published Friday, July 27th, 2012

Locals conjure top Olympic images from previous games

The Tower of London is framed by a set of Olympic Rings floating on the River Thames Thursday, July 26, 2012, in London. The city will host the 2012 London Olympics with opening ceremonies scheduled for Friday, July 27.
The Tower of London is framed by a set of Olympic Rings floating on the River Thames Thursday, July 26, 2012, in London. The city will host the 2012 London Olympics with opening ceremonies scheduled for Friday, July 27.
Photo by Associated Press /Chattanooga Times Free Press.
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Nadia Comaneci scores the first perfect 10 in women's gymnastics in 1976. Diver Greg Louganis hits his head in 1988. Muhammed Ali lights the Olympic torch in 1996 in Atlanta ...

The Olympic Games are rife with moments of drama and inspiration.

"It's hard for me to get through the Olympics without crying," said Sarah Moore, who got a little teary talking about her memories of watching the Olympics. "I love the idea of people coming together and celebrating what their bodies can do."

Tonight marks the beginning of the 30th Summer Olympic Games in London. Here in Chattanooga, more than 4,000 miles away, Olympic enthusiasts will be glued to their Web cams and television sets, watching to see who will become the heroes and legends of the 2012 Olympics.

As the big day approaches, Chattanoogans shared their Olympic memories.

I'm not usually one for Olympic games, but watching (Kerri) Strug land her second vault (needed to clinch the gold from the Russians) in 1996 with a badly sprained ankle sent shivers up my spine. She took extreme pain and ruined her ability to compete in the all-around competition in order to ensure her teammates took the gold. Her sacrifice, dedication and willingness to risk permanent injury exemplified American fortitude.

-- Tedd Cossitt, Rossville

The 2000 Olympics, Sydney, was the first time my sister and I had lived apart for the Olympics, so we were watching together and talking on the phone. We are watching the swimming, men's 100-meter freestyle qualifying heats. There is one heat with three people in it. Two of them false-start and are disqualified. The third is Eric Moussambani, from Equatorial Guinea, who learned how to swim for the Olympics. He is now the only one in this whole huge pool and proceeds to swim the slowest 100-meter freestyle ever. We are afraid he's going to stop and stand up and get disqualified because he is so slow, so we're shrieking for him to keep going. Everyone in the arena is standing and cheering. This stands out because you don't generally see the struggle some athletes go through to make it to an Olympics they will never medal in, never even come close, because they have an opportunity to represent their countries. Whenever either my sister or I need some encouragement, we remind each other to remember the African swimmer.

-- Lela Moore, GPS alumna

Back in '96, I had just completed an internship with the Chattanooga Sports Club. We were hosting the U.S. wrestling team, freestyle and Greco-Roman, the Ukrainian gymnasts, and the U.S. women's softball team played a game here that summer. I was around the wrestling team the most.

-- Scott Smith, Chattanooga

"Miracle on Ice" -- The 1980 U.S. men's hockey team's win against the Soviet team. I was baby-sitting, and though not a huge sports fan, as a Buffalonian I was enough of a hockey fan to get excited about the matchup. I remember standing in the family's living room, jumping up and down and trying not to shout so as not to wake the kids. Mike Ramsey had played for the Buffalo Sabres, so I was especially cheering him on.

-- Julie Bestry, Chattanooga

I remember going to the '96 Olympics in Atlanta, and we got scalped tickets to one of the weightlifting events. It was so interesting to watch in person and so great, and mostly people from countries I'd never been to. You can see things you'd never seen before and learn about things you'd never seen before.

-- Sarah Moore, Missionary Ridge

I was in middle school when the original Dream Team came out [1992]. Seeing the best athletes in the world on a basketball court was inspiring to me and more than ever made me want to go out and play basketball. I enjoyed the sport, and it made it something I could really relate to on a country level.

-- Brian Smith, Ooltewah, Chattanooga Parks and Recreation Department

My most vivid memory of the Olympics -- ever -- and the first nightmares I remember -- is the Munich massacre of the Israeli Olympians. I still get choked up.

-- Hallie Hochman McFadden, Chattanooga

We attended the Atlanta games and had actually left Olympic Park only one hour before the bombing. We had watched a Team USA basketball game then walked back through the area. When we woke up the next morning, my husband heard about the bombings at the hotel. We immediately turned on the TV (we were staying a little north of Atlanta) and saw what had happened. My first thought was how lucky for us to have not been there at that time, then our mothers knowing they would hear about this. I was always thankful we left the area when we did.

-- Rosemary Palmer, Chattanooga

My favorite Olympic moment is the 1992 Barcelona games with Derek Redmond's father helping him finish the 400-meter race after he tore his hamstring. It's one of those moments that reminds you why you watch the Olympics. Yes, it's fun to watch Team USA or an individual athlete win a medal and cheer them on, but it's also about the individual athlete and their stories of how they got there. When Redmond tears his hamstring, he keeps shooing away help and then you see his father pushing through the crowd and past security to get to his injured son. I love that at one point the father even smarts back to the security when they try to usher father and son off the track. He puts his arm around his son and doesn't try to convince him to stop. Instead he helps his son finish the race, and together they cross the finish line. It's a sad yet beautiful moment of the human spirit and how it can't be broken.

-- Sarah Cox, Hixson

about Holly Leber ...

Holly Leber is a reporter and columnist for the Life section. She has worked at the Times Free Press since March 2008. Holly covers “everything but the kitchen sink" when it comes to features: the arts, young adults, classical music, art, fitness, home, gardening and food. She writes the popular and sometimes-controversial column Love and Other Indoor Sports. Holly calls both New York City and Saratoga Springs, NY home. She earned a bachelor of arts ...

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