Bolt burns down the track, Murray breaks the English curse, Feck flops his way pop culture history, and none of us are impressed by the Maroney face. Here are the memorable moments No. 10 to No. 1. Watch all 50 here.
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McKayla Maroney<!––> was a virtual lock to win the individual vault competition, and after her first attempt – her signature high-flying Amanar vault – she was on pace for gold. But the second attempt didn’t go quite as well; she landed on her rear end. She still took silver, but her twisted grimace on the podium said it all: McKayla Maroney is not impressed. Her look of seething dissatisfaction became an instant internet meme.
9. Felix refuses to settle for silver
After taking silver in the women’s 200m sprint in Athens and Beijing, anything less than gold would have been a huge disappointment for Allyson Felix<!––>. In the first 100 meters of this year’s race she was neck-and-neck with teammate Carmelita Jeter<!––> and Jamaica’s Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce<!––>, but she pulled away on the home stretch, winning gold at 21.88 seconds. She added gold in the 4x100m and 4x400m to make her the most decorated American track athlete of these Games.
8. Andy Murray pulls through
Andy Murray<!––> couldn’t have picked a better time or place to break through. The proverbial tennis bridesmaid, Murray – who has lost all four of his Grand Slam finals – is the guy who can’t win the big ones. Scratch that: was. A month after he lost the Wimbledon final to Roger Federer<!––> at the All England Club, Murray again faced off with Federer on Centre Court. This time Olympic gold was on the line, and this time Murray, who hails from Scotland, wasn’t going down. He blew past Federer in straight sets, 6-2, 6-1, 6-4, then celebrated by climbing into the stands to hug his family and one particularly awe struck random boy who just happened to be standing there at the right time.
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7. Stephan Feck’s brutal back flop
Sometimes there are big consequences to small actions. Never was that more true than for Stephan Feck<!––>. The German diver’s right foot slipped as he launched during his second attempt in the 3m springboard preliminary round and it was all down hill from there. His form was destroyed by the bad jump and Feck’s plans for a highly technical dive with negligible splash ended up a lot closer to what happens when kids dare each other at summer camp.
6. Misty and Kerri sign off in style
Misty May-Treanor<!––> and Kerri Walsh Jennings<!––> both took time off after winning their second straight beach volleyball gold in Beijing; Misty ruptured her Achilles tendon practicing for “Dancing With The Stars” while Kerri gave birth to two children. But they decided to make one last run at Olympic glory – and what a run it was. They overcame a tough Chinese team in the semifinals (22-20, 22-20), then knocked off fellow Americans Jen Kessy and April Ross in the final to become the first women to win three straight beach volleyball gold medals. It was their last match together: Kerri plans to keep playing but Misty is retiring from the game. Their tearful medal ceremony won’t soon be forgotten.
5. Gabby becomes America’s princess
Early in 2012 no one outside of the gymnastics world knew who Gabby Douglas<!––> was, but all 4-foot-11-inches of her was ready for the big stage. She finished second to Jordyn Wieber<!––> at nationals by a mere two-tenths of a point, and then won Trials over the world champ by the same margin. They were supposed to square off a third and final time for Olympic gold, but Wieber failed to qualify, leaving the door open for Gabby to grab the title. She didn’t hesitate as she became the third straight American and first African-American woman to win the Olympic gymnastics all-around.
4. Pistorius runs for those who can’t
Oscar Pistorius<!––> won a battle for Paralympians in 2008 when his appeal fighting for the right to compete in the Olympics was upheld by the Court of Arbitration for Sport – they decided his “blades” didn’t offer him an advantage over able-bodied athletes. Four years later Pistorius walked into the Olympic Stadium as a member of the South African team and on August 4 he ran his first race, the 400m, finishing second to qualify for the semis. He didn’t make the finals, but that wasn’t his goal: “The whole experience is mind-blowing,” Pistorius said after his race. “It’s a dream come true. It’s really a humbling experience to be here.”
3. Morgan’s Miracle
The U.S. women’s soccer team was expected by some (read: us) to waltz over the Canadians and into the gold medal final with ease, but our friendly neighbors to the north did not go quietly into the night. Instead star Christine Sinclair<!––> scored three goals, each one answered by the Americans. Abby Wambach<!––> put the U.S. into extra time with an 80th-minute penalty kick score. Then, in the 123rd minute, Alex Morgan<!––> headed in a miracle on a cross by Heather O’Reilly<!––> to secure the victory with 30 seconds left. The women went on to win gold against Japan three days later.
2. Bolt becomes a legend
Usain Bolt<!––> said his performance in London would make him a legend, but after his times began to slip and his young countryman Yohan Blake<!––> beat him twice at Jamaican Trials, many questioned whether Bolt had enough to repeat at the Games. He proved us wrong, becoming the first man to win the 100m/200m double, then running a record shattering anchor leg in the 4x100m final as the Jamaicans became the first team in history to dip below the 37-second mark. Some still aren’t believers, but we believe Bolt has cemented himself as one of the greatest runners in history, and nothing short of a legend.
1. Phelps is history’s greatest Olympian
London was supposed to be the swan song for Michael Phelps<!––> as he passed the torch to the next generation. It didn’t start that way when he failed to medal in his first race. But he won silver in his second race and from there it was on; he took home more medals than any other athlete for a third straight Games. But it was No. 19 that mattered most: swimming the anchor leg of the 4x200m free, he touched the wall to become the most decorated Olympian ever, passing Soviet gymnast Larissa Latynina. Phelps’ eyes welled as he heard the national anthem play once again. He finished his career with 22 medals including 18 golds, and we hope his iPod has been playing “You’re the Best” from ‘The Karate Kid’ ever since he retired.
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