each of the 205 participating nations, but the 30th Olympiad marked another first for women — acceptance in sports previously reserved for men. On Thursday, 17-year-old American middleweight Claressa Shields won one of the first gold medals ever awarded to a female boxer.

Raised in a home without her mother present and her father incarcerated for much of her childhood, Shields’ win epitomizes triumph and the unflappable human spirit. The Michigan teen’s meteoric rise and epic 19-12 defeat over Russia’s Nadezda Torlopova will surely inspire the next generation of female boxers. Irish lightweight Katie Taylor and British flyweight Nicola Adams claimed Golds in their respective weight classes to thunderous applause as well.

US Gymnasts Make History

US Olympic Gymnasts
Alex Grimm, Getty Images for Adidas

Call them the Fab Five, the Fierce Five, or by their given names, but one nickname that won’t soon be fading is “Olympic Gold medalists.” In addition to being the first American team to take the top prize overseas, the Games were the first to have an African-American athlete capture the all around trophy.

16-year-old Gabrielle Douglas remained absolutely unflappable in her quest for the all-around title, and her efforts were rewarded with a history-making trip to the top of the podium. Similarly, who could forget the near-perfect vault from her teammate McKayla Maroney in team competition? The vault immediately sparked a deluge of animated GIFs in celebration of its sheer amazingness. Sadly, despite being the heavy favorite to win the Vault event final, Maroney sat her second vault down and was awarded a Silver. She was not impressed with her performance, inspiring a popular meme, but has since said that her behavior on podium was the result of her disappointment in herself and not with her medal.

Misty May-Treanor and Kerri Walsh-Jennings Make It a Three-peat

Jamie Squire, Getty Images

Once, twice, three times all golden for this beach volleyball duo. The London Olympics marked the grand finale for the team, and they managed to make it count, beating formidable opponents and fellow countrywomen April Ross and Jen Kessy in the final.

The duo called the moment particularly special as the last two years of their Olympic journey have been chaotic: Walsh Jennings gave birth to two sons in 2009 and 2010. Kerri has stated her intention to continue training for Rio, but will need to continue her trek into 2016 with a new teammate. It remains to be seen whether she can keep the magic alive for another four years without her sister in sport.

Phelps And Lochte Bro-Down in the Pool

Michael Phelps Ryan Lochte
Ezra Shaw, Getty Images

Michael Phelps and Ryan Lochte might not have been the most charismatic athletes in the games (we’re awarding that prize to the group of Independent Athletes and their awesome march during the opening ceremony), but they both made a big splash where it counted.

Phelps can now boast a trophy case filled with 18 golds, 4 silvers and 2 bronze medals while teammate Lochte brought his medal count to a whopping 11. Perhaps just as memorable as Phelps’s performance in the pool has been the loving support of the Phelps family in the stands. Numerous stories, GIFs and anecdotes about the Phelps clan surfaced during Michael’s third games, and we love the fact that even after all these wins, mom Deborah has been anything but blasé.

Manteo Mitchell’s Broken Legged Rally

Manteo Mitchell
Feng Li, Getty Images

Manteo Mitchell of the United States proved he had the heart of a champion during his Olympic moment on the track. While competing in the 4×400-meter relay preliminaries, Mitchell said he “felt” and “heard” his fibula break. Undeterred, he continued to run another 200 meters before passing his baton off to teammate Joshua Mance.

Miraculously, Mitchell’s performance kept the team in the running, and the United States qualified to the final where they won the Silver. When asked what kept him going despite the incredible pain he said simply, “I saw Josh Mance motioning me in for me to hand it off to him, which lifted me. I didn’t want to let those three guys down, or the team down, so I just ran on it.” Mitchell believes his injury occurred several days prior when he slipped on stairs. We admire his bravery and unwavering team spirit.

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